Elbows are one of the striking options available to the Thai boxer. Fast and powerful, they can be a knockout weapon or a cutting tool to bleed your opponent and thus bring the Muay Thai contest to a premature end. Either way, they’re a formidable tool for both Muay Thai competition and self-defence.
Infighting (or close distance)
Unlike the straight arm punches — the jab and the cross (2) — elbows cannot strike from a distance unless you step forward and strike. Thus, elbows are generally an infighting tool where the contact point is just below the tip of the elbow.
To maximise the speed of the strike, the hands should be open. Think of it as open hand cutting or slicing through the air.
NB. Avoid making a tight fist; that will tighten the forearm muscles and slow down the strike. And keep the non-striking arm high to protect the head. Always remember if you can land an elbow so can your opponent.
Elbow strikes can be delivered to the front, the side, downwards, upwards or to the rear if grabbed from behind.
The common elbows used in Muay Thai are:
- Up / Push Elbow
- Horizontal / Cross Elbow
- Over Elbow
- Down Elbow
The Up / Push Elbow, Horizontal / Cross Elbow and Down Elbow can all be executed from both left and right elbows.
The trajectory of the Over Elbow can put significant stress on the shoulder muscles when executed from the lead or front shoulder. Thus, it’s recommended to execute the Over Elbow from the rear or back arm only.
Left Horizontal / Cross Elbow
The aim is to strike the right side of the face or cheekbone (like a left hook). First, drop the left or lead hand to the right to horizontal and simultaneously slightly turn the front foot to rotate the front hip. The left arm should resemble the shape of a letter v and the left open palm hand should come into contact or close too your right upper chest at the end of strike.
Right Horizontal / Cross Elbow
The aim is to strike the left side of the face or cheekbone (like a right hook). First, drop the right or rear hand to the left to horizontal and simultaneously turn the back foot (which rotates the hips). The right arm should resemble the shape of a letter v and the right open palm hand should come into contact or close to your left upper chest at the end of the strike.
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” Bruce Lee
Left Push Elbow
The aim is to strike under the chin (like an uppercut). Rotate shoulders so that they’re parallel to opponent and push forward or horizontal with lead shoulder. A common mistake is to push elbow upwards first. No, align shoulders and push elbow forward. The natural path of the strike will take the elbow upwards towards the end of its journey.
Right Push Elbow
Once again, the aim is to strike the underside of the chin. Push elbow forward and simultaneously turn right foot and hip (like throwing a right cross). Once again, a common mistake is to push elbow upwards first. The natural path of the strike will take the elbow upwards towards the end of its journey.
The aim is to strike the front of the face (like an overhand right). The right or rear elbow comes over the top (as close to vertical as possible) in a curved trajectory. This really is a power strike.
Left Down Elbow
This elbow strike comes straight down vertically. Reaching high for the sky with the left arm and with gravity assisting, drive the point of the elbow down.
In Muay Thai, it can be used to strike into the thigh of a caught kick.
In self defence it can be used to strike the head, shoulder or collarbone of an attacker who is trying to effect a takedown via a front-on rugby style tackle.
Right Down Elbow
Reaching high for the sky with the right arm and with gravity assisting, drive the point of the elbow down.