Muay Thai Defense Techniques

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Muay Thai Defense Techniques images courtesy of Kyle Ching:

In Muay Thai, offense is usually the focus of the majority of training sessions. It’s pretty easy to see why this is the case though. Training offense is so much fun, and it does a good job at burning calories and getting a good workout in.

The problem is that if you’re a fighter or someone who just likes to spar a lot, training only offense leaves to very exposed. You don’t want to be the fighter on someone else’s highlight reel or the guy who gets knocked out in sparring. 

This is why training your defense is very important, even if it’s not as fun. In order to train your defense, you need to know how to defend each strike and when. 

How do you defend in Muay Thai

With Muay Thai being the art of eight limbs, you are going to need to learn how to defend against multiple kinds of strikes from multiple angles.

With all the kicks, punches, knees and elbows that a Muay Thai practitioner has to deal with, it can be hard to know what to do. 

We will look at the defense techniques against the different weapons in Muay Thai in this article.

How Do You Defend Against A Muay Thai Kick

muay thai defense techniques

In Muay Thai, the main weapon that you have the lookout for most of the time is kicks. In Muay Thai, the main kinds of kicks that you have to deal with are teeps and roundhouse kicks. Luckily you have a lot of options when it comes to defending against these strikes. 

How To Block Kicks In Muay Thai

The main way to defend against kicks in Muay Thai is blocking but the type of block changes depending on the target. Kicks to the body and the head are generally blocked by bringing both arms to the side that is being hit.  

In terms of block low kicks, there’s nothing better than the good ole check. Checking a low kick is as simple as lifting your leg so that the blade of the shin is facing where your opponent’s leg is kicking.

This will not only stop you from getting hurt, but it will hurt your opponent. This is easily the most common and most effective kicking block in all of Muay Thai.

In terms of teeps, blocking is usually not your best option, you’re better off sticking to another method.

How To Catch Kicks In Muay Thai

muay thai defense techniques

Catching kicks is another way to defend against kicks and it can set up some unique offense for you. The idea is to grab a kick after the point where it would hurt the most.

Catching roundhouse kicks and teeps to the body are easy. You just need to move out in the way the kick is moving so that you don’t take the brunt of the force.

For the roundhouse, move out to the side the kick is moving and reach over and around the kick, like a wrestler’s overhook.

For the teep, you want to move back very slightly and grab the heel with one hand and the top of the ankle or instep with the other. 

Catching roundhouse kicks to the head is also easy if not somewhat more risky. You are still going to step out to the side but you are going to block with your close arm. With the far side arm, you are going to reach under and over to grab the kick, kind of like a wrestler’s underhook. 

You can catch kicks to the legs in Muay Thai, but this isn’t recommended. This is because in Muay Thai catching a low kick is a high-risk low reward technique.

Trying to grab a low kick leaves your head exposed, which a high-level kicker will take advantage of. Also, with how much better checking low kicks usually is, catching a low kick just isn’t worth it. 

How To Dodge Kicks In Muay Thai

Dodging kicks in Muay Thai is a great option if you want to have zero contact with the kicks. Naturally, there are different types of dodges for the different targets for kicks.

There is one kind of dodge that you can do for pretty much every technique and that’s moving out of the way. While this is a good option some of the time, it’s not always an option. 

If you want to dodge a head kick Muay Thai style, then the lean back is the way to go. This isn’t like the lean back in boxing used to dodge punches, this is more like the dodge Neo uses in The Matrix. You are going to bend backwards from your low back, letting the kick pass over you. 

Kicks to the body can be dodged by pushing your hips back and throwing your arms upward. If you’re doing this dodge correctly you will end up in a C shape. Don’t stay in this position for long, as any follow up strikes by your opponent that land while you’re in it will be devastating. 

You can do a similar dodge for leg kicks but instead of focusing on moving your torso and hips out of the way, you are focusing on the legs and feet. Doing this should have the foot of the kicker pass just in front of your thighs.

This type of dodge for leg kicks does leave you vulnerable to a low kick if you misjudge the distance and your opponent still lands. If they land a low kick while you’re in this position you will almost definitely be swept onto the mat. 

If you want a low kick dodge that doesn’t leave you this exposed there is another option. Instead of just scooting backwards, you can bring your lead leg back and completely switch stances. This will dodge the kick and keep you in a good position to counter if you are fine with countering from the opposite stance. 

How Do You Defend Against Punches in Muay Thai 

When you think about defending against punches in Muay Thai, you might try to defend them as you would in western Boxing, unfortunately, this isn’t the best idea.

If you try to say roll under punches in Muay Thai, there’s a high probability that you’re going to eat a knee or kick to the head.

