In Muay Thai, the push kick (often referred to as a teep) is perhaps one of the most undervalued of the sport’s weapons. It is also one of the most versatile and if you ever face a long-limbed opponent who has great accuracy and timing then you’re in for a rough time.
A well-executed teep can keep you out of range, making it impossible for you to hit your opponent. It can also disrupt both your balance and your rhythm, making you hesitant to strike and unable to defend the kicks and knees that often follow.
It’s important to know how to defend Muay Thai’s longest-ranged weapon if you want to be an effective fighter. In this article, we’re going to break down the teep defense. We’ll start with some basic defense principles that can be broadly applied to many teep defenses. Then, once you have the basics, we’ll give you 3 simple and effective push-kick defense moves so you can put this theory into practice.
Principle One: Finding The Right Range
Attempting to catch or deflect your opponent’s push kick while you are within their effective range is a recipe for disaster. No matter how strong your arms and core are, their legs and hips will be stronger and, even if you do catch their offending foot, you’re going to have a difficult time keeping a grip on it if you are too close.
The first step to countering any teep is to make sure you catch it at the very edge of its range. This will be when their hips and striking legs are at full extension. At this point, they will have unloaded all of the power in their capacity and will have the least control over their balance. Catch their foot any closer and they’ll teep right through your awaiting hands or they’ll be in a better position to retrieve their foot from your grip.
Principle Two: Lateral Movements & Feints
The best way to make sure that your opponent is unable to find the range for their teeps is to be unpredictable in your movements. A lot of lateral movement is going to make it difficult for them to fire a straight push kick but if you want to draw out their leg for a catch and counter then you’re going to have to come straight down the middle.
Now, if you just charge them down in a straight line at a single relentless pace, you’ll keep walking right onto their kick without them needing to use much effort. Also, the faster you charge forward the harder it will be for you to then scoot back into the right defending range.
Instead, try feinting your way in and out of their effective push-kick range. A common way to do this is by bouncing forward and back at the very edge of their range so that they are uncertain of when you actually intend to engage.
Principle Three: Using The Right Grip
Once you catch another fighter’s push kick, they will do everything in their power to get their leg back. Holding onto someone’s extended foot with boxing gloves is a herculean effort and if you don’t restrain them correctly, then you’ll find that foot slipping through your palms before you have a chance to counter them.
Most newbies will try to catch a push kick with both hands around their opponent’s ankle. This position doesn’t give you great control over them and if they twist their foot free (which is exactly what a well-trained fighter will do) you’ll find them slipping between the gaps of your glove.
Instead of this, catch the heel of their foot with your mirrored palm (e.g. if they teep with their left foot, you’ll use your left hand) and clasp your other hand over the top of their foot. This grip will not only make it easier to hold their foot as they attempt to twist free, but it will also make it easier to pull their leg to the correct side of your body if you choose to follow the catch with a sweep.
Effective Defense Techniques
Once you have mastered the basics of range, rhythm, and grip you can combine them with these three push-kick defense techniques. While there are a huge number of options available to you, these three are among the simplest, making them a great place to start putting our basic push-kick defense principles into practice.
1) Catch, Pull And Counter
In this video you can see how Muay Thai World Champion Petchtaksin Sor Sommai effectively uses his range and grip to defend the teep. He steps back as he sees the push kick extending towards him so that he is out of range. Then, he catches the leg with one hand on the heel while the other controls the foot, making it harder for his opponent to retrieve his leg.
Once he secures a firm grip on his opponent’s foot, Petchtaksin takes another backward step, pulling him off balance so that he falls into an oncoming right hand. You’ll notice that when Petchtaksin pulls, he ensures his opponent’s back is towards him so that he can’t effectively attack or defend the incoming counter.
While the right hand is a simple and effective counter, it is not the only one that you can throw from this position. You can also elbow, kick, or knee your opponent as they fall. The one you choose will simply be a matter of range and preference.
Watch the above video of Manusak effectively using his range and grip principles as he defends against the push kick.
Once he has stepped back and caught the push kick, he pulls their leg to the side of his body resulting in his opponent having his back facing him, a position where he is helpless to counter the incoming sweep. Then he steps forward, simultaneously sweeping out his opponent’s standing leg as his arm pushes his chest in the opposite direction.
Though the arm push may not be strictly necessary to achieve the sweep, pushing your opponent’s body in two directions at once makes it harder for them to keep their balance and can send them crashing down onto their head for a much more effective and painful sweep.
Like all of the techniques that we have done so far, the first step to parrying a teep requires you to step back with your rear foot so that you are out of their effective teeping range. As you do this swing your arm to scoop their extended leg across your body so that your off-balanced opponent lands with their back facing you. Your opponent is now at your mercy and is open to any number of counter shots.
Some Final Notes
It’s imperative to master the three principles we’ve introduced in this article if you want to be able to defend against a Muay Thai push kick. Range, rhythm, and grip are necessary for many of the defenses you’ll come across in training, and though there are exceptions to these rules, it’s always best to master the basics before learning when to break them.
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