Many combat sports athletes favour working on their offensive capabilities over their defensive capabilities since it’s typically more fun, but you won’t get far with that mentality. Defence is just as important as offence in Muay Thai. With punches, elbows, knees, and kicks coming your way, learning how to defend yourself isn’t optional.
Blocking is the simplest way to avoid the strikes thrown in Muay Thai. Blocking a strike doesn’t mean you don’t take any damage, a block just minimises the strike’s impact. You’ll still take some damage, just not as much as you would if you didn’t block. Since you’re still getting hit every time you block a strike, you might as well look to counter to make your opponent pay and discourage them from using the same technique again.
The basic blocks used in Muay Thai are:
- Leg Checks: Leg checks are the standard defence in Muay Thai. The technique involves turning your knee outward and raising your leg slightly off the ground. Doing this prevents the kick from landing on the soft muscles at the back of your thigh (hamstring) and instead absorbs the strike with the hardest part of your shin. When done properly, a leg check makes your opponent take most of the brunt of their own kick.
- Standard Guard: A standard guard involves putting both arms in front of your face. You bring your forearms together to defend against straight punches, while bringing them to your ears to defend against looping attacks and kicks to the head. However, you generally want to avoid blocking kicks with only one arm since you might still end up taking lots of damage or injuring your arm.
- Elbow Block: Elbow blocks are typically used to protect against strikes to the body. To use this block, you simply bring your elbow down so the area where your upper and lower arm meet takes the brunt of the blow.
- Knee Block: Knee blocks are typically used in the clinch to defend against knee strikes. You simply raise your knee and intercept the strike with it.
- Long Guard: The long guard is often used to prevent opponents from punching or elbowing your head. To use this guard, you simply extend your lead arm and stiff arm your opponent with it, preventing them from closing the distance on you. It can also be used to prevent opponents from clinching up with you.
- Parrying: Parrying is a defensive technique that involves blocking a strike by misdirecting it. It’s one of the most effective blocking techniques for setting up counters. A well-executed parry throws opponents off balance.
Five Effective Block And Counter Combinations Used In Muay Thai
Now that we have gone over some of the basic blocking techniques used in Muay Thai, let’s go over some of the counter combinations you can throw.
You’re going to see lots of jabs during your sparring matches and competitions, so you should learn how to defend and counter them. This technique involves parrying the jab and using the opportunity to fire off your jab. Here’s what it looks like:
- While using a high basic guard, parry your opponent’s jab by moving your rear hand inside. This prevents the punch from reaching its target while leaving the left side of your opponent’s head open for your jab.
- Fire off a jab aimed at your opponent’s head and immediately follow up with a hard cross. When done correctly, your opponent should still be processing the parry while you’re throwing your counters.
2) Elbow Block, Cross, Lead Hook
Here’s a sweet combination you can launch after blocking a lead roundhouse kick to the body. It’s an extremely effective counter that allows you to land one of your hardest punches. This technique also allows you to load up on the punch without telegraphing your intent to ensure it lands with maximum power.
Here’s what it looks like:
- Block your opponent’s lead roundhouse to the body by bringing your elbow down and rotating your torso toward the kick. It is the same rotation you do when loading up your punches.
- As soon as the kick makes contact with your torso, fire off a hard cross at your opponent’s head. Follow up the cross with a lead hook to take advantage of your opponent being momentarily stunned. You can also follow up with a lead roundhouse to the body.
3) Right-Hand Parry, Cross, Lead Roundhouse To The Body
Your opponent’s right hand is their most powerful straight attack so you want to learn to defend and counter against it. This counter blocks the right hand by parrying your lead arm inside while opening up a right cross. Here’s what it looks like:
- Parry your opponent’s right hand by bringing your lead guard inside as the punch makes its way toward you. This also opens up your opponent’s right side since their right arm is occupied.
- Follow up the parry by taking advantage of the opening with a cross of your own. Follow that up with a lead roundhouse to the body.
4) Kick Check, Right Cross, Left Hook
Low kicks are one of the most common strikes in Muay Thai so you’re going to find yourself defending against them often during your sparring matches and competitions. There are many ways to counter a low kick after checking, but a right hand is the easiest way to catch your opponent.
Here’s what the technique looks like:
- Check a kick by raising your leg off the ground and turning your knee outward. Once your opponent’s shin makes contact with yours, take a step to ensure you’re in range and follow up with a right hand.
- You can then follow up on the right hand with a lead hook or lead roundhouse kick to the body. The right hand is your money shot during the sequence since you get to catch your opponent while they are unbalanced from throwing the kick.
5) Teep Catch To Spinning Back Elbow
We’ll end our list with a cool counter you can use to set up your spinning techniques. The teep is another highly used weapon in Muay Thai, but you can use that to your advantage if you know how to counter it.
Here’s what it looks like:
- Anticipate and catch your opponent’s teep with your rear hand as you take a small step back.
- Pull your opponent’s kick leg towards the side and take a small step with your lead foot.
- Start pivoting into your spin once you’re on the outside to complete the spinning back elbow.
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