Of all the modern combat sports, perhaps none other is more exciting to watch than Muay Thai kickboxing. And, of all the striking styles, none is as easy to pick up or as difficult to master as Muay Thai. With techniques that belie the complexity of the art by their simplicity, Muay Thai is a lot like chess in that the basics and rules are easy to learn, but one can spend a lifetime mastering their subtleties.
Since we realize that most of the people who find our website are looking for more information on our school and the martial arts classes we teach, we decided to write this article in order to explain the art of Muay Thai kickboxing by breaking down the basic techniques and training methods of Muay Thai.
Let’s start with the techniques…
The Techniques of Muay Thai
The techniques of Muay Thai can be broken down into four sections; punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. Some would also add in a fifth dimension, techniques of thrusting with the foot, but those techniques fall under the realm of kicks, so for simplicity’s sake we’ve organized them as such.
Punching techniques mostly correlate with the techniques of Western boxing, and consist of:
- Jab (Mat na/Mat yaep)
- Cross (Mat trong)
- Hook (Mat wiang san)
- Uppercut (Mat soei/Mat soi dao)
- Spinning Backfist (Mat wiang klap)
- Overhand (Mat wiang yao)
- and the Cobra Punch (aka, the Superman Punch, (Kradot chok)
Kicking techniques include:
- Straight Kick (Te trong)
- Roundhouse Kick (Te tiat)
- Diagonal Kick (Te chiang)
- Shin/Knee Kick (Te khrueng khaeng khrueng khao)
- Reverse Roundhouse Kick (Te klap lang)
- Downward Roundhouse Kick (Te kot)
- Axe Kick (Te khao)
- Jump Kick (Kradot te)
- Stepping Kick (Khayoep te)
- Straight Thrusting Kick (Thip trong)
- Side Thrusting Kick (Thip khang)
- Reverse Thrusting Kick (Thip klap lang)
- Slapping Thrusting Kick (Thip top)
- Jumping Thrusting Kick (Kradot thip)
Techniques of striking with the elbows include:
- Elbow slash (Sok ti)
- Horizontal elbow (Sok tat)
- Uppercut elbow (Sok ngat)
- Forward elbow thrust (Sok phung)
- Reverse horizontal elbow (Sok wiang klap)
- Spinning elbow (Sok klap)
- Double elbow chop (Sok klap khu)
- Flying elbow (Kradot sok)
And techniques of striking with the knees include:
- Straight knee (Khao trong)
- Diagonal knee (Khao chiang)
- Curving knee (Khao khong)
- Horizontal knee (Khao tat)
- Knee slap (Khao top)
- Knee bomb (Khao yao)
- Flying knee (Khao loi)
- Step-up knee strike (Khao yiap)
Muay Thai Techniques In The Ring
The most commonly seen attacks in modern Thai boxing matches are combinations of Western boxing punches (jab, cross, hook, uppercut, overhand) and elbows, combined with the straight thrust kick and Thai roundhouse kick. Typically, knee strikes are seen while one Thai boxer is clinching to control the other Thai boxer, although some more energetic and daring fighters will deliver jumping knees from long range.
Speaking of clinching, the clinch game is very advanced in Muay Thai. Several variations of neck, arm, and body clinches exist in Muay Thai, with the neck clinch (sometimes referred to as the plum position) being the most popular. A good Muay Thai fighter who is strong in the clinch can smother their opponents attacks while setting up devastating knees, punches, and elbows to unprotected areas of the opponent’s body, or to set them up for a throw.
So how does a Muay Thai fighter protect themselves during a match? They can use a variety of techniques, including footwork, head and body evasion (similar to Western boxing), blocking (as in the shin block), or simultaneous counterattack (beating the opponent to the punch or kick). All of these techniques combined provide added dimensions to Muay Thai that virtually no other combat sport can match. This makes Muay Thai exciting to watch and fun to train.
Conditioning – The Muay Thai Fighter’s Wheelhouse
Muay Thai fighters are renowned for their excellent physical conditioning, and place a great emphasis on physical preparedness in training. In addition to technical training and sparring, a Muay Thai fighter will do extensive cardio and strength training work in preparation for a fight. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Jumping rope
- Shadow boxing (typically done as a warm-up, but also for conditioning and developing technical skill)
- A variety of calisthenics to condition the entire body, with special emphasis on developing leg and abdominal strength
- And medicine ball training
However, one myth about Muay Thai fighters is that they kick trees and strike their shins with hard objects in order to condition their shins for blocking kicks. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, legitimate Thai boxers know that such training could potentially cause an injury, which could jeopardize their career. And besides, kicking the 6-foot Muay Thai punching bag and the Thai pads provides all the shin conditioning that a fighter should need.
Yet, there is a grain of truth to that myth. Long before there was such a thing as modern foam technology, Muay Thai fighters would make kicking pads out of banana tree trunks by cutting them to length and lashing them to their forearms. Banana tree wood is very soft, and this allowed the fighters to practice their kicks against a moving target. So, that’s where the modern myth of Muay Thai fighters kicking banana trees likely started.
Learning Muay Thai
If you want to learn Muay Thai, it’s important that you choose a good gym with a coach who is a qualified instructor. And while not all Muay Thai coaches have competitive experience, it is traditional in Muay Thai for a trainer to have had fighting experience prior to opening a gym and training fighters. You should ask about the trainer’s background and fight experience, as well as their track record of training competitors and champions.
Also, beware of trainers who have backgrounds in other martial art systems who claim certification to teach Muay Thai. Many (not all, but many) of these trainers got their certifications at a weekend or week-long seminar without any previous experience in Muay Thai. And, while some of these people can teach technically proficient Muay Thai basics, without a background training and working with a qualified coach and other fighters day-in and day-out, they will lack the ability to impart the deeper skills and tactics of Muay Thai to you.
Ready to Get Started?
Call or fill out the inquiry form on this page to find out how you can get started learning authentic Muay Thai kickboxing. Whether you’re looking to learn Muay Thai for competition, fitness, or self-defense, we welcome you to schedule an introductory lesson so you can start learning real, effective Muay Thai. Call (604) 725-9797 or stop by one of our Surrey or Langley Marcus Soares schools today!