If you want to know Buakaw Banchamek, you must know Muay. Muay Thai has to be Thailand’s best cultural export. The exciting man to man showdown demands attention from anyone who sets eyes on it.
Over the years we’ve seen some amazing Thaiboxers emerge from all corners of the world. Arguably the best fighters still come from Thailand. The Thais invented the sport and they still dominate it in many respects.
The best ambassador the sport has ever had is undoubtedly “The White Lotus”, known to most simply as Buakaw.
Like many Thais, Buakaw starting fighting at an early age. The tender age of eight, to be exact. This is what makes them so good at the sport. They are drilled in its methods before they can even write coherently.
By the time he was 18 Buakaw was the Omoni Stadium Champion. This is like have the ‘Ring’ title in boxing, or the ONE FC title in MMA. It’s a great achievement but it doesn’t count as the pinnacle of the sport.
He didn’t have a very good run at the most significant stadium in Muay Thai, Lumpinee. At the time the competition seemed beyond him.
Within a few years of this, he competed in his first K-1 tournament. He smashed through his competition using knees and powerful leg kick.
This was the start. The making of what some call the greatest kickboxer to ever live. Take a look at some of his achievements:
- 2004 K-1 MAX Champion
- 2006 k-1 MAX Champion
- 2009 WMC/MAD Muaythai Super Welterweight World Champion
- 2011 Thai Fight Tournament Champion
- 2012 Thai Fight Tournament Champion
- 2014-2015 WMC Muaythai Junior Middleweight World Champion
I’ve purposefully left out more than a dozen other accomplishments. There are just too many. The above titles will give you an idea of the sort of competition he has faced.
If that doesn’t freak you out, Buakaw has 264 fights with 229 wins.
Talk about over achievement.
Obviously his fighting style is Muay Thai, but what makes him different?
Buakaw has compete in a lot of kickboxing and modified Thai rules matches. More so than any other Thaiboxer. This has forced him to adapt his style. One can even say that kickboxing came as a blessing. Many in the Muay Thai community say that he doesn’t understand the sport enough. His tactics don’t suit the rules and his techniques aren’t designed to score.
Whichever reasoning you follow, Buakaw fights hard.
He puts effort into every fight and throws all strikes with bad intentions. It’s rare to see him mix up his combinations. There is nothing like light jab, light cross, heavy hook. It’s all heavy, heavy, heavy.
One of the smartest things he does is offset his opponents with traditional Muay Thai skills. Technically these techniques aren’t legal and don’t win you any points. They do however hurt and frustrate your opponent.
It’s not uncommon to see him use the Muay Thai ‘dump’ (a type of throw used while clinching) to throw an opponent to the ground. In K-1 rules this is completely a no-no, but you can get away with it once in a while.
You’ll also see him catch and counter a lot of kicks. In Muay Thai this is great technique, but just like the dump it’s illegal in kickboxing. If you’ve been catching kicks your whole life it’s also sort of hard to adjust yourself, why bother if it can give you a small advantage.
Banchamek has fought a lot of Western fighters. Guys like Andy Sower and Enriko Kehl. Let’s not forget the Japanese greats like Masato and Yoshihiro Sato.
When you fight Andy Sower you’re going to get punched in the face… a lot. That’s something that most Thai’s aren’t used too. Buakaw has had to conform to this fact. Though his boxing skills are mediocre he has learnt enough not only to survive, but to be dangerous with his hands.
True to tradition he uses little foot work. He stares down his opponent working a lot of kicking counters and moving forward when he wants to push the pace.
The Buakaw Skill Set
Even though he is an all-round good fighter capable of engaging with punches and in the clinch, Buakaw is known for one thing.
Take a look at his leg muscles and you know this guy’s only intention is to kick your head off.
Left Round House Kick To The Body
Banchamek is an orthodox fighter. That means he leads with his left side.
He is known for having one of the most devastating left body kicks in history. If you haven’t had the chance to fight a guy who does this, let me tell you. “It is annoying as hell”.
This sort of kick requires a small shuffle forward before you throw it. That’s why guys like Buakaw either use it in combinations or when their opponents move in. He’ll actually kick you two or three times in a row. If you’re moving towards him this causes more damage, as the force from his kick is met with the force from your forward motion.
So this kick hurts, it stops an opponent in his tracks and it maintains enough distance between the two for the kicker to be safe.
This also happens to be a natural liver shot. The easiest way to end a fight via body shot it to attack the liver. The size of the shin means you don’t need to be that accurate, so long you make contact with the right side of the torso you’ve achieved your objective.
The Push Kick (Teep) To The Abdomen
While fighting kickboxers Buakaw has excelled at controlling the distance in his fights. He does this by using the teep. This is a front kick that is less of a kick and more of a push. Not that it doesn’t hurt (it does), it’s just that causing damage is not its primary function.
Again, this works best as a counter attack. As the opponent moves in, Buakaw flings his leg out and pushes. This doesn’t just stop the opponent, many times it will send him flying. There have been a few occasions where Buakaw push kicked some poor sucker out of the ring.
This kick is basic but very deceptive.
At first glance it seems like an easy thing to deal with. Once it makes contact, its very annoying to come back from. The easiest way to block it is by checking it with your own leg, this doesn’t always work.
Thaiboxers are very proficient at catching this kick with their hands. The speed and timing of the kick can make this rather difficult. The best (like Buakaw) are very quick to pull their leg back. They don’t just let it drop after contact. This small tweak makes the push kick a very effective defense weapon.
Knees To The Body
You may have noticed a theme here. For some reason all of Buakaws favorite and most effective techniques target the body. He will always be remembered for his knee strikes.
The first time he won the K-1 MAX tournament he used his clinching and knees to dominate other fighters. As an organization K-1 decided to change the rules after that tournament.
That’s the effect his knees have had. For fear that K-1 may become too much like Muay Thai, and that Thai fighters would eclipse kickboxers, they changed the rules.
His knees are picture perfect. They come straight up the middle. Making them hard to notice and a challenge to block. He also puts a lot of force into them.
The value of such knees lays in slowing down the opponent. Constant strikes to the body will take their toll on anyone. The more you get hit the more you slow down. You start dropping your hands, leaving your head exposed. You start to think twice before moving.
See what I was going for? All the techniques listed go for the body. This is the actual way that Buakaw fights.
He mixes in punches to the face and leg kicks but this is the core of his ring tactic. Batter the body. Weaken my opponent, and then, embrace the knockout as it comes. Yes, he does throw tremendous leg kicks.
In fact, he has ended fights by clobbering his opponents’ thighs. They just don’t take the most prominent position in his arsenal, where strategy is concerned. It’s not only about how much you attack, but about what’s actually effective in totality.
Buakaw is an amazing fighter and is a joy to watch. He has a number of flaws both in technique and approach. However, the world would be a less exciting place without him.
Check out this highlight reel to get a glimpse of a master in action.
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Buakaw is an amazing fighter and is a joy to watch. Even, he has some flaws both in technique and approach but the world will be less exciting without him. Check out this highlight reel of a master in action