Muay Thai is known for one thing. Powerful!… Damaging!… Leg kicks! That moment when a solid leg kick lands and the sound fills the whole arena. That’s something that really is unique to Muay Thai. Beyond looking dangerous they are effective. Immobilizing an opponent without knocking him out takes skill and precision.
Muay Thai is known for one thing. Powerful!… Damaging!… Leg kicks!
That moment when a solid leg kick lands and the sound fills the whole arena. That’s something that really is unique to Muay Thai. Beyond looking dangerous they are effective. Immobilizing an opponent without knocking him out takes skill and precision.
What are the need to know essentials for great legs kicks?
What sets leg kicks apart from pretty much every other technique is that they target the lower half. Attacking the legs is a rare thing in any martial arts. There is no such thing as a ‘one punch knockout’ when using them. Therefore it will take multiple strikes to finish an opponent.
This disadvantage is the same thing that makes them so special. You can chop away at your opponent over time, similar to using body shots. Except all force the body generates starts at the legs. The moment you’ve got your opponent with a solid leg kick his ability to hurt you drops, many times drastically. He starts moving slower. And best of all, he thinks before moving.
The moment your opponent thinks too much about the oncoming leg kicks is the moment… you kick him in the head! Hahahaha. This is the one of the most common ring strategies in Muay Thai. The best thing is that it works, time and time again.
The leg also happens to be a surprisingly sensitive area when not well trained. The inner thigh in particular is a very tender spot. A small number of strikes can easily ground your opponent. One of the real disadvantages is that really tough guys will walk through your leg kicks. They’ll bite down on their gum guard and keep fighting. That’s not something you can do if you get punched in the head.
Either way, keep these targets in mind when using leg kicks:
- Inner thigh (high damage area)
- Outer thigh (easy to strike)
- Back of the calf muscle (often ignored)
- The ankles outer side (turns your kick into a sweep)
How to Execute the Perfect Leg Kicks
Kicking by itself is easy. The challenge with the leg kick lays in not getting countered while you’re doing it. That’s why practicing by kicking the heavy bag day in day out won’t make you a better leg kicker. It’s about timing and accuracy. Once you’ve got those two down the power will naturally follow. The leg is so heavy that you don’t need to put much force in it to cause damage.
- Step 1: From your fighting stance judge the distance to your opponent. Take a small shuffle step inwards or let your target come to you.
- Step 2: When in range release your kick. Target any of the previously mentioned parts of your opponent’s leg. When practicing on a heavy bag make certain you are not kicking to high.
- Step 3: After the kick pull your leg back and either step back or shuffle to the side. This why you avoid standing at a range where you can be counter attacked.
As you can see the perfect leg kick is only perfect when performing it on an actual person. There are simply to many dynamics that equipment like the heavy bag or a ‘bob’ can’t replicate. The best way to practice leg kicks is by having your coach hold the Muay Thai pads for you while you are wearing shin guards.
Leg kicks also happen to be singular strikes. You use them by themselves one after the other or at the end of punching combinations. Don’t try to chain a combination of leg kicks together, they’re too easy to block.
Exercises You Can Do
Not all leg kicks come in the form of the roundhouse kick. Occasionally you will see Thai fighters do push kicks to the thighs of incoming opponents. Mixing this kick up with the others can drastically expand your in-ring strategy.
The following are some highly practical exercises for improving your leg kicks. We’re going to assume that you already know a range of Muay Thai kicks. If not check out our article on the most effective kicks in Muay Thai.
1 - Eye Placement/Vision Drills
Your vision is one of the greatest assets in your arsenal. In fact, it may very well be your number one asset. Nowhere is this truer than when applied to leg kicks. You have to learn to keep your eyes centered on your opponent. Somewhere around his jaw or neck. You then have to learn to ‘expand’ your vision by looking at you opponent’s whole body while still remaining focused on that original point.
Doing this will work wonders for your martial arts game. It’s likely the most useful skill you will ever learn. This way you can judge all the movement coming your way without missing a step. Your eyes don’t focus on individual attacks, but the whole combination to come.
Training your vision will show you the many loopholes in your opponent’s defense and make it much easier to land leg kicks at the right time.
How do you train your vision?
Easy! Every time you train with a partner do exactly what was written above. Focus your eyes but take his/her whole body into consideration. Try to do this especially when sparring.
Overall this is an important exercise, but it helps with leg kicks a lot as they are heavily affected by the context you’re trying to use them in.
2 - Squats
For something much simpler and easier to understand, do squats. Normal squats, jumping squats, weighted squats, one legged squats, it really doesn’t matter. They are all great. Squatting is a great exercise to gain mass and power (or just power if you want). More power is always going to translate well into any sort of leg kick you intend to use.
3 - Practice The Individual Leg Kicks
Remember that there are essentially two types of leg kicks in Muay Thai. The round house to the leg and the push kick to the leg. The push kick is executed on the thigh close to the knee (don’t kick the knee though, that’s illegal). The round house targets various areas already mentioned.
You want to be good at using them, suite up with a training partner and practice each and every kick. Wear shin protectors so you don’t kill each other. At the end of the day this is the most effective way to develop your leg kicks. Simulating how you would use them in real life.
You can turn this into a light sparring game where you’re allowed to use all your weapons but only leg kicks score points.
Leg kicks are awesome, but it takes patience and practice to utilize them like the pros. Follow the tips in this article and you’ll be well on your way to mastering this wonderful Muay Thai technique.
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