This guide will train you on one of the most fundamental weapons in Muay Thai – the Straight (forward) Knee!
All of the best Muay Thai fighters in Thailand have perfected this technique. In Muay Thai fights that are judged in Thailand, a fighter who uses his knees more effectively will often win the fight. If you want to be a good Muay Thai fighter, you will need to learn the fundamentals of the Muay Thai knee.
One thing I’ve noticed from reading the different guides and videos about knees online is that there is a lot of misinformation out there. Many of the guides available such as the wikihow.com’s article on “How to perform a Muay Thai Knee” are written by people who don’t know what they are talking about.
That being said, when it comes to Muay Thai techniques, there are often slight variations on how you perform a technique depending on who teaches it. I know this first hand from training with different trainers in Thailand. One trainer will tell you one thing, while the next day another trainer will tell you differently. There is no universal way of doing things, so it is important to find something that works for you.
One thing that sets Muay Thai apart from other stand-up fighting styles is the effectiveness of knees. When it comes to throwing a knee, Muay Thai fighters are extremely good at it because they incorporate them at such a young age. A knee for a Muay Thai fighter is similar to a jab or straight punch for a boxer. Most Thai fighters have better knees and kicks than their punches because of the emphasis on this in the scoring systems.
Why YOU Should Use your Knees
The knee is one of the most important strikes of Muay Thai. The first thing you will notice when you watch an authentic fight in Thailand is how many knees are used in competition. People who are effective at landing knee strikes are able to wear down their opponents by landing accurate shots to the midsections of their opponent. The knee can be used as an offensive weapon when going forward or it can be used to counterattack your opponent.
A knee is also an extremely versatile technique that can be used in long, medium and close range attacks. Using that mid kick, and following it up with a knee will score you more points. I’ve seen a fight where a guy was getting destroyed and thoroughly outboxed with his hands the whole fight, however, he still won because he was landing effective knee strikes throughout the whole fight. Don’t ever underestimate the importance of knees in your fight.
Knees from Neutral Position and the Clinch
There are many different types of knees that can be used in Muay Thai competition. Knee strikes are separated into two distinct categories – Knees from a neutral position and knees in the clinch. If you have distance between you and your opponent, then you will be using the forward/straight knee techniques. When you enter the clinch, your knee strikes will change because there is less space between you and your opponent.
From a neutral position, you can either use a straight forward knee or you can use a jumping/flying knee. This guide will go through the straight knees and discuss some of the basics that you should know. Flying/Jumping knees are completely different and will use a different technique and form to demonstrate.
The forward knee is a technique that is favored by many of the clinch fighters. This is the knee that can aggressively put your opponent in a defensive position while driving him back towards the ropes as you engage in the clinch. A well-timed forward knee can have devastating effects and even KO an opponent who is not prepared for the strike. This is the knee that is extremely useful for fighters who are tall and lean, as they have a longer knee striking range.
To land a straight knee on your opponent, you will need to utilize your hips while leaning back to generate the forward momentum. The goal of the forward knee is to drive your knee straight through your opponent’s abdomen. Pretend that the end of your knee is a spearhead and you are trying to shove that spear as deep as possible into your opponent as you can. By pushing your hips forward and leaning your upper body back, you can generate more momentum behind the strike.
One of the biggest differences you will see from some of the average Muay Thai fighters abroad and the elite Muay Thai fighters in Thailand is their knee techniques. To understand how to throw a perfect straight knee, we need to analyze some of the top fighters in the world and see how they use the technique.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so before we discuss how to throw the Muay Thai knee, let’s look at how the Muay Thai PROS do it.
The Perfect Muay Thai Knee In Pictures
This first image is of Damien Alamos (Singpatong). He has won and defended the Lumpinee Stadium belt at 63.5 kilos and can be considered by many to be one of the best fighters in the world. As you can see from the above picture, Damien displays beautiful technique when he fights. Here he is demonstrating his knees against Saenchai.
This is a knee strike from Mike Alamos. Just like his brother Damien, Mike displays the perfect knee strike.
Here’s a picture of a Ratchadamnoen fighter displaying a nice knee against Toby Smith of Australia. He times it perfectly waiting for Toby’s punch as he engages.
Here’s a beautiful knee of a shot taken from video. The Thai in red shorts is displaying a perfectly executed Muay Thai knee.
Lastly, no perfect knee compilation would be complete without a demonstration from the most famous Thai fighter in the world, Buakaw. Here is a beautiful knee strike displayed by Buakaw Banchamek.
Now that we have seen how some of the best fighters in the world perform knee strikes, we should now look at the main keys to the perfect knee.
5 Keys To The Perfect Knee
Note: The following is for rear knee attacks. If you are throwing a front knee then you do a switch step before you throw your knee.
Step forward on your front foot (switch step for front Knee) and fully extend your front leg to generate power into your hips – You will notice that all of the knees in the previous pictures have a leg that is fully extended. Ideally, you want to be on your toes when you are throwing your knee for full extension, but I’ve seen many high-level fighters stay flat on their feet.
