How To Land A Flying Knee In Muay Thai

How To Land A Flying Knee In Muay Thai
Muay Thai Thursday

Flying knees, or Khao Loi in Central Thai, have led to some of the most devastating knockouts in Muay Thai and other combat sports. While it’s often viewed as one of the flashier techniques used in the art of eight limbs, mastering it is a lot easier than it looks.

Muay Thai is one of the most popular striking-based martial arts around and many view it as the best striking system. Unlike martial arts like taekwondo or karate which often have restrictive rule sets, Muay Thai allows fighters to use punches, elbows, kicks, and knees as weapons. Muay Thai fighters also get to fight in the clinch, the style’s signature position. Get stuck in a Muay Thai fighter’s clinch and you’ll be in a world of trouble.

The flying knee is a technique that carries over into other combat sports if the rules permit it, and self-defense situations.


Effective Ways To Land A Flying Knee In Muay Thai

Flying knees are considered an advanced Muay Thai technique, so you don’t need to bother with it if you can’t even throw a proper roundhouse yet. Master the fundamental techniques before moving on to more complex techniques.

Flying knees are a high-reward technique, but you also leave yourself vulnerable to counters when you lunge forward at an opponent. It’s one of those techniques you want to use sparingly to make it an effective tool in your arsenal.

While flying knees might seem complicated at first glance, the technique becomes a lot easier to understand once you break it down into step-by-step movements.

Let us take a look at how to throw a basic flying knee. There are several variations of the technique, but the basic mechanics remain quite similar.

  • Use your footwork to put yourself within range of your target so you can land the flying knee. You should be able to touch your opponent with your lead hand, so you can set the technique up by firing a few jabs from range
  • Bend at your knees and explode upwards at your target. Rotate your rear hip toward your opponent, sending your lead hip backward
  • Point your knee outward as you make contact with your opponent, preferably at the peak of your jump
  • Try keeping your hands up as you perform the sequence and be ready for counters as you come back down

Another popular variation of the flying knee involves running toward an opponent and using your forward momentum to generate extra momentum for the strike. It’s the most powerful type of flying knee and it is typically used to finish off opponents who have been wobbled by a strike or are off-balanced due to poor footwork.

Watch the above video by Shane from FighTips on a demonstration of the running variation. Here’s also some things to note on the running variation of the flying knee:

  • Run at your opponent and jump up toward them when you’re in striking range
  • Switch your hips as you would for a basic flying knee and point your knee into your opponent’s head or sternum at the peak of your jump.
  • The forward momentum from your run significantly increases the power the knee lands with. However, it also leaves you more vulnerable than a conventional flying knee if your opponent can slide out of the way. They get to unload strikes on you while you’re off-balanced because of the missed flying knee.


Setting Up The Flying Knee To Land

Here are some basic setups for the flying knee used in Muay Thai:


1) Baiting

Baiting your opponent into reacting how you want is one of the most basic setups for flying knees. A simple way to do this is to attack them with strikes that force them to defend in a way that leaves them vulnerable to the flying knee.

Incorporating a feint push kick combination is an classic way to do this. Throw a few at an opponent to establish a pattern, then throw one halfway before transitioning into a flying knee. Most likely, your opponent will do the same things they did to evade your earlier attack attempts.


2) Combinations

A flying knee can be extremely effective when performed in the middle or end of punch combinations. You get your opponent to move their hands toward the side of their head to defend against a barrage of hooks, then you weave a flying knee right through the middle of their guard. You can effectively target the body and head by mixing flying knees into your combinations.

Just remember not to do it often enough for your opponent to notice a pattern. If they do, they can simply move out of the way and hammer down on you with an overhand or hard hook.


3) Unbalancing Your Opponents

Some of the hardest knees seen in Muay Thai occur when the fighter on the receiving end is off-balanced. This momentarily leaves them vulnerable to attacks like a flying knee, so use that knowledge to your advantage whenever you notice an opponent is struggling to stay upright.

Your opponent might be wobbly because of a hard strike you landed, simply due to poor footwork on their part, or because of a slippery spot on the ring. Look to make the most out of these moments by looking to land flying knees while your opponent is stuck. One fundamental way to throw your opponent off-balance is by executing the push kick.


4) Taking Advantage Of Bad Habits

Some Muay Thai fighters love training in boxing to improve their punches, but they have to be careful not to bring bad habits back. Ducking under punches is quite common in boxing, but it’s not advisable when kicks and knees enter the equation.

Look to make opponents pay for bad habits like ducking under punches, keeping their head too far forward in their stance, or weaving excessively with flying knees.


5) Low kicks

Low kicks are another effective way to set up flying knees since they get opponents to expect strikes down low while you aim higher. For example, you can fire off a few basic jabs, rear leg low kick combinations on your opponent to establish a pattern and follow up with a jab, flying knee combination. There’s a good chance your opponent will be bracing to check a kick, not defend against a flying knee.


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