Muay Thai elbow knives are one of the hidden secrets of Thai Boxing/ Muay Thai. The masters of Muai Thai elbows are the Muay Chaiya or Muay Thai fighters from Southern Thailand. These elbow knives are the number one cause of blood and death, for fighters.
The elbow knives are feared by foreign fighters. Foreign fighters who come to Thailand have to face the fear of dealing with the Muay Thai elbows. Many ask the Thai fighters to fight them with NO elbow strikes. Muay Thai is one of the most feared full contact fighting systems in the world, pain is a major part of the sport and there is almost always lots of BLOOD. Muay Thai develops the human body into weapons. The head becomes a bowling ball, the legs must be like baseball bats, knees become clubs, fists must be hard as rocks and the elbows cut like knives.
I personally have studied kung fu, Tae Kwon Do and karate and one thing that makes Muay Thai different from other martial arts is APPLICATION. Muay Thai is weapon/ bone specific, movement specific and target specific. In some martial arts, years may go by before you actually use the body weapon in a combat situation, but in Muay Thai you use the weapons as soon as you learn how to use them.
When I was learning martial arts, I did board and brick breaking and a couple of times I even tried using my elbow, but I was never taught technically, exactly what part of the elbow bone I should use. I have done kata forms with elbow strikes, but not once did I learn what part of the elbow I should actually be using. The elbow bone is one of the toughest bones in your body and it can easily knock holes in walls if used correctly. For example, the shin bone is really tough, but it takes years to condition it for use as a baseball bat. But this is not so with the elbow bones. There are two points of the elbow that can be used. The #1 point is the Forearm Tip of the Elbow bone and the #2 point is the Back Tip of the Elbow bone. When you practice “Muay Thai Elbows” it is very important to FEEL your weapon strike the target. When you hit a hard bag, Thai pad or person, you will see clearly how important it is to know which point of the Weapon to use.
You can feel that the Forearm tip of the elbow is NOT in the center of your arm, you must raise your elbow up a little in order for that specific point/ bone to be used. The Back tip of the Elbow is important for maximum hardness in striking and many use the muscle part which in the end does not do the job and can cause injury to you rather than your opponent.
“Muay Thai Elbows” are called Knives for a reason. You do not have to use power and strength when using Elbow Knives. You use movements that are Smooth, Short, Relaxed and Fast. Many fighters try to use their elbows with Power, like a Punch, but it is not about Power, but about Grace, Placement, Timing and SLICING.Anyone who practices knife fighting will agree there is No Power involved, but it is all about Speed and Timing. Women in the Philippines practice knife self-defense. Most of these women are small and petite, but ask any big GI Joe that has wronged one of them and they will tell you that they had to run for their lives.
I always encourage women to focus on and to practice the “Muay Thai Elbows”. Doing Tai Chi movements, slow and focused, smooth movements, with your elbows is a great way to develop the sharpness of your knives. One great description of a Muay Thai fighter is that they are
“Hard as a diamond, but soft and smooth as Thai silk”.
A “Muay Thai Elbow” is like a hammer head (the Diamond). If a hammer head touches your head at a smooth speed (the Thai Silk) you will feel the pain because the hammer head is HARD. When two hard surfaces connect and there is SKIN in between them the SKIN will split and the result will be BLOOD. So relax when you do these movements and remember that the more you practice the movements the SHARPER your Knives will become.
Now that you know which parts of the Weapon/ Elbow bone to use, let’s look at the Specific targets we should be cutting.
#1 Target is the Mouth/ Nose.
#2 Target is the Eye/Temple.
#3 Target is bottom of the Chin/ Jaw.
#4 Target is the Top of the Forehead.
#5 Target is the final strike the Nose.
In this article we will teach you combinations hitting all 5 targets, but truthfully, in most Muay Thai fights, you usually see these elbow strikes as one or maybe two movements. It is fun to practice the movements as a combination, but one should practice single strikes because that is, in reality, what will actually be used in a combat situation.
Let’s get ready to SLICE! Most people don’t use their elbows as weapons very often, so this might be a new movement and it might make you feel like a chicken flapping its wings. With practice, however, you will be able to cut heads off!! With that said, please Do NOT practice these techniques on PEOPLE! They are KNIVES, they CUT and, like Fire, when you play with it, you will get BURNED! There is a great tool to practice your “Knives of Muay Thai” and it is the new kick butt Bob bag that actually has facial features, or the Fairtex Uppercut & Hook Box, which I actually use in Thailand. No, I don’t own stock in these items, but maybe I should get commissions?
