To say that elbows are essential in Muay Thai is a vast understatement. It actually goes beyond that. The truth is, elbows are among the most devastating weapons in a Nak Muay's diverse arsenal. They are both effective and lethal when they landed. That means that they truly deserve their place in the art of 8 limbs.
Elbows are considered to be Muay Thai’s short-range weapons along with knees. On the other hand, kicks are long-range weapons and punches are medium-range ones. Since elbows are best suited for short-range attacks, they’re very good options for self-defense. So not only are they great for use in combat sports, but also for defending one’s self against attackers on the street or elsewhere.
One other thing that can be said about elbows in Muay Thai is that they are practical. Which is another great reason to use them in self-defense situations. If your attacker is already too close to you and there’s no chance to run away, throwing elbows is a practical move that can help save your life. When you connect with one or two elbows, you’ll get a chance to get away or get help.
Muay Thai is one of the few martial arts and combat sports that allow the use of elbows. It makes it somehow unique. But knowing that you can throw them is not enough. You need to know the different ways that you can throw your elbows so they can be even more effective than they already are. Learn more about the essential elbow techniques in Muay Thai.
Muay Thai’s Essential Elbow Techniques
To have a deeper understanding of the different elbow techniques used in Muay Thai, let’s look at brief breakdowns of each one.
Horizontal Elbow (Sok Tad)
One of the most common and straightforward elbow techniques is the horizontal elbow or Sok Tad in Thai. This is probably the first elbow technique that is taught to Muay Thai beginners. Throwing the horizontal elbow strike is quite similar to throwing a hook punch.
The important thing to remember is to keep your arms parallel to the ground. You also need to rotate your hips and then turn your foot as you throw the elbow, which is what makes it similar to throwing a punch. Keep your other hand up as a cover to your face while you’re executing the horizontal elbow.
Horizontal elbows target your opponent’s lower face and chin. Use it to attack the guard of your opponent.
Uppercut Elbow (Sok Ngad)
One of the fastest elbow strikes is the uppercut elbow or the Sok Ngad. It’s not just fast but also powerful as it slices up like a bladed weapon to cut your opponent. This technique can also be used to split your opponent’s guard. Aim for the chin as you strike in between the raised arms of your opponent for a cutting or even a knockout blow.
The uppercut elbow can also be used in the clinch. Use it either from inside or outside the clinch. When you get an inside position with your arms, you can strike with the upward elbow. And when you’re outside the clinch, step and strike upward with your elbow.
Diagonal or Slashing Elbow (Sok Ti)
The diagonal or slashing elbow or Sok Ti is another very common elbow strike. This technique is thrown downward in a diagonal or slashing move. Your target with this strike is your opponent’s forehead, the area just above the eyes, and the cheeks.
This technique is a good way to weaken your opponent’s guard. They’re going to raise their guard to block your attacks, but you can wear it down with repeated strikes of the slashing elbow. You can use either the lead or rear elbow to throw this technique.
Spinning Elbow (Sok Klap)
The Spinning elbow or Sok Klap is one of the most flashy elbow techniques in Muay Thai. Aside from being flashy, it’s also different because your back is going to be turned toward your opponent when you execute it. And make no mistake, it’s very effective as it can knock out your opponent when it lands.
To execute this technique using the rear elbow, step your lead foot across and rotate your torso while doing so. Make sure that you’re looking at your opponent from over the shoulder of the elbow that you’re using to strike. Just to be on the safe side, be sure to rotate back to your initial stance after you landed your strike.
Forward Thrusting Elbow (Sok Phung)
The next technique is the forward thrusting elbow or Sok Phung. At first glance, this move can easily be mistaken for the uppercut elbow. They definitely look very similar. The main difference though is that the forward thrusting elbow is thrown forward instead of an uppercut motion.
To execute the forward thrusting elbow, step forward and use your hips to push through while your elbow is up and making a forward motion. It’s similar to making a forward motion while thrusting a spear into your opponent. The technique is not unlike the uppercut as you can also use it to split your opponent’s guard.
Double Elbows (Sok Ku)
A definite fancy elbow strike is the double elbows or Sok Ku. Those who are familiar with Muay Thai-themed movies like Ong Bak are quite familiar with this particular technique. While it’s an eye-catching move, the downside is that you’ll be open to counters from your opponent if you decide to utilize it.
It could still be a useful weapon when used smartly. The double elbow strike will probably work best as a move to finish off your opponent. When you notice that your opponent is already hurt and ready to go, you can jump high into the air before landing the double elbows on the top of your opponent’s head.
Downward Elbow (Sok Tong)
The downward elbow or Sok Tong is also known as the ‘12 to 6’ elbow strike because it resembles the straight line that goes downward from 12 to 6 in a clock. This elbow technique is also not so commonly used and is even banned in some MMA promotions.
This can be executed from a standing position while facing your opponent or if you jump and strike down into your opponent’s head as you land. There’s also a variation where you elbow down your foe’s thigh instead of the head. This is done by catching your opponent’s kick and then striking down their thigh area with this technique.
Those are seven of the most effective and essential elbow techniques in Muay Thai. You ought to start practicing them if you want to be very proficient at throwing them and incorporating them into your game plan and your attacks.
Take note, however, that elbows are never thrown when sparring because of how deadly they are. You definitely wouldn’t want to hurt any of your training partners just because you forgot that throwing elbows is a no-no when it comes to Muay Thai sparring.
However, you can train these techniques on a heavy bag or with an experienced instructor on the pads. As you continue to practice, you’ll become better at using one of the deadliest weapons in your Muay Thai arsenal.