When you face a Muay Thai fighter that has a good defense, it can almost feel impossible to penetrate their guard. Good defensive fighters have the ability to block most incoming attacks, regardless of what you throw at them.

If you face an inexperienced opponent who doesn’t block, landing kicks is pretty straight forward and easy. Throw any strike, and it will probably land.  However, when you face someone who is skilled at blocking, you will need to utilize skill and technique to land your kicks.

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This article is going to break down three ways that you can land kicks on a skilled opponent.

#1. The Importance of Timing

To land a strike on your opponent you need to strike when they are not blocking, which requires good timing. With good timing you will be able to kick your opponent without needing to set up the kick with anything else.

Timing is everything in Muay Thai.

Timing is the reason why  Muay Thai is so much more effective than traditional martial arts that don’t do any full contact sparring. When you spend thousands of hours trying to kick through someone’s guard, you will eventually learn when you should kick and when you shouldn’t kick.

Unfortunately, you need to spend the time getting that experience. You can’t sit in your room watching a YouTube clip and develop better timing; you need to, like actually, go out and spar. Video watching won’t make you better at actually the doing of the sparring.

This video provides a brief breakdown of timing and provides a demonstration of timing.

While timing is essential for landing kicks, you may run into issues if your opponent has better timing than you. This is why it is important to learn how to set up your kicks with punches.

#2. Setting Up Your Kicks with Combinations

Besides having good timing, you will also need to learn how to set up your kicks with punches. One of the reasons why punches are so effective at landing kicks is because it will distract your opponent for a moment, giving you an opening to throw a kick.

The nice thing about combinations is that you don’t have to do anything fancy, just throw a one-two punch and kick. The best combinations are often 3-4 strikes because it is fast and short enough to prevent your opponent from countering you.

Watch this video below to learn more about setting up your kicks with punches.

It is important to note that good fighters are often used to seeing combinations and will know when you are about to kick regardless of your punches. If this happens, then you will need to try and set up your kicks using feints.

#3. Setting up Your Kicks with Feints (Fakes)

One of the best ways to land kicks on your opponent is to set them up with feints (fakes). A good feint will disguise your intentions and make your opponent react to a strike that you don’t throw. The moment you see your opponent react to your fake, you can then take advantage of the opening to strike.

The key to throwing an effective feint is to do it in rhythm. Fighters who are jumping back and forth on their toes (mostly Kickboxers) are not able to sell feints the same way that Muay Thai fighters can.

This video showcases the effective use of feints to land kicks on your opponent. *Recommended Watch

*In this video I demonstrate kicks, but you can follow up these feints with punches and elbow strikes as well

The key to throwing a good feint is to stay relaxed. Notice how relaxed I am as I am about to throw the feint. I am not jumping back and forth on my toes (kickboxing style). I am in rhythm, which allows me to sell the feint and adjust my footwork to take advantage of the opening.

Before you work on your feints, I suggest you work on your rhythm and movement. Fighters who are very stiff have a much harder time selling feints. While a beginner will bite at any feint you throw, good fighters require a much more than only moving your arms and shuffling your feet around.

Learning good footwork in Muay Thai is something that takes years to develop, so don’t worry if you don’t get this stuff overnight. Remember that the key to throwing a good feint is to develop your rhythm and timing.

Sparring is Essential to Learning how to Land Kicks

While shadow boxing is an important tool to help you develop technique and rhythm, the only way you can improve your timing is to spar with an opponent. Sparring will teach you what works and what doesn’t work in the ring. If all of your strikes are being blocked, you will be forced to adapt your style and find ways to improve.

While it’s easy for me to sit here and say develop better timing, the hard part is developing that timing. Timing is developed naturally through hundreds of hours of sparring. The more time you spend facing different opponents, the better you will become at reading when to strike and when not to strike.

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A lack of timing is the reason why it is so awkward sparring with a Muay Thai beginner. They kick when they are not supposed to kick and punch at the wrong time. Beginners don’t have any sense of timing or control, which is why they are more likely to end up injuring their sparring partners.

Thai fighters in Thailand who have been born into Muay Thai develop this timing naturally. Through thousands of hours of training and hundreds of fights, many of them develop next level timing.

The key to your Muay Thai development is patience. Understand that developing a complete game is a process that requires you to put in the time and effort to improve. Progress happens over months and years, not days and weeks. Keep that in mind when you are trying to develop a technique or work on ONE specific aspect of your game.

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