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The Ultimate Muay Thai Guide to Straight (Forward) Knees

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muay thai Knee

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 peform 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 fundamental  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 mid sections 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 completely out boxed 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 generally separated into two different 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.

Straight Knees

The forward knee is a technique that is favored among 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 effective for fighters who are tall and lean, as they have a longer knee striking range.

In order to land an effective 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 opponents abdomen. Pretend that the end of your knee is a spear head 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 are able to generate more momentum behind the strike.

One of the biggest differences you will see from some of average muay thai fighters abroad and the elite muay thai fighters in Thailand is their knee techniques. In order 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, lets look at how the Muay Thai PROS do it.

The Perfect Muay Thai Knee In Pictures

Perfect New Spear Edit

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.

Perfect New Mike Alamos

This is a knee strike from Mike Alamos. Just like his brother Damien, Mike displays the perfect knee strike.

Nice Knee

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.

Perfect Knee

Here’s a beautiful knee of a shot taken from video. The Thai in red shorts is displaying a perfectly executed muay thai knee.

Buakaw 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 1.

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.

Step 2.

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.

Step 3.

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.

Step 4.

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.

Step 5.

Throw the arm down that is the same side as your knee – Similar to a muay thai kick where your kicking your 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.

300 Spear Muay Thai

muaythaipros.com – Pretend you are driving a spear through your opponent

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.

muay thai knee mistakes

In this first picture we can see that the knee thrown by Karapetyan is highly ineffective (besides his foot hitting his opponents 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 thrusted the knee forward towards his opponent. Not only would it generate more power, it would also cover more distance.

Another Incorrect Knee

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 along 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 following knee from Damien Alamos.

Diagonal Knee Strike

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.

Lets 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

Its 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 fighters 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, some body 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 torso’s 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.

Pettongdee has a good build for Knees

Pettongdee has a good build for Knees

Something you will notice is that in Thailand you won’t have many overweight fighters. The best are ripped 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.

Even though Malik has fought the likes of Buakaw, Rawee is able to beat him with his superior skill and technique.

Even though Malik has fought the likes of Buakaw, Rawee is able to beat him with his superior skill and technique.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you agree of disagree with some of the points made in the article? Please comment below and let me know what you think.

About Author

In 2011, Stephen decided to move to Thailand in search of 'real' Muay Thai. After training MMA for 5 years, he wanted to focus solely on his standup striking. After gaining a few years of experience in the ring, he decided to start Muay Thai Pros with his brother Ben, to share their experiences from the land of Muay Thai. You can follow Stephen on Instagram or read about his Muay Thai journey HERE.

19 Comments

  1. nevertrustaninja@gmail.com'

    Awesome article and loving your blog. I’ve not come across many like it and it’s wicked. Good article on knees, I see a lot of guys in MMA struggle to throw long knees. They think everything needs to be from executed by grabing your opponent and lifting the knee vertically which is IMHO only a better knee if you can pull a head onto it. Keep it coming!

  2. alexsweeney@live.co.uk'
    Alex Sweeney on

    Hi There, great article, really well thought out.

    I am taught by an ex stadium fighter from Thailand, and am taught the straight way (without turning the knee leg sideways) or the diagonal way are ok.

    Is the straight up way used for grabbing the opponent and pulling them down into your knee, and the diagonal way for kneeing from a distance?

    Thanks

    Alex

    • Hey Alex, as I mentioned in the article the way the knees are taught will vary from trainer to trainer. Some trainers in Thailand like the knee turned almost horizontally to the abdomen of the opponent while others have less of an angle. In Thailand most fighters have some degree of diagonal turn to their knee because it helps land the sharp part of the knee against the targets abdomen. That being said, it’s important to find something that works best for you. Try different techniques and choose the one that you feel is most effective.

  3. mauricespongeman@gmail.com'

    bjj has many comprehensive articles like this, however muay thai seems to be lacking these much needed brake downs. you sir are an asset for the muay thai community. thank you.

  4. bdstrasdat@y7mail.com'

    Hey could you comment on the thai training technique of 10 20 whatever speed kicks on the pads.

    I always think this is teaching bad form as the kick seems to only go up and down with very little turn on them. I understand its a speed training technique but just want to hear your thoughts.

    Nice article on the knees, keep them coming.

    • When Thai’s do 20+ kicks on the pad, their technique is perfect from start to finish. The more tired you get, the looser your hips become and your kicks flow more easily. Obviously, you don’t want to be doing 10+ kicks if you don’t have good technique because it will only solidify bad form you might already have. It’s something everyone uses when they hit pads.

