In his latest video, YouTuber, sensei, and self-branded “karate nerd” Jesse Enkamp sets himself the challenge of defending the honor of his sport in a grudge match against a pro Muay Thai fighter.
The rivalry between karate and Muay Thai goes back decades, Enkamp explains. It all began in 1963, when Kenji Kurosaki, a co-founder of the Kyokushin tradition of karate, was defeated in the ring by a Thai boxer. He decided to learn from the experience, and began incorporating Thai boxing fighting styles into his karate. “The result was kickboxing, and it became a smash hit,” says Enkamp. However, a history of fixed matches only led to greater animosity between the two sides.
“It’s time to end this feud once and all, and restore the honor of karate,” says Enkamp, and so he invites Petch-Eak Sitjaoph0, who has been ranked the #1 champion at Lumpinee Stadium in Thailand (the very place where Kurosaki was first beaten), to join him for a sparring session.
Following a lengthy activation routine, Sitjaopho launches into a series of quick, low kicks, which Enkamp later learns is an effective method for gaging distance, and setting up your next shot. When Enkamp attempts his first move, a front-facing side kick, he is instantly met with a roundhouse kick. “This guy has really good reactions,” he says. “The human brain is really bad at reacting but really good at predicting, so this is where I need to find patterns.” Enkamp soon intuits that Sitjaopho responds very differently to how a karate fighter would, moving his head back in a specific way to avoid a roundhouse, and tries to use this to his advantage.
“Once you’ve found a habit, it’s all about breaking it,” he says. “And there we have it; the time has finally come for me to exploit his head movement. And that’s the moment I knew I had screwed up… I had unleashed the beast. From here on, things went south real fast!”
What follows is a lesson in ass-kicking from Sitjaopho, with Enkamp getting thrown down onto the mat again and again. “Turns out, as I was reading him, he was reading me,” he says. “And apparently, I’m like an open book.”
After the fight, Enkamp asks Sitjaopho his best advice for improving sparring technique. “No stress,” he says. “Relax, take a little backward and forward, give the technique to each other that you are learning. When you stress, you’re going to mess up your technique and hurt your partner, because you just let it out without control.”
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