How to Muay Thai Kick Like a Pro in 2022 (Techniques + Tips)

Kicks are one of the most recognizable Muay Thai techniques. The raw power behind every Muay Thai kick makes it lethal, and a clean, solid hit can end any fighters night. In fact, the legendary Muay Thai kickboxer Nong-O Gaiyanghadao recently caused an uproar in the martial arts community by doing just that. He finished Liam Harrison with a Muay Thai leg kick, shutting Harrison’s leg down preventing him from getting back up let alone continue the fight. 

This goes to show that Muay Thai kicks are not just for show. They’re flashy, and they deal insane amounts of damage. They’re so badass that anyone who ever trained in martial arts has probably dished one out, or recieved one at least once

For many of us, learning how to kick is one of the most exciting parts of Muay Thai training. Your coach first shows you how to do it and breaks it down to its technical nuances. And then it’s time for you to try. You face the heavy bag, raise your leg, then…

Wait… that doesn’t look or feel quite right, does it?

Excitement quickly turns to frustration when the image you’ve got in your mind doesn’t exactly translate to fluid movements you’re trying to replicate. Your limbs may feel stiff or awkward, or you may not be getting the power that you want. Or maybe you kicked the heavy bag full blast and felt the pain shoot through your shin, wowsers! Knowing how to Muay Thai kick and harden your shins will help you level up your Muay Thai kicks and keep yourself injury-free.

In this article, we’ll go over the different types of Muay Thai kicks and give some tips to help you get kicking like a pro in no time.

  • Roundhouse kick

    The Muay Thai roundhouse kick technique is what makes Muay Thai so deadly… given that it is executed properly, that is. It’s one of the first few moves you’ll learn from the get-go, but it’s also a Muay Thai kick technique you’ll spend the rest of your life mastering. 

    Read: How to Increase Leg Strength for Explosive Power in Muay Thai

    Done effectively, the roundhouse kick can deal immense damage. Done poorly, it can burn through your cardio fast and leave you with massive gaps in your defence. 

    Before we get into the specifics of the different kicks, here are a few general rules for the roundhouse:

    Muay Thai Kick Tips (How to Improve Muay Thai Kicks)

    • Extend your foot. You want your foot to be pointing and not flexing towards its target. It’ll hurt much less in case you hit your target wrong.
    • Hit with your lower shin. Your shin is all bone, so it will deal the most damage. Don’t hit with your foot—it’ll hurt you more than your target.
    • Relax your leg. Your leg may be hitting the opponent, but it shouldn’t be doing anything besides being dead weight. Your base foot, hips, and torso should generate force, not the leg you kick with. A relaxed leg delivers more power than one that’s all tense.
    • Swing your arm for counterbalance. If you’re kicking with the right leg, your right arm should swing down.
    • Spin! Imagine you’re kicking through your opponent, not at them. You should spin a full 360° if you miss (or if you’re shadowboxing). You’ll be generating a lot more power by letting loose and not pulling back your kicks.
    • Pivot! And push yourself up by the ball of your foot while you’re at it. A common newbie mistake is staying on their heel and not allowing the rotation to happen on the anchoring foot. You want to be more dynamic and fluid as you pivot and twist your hips for maximum force. 

    Now that we’ve laid down the ground rules, let’s move on to some other Muay Thai kicks.

  • Leg kick

    Okay, we did just mention that you have to pivot and get on the ball of your base foot, but disregard that for a moment. Despite its terminology, the leg kick (also called the low kick) aims to hit the thigh, not the leg. You have to get low for this one, so your base foot will be firmly anchored on the ground with your knee bent. 

    1. Step with your base foot angled outwards. (e.g. Right foot should be angled to the right.)
    2. Raise your leg and twist your hips, swinging your arm as a counterbalance.
    3. Hit the opponent’s thigh with your shin and really dig it in.
    4. Pull back and return to your fight stance. 

    If you miss your opponent, you should be spinning in a circle and end up in your fight stance. 

    IMPORTANT: Don’t aim too low! If you hit their knee or the upper part of the shinbone, you’ll be the one to potentially end up with something broken.

  • Body kick

    A Muay Thai fighter would usually do body kicks (also called mid kicks) with the rear leg, going as far as to switch feet before kicking just, so the leg comes from behind. This gives the rear body kick more force than the lead body kick. Either way, body kicks aim to hit the opponent’s ribs. 

    Here’s how you do it from the rear:

    1. Shift your weight onto your lead leg.
    2. Open up your hip with your kicking leg chambered at the knee.
    3. Lean your torso down a bit to help your leg achieve height.
    4. At this point, a few things happen in quick succession, almost simultaneously:
      • Pivot on your tiptoes,
      • Twist your hips and torso in the direction of the kick,
      • Swing your counterbalancing arm, and
      • Let your leg swing.
    5. Return to fight stance.

    The lead leg (or front leg) body kick, also known as a ‘Switch kick’ generates slightly less force but is substantially faster than the rear. You do it similarly to the rear body kick, except for one notable change:

    1. Step forward with your rear foot while stepping your rear foot back, also known as a ‘switch’  before bringing your lead leg up to execute the roundhouse.
  • Head kick

    There’s nothing louder than the roar of the crowd when someone knocks their opponent out with a well-timed head kick. We say well-timed because… well, when throwing a high kick, your leg has a long way to travel from its place to your opponent’s head or neck. You have to set it up properly to not give your opponent the time to get out of the way.

    But we’ll talk about the actual set up of head kicks another time. Let’s focus on how to execute Muay Thai kicks to the head properly first.

    1. Shift your weight onto your lead foot.
    2. Open up your hip with your kicking leg chambered at the knee.
    3. Don’t be afraid to lean away from your leg if you’re not that flexible. Be sure to squeeze your core on the kicking side, bringing your leg up to achieve the height to hit your opponent’s head.
    4. At this point, a few things happen in quick succession, almost simultaneously:
      • Pivot on your tiptoes,
      • Twist your hips and torso in the direction of the kick,
      • Swing your counterbalancing arm, and
      • Let your leg swing.
    5. Return to fight stance.

    If you do it correctly and with the right timing, you could score yourself a highlight reel finish.

  • Final thoughts

    There is a steep learning curve when learning the finer details of the Muay Thai kick, but learning these will undoubtedly level up your kicking power. Like anything else, practice makes perfect, so get your reps in and you’ll be kicking like a pro in no time. Here are a few more things to take note of:

    • Your shins will probably feel the impact of hitting the heavy bag the first few times, but that’s normal. Focus on getting the form perfect before putting a lot of force behind your kicks, then work on speeding them up after that. But don’t rush it—good things take time, after all.
    • You’ll need to work on your flexibility but make sure not to do static stretches before training. Do dynamic stretches instead—it’ll help loosen up muscles without affecting the joints. If you must do static stretches, do it at the end of your workout when you aren’t doing any strenuous activity after.

    And there you have it. Be consistent with your training and trust the process. If you keep showing up, you’ll find that you’ll have grown by leaps and bounds before you know it.

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