#1 Target is the Mouth/ Nose:
From a Right Strong Fighting stance this is a LEFT Front Elbow Strike or Upper Cut Elbow technique which is more of a JAMMING strike vs. a swinging strike. What I mean is this technique is powered by body/ foot work moving you quickly forward more so than swinging your elbow up. In fact I have seen it done with no arm movement at all, when the Forearm Tip is locked forward, it can be rammed forward into Target #1 and any connection will cause damage. The typical purpose of this strike is against boxers that do powerful hooks on the out side or for grapplers trying to shoot for a take down with their arms trying to grab from the out side.
The Front Elbow Strike is jammed right up the middle, when your opponent is moving aggressively forward and you are moving forward a knockout or lots of BLOOD is usually the result.
Foot work from a right strong fighting stance, your left is front, you right is back, you push with you right leg as powerfully as possible and your left steps forward directly towards the target as much as possible to push your Left Front Elbow through the Target. The best time to do this technique is when your opponent is aggressively coming forward so this is like two Rams coming together and hopefully your horn is up and ready for the collision.
You should practice all these movements from a Right and a Left fighting stance. This is one of the best things about Muay Thai, you develop a balanced fighting system and you learn to fight easily from any fighting stance you find yourself in. This gives you great options when fighting. Quickly determine which fighting stance your opponent does not like, and fight him in that stance. Most fighters are not use to fighting South Paw fighters and that is why many Thai fighters will fight a foreigner from a South Paw fighting stance. I discovered that when you are moving around a lot you will find yourself in a certain fighting position and you can fight from that position, whether it your strong side or not, because in Muay Thai you basically develop two strong sides, each with unique strikes and techniques.
Let me get more detailed on your fist, arm, forearm and elbow so that your Knife is as sharp as possible. Please note, when people learn something new they always say, That is not how I was taught by my other instructor. Muay Thai is an OPEN book fighting system. This means that what works for one person may not work for another person, so you use what works for YOU. If you learn from a Muay Thai instructor in the South or in the North or in the West or in the North East, they mayALL be different but it isALL Muay Thai. Kao jai mai? Do you understand?? That is what is so cool about Muay Thai, it has basics, but many personalities are changing it and improving it and adapting it to all the different personalities in the world. Muay Thai is amazing like that, you discover what really works for you and you perfect it!!
With that said, here is how I like to use the “Knives of Muay Thai” and how to get the most out of your blades. What ever way you slice your knives, horizontal, vertical or diagonal, you should keep the BLADE exposed and always feel your BLADE slice from one end to the other.
Example, a horizontal slice, you should feel as if your knuckle bone is the beginning of the slice movement, then your wrist bone, then your forearm bone and then finishing the slice with your Forearm Tip. When you think and practice this way your “Knives of Muay Thai” become very long and your slicing movement cuts very deep. This only applies to the Forearm Tip because the Back Tip is more like a SPEAR, poking into the Target.
#2 Target is the Eye/ Temple:
LEFT Diagonal Strike/ Elbow which is a horizontal slice right coming immediately after your LEFT Front Elbow. This is a small, smooth and fast elbow slice towards the Eye/Templeof your opponent. The reason the Eye/Templeis the Target is as follows. If you hit the Targets a knockout is a sure result, but if your opponent puts their head forward then a blood slice will occur above the eyes that will flow down. If your opponent puts his head up then you will hit the JAW which will end in a knockout victory. Again, use your BLADE in this fast and smooth technique.
Foot work for this is already in place, your left foot should be right in front of your opponent and your right foot should be planted back to give afoundationfor your slice. You will stand forward, TALL and LEAN, in order to hit your Target. The main swing of this slice comes from your HIPS, WAIST and SHOULDERS and NOT from the swing of the arm. Note that your left fist does a small movement as if to punch your own right shoulder. The swing comes from the pivot TWIST of your hips, then waist, then shoulders, allowing you to swing the blade for a knock out slice.
#3 Target is bottom of the Chin/ Jaw:
After your left diagonal strike you just follow THROUGH to bring your left BACK Tip elbow UNDER your opponents Chin/ Jaw. This is the first Back Tip strike, it is a short POKE straight up to your opponents bottom Chin/ Jaw. This is a SNEAKY, effective and surprising strike that could end up in a knockout. If your opponent has his mouth open, the strike will quickly close the mouth sending signals from the jaw that will shut the BRAIN off. In real Muay Thai fights this strike is not seen any more, it is an Old School Muay Thai move. The ancient fighters of old had many tricks like this one, but the professional fighters of today do not practice the techniques.
