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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Basic Muay Thai Techniques

 Muay Thai weapons
Vulnerable targets
Guard and movement
Yaang Sam Kun – The three-step walk
The straight punch
The jab
The hook
The upper cut
The roundhouse kick
Low kicks
The teep/push kick
Muay Thai saying

Muay Thai Weapons

Modern Thai boxers have an arsenal of eight weapons to choose from: fists, elbows, knees and feet. While it may be possible for a Muay Thai boxer to win a particular fight using exclusively just one of the weapons available to him, by properly mastering the use of each of his weapons he will be able to confidently face any opponent.

Vulnerable Targets

Every Thai boxer should be aware of the vulnerable points on the human body and must find ways to protect them.

Guard and Movement

Proper knowledge of boxing guard is essential. There is enormous potential physical harm to a body not properly guarded. Regardless of what movement or direction a boxer takes the boxing guard must be strongly maintained. If you are not properly protected you will feel insecure and lose confidence in your abilities as a boxer. The body should be angled towards opponent, the rear arm protecting the flank and abdomen. Your less dexterous foot (the left if you are right-handed) is placed forward with the toes pointing to your opponent. The rear foot should have the toes pointing a little to the side. (The feet should not be placed exactly parallel as this compromises balance.) The heels should be raised so that you can shift the weight between the balls of your feet and remain in a constant state of readiness. Legs should not be held straight. Tuck your chin in. The forearms should be raised for protection. Elbows should remain close to your body. Fists should be loosely clenched. Your less dexterous hand (left if right-handed) should be held to eyebrows, extended slightly to the front in the same direction as the front foot. Do not strain the body to maintain the pose – relax. If you relax you can be quick enough to see your opponent’s weapons coming.

Yaang Sam Kun – The three-step walk

The famous Thai boxer’s walk is one of the most important Muay Thai techniques to master. It is the basis of all footwork in Muay Thai boxing and is of such crucial importance that without mastering it completely you will never be able to move on to an advanced level. During the Ram Muay pre-fight ritual dance the walk is stylistic and graceful. Different styles of the Yaang Sam Kun developed differently, in different areas, under different masters. But the basic movement is the same and is designed to maintain balance.


Forming the fist correctly and using the combined forces of the shoulder, hip and foot to put additional power behind the punch is a basic Muay Thai technique. It is the rear fist that has the greatest power and punching with your knuckles is most effective. When in the boxing stance don’t clench your fists tightly. Obviously when you actually deliver the punch your fist should be tightly clenched. The punch is usually aimed to hit the body or the face. You should pull the fist back immediately after punching.

The Straight Punch

The straight punch is a power punch extended directly forwards towards the target, the fist palm down, aimed at the chin or solar plexus.

The Jab

The jab is delivered with the lead hand as a defensive punch. It is used to test range and keep an opponent at bay.

The Hook

The hook is a punch delivered from the side aimed at the temple, chin or ears.

The Upper Cut

The upper cut is a punch used in close or when moving in. The fist is punched vertically upwards aimed at the chin or solar plexus.

The Elbows

The elbows provide a dangerous form of attack, used to cut and sometimes to knock out. It is delivered in a hooking, uppercut or overhand motion. Practice the elbow against a punch bag. When first practicing the elbow, swing your elbow straight up in the narrowest possible angle. Posture is important. Do not hit the target bluntly but see if you can scrape the target lightly with your elbow. Good technique uses the combination of delicacy and force; unless you are aiming for the nose or chin, in which case you should hit squarely with full force. Don’t clench your fists too tightly when using the elbows. Footwork is as for a kick. Take power from the movement of your shoulder not just your arm. When using the back elbow don't only spin. Lean back, otherwise you will end up simply slapping your opponent with the back of your hand.


In Muay Thai punches are rarely thrown to the stomach area, as the knee is a much more effective weapon. The proper way to throw the knee is to thrust it straight upwards; powerful and sharp. Stand up on your toes. Lift yourself up wth a straight leg. Step forward into the attack always keeping your hand high in guard. Fold your leg as tightly as possible and point the toes. Or the toes can point up, ready for a thrust kick. Send power from the hips in the same way you send power to the punch from the shoulder. This will make the strike more powerful. Pull your head back and lean out of punch range. Relax! First practice the straight knee. Practice against a bag or during sparring. Good knee technique in the clinch is vital. When using the long knees pull the body back and push the knee forward, turning on your foot slightly. This extends your range and makes the knee stronger. Deploy the knee as high as you can. If you can knee your opponent in the face, do it!


Muay Thai has many different kicking techniques. Kicking must be practised meticulously and is not simply a matter of kicking the bags. Power comes from the buttocks and the hips move forward. Raise yourself up on your toes, let the power go with the leg and remember to follow through, like swinging a baseball bat. Don’t jump off the ground when you kick.

The Roundhouse Kick

This basic Muay Thai kick uses the shin not the foot as the weapon. The leg is swung against the target, while the hips and trunk are simultaneously twisted in the same direction as the swing. The roundhouse kick has three areas of target: the low kick, which aims for the side of the thigh, calf or behind the knee, the mid kick which aims for the ribs and the high kick which aims for the chin, temple or neck.

Low Kicks

If your opponent aims a high kick towards your neck then kick low. You can knock them down as the technique is faster. If you receive low kick from your opponent it could be an opportunity for a back elbow. Low kicks can used at any time. Swing the leg (it is not the same as kicking a football), imagine you are sweeping the floor with your leg.

The Teep/Push Kick

The teep is a push kick that can be used for both defense and attack. It is similar to the jab for keeping an opponent at bay and is good for knocking their balance. In general a foot thrust is quickly followed by some other form of attack. Use the front leg as it is quicker to deploy. Place your toes in your opponent's sternum, or if you kick their leg use the heel. If you kick their face use the heel- but their will not be so many opportunities to do this. You cannot easily knock out an opponent with this technique, but it can be used to put off your opponent's attack. If they are trying to kick it may be possible to push them over while they are swinging their leg.


An art within Thai boxing covers grappling and clinch work. This involves grappling while standing up and trying to knee the sides or stomach, and to pull the head down while bringing up the knee. Throw downs must be clean: trips, sweeps or hip throws are not allowed. The Muay Thai fighter has fearful arsenal of knee strikes at his diposal as well as numerous throws and fighting holds - including neck hoolds, trunk holds and limb holds. In Thailand grappling and clinch work are some of the most important aspects of muay Thai, an area all fighters spend exhausting hours in the gym practising. In compettion a lot of the time your opponent will want to grab you to set up a knee or elbow strike. When your opponent goes hard you should relax, then begin to pull as your opponent relaxes. Try to hold the neck this has advantage, don’t keep moving your hands if you have the better position. If you have the neck then pull down (even if you can use only one), keep your legs wide. Strike with the knees whenever you can. If you cannot knee anymore then drop your opponent by pulling down while they are on one leg, as they knee strike you.

Muay Thai Saying

There is a very well known saying regarding Muay Thai techniques:
‘Kick loses to punch, punch loses to knee,
knee loses to elbow, elbow loses to kick’

A never-ending cycle encapsulating the fact that you must practice and master all of the Muay Thai weapons in order to become a competent Muay Thai fighter.

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