Have you ever been asked by your coach to come up with a combo of your choice and stood there drawing a blank? Do you have a heavy bag at home but don’t know what combos to work on? Or couldn't think of any good combos when holding pads for your partner?
Here are 3 principles to consider when creating your own combos.
1. Left to Right
A good rule to follow is to flow from one side of the body to the other (ie. left strike right strike, left strike, right strike). This also applies to strikes from different weapon groups (mixing punches and knees).
Example #2: Left jab, right cross, left uppercut, right cross
Example #3: Right cross, left hook, right low kick
2. Striking Ranges (refer fig. 1.1 above)
In muay thai there are four major ranges - Snug (1), Close (2), Medium (3), Long (4). When combining the individual strikes from these groups, do not connect 2 strikes that are 2 or more ranges apart. For example, a strike from Range 1 (snug) can be connected with a strike from Range 2 (close) but not with a strike from Range 3 or 4 (medium and long). The reason for this is simple: if you can make contact with your elbow strike, you are too close to effectively throw a long range weapon like a pushkick! Vice versa, if you are standing afar and throwing pushkicks, and then trying to skip multiple ranges to get on the inside for the elbow strike is extremely dangerous, as a skilled opponent will likely intercept you with a more suitable weapon while you are on your way in.
There are exceptions to this rule. Feints and setups can make it less risky to skip multiple ranges. Faking a push kick (Range 4-Long) to temporarily distract your opponent while simultaneously jumping in for an elbow strike (Range 1-Close) is an example of a feint tactic. However as a beginner to intermediate practioner, you should stick with the basics during sparring. Here is a great fight between Buakaw and Mike Zambidis to illustrate why one has to be careful when skipping multiple ranges in muay thai. Zambidis unsuccessfully attempts to "jump" into the close range from the long range with hooks only to be punished repeatedly by swing kicks. When in close, his punches are nullified by the superior knee strikes and clinch throws.
3. Keeping it Simple
Don’t get too crazy with the length of your combo! The longer the combination, the more your technique for each individual strike will suffer. What’s more important than volume is the placement (aka accuracy and precision) of these strikes in conjunction with timing as well as choosing the most suitable strike for that specific situation. I suggest 2 to 4 hit combos (no more than 5!), and keeping it to the very basic strikes (refer to the strikes in fig. 1.1 above).
Here is a collection of 10 basic combos by Sean Fagen.
Some of you may now be thinking, “These ideas and concepts are too technical and won’t work in a real fight.” Well my friend, you obviously don't know good muay thai. Go watch some Samart, Rodtang, or Saenchai fights.