Ask different people what they view to be the jewel in Muay Thai’s fighting crown and it is a fair bet that you will get technique-based answers. It is only a guess, but I think the top answer will either be the “round kick” (roundhouse or turning) or specifically “the low round kick”. There is a lot of evidence verifying the devastation and effectiveness of this move when applied in virtually any full contact stand-up combat sport. Many a fight has been won by the low round kick alone; so much so that Dutch Kickboxing have made this particular move a speciality, and even the world’s best fighters who have chosen to ignore the effectiveness of the low kick have suffered for this oversight. Moving on, I would say that any one of the three main types of Thai knee strike – the spear knee, diagonal knee or even the round knee – would be high on anyone’s Muay Thai list. It might be argued that the spear or diagonal knee strike to the head is possibly the most lethal martial arts technique of all. Others still would expand upon the knee to say that is actually the Thai clinch, which really showcases the art. Indeed, some Muay Thai clubs even dedicate an entire lesson to the clinch and its absence from K1 kickboxing is very telling. However, as great contenders as these are for the distinguishing best thing Muay Thai has to offer, I think Muay Thai’s gem is buried even deeper.
Muay Thai and its related Southeast Asian combat sports have a long tradition of using all their weapons in combination. The entire art is about combining punches with kicks and other strikes as well as clinching. The transition is seamless, which is not something you to tend to see being performed to a high standard outside of Southeast Asia. This aspect of Muay Thai should be fully embraced to appreciate its beauty and also help inform cross training and mixed martial arts.
This morning my two junior clients completed the third hour of their Basic Course in Muay Thai for Martial Arts Cross Training. We spent a lot of time concentrating on rhythm and fluidity of movement. We used several different combinations to test good hand and leg coordination as well as balance. We even tried playing some traditional Thai music.
We warmed up with some simple, relevant calisthenics and mobility exercises. Then we changed to footwork and looked at hand positioning. Muay Thai relies a lot on good hand/arm positioning in order to coordinate maximum momentum from the rest of the body when throwing virtually any strike, as well as adjusting for any openings the technique might leave open. For example, one might throw a round kick and require the momentum and torque generated from the same side’s arm. The opposite side arm can be used to cover the face from a counter and it also aids with the momentum of the kick.
We went through the four-punch combination adding on a teep, round kick or spear knee on each progressive stage. Then I taught the punch/kick/kick/combination, which emphasises fast transitioning between the kicks in the middle whilst moving forward. This combination was then followed up with the teep/low round kick combination, designed for maximum destabilisation. We added on a jab/cross at the beginning.
The lesson finished with the mid-section cross-block, leading into a kick catch.