While many people associate Muay Thai with elbows and knees, there is a whole range of techniques that are available to Muay Thai practitioners of the sport. While not all techniques are created equal, it is important to understand the different types of offensive and defensive weapons that are available for a fighter.
The following is a list of Muay Thai techniques that are available for you to use. It is not meant to be a guide on how to perform each technique individually. Guides will be released on for specific breakdowns of each technique and how to perform them.
The techniques range from basic punch combos to advanced moves that you rarely see executed in the ring. It is important to learn the basic Muay Thai techniques before you try and learn some of the advanced techniques that have more risk but offer more reward.
To keep things concise we broke down the different techniques into different sections. Each section offers a list of the basic techniques that you should master from that section and a list of advanced techniques that you can learn after you have mastered the basics.
Jab – The most basic punch in Muay Thai is the jab. The jab is often the first offensive weapon you will learn. The Jab can be used offensively or it can be used defensively to stop an incoming opponent. A strong jab should be a part of every fighters arsenal.
Check out our Guide to the Muay Thai Jab
Cross – The cross is a weapon that is known has the power shot. This is a punch that will put fear into your opponent if you connect properly. This is the lights out shot that will hurt if you land it. Setting up the cross if something that will take time, but it is something everyone needs to perfect.
Technically, the cross is the straight right (on an orthodox fighter) or the straight left (on a southpaw). However, a ‘cross’ ‘crosses’ over diagonally rather than striking out straight.
As such, an argument can be made for another punch: the straight punch.
Check out our Guide to the Muay Thai Cross
Straight Right (or Left) – As stated above, similar to the Cross, but rather than a diagonal angle, the straight right does not veer diagonally but rather is a straight punch.
Straight rights can be used as a rear ‘jab’ punch — used by some fighters like Floyd Mayweather very effectively due to the speed and accuracy. At the end of a combo, the straight right can be used as a knockout punch.
Hook – The hook is a technique that is extremely effective if you can connect on your opponents chin. Also known as the knockout punch, a good hook is something that will strike fear into the heart of your opponents. The most common hook that is thrown is the left hook by orthodox fighters. Typically this is known as the knockout punch because it is something you often don’t see coming.
Straight Body Punch – The Straight Body Punch is a great technique that you throw using your dominant hand. When you throw the straight punch it is important that you don’t bend down too low or you could get caught with a knee to the face. This is a technique that should be setup otherwise you will leave yourself exposed to your opponent. A good straight body punch can drop your opponent for the count.
Hook to the Body – Another punching technique you can utilize are body hooks/uppercuts that are designed to damage your opponent over time. Body punches are useful for wearing down an opponent over time as they start to accumulate shots and damage throughout the round. However, if you land a left body hook to the liver, it can have a devastating effect and drop your opponent for the count.
Uppercut – The uppercut is a technique that is effective in close range or at distance. A clean uppercut can easily render an opponent unconscious. The uppercut can either be used with the lead or the backhand and the power is generated from the fighter’s core.
Overhand Punch – The overhand is a punching technique that is used with the fighters backhand. The momentum generated from the overhand punch makes this one of the most powerful punch techniques that a fighter can throw. In order to land an overhand punch, you will need to set it up effectively. Typically, the overhand punch is thrown from the power side. For an orthodox fighter, this would be ‘the overhand right.’
Looping Lead Hook – A leaping hook that’s used effectively by some boxers (Floyd Mayweather, Prince Naseem)
Spinning Back Fist – The spinning back first is another punch technique that is not commonly used in Muay Thai. The spinning back fist generates its power from the momentum of the fighters spinning and generating that torque into the back of their fist.
Superman Punch – The superman punch is a popular technique because it is a tricky fake that can fool opponents. Landing the overhand will require a fighter to set it up properly to ensure that the opponent falls for the fake when the punch is thrown. If used effectively, this is one of the “coolest” moves you can use.
