Muay Thai is a sport that is much like a puzzle. Practitioners are trying to protect themselves while also landing strikes on their opponents. Every person you go up against will be a little different, meaning your defense and counterstrikes will fit differently against each opponent. Developing a well-rounded defense and counter game will be a key piece to the success of your Muay Thai game, and it will enable you to capitalize off of your opponent’s strikes against you.
Having a great defensive game is great. Having a great defense and counter game is even better. If you are looking to develop your defense and counter game, be sure to check out some of these tips.
Build A Solid Defensive Posture: Your Stance
Let’s start with one of the most basic components of good defense: your posture. Your posture refers to how you are standing, in essence, your stance. Your stance is an incredibly important starting point for a solid defense. Whether you are orthodox or southpaw, having a good base that lends well towards movement and striking will improve your defense and counter game. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- One of your feet should be ahead of the other. If you are left-handed, this is typically your right foot (southpaw), and if you are right-handed, this is typically your left foot (orthodox).
- Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart. There can be some variation with this (due to personal preference), but the idea is that your feet are not too far apart to make it challenging to move, or too close together to make your base easily disrupted by a strike.
- You should be light on your feet, not flat-footed. This makes your movements and counters more easily accessible.
Starting with a good base is the first step to having a great defense and counter game.
Have A Solid Guard
Whatever your preferred style of guard, it is a necessary part of both defending yourself and providing counters. You might like a tighter guard with your hands up and closer to your face, or a longer guard where your hands are a bit more stretched out from your body to keep some distance. Regardless, keeping your guard up and ready to utilize will allow you to build your defense and counter game.
Adding In Movement
Once you have a solid base and a good guard in play, adding in movement and footwork is the beginning of defense and counter. Staying in one place the entire round makes you an easy target. Allow yourself to utilize your feet to begin moving around the ring.
- Forward And Backward Movement: Forward and backward movement can be great for closing the range or creating space.
- Lateral Movement: Adding in lateral movement and footwork will help you to become more elusive. Moving both backward and lateral at the same time makes you a lot more difficult to figure out, and enables you to counter more effectively. Be sure to avoid crossing your feet while moving.
- Cutting Angles: In addition to forward/backward and lateral movement, we cannot forget the importance of cutting angles on an opponent. Cutting an angle lands you in a better spot on them, which provides a natural defense, as well as better openings for striking.
Utilizing footwork and movement in a variety of ways gives you opportunities for both defense and counter.
Upper Body Defense And Counters
With a solid base, good guard, and excellent footwork and movement working in unison, you are ready to begin applying defensive and counter techniques. There are many opportunities and variations to counters, making it easy for you to build a unique game of your own. Let’s look at a few upper body defense and counter options you can utilize and explore:
- Slipping Into Strikes: Slipping a punch is a fundamental defense. Adding in a counter allows you to capitalize on your opponent’s strike and turn it into an advantage. Try striking to the body at the same time as you slip, or try slipping, cutting an angle on your opponent, and then following up with some body shots or head strikes while you have the dominant angle on your opponent.
- Block And Strike: Regardless of the type of blocking defense you choose to use (like parries or covers), don’t get stuck continuously defending this way. After you block with one hand, try utilizing the other hand for a quick counter to your opponent.
- Reverse The Clinch And Strike: Landing in your opponent’s clinch is not ideal. They can throw many dominant strikes from this position, so defending yourself and utilizing some counters of your own is an ideal way to turn the tables on your opponent. Utilizing your favorite clinch escapes, ensure that you take any advantage for striking that appears. Just escaping the clinch is not enough; you need to counter to regain dominance.
Lower Body Defense And Counters
Similarly to upper body defense and counters, lower body defense and counters are an incredibly vital part of your Muay Thai game. Eating body kicks or heavy leg kicks over and over can have a devastating effect as it wears you down throughout the match. Learning to turn it back on your opponent will allow you to regain dominance in the ring, and might even give you some sweeps as you land strikes while your opponent is still off-balance from throwing their kick. A few lower body defense and counter options to explore:
- Teeps, Teeps, And More Teeps: Teeps can be utilized in a variety of ways in terms of lower body defense and counter. In fact, a teep can be used as both a defense AND a counter. They’re simply that diverse. Try using a teep to defend an incoming leg kick, and counter with any of your favorite strikes. You can also try defending a kick to the leg or body by moving out of the way, and then countering with an offensive teep.
- Blocks/Checking The Kick: Having the ability to block or check a kick by lifting your leg to meet the incoming strike is a defensive move that will lend well towards a variety of counters, including both kicks and punches. Play with different options for counters once you block a kick.
- Movement: Back to the basics again here on this one. Movement and footwork lead to many great lower-body defensive tactics. Whether it’s an incoming teep or leg kick, movement will help you to defend yourself while putting you in a position to counter, as well.
When it comes to lower body defense and counter, there are many options. Learning to utilize teeps in a host of ways, as well as blocking and moving from incoming strikes will help you to both defend and counter when strikes are being thrown your way.
Building Your Defense And Counter Game
Building a solid defense and counter game is crucial for your progression in Muay Thai. Starting with the basics of a solid stance, a good guard, and excellent movement, you will find that there are many opportunities to not only defend yourself from both upper and lower body strikes, but to also develop a great counter game as well.
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In the Art of 8 Limbs, offense is just half the battle. Constantly pushing forward with aggression is not always the solution, and can sometimes mean falling into your opponent’s trap. Every Muay Thai athlete needs to learn when to fall back and wait for the right moment to strike and counter.
In this Training Series, Evolve MMA’s Muay Thai World Champions decipher the secrets behind developing a solid defense and reacting with precise counters for an all-rounded Muay Thai game. Covering the basics from weight distribution and rhythm in the Muay Thai stance and using footwork defensively, to advanced techniques to counter push kicks and defend yourself against sweeps, this Training Series is a complete guide to defense and counters for practitioners at every level.
Beginners will learn the ins and outs behind developing a solid defense against most strikes in Muay Thai, while advanced students can pick up and polish effective counters to take the win. This Training Series also covers practical strategies against specific fighting styles such as Muay Mat (fighters who favor punches and low kicks).
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