  5. torturer6067@gmail.com'

    Hello! First Id like to thank you for the website you have. Ive been using it for the last few weeks to train combos and basic technique.

    I have a question regarding right leg kicks. Im a beginner muay Thai boxer. Have only been training for 4 months. What Id like to know is how will me having my right hand up (guard position) while executing right leg kicks affect my kicks (power,quickness, etc…). For some reason it is natural for me to have my right hand up and guarding my head as opposed to everyone else who lower their guard while kicking. Im only able to execute low and mid kicks with power (orthodox stance).

    Thanks for the answer,
    greetings from Slovenija

  6. morris.d.aaron@gmail.com'

    Thanks for the article. Good tips.
    I was wondering if it’s good to bring the knee back behind your body to chamber it and swing it thru. It obviously telegraphs the knee,but also feels like it loads up the hips and gives me more distance to cover with the knee.

  7. sxlgzcjd@sharklasers.com'

    Perhaps a personal choice, but one additional step to mention would be very slightly pivoting outwards on the lead foot as you throw the knee. It allows the hips to open up more and generate more force and distance. If the fighter likes, it will also all him/her to corkscrew their hip and knee point ending up on more of a diagonal. Once again to get greater distance and being able to hit with the bony part of the knee.

  8. nilaus.idon@hotmail.com'

    Definitely very educational. Love how you bring in examples of fighters using the technique correctly in competitions. Keep up the good work!

  9. dylan6tgim@gmail.com'

    This is by far one of the best websites for Everything Muay Thai. Kudos to you for this page. I agree with most of the information you present but in this article I would have to argue that a long knee (straight infront of the body) doesn’t lose all momentum and power if thrown correctly and is a great tactic to opening up for a clinch and follow up knee strike or if landed correctly after a hand combo can end a fight. Of course the diagonal knee is a killer but don’t forget the long knee when done properly can be devastating from a further position. (I wish I could demonstrate I feel like my explanation is not too good lol) I also like keeping my hands up in more of a shield position and I tend to throw the elbow down when I knee and leave my hand up right (also hard to explain without a demonstration) anyways just my two cents. Keep writing!! I love this site!

    • Hey Dylan, definitely some good points and I agree that the straight knee can be effective if you throw it correctly, especially if you use it to engage in the clinch. Thanks for the comment.

  10. jed.becker@utexas.edu'

    Great article once again guys. As you alluded to, most of the information about Thai knees on the interwebs is complete garbage. It’s great to have someone putting out solid, reliable information. Please keep it up.

    The only point on which I would humbly offer up some contrarian food for thought would be in response to “Step 5: Throw your arm down on the same side as the knee.” I realize that a lot of fighters (Thai and Western) do this, and that you can through a very powerful knee this way. However, the issue, I think, is whether it is the physiologically optimal way to throw a knee. I find that throwing down the same-side arm actually diminishes hip extension because you are rotating your shoulder in the opposite direction from where you want your knee to go, which necessarily diminishes its reach and power to some degree.

    I think the kick is a good analogue for comparison (although the kick is angular in trajectory rather than straight like the knee): Every nak muay knows that you dramatically increase the power of the kick by ‘turning the shoulder over’ and allowing it to move in the same direction as the leg and hips. While the difference in power generated is not quite so dramatic in the case of the knee, there is still a difference. And once you train your self to keep your same-side shoulder forward (which is admittedly awkward at first), you are able to get more power and penetration from the knee, with the added bonus that you are better able to defend your upper body on the kneeing side because your arm isn’t outstretched behind you… A bonus that is no small thing when in knee range.

    Thanks for your time and consideration. And again, thank your for the article and for all the fantastic work that you guys are doing. The name “Muay Thai Pros” has become ubiquitously known and frequently referenced in my MT community in Austin, TX. Cheers.

    • Thanks for the kind words and thoughtful comment. Regarding your point about the knee, there are a few schools of thought. A lot of Thai fighters actually use that arm to reach around their opponent’s neck (grabbing the opposite side) to protect their chin when they throw the knee. Other fighters are taught to keep both hands up when they are throwing the knee to protect against punches (very valid point against a puncher.) In terms of pure power, I find that driving that swinging the arms back helps drive the hips forward. You may be throwing your knee from a straight forward angle, which is why you notice less drive when you throw your arm down. If the knee comes from a diagonal (almost same motion as a kick) you get more power. With that being said, the key is find something that works for you. Every fighter is different, so use whatever method that you like best. Cheers.

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