Push Your Hips Forward – Pushing your hips forward will not only generate power into your knee but also help you cover more distance in the knee. This is the difference between someone who has no power in their knees vs someone who has KO power. Driving the hips forward will generate that extra momentum you need.
Throw the Knee Diagonally at the abdomen of the opponent – One of the reasons why you angle your knee in a diagonal position is to allow more extension in your hips. If your knee is straight up and down you will not be able to generate as much force and distance if you thrust your knee to the angle. The sharpest point of your knee is also when your knee is at a diagonal position rather than a straight up and down position.
The degree of the knee will depend on the individual fighter preference. Some fighters like Damien Alamos will have their knees turned almost horizontally, while other fighters will turn their leg to a lesser degree. It is important to remember that every trainer will have a slight variation in technique. There is no Universally correct way of doing things in Thailand, there are variations of the correct technique.
Lean your body back – Leaning your upper body back will help further propel your hips forward to generate more power into the knee. If you don’t lean back and only throw a straight knee, there will be no force behind the knee.
Throw the arm down that is the same side as your knee – Similar to a Muay Thai kick where your kicking swings across your body to generate that forward moment, you also throw your kneeing arm across your body to bring your knee forward.
One thing you will notice in every picture of a beautiful Forward knee is that the knee looks like a spear that is being shoved through their opponents body.
The strength, power, and speed of your knee will come from effectively combining all of these keys into a fluid motion. One of the biggest hurdles that beginners will have is their hips won’t want to extend as far out. That is fine. Work on your flexibility of your hips and over time you will find that your technique will get better and better.
Now that you know how to perform a knee strike, it is important to look at some common mistakes that people make.
Common Mistakes with Analysis
It is important to look at some common mistakes that people make when throwing their knee.
In this first picture we can see that the knee thrown by Karapetyan is highly ineffective (besides his foot hitting his opponent’s groin) there is not much power generated by the knee. The knee is thrown from a straight up and down position and not at a diagonal or horizontal angle. This knee would be a lot more effective if he turned out his hips and thrust the knee forward towards his opponent. Not only would it generate more power, it would also cover more distance.
This image shows the standard mistake that many beginners make when trying to throw a knee. The first and most obvious point you can see is the guy’s point of contact of the knee. There is a HUGE amount of surface area that is touching the bag. You want all of the momentum and force behind your body to be driven to a single sharp point at the end of your knee. I guarantee that this knee would not hurt anyone in a fight.
Compare the above knees to the following knee from Damien Alamos.
As you can see the difference between the two knees is very apparent. As you can see from the strike above, Damien’s hips are driven forward as his upper body leans back to create more forward momentum and power behind his knee. Notice that Damien’s hips are turned out to the side as his leg is not striking from the side position and not from a straight on direction. An important factor that will determine the power behind your knees is the angle of your upper thigh and your lower leg. The angle of Damien’s hips in the above knee is greater than 90 degrees, which helps him generate more force.
Many westerners who throw knee strikes often drive their knee straight in front of their body instead of turning their hips to the side. All the momentum and power is lost.
Let’s have a look at some video demonstrations of how to perform a knee strike.
Video Demonstration of the Perfect Knee
Here is a video of the back leg knee strike from Singmanee at Tiger Muay Thai. The video demonstrates the rear leg knee. If you are throwing a front knee you will switch step before you knee to help generate more power.
The video is a good example of how to throw a rear leg knee.
Landing the Perfect Knee Strike – It’s all about the Timing
It’s fun and all to know how to throw a correct Muay Thai knee, however, it is a different matter being able to throw it effectively in a fight. Timing and knowing when to throw a knee is what separates the pros from the average fighter. In order to land a straight knee, it is important to know what circumstances are ideal to throw your attack and or be ready for a counter.
This gif above demonstrates how to throw an effective knee with an aggressive fighter who is coming forward. Notice that Pornsanae is telegraphing the fact that he wants to KO Kwankao with his hands. Kwankao’s timing is perfect in this fight as he continually lands forward knee strikes to an oncoming Pornsanae.
One factor that can affect a fighter’s ability to perform effective knees is their body type.
The Perfect Muay Thai Fighter Build For Knees – (Tall and Lanky)
While anyone can learn how to throw an effective knee in a fight and training, somebody builds are more effective and efficient at landing the strikes. So what is the ideal body build? Tall and lean fighters who have long legs and torsos have more of an advantage.Whenever you see a taller/leaner fighter fighting a shorter/heavier opponent, the taller fighter will usually utilize his knees using his height advantage.
Something you will notice is that in Thailand you won’t have many overweight fighters. The best fighters are skinny and lean from all of the training they do on a daily basis. The most competitive weight divisions are all under 60 kilos. That being said, I’ve also seen retired fighters in Thailand, who are a little bit shorter and heavier who still throw excellent knees. Experience and timing will win over natural athleticism any day of the week.
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