Your lead hand has many purposes in Muay Thai. It can be used as a defensive tool or to create space so your opponent can’t bombard you with strikes. It can be used to block your opponent’s field of vision, so they don’t see the other attacks coming behind it.
If you’re fighting out of an orthodox stance (left foot forward and right foot back), your lead hand is your left hand. Inversely, your lead hand is your right hand if you’re using a southpaw stance. Most right-handed fighters typically feel more comfortable using an orthodox stance, while left-handed fighters typically prefer the southpaw stance. Aim to become comfortable with both stances to take your Muay Thai game to the next level.
Using Your Lead Hand Effectively In Muay Thai
Ready to make your lead hand one of your most valuable tools during Muay Thai contests and sparring matches? Let’s take a look at some of the things you should be working on:
1) Fast Attacks
Your lead hand is closer to your opponent than your rear hand, making it easier for you to land fast attacks with it. For example, jabs are thrown with your lead hand, making them fast and harder to deflect.
Establishing an effective jab early in a fight typically opens up your other attacks. Jabs score points on the scorecards and disguise attacks you have coming behind them. You can pretty much combine any strike you wish with a jab and still have an effective combination.
Jabs are a low-risk technique, meaning you don’t open up yourself much to attacks while throwing it. Your lead shoulder should be protecting one side of your face, while your rear arm protects the other side of your face. After throwing a jab, your lead hand should be brought back to the initial blocking position.
2) Distance Management
Your lead hand also serves as an effective distance management tool. You can use it to keep opponents off you by stretching it out to create a barrier or use it to gauge if your opponent is close enough for some of your attacks.
Skilled Muay Thai fighters don’t even need to make contact with their opponents to use their lead hands as range management tools. Simply observing how close the end of their jab is to an opponent gives them an excellent idea of which techniques can be used at that range.
Of course, your lead hand isn’t the only distance management tool you can use in a Muay Thai match since kicks are allowed. A front kick – commonly known as the teep – also gives you an effective tool to manage distances when you’re in the ring.
3) Effective Offensive tool
While it might feel awkward to throw hard strikes with your leak hand at first, experienced Muay Thai fighters and boxers are more than capable of ending fights with their weak hand. It’s a matter of putting in enough repetitions to the point that throwing punches with your weak hand feels almost as normal as throwing strikes with your dominant hand.
Attacks thrown with your weak hand travel a shorter distance to your opponent, giving your opponents less time to react to your attacks. Lead hand punches are also an effective way to close the distance on opponents. For example, the lunging left hook from an orthodox stance allows fighters to close the distance while throwing a potentially fight-ending attack.
Using Your Power Hand As Your Lead
Muay Thai instructors typically teach students to use their weak hands as their lead, but that isn’t always the best approach. As we mentioned earlier, many high-level Muay Thai fighters are comfortable fighting out of either orthodox or southpaw stances.
This gives them a considerable advantage during their fights since it gives them more attacks to throw at their opponents. It makes their attacks and defensive maneuvers a lot more challenging to anticipate.
Another significant benefit of being able to fight out of both stances is it gives you the option of using your dominant hand (also known as your power hand) as your lead. For some fighters, keeping their power hand in front is so beneficial; they only fight with the stance that keeps it that way.
Some of the benefits of using your power hand as your lead hand include:
- Gives You A Power Jab: The jab isn’t meant to be a significant strike, but it can be if you keep your power hand in front. Remember, the jab only has to travel a short distance to reach your opponent, so it’s one of your most effective attacks. A power jab creates all sorts of problems for your opponent besides potentially knocking them out.
- Can Be A Better Defensive Tool: Having your power hand in front often gives you a more effective distance management tool. Your dominant arm is stronger than your weak arm, so you’re more likely to be able to successfully push opponents off you with your strong arm.
- Keeps Your Power Hand Busy: Most new Muay Thai students do most of their work inside the ring with their weak hands. Go over the stats of most Muay Thai fights, and you’ll quickly notice that more jabs were thrown than any other attack. New students are more likely to be overly dependent on the jab since it’s often the first punch they are taught, one of the safest attacks to throw and the easiest to land.
We’ve all seen fights where both fighters were reluctant to engage and spent most of their match pawing at each other with their jabs. You should consider enhancing your jab into a power jab if that’s the technique you use the most during your matches.
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