Muay Thai is known as the “art of 8 limbs” for its use of the parts of the body for combat. It is a well-rounded striking art that involves two fists, two elbows, two knees and two shins. In order to master or improve your Muay Thai skills, it is important to first work on the foundation by mastering each individual weapon and then putting them together into combinations.
Basic Muay Thai Techniques
Muay Thai techniques were originally designed for unarmed combat on the battlegrounds. The techniques mimic weapons used by soldiers in battle. Before we get into the methods on how to improve your Muay Thai skills, let’s take a quick look at the different basic Muay Thai techniques:
Muay Thai is a stand-up striking style and punches are the most natural and fastest weapons in the arsenal. Punches are common in almost all stand-up martial arts including boxing, karate and many styles of kung fu.
Punches require less energy to execute compared to kicks but when delivered with power and accuracy, they can knock out an opponent or send him to his knees with a body shot.
Basic punching techniques in modern Muay Thai are influenced by classic boxing. They include the jab, straight punch (also called cross), hook, and uppercut.
The elbow strike is a signature technique most commonly associated with Muay Thai. The elbow is the hardest and sharpest bone in the human body, making it a dangerous weapon to possess.
In Muay Thai, the elbow can be thrown to knock (like a hammer) or slash (like a dagger) an opponent. Muay Thai elbow strikes have ended fights often with devastating results, leaving deep bloody gashes or plain out knockouts.
Elbows can be thrown from different angles and directions such as horizontal, upward, downward (12-6), or from a jump for more impact.
The knee is the largest joint of the human body. In Muay Thai, knee strikes are akin to spears and thrown in a stabbing motion. Knee strikes typically target the ribs but can also target the head like an axe via a flying/jumping knee.
Knees can be executed within the clinch in close-range or outside of the clinch in mid-range. Statistically speaking, there aren’t as many knee KOs compared with other techniques but they can and do happen.
Basic Muay Thai knee techniques include the straight knee which is directed at the sternum or abdomen, diagonal knee which is thrown to the ribs or the side, and the jump knee which is aimed at the head.
The Muay Thai kick is one of the most powerful weapons in all martial arts. It can generate a huge amount of force when perfected through diligent practice and conditioning.
Muay Thai kicks are the bread and butter of all Muay Thai fighters. Kicks score higher under traditional Muay Thai rules and they can finish fights as proven in many instances.
The basic Muay Thai kick techniques include the standard roundhouse kick, low kick and push kick (teep).
How to Improve Muay Thai
The key to improving Muay Thai is through consistent training and always giving your best at session. Besides training with the right gear, you also need the right mindset and environment. Train hard but also train smart. Here are some of the ways to improve your Muay Thai skills:
Train with Qualified Instructor
Look and ask around for recommendations or reviews when finding the right gym to train at. A qualified instructor with proper credentials can provide authentic Muay Thai instructions and ensure you learn the proper techniques and not a diluted form of the sport. Good trainers should ideally have competed professionally under full Muay Thai rules.
Focus on Form
Most beginners choose to focus on power and neglect the importance of form. The truth is that power comes with having the right form and technique. For example, the Muay Thai kick requires proper hip rotation and swinging back of the arm to deliver maximum power. Having the right form also minimizes the risks of injuries. This is where having the right qualified instructor is important as he/she can correct your form. Start slow and then work your way up the power levels.
Many people discount the importance of shadow boxing and just go through the motions. Shadow boxing in front of a mirror allows you to check your form and challenges you to get creative with combinations. Since you cannot spar all the time, shadow boxing is a great way to train your muscle memory and movement.
Watch Training & Fight Videos
To maximize learning outside of training hours, another great way to improve is to watch the greats at work. You can learn a lot by watching champions and elite fighters train or fight. By observing their technique, movement and ringcraft, you can emulate them and put them into practice at your next training or sparring.
Train in Thailand
Training in Thailand is one of the best ways to supercharge your Muay Thai skills. Training twice a day with professional Muay Thai fighters in an authentic environment is an enriching and inspiring experience. Taking a Muay Thai vacation where you focus on little else except training will take your skills to the next level.
Set Goals and Make Plans
If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else. Setting goals and then making plans for your goals will help you to achieve great things. Start with an end-goal that you wish to achieve, break them down into progressive goals and make plans towards achieving them.