This is why you need to make sure that you are defending against punches in ways that don’t set you up for a knee, kick or even an elbow. 

Blocking Punches In Muay Thai

Blocking is probably the first thing that comes to your mind when defending against punches. It is fairly simple to defend against punches.

To block against uppercuts and straight punches, all you need to do is just cover up. You’ve probably seen this block if you watched any kind of combat sports card. Just stick your gloves to your head and hold on for dear life.

This isn’t the best option for obvious reasons as you love the ability to counter properly and your head is still taking a fair amount of force. 

To block hook punches to the head is also pretty simple. What you want to do is bring your glove to your ear, like you’re on the phone and keep your forearm as close to you as possible. You also want to have a nice bend in your knees to take some of the edge off the strikes. This way the brunt of force is taken by your arm instead of your head

In terms of body shots, you are going to want to quickly put your elbow in front of your opponent’s target. Whether they are straight punches or hooks, quickly dropping the elbow and forearm in front of the strike will block it sufficiently. 

How To Parry Punches In Muay Thai

Parrying as a defense is something fairly unique to punches. You can parry straight punches and uppercuts, though you will probably mainly parry straights. To parry, simply smack your opponent’s glove downwards.

You don’t need to be forceful with your parries, just a light slap to the side of the glove will push away a straight punch.

You can also parry uppercuts, but be careful. To fully stop an uppercut, you will need more force but can leave you exposed briefly. 

How To Slip Punches In Muay Thai

muay thai defense techniques

Like I mentioned earlier, slipping/using head movement to defend against punches isn’t advised. At best, you dodge a punch in a way that leaves you defenceless against leg kicks. At worst you don’t even dodge a punch and get kicked in the head for your troubles. 

This is why you want to keep your slips few and far between. You also only want to use slips for straight punches and not rolls, so no rolling under hooks. 

You’ve probably seen people slip against straights before. Very simply, get your head slightly off of the centerline where your opponent is punching.  You know your slipping properly when the punch goes just past your ear. This way you are not too far out of position, so you can still defend yourself and launch counters. 

You generally want to slip to the outside of punches, meaning you don’t want your head facing your opponent’s other glove after slipping. This means slipping to your right when your opponent punches with their left and slipping to your left when your opponent punches with their right.

It helps to think about bringing your shoulder to the opposite knee when slipping. You don’t want to be bending to the side from your core but more so twisting in a way. It also helps to bend your knees, this way you can get lower and load up for a counter shot. 

How To Defend Against Knees In Muay Thai

You have a lot less defensive options when defending against knees in Muay Thai than punches or kicks. There are two scenarios where knees are thrown and each of them comes with different ways to defend yourself. 

How To Defend Against Knees From The Outside

When you are having knees thrown at you from outside the Clinch, you only have two options. Luckily for you, both these options are pretty simple and solid. The first is to simply use your footwork and move away.

Since knees from the outside are linear strikes, moving to your left or your right will keep you safe and out of the way. You can also step out and pivot on your lead leg when your opponent knees. This will get you to the outside of their strike and set up a strong angle. 

You can also teep your opponent as their coming in. This way you will cut them off and knock the wind out of them. Doing this might even knock your opponent on their feet, which is always nice, for you at least. 

How To Defend Against Knees From The Clinch

Defending against knees from the clinch is a different story. You only really have one option here and that’s to grab the knee on the way to its target. Not only will you stop yourself from getting him but you will also have an easy sweep literally in your hands. 

You do have more indirect ways of dealing with knees from the Muay Thai clinch. The first is to turn whenever your opponent attempts to knee. Doing this will stop your opponents’ knees and also throw them around as they are only on one leg. 

Other than that, your best option to defend against knees from the clinch is either to dominate the clinch or leave the clinch entirely. 

How To Defend Against Elbows In Muay Thai

muay thai defense techniques

Elbows have the least defensive options in all of Muay Thai. You only have two no matter if it’s in the clinch or on the outside. Get out of the way or block it. Getting out of the way of an elbow is recommended if it’s possible.

You need to keep in mind that elbows are really short-range techniques. if you are having one thrown at you from the outside any distance you create between you and your opponent will save you from getting hit or worse, getting cut. 

If you can’t move for whatever reason, being in the clinch or against the ropes, you gonna have to block. This isn’t great but it’s better than getting hit on the head. You can block against elbows as you do against punches. Keep in mind that doing so risks getting your arms cut up. 

If you’re in the clinch turning can also stop an elbow. If you can’t turn then do your best to escape or get anything between your head and your opponent’s elbow. Getting hit on the shoulder is better than getting hit in the head. 

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