When it comes to knee strikes, no other martial art comes even remotely close to Muay Thai. Having been refined over hundreds of years, the elbow and knee techniques of Muay Thai is without question what sets the ancient “Art of Eight Limbs” further apart from all other striking-based martial arts.
Knee strikes are no doubt one of the most lethal and important aspects of Muay Thai. Just like the elbow strike, a well-placed knee strike to the right area of the body will most certainly spell the end for your opponent. It has the potential to break a rib, open a cut, cause paralyzing muscle damage, or even knock an opponent unconscious. This is why being well-versed in the various types of knee techniques will enhance your overall Muay Thai game tremendously.
In Muay Thai, there are mainly eight different common knee techniques that can either be executed outside the clinch, in the clinch, or both. Let’s take a more detailed look at what they are:
The Straight Knee Strike – Khao Trong
The straight knee strike is perhaps the simplest and most straightforward knee technique in Muay Thai; which is why it is usually also the first knee strike practitioners learn. The technique can be thrown from a close to mid-range either in the clinch or outside the clinch and generally targets the midsection. It is most effective when landed to the top abdomen region right below the end of the sternum.
It is also the go-to move when a fighter is able to force his/her opponent’s head down with a good grip in the clinch to land the strike to the head. The power of this technique comes from the sharp upward and forward thrust generated from the hips.
The Curved Knee Strike – Khao Khong
The curved knee strike is another very commonly used knee technique in Muay Thai. It is usually executed in very close and tight clinches where the fighters are pinned chest to chest, leaving little to no room at all for the straight or diagonal knee strike.
And although it might not have the damage potential of a straight or diagonal knee strike, the technique can be incredibly useful in wearing down an opponent. This is because it targets the sides of the body, aiming to inflict damage to the ribs, external oblique muscles, and at times the outer thigh muscles.
The Diagonal Knee Strike – Khao Chiang
Like the straight knee strike, the diagonal knee strike can be executed at a close to mid-range either in the clinch or outside the clinch. It is also usually targeted at the midsection, but instead of thrusting upward, it is thrown diagonally up and inwards – landing mainly to the ribs or latissimus dorsi muscle on either side of the body.
The Horizontal Knee Strike – Khao Tat
The horizontal knee strike is without a doubt one of the most beneficial techniques to add to your overall Muay Thai arsenal. Not only is it an efficient offensive technique, it can be used as a very effective defensive technique as well. The strike is thrown by lifting the leg up so that it is relatively parallel to the floor and then thrusting the knee forward into the midsection of the opponent.
Many fighters will often transition immediately to a horizontal knee guard after throwing the technique – keeping the opponent away and limiting his/her ability to throw any strikes due to the blockage and range provided by the guard.
The Long Knee – Khao Yao
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The long knee is one of the few knee techniques that can actually be initiated from a long range. It is executed with a swift and explosive charge forward from a distance and a hybrid of a straight and diagonal knee strike at the end. The momentum produces a tremendous amount of force which allows fighters to penetrate or break through their opponent’s guard or defense. Because of the angle and forward momentum, the technique is usually only targeted at the opponent’s midsection.
The Flying Knee Strike – Khao Loi
No doubt the most difficult technique to land on this list in the flying knee strike. The technique is best and most often used when the opponent is disorientated or off-balance and targets the head. The explosive leaping and switching movement of the strike generates an incredible amount of speed and force and if landed successfully, will most definitely knock any opponent unconscious.
The Small Knee Strike – Khao Noi
The small knee strike is a technique that can and should only be used in the clinch. The technique involves launching short, sharp knees to the opponent’s inner thighs. This strike can be very useful in weakening the legs of the opponents which will, in turn, decrease the effectiveness of his/her lower body strikes and ability to move as well. The technique can also be used to force opponents to disengage from a tight guard or to expand the range within the clinch momentarily for an elbow or mid-range knee strike.
The Rabbit Knee Strike – Khao Kratai
Like the small knee strike, the rabbit knee strike drains strength from an opponent’s legs in the clinch. However, instead of attacking the inner thighs, the front portion of the thigh right above the opponent’s knee is targeted. This causes sharp, stinging pains that usually forces the opponent to break free of the clinch and reset. The technique can also be used as a defensive tactic to block and hinder an opponent’s own knee strikes as well.