The Muay Thai head kick is a devastating weapon that is sure to rock, if not straight-up knockout your opponent if you manage to connect your shin to their chin. If you’ve been training for a while now, then you’ve probably realized that head kicks are far easier to land when you imagine yourself throwing them in shadowboxing than they are in the ring. This can be for any number of reasons ranging from poor technique that allows your opponent to predict your intentions, to poor decision-making that leads you to attempt this knockout technique after the window of opportunity to land it has closed.
In this article, we’re going to discuss all things head kicks. We’ll cover the basics of how to throw them and the common mistakes beginners make in using them in the ring. Then we’ll show you how to recognize five common head kick opportunities, that once recognized will allow you to land killer head kicks with ease.
How To Throw A Muay Thai Head Kick:
Like the Muay Thai roundhouse kick, the power generated from a head kick comes from the rotation of your hips rather than the limb delivering the blow. A lot of beginners incorrectly extrapolate this fact and wrongly assert that to gain more power in their kicks, they need to emphasize the horizontal movement of their shin, but in doing so they are giving their opponent more time to see their kick coming.
Exaggerating this horizontal movement is a major obstacle to landing a clean kick when you just need to get your shin to someone’s ribs, so imagine just how difficult it will be to land when you need to get right up to their head. It is the most direct route that is most effective. So instead of kicking ‘around’ in a circle, think of lifting your leg directly up to your opponent’s head and only rotating through them once you are at the correct height. Take a look at the above video by Evolve MMA on a detailed explanation on setting up head kicks.
Head Kicks: Not Just How, But When
Once you know how to execute this move properly, you then need to focus on the ‘when.’ That is you need to choose the right moment to let it loose. Generally speaking, it is rare to see a fighter unsheathing their knockout head kicks in the very first minute of the very first round. Their opponent will be fully energized early in the fight, making it harder to land, and missing such a high-risk technique will result in a brief moment where they are exposed and can be easily countered with a devastating knockout shot. So, it is recommended that you spend the first few rounds of the fight reading your opponent, throwing lower-risk techniques that don’t leave you exposed while taking mental notes on how they react in certain situations. Then, in the later rounds when they are a little more tired and their reactions have slowed, and once you have found the suitable opening you can look to let those head kicks loose.
5 Common Head Kick Opportunities:
With that, let’s take a look at 5 possible scenarios where you can unleash the devastating head kick at your opponents.
1) Sneaking Them In A Combination
When you throw several different combinations to your opponent, they may close up their guard so that your gloves can’t find their way through. Though this may save them from your attacks, but it will also make it difficult for them to see what you are going to do next. So, after you finish your strikes, pause briefly, and wait for them to open their guard. If they are tired there is a chance, they may relax a little too much, giving you the opening that you need to land your head kick.
2) While Your Opponent Is Punching
If your opponent has heavy hands and tends to throw them in bunches there will likely be times when their head is exposed while they are punching.
One of the most common openings comes as they step in to throw a heavy jab, cross combination. It is common for a fighter’s jabbing hand to return low, onto their chest, when they extend for their power cross. If you notice your opponent doing this, step back out of range as they punch, springing off your back foot at the full extent of their cross to catch them while their guard is open.
This set up comes with its own risks. A small misjudgment of distance and timing could result in their cross landing clean on your jaw as you throw your kick, so only throw this later in the fight when you have plenty of opportunities to read your opponent.
3) After A Body Punch
No one likes getting hit in the stomach. It can knock the wind out of you, making it hard to breathe, and can sap all of the power from you for minutes afterward. It is also near impossible to cover both your head and your body at the same time, so targeting the body with a body punch is a great way to force your opponent to lower their guard. Following up after your punches, as your opponent anticipates another body punch, seize that moment to sneak in a head kick, catching them before they can raise their guard back to their head.
4) After A Fake
You’ll probably throw a lot of leg and body kicks in the early rounds of a fight. They are easier to land, and they leave you less exposed if your opponent is successful at defending them. As frustrating as it may be to have your kicks caught or blocked time and time again, it can be beneficial for you when it is time to whip out the head kick later in the fight.
If your opponent is having a lot of success catching your kicks and sweeping you onto the canvas in the early rounds, they are likely to get overconfident and overuse the technique. Use their confidence against them by feinting to draw a reaction, before whipping your kick up to their chin before they have the chance to recognise their mistake.
5) After Breaking Off From The Clinch
No one is expecting to get kicked in the head from the clinch and for that reason, many fighters get lazy with their guard once they are separated from a knee exchange. So, if you find yourself with the dominant position in a knee exchange, or if you notice your opponent not locking their hands when you clinch, wait for them to come up with a knee and then pivot off center. They will likely relax their grip on you as they’ll lose their balance, allowing you to push them away and follow up with a head kick before they are able to regain their composure.
This head kick opportunity comes with certain risks. If you have successfully turned your opponent off balance then they will already be susceptible to heavy knees and elbows, which could easily knock them out. So, if you throw your head kick and miss, or fail to stop them, then you could end up missing on a big opportunity to end the fight. Alternatively, if you are fighting a strong clincher and choose to forgo the head kick to capitalize on the kneeing opportunity, they could end up recovering and damaging you with knees and elbows of their own. In this situation use your gut instinct to decide which option is best for you.
After reading this article you should have the understanding that head kicks are more about timing than technique. That is not to say that technique isn’t important— you need to master the movement if you want to have any success with it—but given the difficulty involved in landing a clean head kick as well as the high risk of being countered, you need to keep your eyes peeled for the right opportunity before throwing them.
In this article, we have given you five examples of common head kick opportunities but don’t be fooled into thinking that these techniques will work on everyone. Each fighter has a unique style which will create unique opportunities to beheaded with your kick. You’ll have to bide your time and keep your eyes open for them to be revealed to you. So, if you can only take one thing away from this article, let it be this:
Be patient! The right opportunity to land a head kick won’t always reveal itself right away.
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