Being able to defend against punches, kicks, elbows, and knees is an integral part of being a Muay Thai fighter. You can’t expect to have much success inside the ring if your defense is filled with holes your opponents can exploit.
One of the first defensive techniques you learn in Muay Thai is how to check a kick. They are the most used weapons in Muay Thai, so being able to defend against them is essential. Once you’ve mastered basic defensive techniques like blocking with your arms and checking kicks, it’s time to move on to more advanced techniques like catching kicks and using them to sweep or land strikes on your opponent.
Being defensively sound is one of the most important skills you can have in any combat sport. Many of the fighters who end up dominating their respective fields are known for their seemingly impregnable defense.
Learning how to catch kicks makes your opponents think twice before throwing a kick at you. It puts them in a vulnerable position as they find themselves balancing their entire body weight on only one leg. It’s an effective technique for Muay Thai and mixed martial arts fighters. This applies more for the latter since fighters score points in MMA if they take opponents down and control them on the ground.
Mastering The Muay Thai Catch And Sweep
Catching a kick requires good awareness and timing on your part. While it is a more advanced defensive technique, it’s quite simple once you get the mechanics down. The move works off reading your opponent’s attacks by looking for cues that telegraph their intent.
Here’s how to perform the technique:
- From your fighting stance, sidestep towards the kick while bringing your arm down to catch the kick. Sidestepping into the kick takes some of the power in it off. Your arm should move down in a swooping motion as you catch the kick.
- Once you’ve captured your opponent’s leg, lift your arm and shoulder up slightly to break their posture. This little detail significantly increases the odds of your sweep being effective.
- Move your rear foot forward and your front foot back to further throw your opponent’s balance off. This also puts your formerly front leg in position to throw a sweeping kick.
- Sweep your opponent’s feet with your now rear leg as they try to hop backward and regain their balance. Aim for their calf as you throw the kick and follow through to send them to the canvas. That scores points on the judges’ scorecards during Muay Thai contests. MMA fighters can follow up the sweep with a punch as they dive into top control.
Important Keys To Note
Sweeping isn’t your only option when you catch an opponent’s kick. You can also throw some strikes while working on the sweep. The main thing is to react quickly when you catch an opponent’s leg. You want to capitalize off the opportunity before your opponent manages to wiggle their leg away from you.
Don’t waste time patting yourself on the back after catching a kick and immediately start striking or working on a sweep. You always want to get something from the exchange since catching kicks isn’t the easiest task in the world, and you absorb some of a kick’s impact when you catch it.
Some of the essential things you should keep in mind when learning how to catch kicks include:
- Remember to have a solid hold on your opponent’s leg after catching it and lift your arm and shoulder. This throws your opponent off balance, making it harder to pull their leg away from you. A weak grip makes it easier for your opponent to slide their leg away from your hold.
- You can take a small step forward and throw a knee strike after catching your opponent’s leg. That gets you close enough to grab your opponent’s head and drive it down as you execute the sweep. Having a good grip on your opponent’s head/neck allows gives you more control over their body as you hold on to one of their legs.
- Use the technique every chance you get during sparring. That is the only way to learn how to time kicks so you can catch them. Practice the technique until you no longer have to think about doing it, and it becomes something you do naturally when a kick comes your way.
Catching The Teep
Push kicks and roundhouses are the most commonly used weapons in Muay Thai, so you want to know how to defend against both. The catch and sweep technique we discussed above works well on roundhouse kicks to the body or thighs. You can use a slight variation to catch a roundhouse to the head, but that’s not advisable since you still end up absorbing the power behind the kick. No point catching a kick if it knocks you out.
The other type of kick you’ll be seeing a lot in Muay Thai is the teep, as fighters use it to gauge distances and to prevent opponents from crowding them.
Here’s how you catch and sweep a teep, assuming you’re in an orthodox stance:
- Catch your opponent’s push kick with both hands. Your front hand cups the back of your opponent’s ankle while your rear hand goes over the flat part of their feet, pulling it towards you.
- Use your front hand to pull your opponent’s leg to your side so you can step in closer to them. You can throw a cross or left hook at this point. You can also throw an upward elbow with your right arm.
- To sweep your opponent after catching their leg, pull them towards you as you take a big step backward. This forces them to hop on one leg, throwing them off balance. Pivot as you pull your opponent towards you, sending them to the canvas. The technique mimics the motion wrestlers use to execute single leg takedowns.
You may also like: