What is the Spinning Back Elbow?

The Spinning Elbow (also called Spinning Back Elbow or in Thai, Sok klap /ศอกกลับ) is an exotic technique that can be as dangerous as it is crowd-pleasing.

This elbow strike comes at an unconventional angle, making it difficult to defend against since it can take you completely by surprise. However, it will only land if you line up the distance and timing perfectly. The Spinning Elbow is best used after a fake attack, as the last strike in a combo, or when the opponent has no room to jump away (say up against the ropes).

Somark Khamsing well famous for using spinning elbows in his fights:


How To Throw The Spinning Elbow

There is quite a bit of variation and choice when it comes to throwing a spinning elbow. Orthodox fighters will throw the spinning elbow with their right arm and Southpaw fighters will throw it with their left arm. In addition, you have a choice of a close version with your body angled downward or a longer-distance version which has your body not dipped downward.

Rear Spinning Elbow vs Front Spinning Elbow

You can throw the spinning elbow with the rear or front elbow though the most common implementation is to utilize the rear elbow as it’s much quicker than using the front elbow to strike. If you want to strike with your lead arm you have to briefly switch stances so your front elbow becomes the rear elbow and you can throw the spinning elbow from the other position.

Spinning Elbow with Rear Arm (most popular choice:


This is the standard spinning elbow that you will see in fights.

Spinning Elbow with Left Arm :

The Trainer in this video steps forward with his right foot, essential changing his stance to a Southpaw, allowing him to throw the spinning elbow with his left hand.

Besides the choice between using your right arm (orthodox) or left arm (southpaw) to execute the attack, there is also a choice of modifying the angle of the strike for CLOSE distance or for a longer distance.

The close distance version I coin this the Tilted Spinning Elbow, and the regular longer reaching technique I coin this the Straight (Horizontal) Spinning Elbow. Technically, it’s the same overall movement but with one you don’t lean and your elbow is held more horizontal and the second your body is leaning forward at an angle and your elbow lifted above your head.

Truth be told, I don’t know IF there is a formal name distinguishing these two types of spinning elbows, but I’ve noticed they are NOT the same thing when you actually break it down. If you ask your Thai trainers about these two types of spinning elbows, they will likely tell you one way is correct while the other is not correct technique. But you can definitely see different fighters pulling off different styles of spinning elbows, as I’ll show you below.

Tilted Spinning Elbow vs. the Horizontal/Straight Spinning Elbow technique

Which of these techniques should you do? It pretty much depends on how you’ve learned the spinning elbow technique AND how close you are to your opponent. As a rule of thumb, the Horizontal Spinning Elbow is good to use when you are coming forward and your opponent is not within clinch range. The Tilting Spinning Elbow is a great option to use if you slip to the right of a punch (a left hook or jab say, assuming you are orthodox stance) OR/AND if you are just coming into clinch range. The tilted body position and the raised elbow mean you end up standing at an angle to the side of your opponent and can land the strike at a closer distance than the Horizontal version.

Here’s a look comparing the two styles of spinning elbow. You should see a difference in the body position and the elbow height:


And another comparison, this time with pictures:


The Straight Spinning Elbow

The Horizontal/Straight Spinning Elbow is most likely to land if you follow another strike with it or a fake — say a jab or a fake left knee — or if you time your opponent coming at you and execute the spinning movement at the same time.

How to Do It: Step your left foot to the outside of your opponents left foot (assuming both fighters are in orthodox stances) and pull your right elbow backwards across your body while whipping your hips around in a clockwise motion all the way until your elbow is pointing forwards and your body twisted around with your upper body facing the opponent. Your elbow should end up 180 degrees from the original position. Your other hand (left one) should be beside the left side of your face for protection.


Another angle for the same strike:


Here’s what the Straight Spinning style looks like in a fight:


Notice in the image above that Somrak’s elbow is mostly parallel to the ground and the body is mostly straight without being bent over.

This type of Spinning elbow above is good if your opponent is at a distance and you want to close the distance.

Or you can use it in a combo after say a jab:


Another good lead in is to fake a left knee (that is hop in with your left leg to close the distance, then throw the spinning elbow as you move forward) as a lead into the spinning elbow. Watch Somrak do this:


It works especially well IF your opponent is backed up against the ropes with no room to move away (you’ll not that a number of the technques are used in the examples when the opponent is against the ropes or moving forward).

Also notice Somrak here faking the left knee before executing the spinning elbow:

spinning_back_elbow_fight8_horizontal_fake left knee

Again, if the opponent can’t move back anymore, you are in a good position to actually land the spinning elbow:


The Tilted Spinning Elbow

This elbow is slightly different in that your body is tilted to the side with your head lower than that of your opponents and the tip of your elbow raised up at the same height your head usually is. It’s a good technique to pull off if you are in clinch range and your opponent is coming forward OR you manage to slip an opponent’s jab. This technique has you tilted to the side of your opponent.

How to do it: Step your leading foot slightly to the side of your opponent’s lead foot then arc your body downwards slightly with your elbow raised higher than your head while whipping around your body in a clockwise motion. At the end of this motion, your elbow tip should be higher than your head and your body tilted downwards.

Somrak Kamsing threw this type of elbow quite often:


This technique practically begs to be used if you manage to slip a jab and are standing slightly off to the right of your opponent. Since the Tilted Spinning Elbow is at an angle, you can still hit your opponent even though you are pretty much standing beside him. Somrak shows how it’s done:


Watch again as Somak pulls the Titled Spinning Elbow out after he slips a left hook and is standing to the side of his opponent:


You’ll notice above that Somak pulls this type of Spinning elbow off when there is little room or he’s within clinch range or he’s slipping a punch. In order to hit your opponent when they are close, you MUST bend your body down and raise your elbow high, unlike the Horizontal style where you keep your elbow more parallel to the ground and your body more straight.

This version of the Spinning Elbow, because you can throw it when you are practically in clinch range means you, well, can throw it from a clinch:


If you want to watch videos about spinning elbow techniques, I recommend

Keys to the Spinning Elbow

Complete List of Elbow Techniques

Basic Elbows

Advanced Elbows

Special Elbows