Body Kick – The body kick is the most common kick in Muay Thai. This is the first technique that you will learn in Muay Thai because it is the most used technique in the sport. The body kick is the most powerful attack that can have devastating effect on an opponent if it lands clean. Mastering the body kick will ensure that you become a complete fighter.
Low Kick – The Muay Thai low kick is a devastating weapon that can be used to inflict pain on an opponent. If the kicks are used correctly they can drop someone with a couple good kicks to the leg. The low kick is a quick attack that is used at the end of many Muay Thai combinations that are used.
Head Kick – The head kick is a technique that can render an opponent unconscious if it lands. The difficulty of the head kick is that if an opponent sees it coming they can simply lean back and you will be out of position. Head kicks are one of the 3 major kicks in Muay Thai that you should attempt to master.
Straight Kick – The straight kick is a Muay Thai kick that uses the front lead leg to kick the face of an opponent. The target is the jaw of the opponent and if you land it can leave your opponent unconscious. The straight kick is effective because you kick between the opponents guard. A good example of an effective straight kick was Victor Nagbe’s KO over Kem Sitsongpeenong when he kicked right through the guard.
Half-Shin, Half-Knee Kick – The half shin, half knee kick is a technique that is utilized when an opponent is coming into close range. This kick lands flush on the opponent with your shin and knee across his mid-section. It is a technique that can be utilized to stop an opponent who is coming forward. It is more of a defensive maneuver, but if you throw it with power you can hurt your opponent with it.
Axe Kick – The axe kick is a technique that comes above the opponents head and then chops down like an axe chopping wood. In order to utilize this technique, the practitioner needs to be flexible enough to get their feet high in order to come down with it. This is a technically difficult kick to perform. The axe kick is a karate kick (famously used as the bread and butter kick by K1 fighter Andy Hug during matches). You typically won’t see an axe kick used in traditional Muay Thai matches, though it is thrown by some fighters in K1, GLORY, and MMA-style matches.
Jump Kick – The jump kick is a kick that can be performed by jumping into the regularly kick. This is a great technique that you can use when an opponent is moving backward and you are trying to close ground. Jump kicking into an opponent will push them back.
Step Up Kick – Is performed by jumping up and then kicking out at an opponent. This is not a technique.
Push Kicks (Teeps)
Basic Push Kicks
Straight Teep (Front) – The teep is a foot thrust that is used like a jab. It can be used both offensively and defensively to push opponents back and stop their forward momentum as they come to attack you. The teep is a technique that has different variations depending on the angle of the foot and the placement of the foot on the opponents body.
Rear Teep (Back leg) – The rear Teep generates more power than the standard front leg Teep because it comes from your rear foot. It is a great technique to use to off balance an opponent because of the greater momentum that is generated from the Teep. The rear teep can be used with knockout power as a devastating kick to the face. in matches.
Side Teep – The side teep is a teep that uses the side of the foot. The side teep puts you more out of position than the front teep, so it is important that it lands on your opponent. Generally, the side teeps can cover more distance because you turn your hips out to the side with the teep.
Advanced Push Kicks
Jumping Teep – The jumping teep is one of the most powerful teeps because you jump into the teep and generate more momentum in the attack. This is an attack that can push an opponent half way across the ring if you use it correctly.
Slapping Teep – The sleeping teep is used as a downward motion. When you perform a slapping teep it it comes up and out at the opponent. The slapping teep is a great weapon to mix up your arsenal of attacks against your opponent.
Straight Knee – The straight knee is a knee that is utilized when a fighter is closing the distance and going in for the attack. In order to effectively land a straight knee, you need to ensure that you are good at timing and distance. If your knee is too short you will be right in front of your opponent after the strike.
Check out our Guide to the Straight Forward Knee
Diagonal Knee – The diagonal knee comes from a diagonal and does not come straight at a target. The target for the diagonal knees is usually towards the side of an opponent. Diagonal knees are one of the most common knees that are used in Muay Thai.
Side Knee – Side knees are performed in the clinch position and generally used to score points in a fight. The target is the side of the ribs of the opponent. If an opponent is much taller than you can use a flying knee to attack the legs of your opponent. Striking the legs of your opponent with your knees is a great way to weaken is legs for the fight.
