Basic Elbow Strikes for Muay Thai (diary entry)

elbow strike 220.09.2022

Hour six of my client’s beginner course in Muay Thai introduced elbow strikes for the first time. We covered the horizontal, slashing, spear and smash-down varieties of elbow strikes. These are the most common major elbow strikes in Thai Boxing.

We began with our dynamic stretching flow exercises to warm-up before I moved straight into the new techniques. Elbows, although very effective knockout weapons, are largely used to create cuts to prompt referee stoppages in matches. The elbow’s tip is the main striking area and the force of the strike is focused through this bone.

The horizontal (sometime referred to as side elbow strike) shares some mechanical similarities with straight punches. They are the most common form of elbow strike thrown in a match due to the fast and efficient way they can be delivered at close range. Horizontal elbow strikes can go through guards as well as around them. These are primarily directed at the nose, forehead, jaw and the temple. However, especially under European rules, I have seen them trained and used against the body and arms.

The slashing elbow is a strike delivered in a downward diagonal motion usually aimed at the eyebrow but also at the temple and jaw. As their name implies, the nak muay hacks at an opponent with these overhand style strikes, taking advantage of the way they come outside of vision.

The spear elbow, sometimes mistaken for the uppercut elbow, is a great tool both breaking down defences and creating space. A nak muay can target between an opponent’s tight guard, landing the strike in the middle of their face. Alternatively it can be directed inside the shoulder joint or into the sternum to send an opponent back in preparation to receive damage from a longer range technique. Although rear hand versions of this strike are used, I find the lead hand version to be the most effective.

The smash down elbow can be a very devastating weapon, typically pulled out in the latter rounds of a competition. I will never forget doing my shadow-judging in Birmingham and seeing the great Damien Trainor execute this technique in flying style in his fight. The elbow strike is brought down in a vertical motion onto an opponent’s head, often the top of the skull. Although I have seen nak muays employ a lead hand version of it when fighting in close, it’s real use is from the rear hand and as a longer range weapon. We used a long guard to set it up.

After training these techniques in shadow boxing, as partner applications and on the Thai focus mitts, we integrated them into all the previous material covered in 2 x 3 minute rounds.