Why do many traditional Muay Thai fighters focus more on their high kicks than any other move? If you are a keen observer of gyms and training centers offering Muay Thai and other martial arts based sports disciplines, it is easy to see how coaches and trainers put more focus on high kick techniques. Aside from being brutal, a perfectly done Muay Thai high kick technique often delivers a staggering blow to an opponent’s head, particularly the jaw line, allowing for a fast knockout win.
Muay Thai high kicks, however, require more than just delivering a flying kick. Physics will tell us that muscle involvement and energy are two defining factors in delivering such kicks to be powerful enough in toppling an opponent.
So, what to do when aiming to master high kicks in Muay Thai?
1. High kicks require double the flexibility and stability than any other moves in Muay Thai. You need to have a sense of coordination and balance complemented with strength to throw foot-banging moves into your opponent’s weak spot and topple him down. Some fighters pursue a daily kicking routine with a heavy bag or a sparring partner to get the hang of this offensive technique.
2. Stretching exercises also matter when mastering the Muay Thai high kick technique. The main contention of high kicks is to be able to hit an opponent where he least expects it, namely– the head. Call it brutal or sadistic but that’s just the way it is. While throwing a kick to your opponents head may look simple, without proper stretching this will not be attainable. Physics will also tell you that height does not bear weight in its mastery. A 6-foot fighter can be toppled by a petite 5-foot fighter– and being able to stretch those legs longer requires constant and regular practice. Some fighters even use bands, foam rollers, and other devices to push their kicks to the limit. Others will even practice yoga as well. All these point to one thing though– strengthening the core, hips, and glutes while perfecting balance and agility.
3. Your footwork matters a lot when delivering a high kick in Muay Thai. If you check out various Muay Thai high kick training videos like this one below, you will notice that as well.
A coach or trainer will usually tell a fighter to lift themselves up on the balls of their feet. To be more specific though, to lift and put more force on the area right under the hallux (big toe). Evenly distributing your body weight on the big toe allows your stance to be more balanced and stable amid the lift on your center of gravity. When done accordingly, this enhances the strength and energy flow of your kicking foot.
4. How you straighten the non-kicking leg is also an important aspect in delivering a Muay Thai high kick. As you lift your center of gravity higher, the rigidly straightened non-kicking leg will become the very anchor that supports your overall body weight. For this reason, you also need to work out those hamstrings, adductors, quadriceps, and other anterior muscles. While the iliopsoas keep your kicking feet strengthened to deliver a powerful blow, other anterior muscles as well as the glutes must be carefully conditioned to ensure balance and stability.
5. Hip rotation training is another critical aspect in the Muay Thai high kick technique. While the non-kicking foot provides balance and stability, your hips will ultimately deliver the powerful thrust as you kick. Force emanates from the anterior muscles that start from your hip area down to the leg stretching to your foot. When these muscle groups are closely coordinated, delivering a power-packed kick is practically guaranteed.
6. To practice, it is essential to first find a comfortable angle and height to deliver a high kick. The proper angle and height will also allow you to make a full hip rotation and get the hang of straightening your non-kicking leg while resting on the balls of your feet just below the hallux or big toe. Slowly but surely try to move your kicks higher while ensuring that a stable, yet agile form, is maintained. For a basic Muay Thai high kick technique for starters, check the video below.
Without a doubt, throwing and landing a powerful blow to an opponent’s head requires a power-packed Muay Thai high kick technique. You will need more than just flexibility, stability, and coordination though. You will need strength to your overall anterior muscles to ensure coordination between the hips, legs, and balls of your feet.
7. Keep in mind to have a counter-offensive planned each time you release this technique, as kicks can be easily blocked or countered. You also need a good sense of interpreting visual field information to be able to read an opponent’s timing accurately and allowing your reflexive response to be quicker and more powerful than your opponents.
As always, Muay Thai is not just a matter of strength, but more of a game of strategies and intellect.