The first thing you notice in Muay Thai are the kicks (Te). The boxers kick… a lot. That’s not all, all Muay Thai kicks look devastating.
Muay Thai is an aggressive sport. The philosophy behind the style is to not give any leeway to your opponent. All techniques are thrown with bad intentions. The objective is to strike with as much power as possible.
It’s easy to see this reflected in the kicks of Thaiboxers. So, what are the most effective kicks in the sport? Which do the most damage, or win you the fight?
Here’s an overview of the Muay Thai kicks you should look out for.
Round-House Kick & All Variations
Unlike in most martial arts, Muay Thai specializes in the use of the round-house kick. A notable difference is that contact is only made with the shin, and not the foot.
The variations are subtly different. These slight deviations completely change the effects of the strikes.
#1 - To The Body
The round-house to the body is the first kick anyone learns in Muay Thai kicks. It’s simple, and there is not much to think about, right?
No, there are in fact two ways you can execute this kick.
They can both be considered a function of distance. The first technique lands perpendicular to the body. The leg will travel somewhat parallel to the ground before smashing into your opponent’s side. This is a 90 degree angled kick, used when you’re further away from your opponent.
- The left body kick to the liver is the most pain inducing strike you can ever land. Period. Getting knocked out is never as bad as a liver shot.
The second method is to kick at a 45 degree angle.
This ends up being a quicker kick. Instead of smashing through the guard, you slip past it. The idea is to strike your opponent’s mid-section, by slipping your shin into the little space between the elbow and the side.
#2 - To The Legs
Seeing a Muay Thai bout ended with leg kicks is a hard thing to watch. It means that someone was literally battered into submission.
The traditional target for this strike is above the kneecap or below it. When you receive a heavy kick to your lower thigh, it feels like your kneecap is about to burst.
This is a dangerous technique, especially when thrown with full power to the inner part of the thigh. Once three of these land clean, the fight is practically over.
- Remember that it’s easy to check leg kicks. Make sure to use them carefully and in combinations.
- Getting your kick checked can be surprisingly painful if your shin is not well conditioned.
#3 - To The Head
As Michael Schiavello, the K1 fight commentator would say, “THE BIG KABOSH!”
This strike has one purpose. To knock your opponent out, with no chance of recovery.
A properly executed Muay Thai head kick uses the shin as its point of contact. Adapting to this can be a little difficult if you’re not flexible enough. So obviously, flexibility is a must.
The weight of the leg translates directly to the kick. In other words, it doesn’t matter where it lands on the head, so long it lands. Ideally though, you want your shin to strike across your opponents jaw.
The Thais ‘follow through’ on most over their attacks. This means their actually target is always behind their opponent. For power, aim to place your shin about a foot to the side of your opponents head.
- The pros only throw head kicks in combinations or with feints.
- Try obscuring you opponents vision by sticking your fist in his face, (don’t pull it back) before kicking his head.
- If you’re kicking with your right leg then use your right fist.
- Every Thai boxer is good at round-house kicks, but it’s worth checking out a highlight reel of ‘The Boxing Computer’ Yodsanklai Fairtex, putting them into action.
The Push-Kick/Teep Muay Thai Kicks
This is the only way the front kick is used in Muay Thai.
The technique focuses less on doing damage, and more on off-balancing your opponent. In Muay Thai kicks, the balance is a big thing. The judges will give you points if they see you can screw with your opponent’s equilibrium, without losing your own. Try to improve your Muay Thai stance here.
#1 - To The Body
This is where you’ll see the teep most often applied. The typical target is the navel. When striking it with the ball of your foot, you’re bound to make contact with the ‘center of gravity’.
A person’s center of gravity is two finger widths below the navel. Your opponent will automatically need to readjust himself with such a kick. In other words, you’re disrupting his balance.
Teeps are a defensive weapon. The best time to use them is while your opponent is moving. During motion your balance is constantly changing. With every step you take, your body’s distribution of weight has to shift from one foot to the other.
- Never lead with a teep. You’ll be the one to lose your balance if you do.
- Waiting for your opponent to move before striking will also cause more damage to him. This way the teep becomes more dangerous, making your opponent think twice before he moves.
Thai boxers are experts at intercepting their targets as they are moving forward. The most dramatic result is when this is done as your opponent is kicking. He’ll swing his arms wildly trying to maintain his balance, and still fall on his arse.
#2 - To The Legs
A push kick to the leg has two highly effective variations. Kick the back leg or kick the inner thigh of the front leg.
The muay thai stance puts a lot of weight on the back leg. Thai boxers do this so they can easily raise their front leg to check kicks. Therefore, if you destabilize the back leg, your opponent will be in a world of trouble.
The results of this techniques can be nasty. In Muay Thai, a lot of fighters try to get one or two kicks in as the opponent falls.
Now imagine kicking the back leg of your opponent. He falls face first to the ground but brakes his fall with his hands. He’s essentially on all fours. Before he can completely get up (and before the referee can jump in) you kick him in the head.
- Push-kicks to the legs are single attacks, placed in-between combinations. For example, a jab and roundhouse kick combination with a push kick after a short pause.
- Intercepting a moving opponent is a good idea.
- If you want to see the best at work for pretty much anything in Muay Thai, look no further than Saenchai Sor Kingstar. He’s an amalgamation of perfect balance and technique.
Told you it was nasty. You actually see stuff like this happen in full Thai-rules matches.
On the other hand, the teep kick to the inner thigh is used to break an oncoming combination. It’s an uncharacteristically fine kick and is not intended to hurt anyone.
It’s executed with a high guard to defend from any oncoming punches.
Special Mention: Downward Round Kick
This is a technique you rarely see. Most Thai boxers tend to forget that it exists, but that is what makes it so dangerous. This is essentially a round-house kick aimed at striking your opponents head or shoulders, in a downward motion.
It requires good timing and flexibility.This kick needs you to turn your whole hip over. When executed properly, you’ll be facing in the same direction as your opponent. The movement is also astonishingly powerful. Since this kick isn’t used much it tends to catch people off-guard.
- Adding this kick to your arsenal is a good idea.
- Using this technique once in a blue moon will catch your opponent unaware and have devastating results.
Wrap It Up
The most effective kicks in Muay Thai aren’t always the most powerful. Though the whole sport is geared towards power and never backing down, techniques like teeps are essential to ring strategy.
Overall the sport itself is based on being practical. No way can you go wrong with learning Muay Thai kicking techniques.
Check out these compilations of kicks to see how the pros do it.
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Robert Sterling // Author
The first thing you notice in Muay Thai are the kicks. The boxers kick… a lot. That’s not all, every single kick looks devastating.