In my Dieselnoi Instruction post I made a video demonstrating some of the different sorts of knees used in Muay Thai. I’m not an expert in any of these, but I felt it might be good to just present an overview as a single, “proper” knee does not so much exist in Muay Thai, and there are many different techniques used for different purposes. Sometimes the focus is damage done, or accumulating points, or even just making sure the knee is clearly visible to the judges.
As I say in the introduction to the video, these are all variations on knees and, indeed, different types of knees with differing uses. None of them is “wrong,” if you see a knee that you haven’t learned it doesn’t mean that the one you learned is incorrect, or that one of these is. And what works best for you might be something in-between, all of the above or none of the above.
Straight, Lean Back Knee
The first knee is the first kind I was ever taught, which is a very long knee with a lean back. The knee comes out quite straight, the heel of your foot on that same leg should be up as close to your butt as possible, and you point your toes (note: some trainers emphasize that the foot should be to the outside, this angles the knee inward, I do not do this in the video – if you are going to not lean back, you do need to put the foot to the outside). To get the lean back you have to, well, lean back with your chest facing up to the ceiling and driving with power from your hips. This knee requires a good, long step forward with your standing leg and a nice guard. There is also a short-range version of almost the exact same motion, which you can throw when your arms are engaged in the clinch. Your step is much shorter or your just jump instead, like how you do jumping knees as a drill on the bag.
The “see-ahp” knee is a straight knee that is half a lean back and half a pulling your opponent into the knee. You want to pull your opponent toward the knee as you drive the hip forward and you can kind of “spear” them on the knee as you do so. You can bring your knee up high, into the Solar Plexus, for initial impact and then drag that sucker down the torso to really put some pain and agony into your opponent. The lean back on this one is more gradual as the knee is going forward, I often compare it to “whoa-ing” a horse. You know, when you are sitting on a horse and you want it to stop so you pull back on the reigns (that’s your chest going back and the arms pulling the opponent’s arms in).
For “chicken wing” knees on the ribs, you do the same skip knees that you do on a bag but instead of hitting the center of the bag (or your opponent’s belly) you hit up in the ribcage, or side of the bag. This doesn’t require a lot of power and you can do them quickly and repeatedly, which tires your opponent out quickly. Make sure you keep your hips in though, you don’t have to pull them back to land this knee – it’s for scoring in close clinching. You can practice these knees in clinching as well, but use the inside of your thigh to make contact rather than your knee so you don’t hurt your training partners and make them hate you (and me by proxy). But when you get into a fight, you use that kneecap!
Cross-Hatch Knee (Yodkhunpon)
Yodkhunpon’s “cross hatch” knees. Yodkhunpon is known as the “Elbow Hunter of 100 Stitches” because he sliced up his opponents so badly and so regularly. In my private with him he grabbed my neck in the clinch and landed some of the most horrifying-yet-softly-applied knees I’ve ever experienced. If he’d done so with any regular power, I’d have been done for. He doesn’t like the lean back on knees, as he says it leaves you open to elbows. I reckon he’s the man to believe about when you’re open to elbows. But his knees are pretty much a tight, inside knee that comes almost across your own body. It’s very similar to a kick, actually, but with shorter (bent) limbs. The same way your elbows come across your body with a rotation of the hips, your knees come across your body with the rotation of the hips. Yodkhunpon keeps his hips away from his opponent when he’s engaged in clinching, which is an unusual position to take. He locks up around the head, like horns on a bull, and then keeps a small distance with his hips so he can lean into the head/neck and elbow when the person’s head pops up (when their hips come in); then he knees when their hips go back to protect their head from the elbows.
Sky-Piercing Knee (Dieselnoi)
Dieselnoi, the absolute King of Knees, has a slightly similar take on knees to Yodkhunpon, but instead of coming across the body he creates a kind of “pincer” movement between his upper body and his knee. Like Pacman or a giant, mandibled insect; or, if you like the reference, Blanka from Street Fighter’s head biting. I put up a video of Dieslnoi’s knees and quite a few commenters complained that his knees appeared to be coming straight up, which they’ve been corrected away from. There are subtleties to his technique and his shin is somewhat vertical, but that’s because his marching knees are also a block at the same time. But his hips are absolutely engaged and when he gets close enough or your back is on the ropes, his knees are swinging up into you with incredible power and height. His nickname was the “sky piercer” because those knees are so damn high. For this knee the variation from Yodkhunpon’s cross-hatch knee is that you drive pretty much forward, as you would in a lean back knee, but you pull your upper body in rather than leaning it back, so no power is redirected from the knee. It’s so powerful. But because you’re not leaning back, which offers some extension for range, you need to be really close; and you need to have a good guard because the lean back helps protect you from punches. Dieselnoi had his lock on the head already for these knees, which there isn’t a lot of punching out of.
So, that’s a rundown of a variation of knees, and surely there are many others, and small variations within. The knee you use depends on your own preferences, your own style, what your opponent is doing, and more than anything: what you train. As Andy at Lanna always said to me, “the only bad technique is the one you don’t train.” So try them all, play with them and figure out what context and what technique makes you happy. Then make your opponent very unhappy with it.
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