Foot work for this is already in place. You will have to turn right in order to expose your Back Tip elbow to your opponent.After, POKING your opponent you will immediately set up a strong fighting stance right in front of your opponent, left foot forward slightly on the right side of your opponent and right foot back slightly to the left of your opponent. From here you are ready for Target #4 which is the most commonly used elbow strike in Muay Thai.
#4 Target is the Top of the Forehead:
From a Right Strong Fighting stance you will use a RIGHT Power Elbow Strike sending the Forearm Tip straight through your opponents guard. This is the only all out power elbow strike, and even if your opponent raises his hands to block, he will feel this technique because your whole body is behind the technique and you are stepping through your opponent. Forearm Tip/ Elbow is slightly up, fully exposed and your body pushes the Forearm Tip forward with a small swing and in this movement your right fist goes to your left shoulder as if to punch it. When a Thai fighter sees/ feels this attack coming they stand strong with Forehead forward so that is the target but if the opponent does not put the Forehead forward then say good bye to the nose!!
Foot work for this is pretty simple, but most fighters are not use to this dance step, so you must practice it. Your RIGHT foot is back, you must really push forward with your right foot so you can step forward to your opponent’s right side, stepping/ pushing your Elbow strike through the target. This is actually a set up step to do your last Elbow strike. Typically, this strike is done with out a step, just like a right cross punch, but your body has to totally go forward in order to strike through your target.
#5 Target is the Nose:
Now you are slightly to the right of your opponent ready to do the very impressive Swing Back Elbow. This will be done with your Left BACK Tip, it will be powered by a half turn in your waist and your left hand will pull slightly up as if you were starting a lawn mower. This is not a SPINNING movement! Muay Thai is mainly short and direct, so be conservative in your swing, because after the strike you will turn back around to face your opponent in your strong fighting stance.
Foot work for this technique is already in place, do your Swing Back Elbow, after the strike push off the right foot, step back right into Right Strong Fighting stance to see what damage you did to your opponent. NOTE, if he is a Muay Thai fighter, get ready, because now it is your opponents turn!!
Remember Practice Right and Left Side Strong/ Fighting Stance.
Muay Thai encourages all its fighters to learn to fight from BOTH sides of your fighting stance. This year I just started to fight from my left strong fighting stance/ South Paw. When you learn to fight from both sides of your fighting stance, a whole new world of fighting techniques opens up and your opponent will have to fight two different people at once.
Foot Work and Timing is a Key.
Being Sneaky is a major way to deliver cutting Elbow strikes. This is something that can only be developed with practice and actually fighting in Muay Thai. You have to be able to see what Elbow strike will work on your opponent, do not let them know you are going to do it and then you surprise them with the KNIFE. Your body must function as a whole unit behind your Knives or they will never cut your opponent.
Understanding the BLOOD in Muay Thai.
I will end this article with helping you understand the differences between American and Thai culture on what is SEEN when a fighter gets cut by an Elbow and Blood ensues. Remember, it is totally different between cultures!!
In America we freak out when someone gets cut. In Muay thai, one of the main things that is expressed/ shown/ developed in Muay Thai fights is the HEART of the fighter. The BIGGNESS of the heart of a Muay Thai fighter is so important in Thailand. Let me give you an example.
In a Muay Thai fight when a fighter gets cut by an elbow, he or she now has anADVANTAGE, yes, I said at an advantage. WHY?? Because the fighter now has an opportunity to show the judges how big his HEART is!!
I have been watching fights in Thailand every week for almost three years now and that basically means I have watched over 2,000 Muay Thai fights in Thailand, up close. I am currently helping theAo Nang Krabi Stadium by doing the English announcing for the Friday night KO fights. In my experience, two fights stand out in my mind, one was between Thai men and the other Thai women. Muay Thai fights are always FIVE rounds, one fighter clearly lost the first three rounds, in round four they get cut by an elbow and start to bleed. In my thinking I would throw in the towel, give up, there is no way to WIN, but in real Muay Thai there is. The losing fighters came out in the last and final round and fought their HEART out. They were bleeding, but they fought as if they were fighting for the whole Nation of Thailand, and they barely won the final round of the fight. GUESS what?? The judges gave them the VICTORY!! The Thai judges have a score card that is really not in the rules, if you fight beyond your HEART limits, while you are bleeding to death, then you deserve to WIN!!Amazing, Thailand is the only place in the world that has this practice and most of us Westerners do not understand this type of fighting or its purpose. Even though I have shared with you “Muay Thai Elbows” which is the number one cause of Blood in Muay Thai fights please remember to honor the use of “Elbow Knives” because they come from the toughest and the most humble fighters in the world, the Muay Thai fighters of Thailand. And always remember that humbleness is the KEY to using “Muay Thai Elbows”.