Knees are a staple of muay Thai and along with elbows set muay Thai apart from other kickboxing styles like American Kickboxing and French Savate. There are three common knee strikes—the straight knee, the side knee, and the jumping side knee—any and all of these are generally targeted at the midsection, head, or legs of your opponent. Knee strikes cause serious damage. A group of athletic scientists recently measured that a straight knee strike to the midsection can generate as much power as a car going 35 mph crashing into a brick wall! Side knees are most useful when in the clinch, and straight knees are useful when you are within punching range, but are even more useful when in the clinch.
The straight knee, performed with either the front or rear leg, is by far the most damaging of the three knee strikes. It is also the most versatile of the three. If your timing is right you can simply step forward and throw a straight knee while in punching range at your opponent’s midsection. You can also use it to counter an advancing opponent or immediately throw one after you’ve checked an opponent’s kick. However, like all standing knee strikes, it is most effective when you are wrapped in a clinch. Throwing a knee strike with your rear leg is going to produce much more power than one thrown from the lead leg. However the lead leg has a shorter distance to travel so it will hit quicker. Which leg you throw will always depend on your situation and whether you want power or speed.
For the straight knee begin as always from a standard muay Thai stance, as always I am assuming left lead leg. Begin by brining your right knee up so that it is level with your hips. Wrap your right hand around the back of your opponent’s neck and pull him forward. It is preferred to keep the left hand back to protect your face, but if you wish you can wrap both hands around your opponent’s neck for stability. Come up on the ball of you left foot and thrust your right knee into the midsection of your target. It is vital that everything is done as one fluid motion without hesitation.
The side knee is almost always used from the clinch. When executed properly the side knee will disrupt your opponent’s breathing, and, if you are in a competition, this will score big points with judges. To perform this technique, bring your knee up on the outside of your opponent’s body and then drive the side of your knee into the midsection or into the side of your opponent’s thigh. Remember to come up on the ball of the foot that is not throwing the knee and raise your attacking knee to waist level on the outside of your opponent. While twisting your hips in a counterclockwise direction drive the hard part of the knee into your opponent’s ribs. From the clinch because your hands will be wrapped around your opponent’s neck you should have little or no problem maintaining balance.
The only difference between the jumping side knee and the standing side knee is that in the former you are jumping while executing it. Simple enough. This will score big points with judges and get a huge reaction from the crowd (regardless of whether you’re in a ring or bar). This move is flashy and looks great, but it is also easier for your opponent to throw you to the ground or counter. Due to this, if you plan on using this technique you must be certain that the timing is near perfect.
Four limbs down, four to go. Next week: punches!