Curving Knee – The curving knee is performed in the clinch position. It generates momentum by coming up and around going into an opponent’s side. These knees are very effective but you should be careful an opponent doesn’t off balance you when you throw the knee strike.
Jumping Knee – Jumping knees are knee strikes that are designed to attack the head of an opponent. With a jumping knee, you step up into the knee and gain elevation with the momentum. The jumping knee is an attack that can have great impact if you can land it into an opponent.
Flying Knee – Unlike the jumping knee which you jump up to knee, the flying knee is taken in one step jump towards a target. The flying knee is performed by switching your step and leaping forward with the rear leg to strike from the back. The switch momentum provides the impact needed to land the knee on an opponent. The flying knee is often done as a follow-up final sequence in a chained attack when the opponent is pushed backwards and off balance, usually when up against the rope.
Step up Knee – The step up knee is a technique that is performed while stepping up on an opponent’s leg to allow you to jump onto their knee. This is more of a Muay Boran technique because it is difficult to perform in a match.
Horizontal Elbow – The horizontal elbow is an elbow that is thrown horizontally at an opponent. The strike is usually aimed at the lower jaw or the chin of an elbow. If the elbow lands, it will usually have devastating effect because of the momentum behind the elbow. Another target you can aim for is the side of your opponent’s head in the temple area.
Check out our Guide to the Horizontal Elbow
Uppercut Elbow – The Uppercut elbow is an elbow technique that is used to penetrate the high guard of an opponent. Unlike the horizontal elbow which can easily be blocked by an opponent’s guard, the uppercut elbow is a technique that is designed to pierce right down the middle of a guard.
Check out our Guide to the Uppercut Elbow
Forward Elbow Thrust – Like the Uppercut elbow, the forward thrust elbow is a technique that is designed to pierce through the guard of an opponent. The elbow is designed to be able to penetrate between a very tight Muay Thai guard and cut an opponent. This is one of the best elbows for cutting the forward of opponents because it is vicious in its execution of the elbow.
Check out our Guide to the Forward Elbow Thrust
Slashing Elbow – The slashing elbow is another basic elbow that is extremely effective in Muay thai. The slashing elbow is a technique that is designed to slash the guard of an opponent and cut above the eye. If it lands on any part of an opponent’s face it will cause damage. Generating your full momentum behind the elbow strike can cause a lot of damage to the opponent.
Check out our Guide to the Slashing Elbow
Backwards Elbow – The backwards elbow is an elbow strike that comes under an opponent and strikes upward aiming at the chin. This is a strike that can have devastating effect if you are able to land it cleanly on the opponent.
Check out our Guide to the Backwards Elbow
The Downward Jumping Elbow – This technique is just like the forward thrust elbow but it has a jumping motion with the elbow. This is a great elbow that you can use to close the distance from an opponent and land surprise strike against them.
Check out our Guide to the Downward Jumping Elbow
Spinning Back Elbow – The back elbow is one of the more popular elbow techniques among westerners. The back elbow strike is an elbow that should be set up properly in order to land on an opponent. They are particularly effective if an opponent is coming forward and you throw the strike right away. If you telegraph the elbow and opponent can simply lean back to avoid.
Check out our Guide to the Spinning Back Elbow
The diagonal elbow is a tricky elbow that comes through in the clinch position. This is an elbow that you can throw when you are right up close to your opponent and aim for their chin. If you land this elbow on target it will render them unconscious. The diagonal elbow is difficult to block because of the distance and position of the elbow.
Check out our Guide to the Diagonal Elbow
Downward Elbow Chop
The downward elbow chop is a technique that is great for splitting the forehead of an opponent open during a fight. This elbow chop comes down in a chopping motion and is very effective if you can close the distance on the opponent. It can go above the opponent guard and land or it can go through the middle of an opponent’s guard.
