Taekwon do and Muay Thai Competition Styles

Many times the road to victory begins with an understanding of your opponent’s style of fighting. Two of the most popular forms of competition today are the Korean art of Taekwon do and Muay Thai –Thailand’s traditional hand and foot fighting. Although each style employs hand techniques, they are known primarily for their devastating kicks.

Two of the best in the kicking game are Taekwon do Grand Master Young Bo Kong and Muay Thai trainer and Tae Kwon do 8th degree black belt, Grand Master Bob Chaney. These two good friends squared off for the camera in an effort to illustrate how someone might attack and or defend against an individual using either of these two styles.

To demonstrate the offense and defense of each art, Grand Master Kong took a fighting stance and Master Chaney described how he would attack someone in that position using Muay Thai.

“The most popular technique in Muay Thai is the low kick,” says Master Chaney. “It’s very important to use your peripheral vision to “lock onto” your target. A lot of people tend to look at the leg; that’s not what you want to do. Look at his face, chin or chest, choose any of those areas, lock onto it and never allow your eyes to roam. Use your peripheral vision to see everything your opponent’s doing.”

Once you know how to “watch” your opponent, now it’s time to deliver the kick. In Muay Thai it only takes one nerve-shattering blow to an adversary’s leg to end a fight.

“Unlike a traditional karate or Taekwon do kick that uses a “snapping” action, a Muay Thai low kick is swung out and down as if someone was swinging a baseball bat,” Chaney explains. “Instead of striking with the foot, I hit the target with my shin, striking a nerve approximately one-third of the way up my opponents thigh.”

Grand Master Chaney says that in order to keep from getting clocked with a right, it’s important to step out to the side of your opponent, then close the gap by twisting your hips, pivoting the kicking leg to a 45 degree angle as you deliver the blow. Another difference between a Muay Thai style kick and a traditional Taekwon do or karate kick is that the body turns into the kick, often spinning the kicker in a semi-circle. In Muay Thai, the arms also “swing” along with the hips, adding force to the movement and power to the blow.

On the receiving end of the attack is Grand Master Young Bo Kong.  He explains what someone can do to do avoid a Muay Thai attack and counter using a traditional Taekwon do technique.

“To counter a low kick I would move back, away from the initial kick and counter with a front leg hooking kick to his head,” says Grand Master Kong. “Timing is very important here, you must wait for the attackers foot to swing past the target, putting him off balance before you move in to attack.”

This time Grand Master Kong attacks Master Chaney with a front leg “thrust” kick. Master Chaney avoids the attack, stepping off to the side while simultaneously blocking the kick by placing his hand under Grand Master Kong’s heel, “guiding” it off target. This technique effectively sets up a Muay Thai leg counter shin kick to the theigh. The instant Grand Master Kong’s foot hits the turf; Chaney pivots into the “locked” leg.

Next Grand Master Chaney attacks with a Muay Thai “push” kick. This technique is used like a “jab” except instead of attacking with the fist; a kickboxer will use his foot. To counter this attack Grand Master Kong turns to some very effective basic techniques.

“Again I slide back a little to avoid the kick while knocking it down with my lead hand,” says Grand Master Kong. “Then I would throw a straight punch at him. The punch should cause him to lower his blocking hand, which will give me an opening to attack with a kick to the head.  Counters don’t have to be fancy to be effective. This attack employs two basic techniques, but if done well they can put your attacker down quickly.”

One of the most devastating weapons in the Muay Thai arsenal is the elbow. This bony body part can open a person up like an ax cutting through a watermelon. Not only is the elbow an effective attacking weapon, but it’s also a way to induce a painful block to an attackers arm or leg.

“I like to sucker someone in close to set them up for an elbow attack,” says Master Chaney.  “When someone kicks at me I’ll do a couple of blocks to “bait” them in then I’ll roll over, turn my body and use part of my elbow and forearm against their wrist or ankle. The force of this block can easily break a bone or at the very least cause severe nerve damage making that particular limb useless.”

When defending against a Muay Thai jab or a karate “lunge” punch, Grand Master Kong likes to use a fade away side-kick to stop his attacker. Like most good defenses the defender must learn how to “read” his opponent to be effective, regardless of what style or system they’re fighting.

“It’s very important to stay loose, “ explains Grand Master Kong. “That way you can react to whatever your opponent does.  In the case of a lunge punch or any kind of hand attack it’s important to either block & counter the attack or distance yourself from the strike. In this case I prefer to again slide back with my rear foot causing the punch to fall short of its mark.  While my opponent is still stretched forward with my front leg I’ll deliver a side kick to his ribs or chest.”

Although Muay Thai and Taekwon do is considered kicking arts, both styles do employ a lot of stopping power with their hands. Between the two styles, Muay Thai is considered by many to use a wider range of punching skills in a fight. However, Grand Master Kong comes from a discipline that also stresses hand techniques and feels that his brand of Taekwon do is second to none when it comes to trading punches.

“Traditional Taekwon do like my style teaches very strong punching skills,” says Grand Master Kong. “I personally like to punch, and once they begin to fear my punching attack I’ll use that to set them up for a kicking attack.”

Demonstrating his point, Grand Master Kong threw a lead hand punch at Grand Master Chaney’s chest. The instant Master Chaney blocked the attack the 9th Degree Taekwon Do expert executed an ax kick off the front leg, looping it over the extended blocking arm, landing it squarely on the collarbone.

Turning to the Ying and Yang of that same situation, this time Master Chaney demonstrates how he would counter that same technique using Muay Thai. Focusing on the Western boxing style of punching, another form of fighting in which Master Chaney is considered an expert, he explains how he would use his dukes to lay out an attacker attempting an ax kick.

“Most Muay Thai fighters and boxers like to get in close and throw combination punches,” says Master Chaney. “If I’m fighting a Taekwon do stylists I want to stay away from his legs. I’ll get so close that my nose is almost on his chest. For example, if he throws a roundhouse kick or an ax kick I’ll walk in on him as he’s executing the technique. That keeps his kick on the outside of my head and puts me on the inside of his body where I can counter with my hands.”

Making sure his lead hand is up past his temples to protect his head, Master Chaney slips inside Grand Master Kong’s kick then fires a right left combination to the stomach. A third move would be a rear leg “baseball bat” Muay Thai kick to the outside of his attackers supporting leg.

Both Grand Master Kong and Grand Master Chaney agree that there is no such thing as a “bad style” in the martial arts. Excellence in ones art depends upon how hard they work at perfecting their techniques. These two champions also believe that a wise fighter understands the philosophy and training techniques of other styles. In knowledge there is strength, and with each lesson learned the individual grows as a fighter and as a martial artist.