How To Fight Like Superlek Kiatmookao

In Muay Thai, Superlek Kiatmookao is without a doubt one of the best strikers on the planet. The multisport veteran is a multiple-time Lumpinee World Champion and WBC Super Lightweight Muay Thai World Champion. He signed with ONE Championship, where he is the reigning Lightweight Kickboxing World Champion. In 2019 he was ranked the #3 pound-for-pound martial artist on the planet by the Thai Sporting Newspaper, “The Nation” and in 2020 was ranked the #1 Bantamweight fighter on the planet by Combat Press.

With wins over the likes of Sangmanee, Panpayak Jitmuangnon, and even “The Ironman” himself, Rodtang Jitmuangnon, many strikers have looked to emulate “The Kicking Machine.” It’s a goal that, on the surface, appears pretty straightforward; he predominantly throws right roundhouse kicks, but if his gameplan was as straightforward as just launching his rear leg at opponents then the legendary Thai would have faltered in the Thai stadium long before he became a global name in combat sports.

In this article, we are going to break down the secrets to Superlek’s incredibly high-level kicking game. We’ll explain how and when he uses his trademark right kick, show you examples of his distance management as well as the tricks he uses to stop his opponents from smothering and subsequently overwhelming him with punches. Then, we’ll also add a few drills that you can use to practice these remarkably simple yet extremely effective strategies so that you can add “The Kicking Machine’s” skills to your own Muay Thai game.


Superlek’s Muay Tae Style

Superlek is the modern-day embodiment of the Muay Tae style of fighting. That is, he is a kickfighter. The World Champion’s trademark right kick is something he throws repetitively with rapid speed, incredible power, and unbelievable timing. In fact, apart from the occasional punch and his step-through knee, the right body kick makes up almost all of his offensive ring strategy.

You may be asking yourself why his opponents aren’t able to predict and counter his right kicks if they know that he’s going to throw them. Well, the answer is simple; Superlek garnishes his Muay Tae style with a sprinkle of Muay Femur counter-fighting strategy. He stands slightly out of his opponent’s effective range and waits for them to off-balance themselves by over-committing to a strike before countering with his right leg. If they step in without throwing, he’ll either wait for them to become heavy on their front leg before booting it out from under them, or inch backward to goad them into attempting a strike.

Whether fighting the art of eight limbs or in kickboxing, Superlek’s defensive strategy remains pretty much identical. If an opponent gains too much forward momentum and smothers his ability to kick, he’ll step through with a tight guard to meet them with a powerful left knee or, if backed onto the ropes he’ll crowd them, locking their arms in a clinch until the referee is forced to intervene and break them. Superlek unleashed all of these techniques in a masterclass performance against Tunisian, Fahdi Khaled on ONE in 2020.


How To Kick Like Superlek

As we’ve mentioned, Superlek likes to stand back and wait for his opponents to make the first move before unloading his right leg on their body and arms. So, there is more to replicating his roundhouse kick than just making it incredibly fast and powerful (though that will help). If you truly want to kick like “The Kicking Machine” then you’ve got to learn how to manage your range and master the art of throwing second in an exchange and we have the perfect drill to help you develop this incredibly useful skill.


The Counter-Kicking Drill

This drill trains you to utilize distance and reaction to kick an aggressive fighter as they step into range and can be done in varying difficulties based on your skill level and how warmed up you are. Begin by standing opposite a training partner, just outside of their effective striking range. Their goal is to get into range to land punches on you while your goal is to make them miss while landing your own body kick. After each exchange you will reset and begin again, giving you the opportunity to train Superlek’s particular counter-kicking style in a controlled scenario drill.

Once you have your eyes dialed in you can increase the stimuli that you react to. Your opponent can add the body kick to their permitted strikes, requiring you to lean back and counter. They could also feint by stepping into range without striking, causing you to step back without kicking or timing a leg kick for when they step heavily onto their front foot.


How To Control Distance Like Superlek

Whether he is fighting under Kickboxing or traditional Muay Thai rules, Superlek controls distance in a similar way, by tying up an aggressive opponent as soon as he is unable to maintain an effective kicking range. This is usually done as soon as he feels his back on the cage, or ropes and he hasn’t got any space left to backstep. This style of range management can be trained in two stages through a partnered shepherding drill.


The Partnered Shepherding Drill

In this drill, two fighters will be paired in a boxing ring and given the roles of either shepherd or sheep. The shepherd’s job is to use their footwork to cut off the ring and pin the sheep on the ropes while they do their best to keep themselves from getting trapped.

Once the partners have warmed up to the drill, the shepherd will begin using punches to apply pressure to their evasive partner who cannot strike back. Whenever the evasive partner feels cornered, they can push forward with a tight guard and lock up their opponent in a tight clinch, ideally, so they cannot punch or land scoring knees, which would force separation in a real fight scenario.


How To Throw Superlek’s Step-Through Knee

The step-through knee is not a technique that is unique to Superlek, but it is one that he uses often and to great effect, particularly when an aggressive opponent gets reckless and rushes forward, attempting to step past his kicking range before he can throw his signature technique. He takes two quick steps backward before reversing directions, stepping his rear foot forward into a southpaw stance with a tight guard, or arms extended to control an opponent’s hands as his left knee crashes into their midsection.

This technique can be trained in 3 steps:

  • Slowly practice walking forward into the southpaw, throw a teep, and find the right timing to land a knee on a heavy bag or pads until you can easily find the range you need for this technique to be most effective.
  • Get your pad holder to wear a body shield and have them swing the pads at you to mimic punches as you step in to knee. Practice defending with a high guard or by trapping the pads with your hands until they can’t land any strikes on you as you step in.
  • Have the pad holder trade the Thai pads for gloves (but keeping the body shield) and have them mimic charging in towards you, sometimes whilst punching, at random intervals so that you can rehearse the step through the knee in a less predictable situation. Once you’ve mastered this you can add the step-through knee into both the counter kicking and shepherding drills as a way to practice it in a live scenario (just make sure your partner wears a body shield!).


The Final Drill: Puncher Vs Kicker Sparring!

Once you have a firm grasp over all of these skills and drills in isolation, a great way to test your proficiency is to try them out in puncher vs kicker sparring. Taking the role of the kicker, you can only use the previously mentioned techniques while a partner, who can only attack with punches, attempts to push past your kicking range to land their strikes.

With these conditions placed on them, the puncher will no doubt attempt to shepherd you against the ropes and into tight corners giving you the opportunity to practice your footwork, leg and body kicks, smothering clinch, and Superlek’s dreaded step-through knee.


In Summary

Superlek is a Muay Tae whose masterful use of his right kick has earned him the moniker of “The Kicking Machine.” If you want to replicate his style, there is more to practice than just throwing a fast and powerful right knee. You need to master your range management and timing, utilizing some Muay Femur counter-fighting strategies to create the right opportunities to land this high-scoring technique. On top of this, you need to learn how to smother punches and stall your opponent when they’re able to press through your effective kicking range. If you practice the drills we’ve listed here, you’ll be well on your way to replicating the tried and tested skills that Superlek has used to become one of the most feared and revered strikers on the planet today.


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