Check out our Guide to the Downward Elbow Chop
Reverse Horizontal Elbow
The reverse horizontal elbow is a technique that is utilized after you miss a forward elbow, you come back to the side and reverse the elbow. This is a technique that is difficult to pull off and is a very advanced technique that can be utilized in fights.
Check out our Guide to the Reverse Horizontal Elbow
Double Chop Elbow
The double chop elbow is a technique that utilizes both elbows in the attack. It is a very difficult technique to pull off and it doesn’t generate as much power as the other elbow techniques that you have at your disposal. The double chop elbow is something that you can use when you are ahead of your opponent on points and want to showcase your dominance in the fight.
Check out our Guide to the Double Chop Elbow
This is the basic clinch where both fighters are standing directly in front of each other with their hands locked around each other’s head. Fighters battle for a dominant position in the front clinch as they attempt to swim their hands in to get a dominate position on the neck of the opposing fighter.
The arm clinch consists of one fighter controlling the other fighters arm in the clinch. The second hand is free in the open clinch and the knee strike is available to the front side of the opponent.
The side clinch is when one fighter is to the side of another fighter in the clinch. The fighter will have his arm around the one fighters back which allows him to throw knee strikes to the back of the opponent. This is a very dominant clinch position and can be used to apply throws.
The low clinch is a position that is used when both hands are wrapped underneath an opponent’s arms. Shorter fighters generally utilize the low clinch when they are fighting taller opponents because this is a naturally position for them to be in.
Throws – Throws are commonly used in the clinch position to off balance an opponent and gain a dominant position. You can throw an opponent from any position in the clinch. Control of your body and off balancing the opponent are two essential components of throwing.
The first defensive technique that you will learn in Muay Thai is blocking. Blocking is the process of putting an arm or leg in front of an attack to protect your body from receiving the blunt impact of the strike. Blocking with the fists and arms are generally done to prevent punch strikes, while blocking with the shins are used for protection against leg strikes. You can use your leg to block both body and low kicks from your opponent.
Similar to blocking, parrying is used to redirect the impact of a technique that is coming towards you. Parrying tactics are mainly used for punches as they can easily be redirected so you are not able to hit your target. For example, parrying a jab would require you to push the jab to the side so it avoids your face. Once you are able to properly block all techniques, the next step is learning how to parry the techniques out of your way.
One of the most effective forms of defenses is avoiding the strikes in the first place. If you are able to avoid a technique from your opponent you will save you body the impact of the force. While blocking is a sure way to protect yourself, it can have an impact on your body after a few rounds in a fight. Avoidance techniques like leaning back and moving your feet back are essential in Muay Thai. Avoiding an attack will put you in a great position to counter attack. Evading an attack is different than avoiding because you move more significantly farther away from an opponent. When you evade a strike you will jump back and won’t be in a position to attack again.
Disrupting techniques are used to stop attacks as they are occurring. For example, if someone is going to kick you, a well placed teep will disrupt this kick from occurring. Disrupting tactics are a great way to throw someone’s offense of because they won’t develop any rhythm in the fight.
Anticipating a technique before it occurs and striking first is another great defensive tactic that can be used in Muay Thai. If you kick at an opponent leg as he his throwing a body kick, this is an example of an Anticipation technique.
Catching is another defensive technique that occurs when you catch an opponent leg from a knee, teep or kick strike. Once you catch an opponent’s offensive weapon, he will be put off balance and you will be free to strike at any given time. Catching is extremely effective as a defensive move that can create offense from. All of the high-level Thai fighters are extremely good at catching kicks and putting an opponent off balance.
A counter is a technique that is advantageous against certain techniques your opponent might throw at you. For example, one of the counters to the left kick is a right low kick to your opponent’s front leg. By simultaneously throwing your kick at the same time as your opponents left kick, you will knock him off balance. The more experience you get in Muay Thai, the more counter attacks you will learn.
Want to Learn More? If you want to learn how to develop a complete Muay Thai game from the ground up make sure you check out my Muay Thai Strategy series. These books are designed to help you develop the complete fundamentals of Muay Thai and will teach you how to beat your next opponent in the ring.