Tiip Trong: the basic push kick of Muay Thai
by Marco De Cesaris

For anyone who saw the final of K-1 GP last year in which the formidable Thai fighter Buakaw Por Puramuk showed great skill and marvelous preparation, you observed how he gave a tremendous beating to the Japanese star, Masato. The frontal kicks of the Thai warriors are nothing new. Puramuk, principally using perfectly executed frontal kicks as a base, kept the Japanese star under control, submitting him to tremendous punishment that the man, as much as the judges wanted him to win, couldn’t overcome.
Marco de Cesaris, our expert in Thai Arts, illustrates for us the vision of this technique in the Thai tradition, a kick that has undoubtedly been underrated compared with the much more popular circular kicks that have made the style famous. Nothing could be further from the truth, as Masato was able to discover very clearly for himself. When well used, the impeccable execution of this technique not only keeps the one putting on pressure at a distance, but can stun and neutralize an opponent with these strikes in which a heel can do a lot of damage, as much or more than a tough tibia!
The definitive combat weapon at long distance: the direct kick of Muay Thai.
The image of a nervous horse that kicks with violence is the sensation that the old masters of Muay Thai wanted to transmit to us, defining the direct lashing kick “War Horse”: and it is just the power of a stud horse that kicks with all its force that we remember when we observe a perfect execution of Mae Mai Yotha Sinthop that hits the chin of an unfortunate adversary. In the old days, the two actions (the kicking horse and the Muay Thai technique) were compared because it was said that the devastating effects of the two attacks were the same! As everyone knows, the percussion action in Muay Thai can be fundamentally executed utilizing four basic techniques:
1. kicks
2. fist strikes
3. elbow strikes
4. knee strikes
The kicks and the fists are the weapons used at the medium and long distance. The knee and elbow strikes are the weapons utilized in short-distance combat.
In addition, the kicks are distinguished according to their trajectory: direct and circular. Among them, the direct kicks are often considered the “longest” techniques at the disposition of a fighter (obviously without considering the movements executed jumping toward the adversary).
The direct kicks are the base—for their effectiveness at long distance—of each combat strategy, as much in the ring as on the tatami and in the street. The professional Thai boxers, for example, learn to use the direct kicks with many ends: for attacking, for defending, to “provoke” and to break the timing of the adversaries.
The direct frontal kick (or Tiip Trong in its basic form) has always been among the technical elements most highly esteemed by the Muay Thai masters, who, since the distant past, have included them in the learning process of each new student until they developed the strike to perfection.
The importance of Tiip is even evident observing “archaeological” remains like the manual of Muay Thai kept in the Office of the Thai Cultural Commission, which was written during the era of King Rama III; the manual subdivides the empty-hand techniques into three big groups, the basic Techniques, or Mae Mai; the accessory techniques, or Look Mai; and the combined techniques of attack counter-attack, or Kon Muay Kee. Among the first basic techniques, the Mae Mai Morn Yan Lak is clearly seen, the fundamental method of the use of the direct frontal kick “with push” as an action of detention facing a rapid and aggressive advance by the adversary. It is told that the style of Muay Korat—though famous for its own series of kicks and knee strikes carried out attacking the adversary—has based the majority of the initial learning of its practitioners on the technique of the direct kick with push.
But one can use the Tiip Trong in a way that is distinct from that which we have just explained, working more on the explosiveness of the action of stretching out the leg than on the push of the hips toward the target (as occurs with Morn Yan Lak): in that case the literature defines that strike as the direct “whip” kick, or Yotha Sinthop.
In that kind of execution, the trajectory is mainly oriented according to a diagonal line from the floor, the opposite of the almost horizontal path that the leg makes in the direct kick with push. Later, in the case of the Yotha Sinthop, in order to give more explosiveness to the action, one normally combines the kick movement with a cutting action that projects the foot toward the chin, the sternum, or the solar plexus of the adversary with violence.
After some weeks of practicing the two direct kick techniques, traditionally based on the execution of the strikes from a static position, in advancing and retreating movement, and turning around a fixed point (axis), the beginner has to be initiated into the hard practice of the weapon conditioning (the various parts of the foot like the toes, the sole, and the forefoot), as well as the tendons and the muscles that come into play in the movement: the conditioning is done by striking poles stuck in the ground for a long time, or, when there is nothing better, a solid wall (these days, these archaic methods are substituted with the use of the heavy bag, but achieving results that are less definitive). Successively, once a supporting structure and sufficient technique is achieved, one moves on to the application of the technique in the offensive phase, with the trainer holding the paos and the abdominal belt, in order to develop the timing and the precision of the strike. The last phase is practicing the technique in “live” situations, that is to say, in training with a partner, or Lenchern, in order to apply the actions in combination and to learn the innumerable possibilities of defense and counter-attack applicable using the ductile direct kick or defending oneself from it.