3 Must-Know Muay Thai Head Movement Techniques And How To Drill Them

If you are looking to avoid getting hit in Muay Thai (or at least, are aiming to get hit less), head movement is likely something you have already started integrating. Without it, your head becomes an easy target for your opponent to tag. No matter where you are in your training, you can always improve. 

Head movement will naturally improve as you progress as a Muay Thai athlete. The more comfortable you begin to feel, the easier it will be to fine tune your head movements and avoid getting hit. You will see the punches earlier and be able to react with more speed. You might also find that you are able to land new shots on your opponent with the movement and angles that head movement provides. 

Whether head movement is something you’ve been working on for quite some time or a newer concept for you, being intentional about training your head movement will always yield some improvement. Here are three must-know head movement techniques and how to drill them.


1) Slip 

The slip is an excellent technique for head movement that will enable you to get your head off line and out of the way from strikes coming straight down the middle (like jabs and crosses). 


How To Do A Slip:

  • When a straight punch is coming towards your face, move your head laterally and to the outside of the punch. 
  • Add some forward motion to the slip to allow you to begin cutting an angle on your opponent, while also keeping you from moving on just one plane of movement (now you’ve combined lateral and forward movement). 
  • You should move your head out of the way of the strike while avoiding overreacting. Move only as far as you need to.


How To Drill The Slip:


A) Tape On A Mirror


  • Place a piece of tape vertically on a mirror where you can see at least your head, if not your whole body.
  • Shadowbox while facing the mirror, concentrating on slipping your head to the outsides of the strip of tape. 


B) Partner Drills

  • Grab a partner and have them utilize a mitt, pool noodle, or even their own hand.
  • Shadowbox while facing your partner. 
  • Have your partner periodically make a movement or strike right down the middle towards your face.
  • Slip out of the way of each oncoming strike while continuing to move smoothly and throw your strikes.


2) Bob And Weave 

The bob and weave is a combination of good head movement and footwork. While you can certainly do it without footwork and movement, your footwork will make this defensive head movement all the better. It is ideal for when your partner is throwing a hook or wide strike towards your head.


How To Do A Bob And Weave:

  • When a hook is coming towards you, begin to roll your shoulders under the hook. 
  • Think of drawing a letter “U” with your shoulders as you dip and roll under the punch.
  • Add some footwork by stepping in the direction of the oncoming strike. This will yield a great angle for you to follow up with strikes.
  • Keep your eyes up and avoid dropping them to the ground while rolling. 


How To Drill A Bob And Weave:


A) Pool Noodles

  • Pool noodles are an excellent (and fun) way to drill the bob and weave. They’re especially nice if you are really trying to hone in on a tight bob and weave. If you miss, you will only hit foam rather than a hard hand. 
  • Have your partner move the pool noodle back and forth laterally. 
  • Shadowbox while facing your partner. 
  • As the pool noodle comes towards you, be sure to roll under it, completing your bob and weave. 


B) Rope Drills

  • Tie up a string or rope across two poles or a room. Make sure it is hung up a little bit higher than shoulder level. 
  • Stand with your body facing down the length of the rope. 
  • Shadowbox down the length of the rope.
  • As you move forward along the rope, roll your head to the outside of the rope, moving your head from one side to the other. 


3) Leaning 

muay thai fighter leans back

Leaning is a defensive maneuver that aims to lean the head out of the way of an oncoming strike. The entire torso becomes involved in this process, not just the head. It’s an excellent head movement technique to avoid a multitude of strikes, including strikes down the middle, strikes from the side, and even kicks. 


How To Lean:

  • When a strike is coming at you from any angle, maintain your good base with your feet.
  • Lean your body back and toward your rear leg. Be sure not to twist and lean back towards the lead leg side or you may end up twisted and off balance.
  • As you return your body back to its upright posture, be sure to counter right away. 


How To Drill A Lean:


A) Partner Drills 

This is a great movement for grabbing a partner and working together. One partner gets to work on their head kicks and punches while the other works on their lean.

  • Start by having a partner slowly throw a single strike at your head, like a solo head kick.
  • As the kick comes to your head, practice your lean and follow-up strikes on your partner. 
  • Try variations of this drill as you get better at this head movement technique. Try having your partner throw the strike from different distances so you can learn to gauge your range, or have them shadowbox lightly into various kicks


B) Light Sparring


  • Do a very light sparring round with your partner to isolate and work your leans. 
  • Have your partner spar with you, while periodically throwing a particular kick or strike at your head for which you plan to work your lean.
  • The lightness of this drill, as well as the intention of it, will help you begin to see where your leans will work (or not) as you spar. 


Work On Your Head Movement To Better Avoid Strikes

Head movement can always be improved. The benefits of good head movement include getting hit by fewer strikes, gaining an angle on your opponent, and finding excellent counters. As you begin to feel more comfortable with your head movements, you will even find that often, you can strike while you move your head. You might throw a body shot while completing a bob and weave or throw an uppercut through the inside while slipping a strike. Regardless of where you are at in your Muay Thai game, be sure to add some head movement drills into your practice. 


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