Adding an Elbow – A Psychology of Muay Thai Elbows

Kevin came up with the idea of adding an elbow that might make a nasty counter to Lommanee’s left side, front elbow if I should ever fight her again....

Kevin came up with the idea of adding an elbow that might make a nasty counter to Lommanee’s left side, front elbow if I should ever fight her again. The idea is that a rematch, if it happens at all, would be a long time from now, but we could use the focus of a particular attack to hone a particular counter, which is as good as any a way to work on elbows for me.

I have had a difficulty with elbows that I haven’t talked that much about.  I love elbows and they’re the “signature” of Master K.  His website is “Elbow KO” and those words are also scrawled across the front of his custom shorts.  The man is incredible with his elbows and I’ve learned some really beautiful and effective technique for making them fast, cutting, and very strong.  But I just don’t use them in fights.  They’re great in training, but I’m not interested in having “gym technique” that never makes it to the ring.  I train them all the time but they’re just not making their way into my fight awareness.  The times I have thrown elbows in my fights, they’ve been very effective, so I just have to figure out a way to train them in such a way that I think to, and want to, use them in fights.

The Elbow we picked is a stabbing, tight right side elbow that comes naturally to me (Nong Maem, video above).  Nong Maem (blue and the elbower) and I fought over a year ago and she definitely impressed herself on me as a fighter.  She bashed the hell out of my leg with low-kicks and threw elbows all day and all night; I actually won that fight, but she was just incredible.  This fight she was against another opponent I’d faced, Nong Ploy, who had also come at me with leg kicks, so of course I expected a low-kick war.  They didn’t throw a single one.  Instead, both fighters fought a very different fight against each other than they had against me, individually, but Nong Maem stuck to her propensity for elbows.  Nong Ploy was winning this fight until this exchange, when Nong Maem waits for the kick-to-punch combination and just knocks her out with the elbow.  This shows me two things: 1) having even just one elbow that is available and used with persistence can work in any fight; and 2) a very short range weapon can take out a long-range fighter.

This elbow shown by Nong Maem above happens to not be one of the many, many elbows that Master K teaches.  Of course he knows this elbow, but it’s not part of his favorite set.  That, oddly, is part of why this elbow seems like a good “ice-breaker” for me to get elbows into my fights.  Because it’s not one of Master K’s favorite elbows, it doesn’t necessarily have his signature on it for me to feel that I have to do it a certain way – there’s less pressure on it and it can be ugly or sloppy for a time before I really “get it.”  Or, I might get it right away.  Who knows?

The keys to this elbow for me are that it comes out of a tight guard position, so I’ll feel protected.  The elbows I received from Lommanee were over my guard, which was simply not strong enough.  So being able to keep my gloves strong and tight against my head will allow me to feel protected when closing distance, within her very long striking range, to come in with that right-side elbow.   And it’s sudden; it’s a short-range weapon with the body already turned a little off of a jab or hook and that other side seems too close for a cross (which it is), so instead it’s a very quick, very strong elbow.  And as evidenced in the video above, it has knock out power.

So I’ve been adding it to shadow, bagwork, and pad work.  Just getting used to the movement as an automatic add-on to the triggers I already have in my hands or off of a knee.  It’s not strong at the moment because  I’m not keeping it tight enough, but it’s getting better.  It’s coming, for sure.

Stabbing Elbow GIF - Slow Motion - Muay Thai

A Note on Elbows

Maybe because elbows aren’t permitted in a lot of Muay Thai in the US (only recently permitted for pros and with padding for amateurs in some states) and other western countries, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding the use of elbows.  Not so much technically how to use them, but more ethically how to use them.  I’ve heard people say with some kind of assumed authority that elbows are only used in the last rounds of fights, that if they appear early it’s a sign of “bad blood” between fighters, etc.  Elbows are legal at any time in a fight.  They’re acceptable at any time in a fight.  If they show up late, usually it’s because someone is trying to end a fight with a cut.  If they show up early it’s because someone is trying to end a fight with a cut.  They seem more desperate near the end of a fight, but so does anything if a fighter is behind.  They seem more “nasty” early on in a fight, but in the early rounds of a fight most strikes are a feeling out process, so anything really fast or hard or damaging gets an “ooooooiiiii!” response.  It’s not “rude” or unsporting to elbow early in a fight, but it is noticeable when they come out early.  But that’s true of any significant strike that looks like you’re trying to knock someone out early in a fight.

So the point I’m trying to make is that elbows are always on the table.  Once one is thrown, the other fighter usually throws elbows back as a way to “answer” the initial elbow – they’re not only on the table, they’re being discussed, so to speak.  If you don’t want elbows thrown at you, don’t throw the first one… but that doesn’t mean it won’t come anyway.  The etiquette is in being prepared to take what you dish out, not in “holding off” for later rounds.


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A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see


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