Intelligence is just as important as physical ability in Muay Thai. Knowing how and when to set up your shots is a huge part of the game.
No matter how powerful you are, you can’t hurt your opponent in the ring unless you hit them, so feints and fakes are your keys opening windows of opportunity.
The aim is to move, force your opponent to react, open up a gap in their defense, and pounce on the opportunity to land a significant blow.
There are hundreds of ways to feint or fake your way to a striking advantage, but these are some of the most fundamental approaches in the art of eight limbs.
NOTE: These Instructions are for orthodox fighters. If you’re a southpaw, simply use the opposite side.
Fake & Feint Fundamentals
The key to a good fake in any martial art is that it has to be convincing. Your opponent has to respect your strikes.
They will not react to any of your movements unless they believe they might get hit. You must move in the same way with the same intensity as you would for a ‘real’ strike.
If you don’t, your rival won’t be worried about getting hit, and they will likely pounce on these moments to counter.
You also need to get your range right. If you fake a jab from two meters away, your opposite number will not need to defend because your strikes – real or not – will never reach them.
Also, it’s not good to feint all the time. Otherwise, your opponent will be easily able to read you. Mix things up, so they don’t know what’s coming.
Make them feel what it’s like to get hit by you. That way, they’ll want to cover up to minimize the impact. That will give you your chance to land a telling blow.
If any of these strikes catch your opponent cold, you’ll be perfectly placed to follow up with combinations.
Probably the most simple, yet still one of the most effective fakes is the jab. Any beginner can pick this up pretty quickly and add it to their arsenal for their first sparring sessions.
Simply throw your jab as normal, but pull your punch so you don’t fully extend your arm. If you can get your opponent to cover up or overcommit to a parry, they’ll expose themselves to a quick follow-up.
Even if they maintain a high guard to cover the front of their face, you might be able to sneak a lead hook into a gap on the side of their head.
Better yet, they may completely forget about looking after themselves from the neck down. That calls for a hard roundhouse to the leg or body, or load up on a cross or hook to the body.
A quick switch of stances is most commonly done to set up a powerful left kick. If your opponent is switched on, they’ll try to counter with a check or by catching that kick.
You can capitalize on that instinctive reaction by changing things up and throwing punches instead. A quick jab with your power hand from southpaw is not bad, but a right hook might pack even more of a punch.
Alternatively, you can plant your feet after you switch, engage your hips, and throw a powerful left cross.
Front Leg Push Kick Fake
Your front leg might be the most versatile feinting tool in all of Muay Thai. By lifting it to throw a push kick, also known as a teep, you can set up several attacks from multiple ranges.
The easiest approach is to lift your left knee (and it has to be high enough to make your opponent believe a teep is coming), then put it down and attack with your right leg.
Alternatively, you can lift, then slide forward to close the distance for some power strikes. If your opponent has dropped their hands to catch that phantom teep, their head is likely to be wide open for a left hook or an elbow, right knee.
If not, you’ll have moved into range to break their posture and drive a right knee into their body from point-blank range.
Rear Leg Push Kick Fake
If you throw a teep with your back leg from long range, it’s quite easy for your opponent to see it coming and react. Luckily, that makes this strike very useful for fakes.
After you raise your knee, instead of extending your leg into a push kick, you can march forward into the perfect range for several strikes. A left knee from a southpaw stance is a natural attack from here.
Your opponent may also try to catch a push kick, which will mean they drop their guard and expose their head to an elbow or a hard punches from either.
You can even turn this into a Superman punch by kicking your foot back and throwing your right hand.
Fake Roundhouse Kick
Faking a right kick takes a little more effort than most other strikes. To make your opponent buy into your feint, you can’t just lift your right leg.
You have to engage your hips and move your arms as if you were throwing a real kick. The extra effort is worth it. Whatever defense they attempt, you can capitalize.
Their best outcome is to take a step back. That will put them out of range of your follow-up attack, but also far away from where they can attack you.
If your opponent leans back, they’ll be out of position, possibly off-balance, and vulnerable to getting closed down and attacked. If they try to catch, their guard will drop on their left side, creating a big gap for you to exploit.
Checking will leave them standing on one leg, and with no defense on their right side, meaning they’re particularly vulnerable to offense on their right side. You can also kick hard under their check to take out that standing leg.
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