To fight beyond an amateur level, you need to know how to fake and trick your opponent in a fight. Throwing strikes “cold” without faking first, is super easy to block for any decent fighter. You won’t get far if you don’t develop your fakes.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN FAKES
Your trainer will teach you some of his own stuff that worked for him, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop your own. You have your own style of fighting, your own way of thinking, your own way of seeing and reading a fight. You need to develop your own way of faking. It will be a process of trial and error, but you will gain insight and figure out the missing pieces along the way. Eventually after a good amount of practice and experimentation you will develop some useful tricks for your toolbox.
Let’s break it down.
First, pick a move to work on and turn into a fake.
Lets say you want to fake a push kick and follow up with a punch. Start off by doing the push kick in its full range of motion. Analyse the travel line of the technique, as in pay attention how you initiate, where the movement travels and at what angle so you can emulate it before you cut it off, so it looks real.
Next, initiate the push kick again but cut it off mid way. In other words, do a partial range of motion. Lift your knee up to the opponents sternum (knee comes up as an angle in toward your center, that’s why I say do the full range technique first and analyze the travel line), then instead of thrusting the hips and extending the leg for the push kick, step (sharp diagonal line down, not circular motion) into a wide southpaw stance (assuming you are orthodox).
Remember, when you cut off a technique to deceive your opponent, the next thing to think about is setting up your STANCE. Not the strike, yet.
Now you’ve stepped off to your side and are in a southpaw stance, and have a full range of strikes at your disposal. Do you straight punch? Do you rear left kick? Knee? It depends on your range, how close or far you’ve landed in relation to your opponent and the openings available.
To keep it simple, start off by picking something. Choose a straight-left punch for example.
Lift the knee to their sternum line, sharp wide step into southpaw and when you land into stance throw a straight-left punch through your opponents guard. This is a simple example, but doesn’t necessarily work as simple as that. For the fake to work it will depend on your range and if you land in the right spot. It will also depend on both you and your opponents rhythms, the openings, and if your opponent falls for the fake.
It might sound more complicated verbalizing it but don’t overthink it, you’ll figure it out instinctively. Know the basic concept and just play around and keep trying in the mirror and sparring.
SET UP FAKES TO MAKE YOUR OPPONENT FLINCH
You need to make your opponent flinch and throw him off to land shots he’s not expecting or defending. Your fake has to be sharp, abrupt and look obvious that you’re on the attack.
A common mistake fighters make when trying to fake is that they move too smoothly and fake in rhythm. That won’t startle the opponent and they won’t react. You have to be abrupt and explosive with your fake. When you feign a move, you want to slightly exaggerate it so you deceive your opponent, make him think you are kneeing when instead you drive a punch through his guard.
All you are doing is cutting a technique in half and when they flinch and freeze for a second, expecting and bracing for that shot to come, you redirect and hit them with something else they aren’t expecting or defending against.
ADD BODY LANGUAGE TO YOUR FAKES
Use facial expressions when attacking. Fake with your whole body; pop your eyes, scrunch your face, swing your shoulders, whip your hips, whatever it takes to make your opponent flinch. Make sudden partial movements. Slightly exaggerate the move. Make your opponent panic and react.
Practice in the mirror to see what you look like. Your trainer can’t teach you this. He can show you but you have to practice it yourself and experiment to see if it works in sparring. If not, go back to the mirror.
Quick tip: if you are planning to hit low, look up. If you are planning to hit high, look down. Don’t give away your shots by looking at your target. Confuse your opponent by looking at an opposite target.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER IN THE GYM
The best place to work your fakes is in the mirror. You have to know what it looks like. Integrate your facial expressions and move into the fake as a whole. Then practice it in sparring. Experiment and see if it works. Maybe it’s good in theory, or looks great in the mirror but it doesn’t work in a fight. Maybe you are missing a piece. Think about it and figure it out. Break the technique into small parts and analyze it. You want your opponent to think you are throwing a particular move, so you have to imitate that move, by initiating it as realistic as possible, then abruptly stopping and cutting it half way, causing him to flinch and brace when nothing is coming. Go through the motion in the mirror, visualize it; break it down. If it makes sense, try it out in sparring.
Most people mess up because they’re thinking too much about the hitting part, and rush in and mess up the fake. Don’t rush. Do the first move right- the fake, and it will set you up for the next move – the strike.
When you spar, think of fighting as a game, not a fight. Spar like you would play fight with your siblings. Laugh and play. This will help you loosen up and experiment. When you do bags or pads, use your fakes. Integrate it into your style. Before you kick, fake and kick. Before you punch, fake and punch. Start making it a habit to initiate with fakes, add them into everything you do, become unpredictable.
Get comfortable faking and responding to what your opponent, partner, and trainer does. Fake, then pick your shots.
APPLYING IT IN THE RING
The first round in the fight you should be COLLECTING DATA. What’s your opponent like, his rhythm? What weapons does he like to use? What weaknesses and openings do you see? How does he react when you do this move or that move? Try a few things on him, and take note how he reacts. You’ll use this info as the fight progresses to plan your shots.
CONDITIONING YOUR OPPONENT
When you’ve collected data and tested out how your opponent defends something in particular, start conditioning him. Throw a shot over and over and let him defend it successfully a few times. Get him into a rhythm which makes it more predictable for you to read what he’ll do next, then change course later in the fight.
Let’s say you hit him with high kicks (going over his check so you don’t hurt your shins with low kicks) and he checks and blocks with his arms. You do a few high kicks first before you fake, condition him to catch them successfully and getting him into a rhythm. Then fake a high kick, by using your eyes and lifting your knee, then redirect and go under his check to take out his supporting leg.
INTEGRATING FAKES INTO YOUR STYLE
Just because you know a good fake doesn’t mean you’re going to land it every time. As you become more experienced, you’ll see fakes coming and have counters to deflect them and so will your opponents.
Practice integrating your fakes into your overall style and combinations so you don’t have to think about them anymore. They’ll just start coming out naturally. Then you’ll have room to begin working on faking a fake. When you fake your fake, condition your opponent to think you are going to use a certain fake by using it once, but the second or third time you’d fake-the-fake and redirect to another target and so on. He’ll probably be doing the same. And you play that game. That’s what makes this sport so fun!
The key is to start small, play around and experiment in the gym, add fakes into your pads, bag work and sparring and eventually build into your style, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a tricky Muay Thai fighter.