The signature strike of Muay Thai. Is it an elbow, kick, knee or punch? Before we get to that — first a little background. For the uninitiated, Muay Thai is a stand-up martial art with roots in medieval China. Offshoots of this fighting style spread to neighbouring regions and eventually Thailand which is commonly regarded as the home of modern Muay Thai. This martial art, remained very much a South East Asian sub-culture until it became popularised in movies such as Kickboxer (1989), starring Jean-Claude Van Damne. More recently its blend of elbows, kicks, knees and punches found a second home in the UFC octagon.
The Art of Eight Limbs
In this multi-limbed martial art, elbows, kicks, knees and punches all have a place. As such, it’s often called the art of eight limbs. Elbows can strike with hammer force and cut like a knife. Kicks can go sideways (roundhouse) or forwards(push kicks). The former can hit you like a baseball ball and the latter can send you flying backwards. Knees can be executed at anytime but they’re commonly used in the clinch — a position whereby fighters hold onto one another and look to assert dominance with elbows, knees and sweeps. And then there’s punches; hooks, uppercuts, jabs and crosses. So with rigorous and regular training, the body can indeed become a multi-weapon beast of attack and defence. But which of the numerous striking options is deemed as the signature?
The Signature STRIKE OF MUAY THAI
The low roundhouse kick. This sideways kick delivered from the rear leg to opponent’s front leg is arguably the signature strike of Muay Thai. Low risk and devastatingly powerful, the hard shin thuds into the tender thigh musculature at high velocity. It can be a mightily painful blow. And it’s relatively simple to execute. Slightly lower the stance, kick sideways (chopping down at the finish) and step across your opponent rather than towards him/her. Importantly, rotate the hips and make contact with the shin not the potentially-fragile foot.
The Fight That Changed Fight History
In 1988, the 5-round war between American kickboxer Rick Roufus and Muay Thai fighter Changpuek Kiatsongrit (from Thailand) proved to the world what the Thais already knew — the painful effectiveness of low roundhouse kicks. Despite suffering a broken jaw in the first round and getting knocked down twice the Thai fighter somehow recovered and ruthlessly went to work on the front leg of Roufus. Kiatsongrit never gave up and his low kick did the rest. Growing stronger as the fight progress, he repeatedly chopped down the front leg of the kickboxer. The barrage was beautifully brutal. Mercifully, the referee stopped the fight in the fifth when Kiatsongrit dropped Roufus to the canvas yet again with a low kick to the thigh. This legendary bout highlighted the determination and guts of both fighters. Neither wanted to give up. Additionally, the fight became a statement for Muay Thai and low kicks.
Caveat: Be Accurate
The Chris Weidman injury in the bout against Uriah Hall in UFC 261 highlighted the danger of an inaccurate low roundhouse. Weidman got it wrong. He snapped his right leg when his roundhouse kick collected Hall’s hard bone on a planted front leg. Weidman struck too low, hitting a solid structure rather than soft thigh muscle.
NB. Ironically, Weidman was on the other side of a equally gruesome injury when Anderson Silva broke his shin bone in UFC 168 in 2013.
Powerful. Easy to execute. Super painful from the recipient’s perspective. The low roundhouse kick has so many positives. For many practitioners it’s the signature strike of Muay Thai. But like all strikes, accuracy is crucial.
Train hard. Train smart.
Yours in Muay Thai,