Mastering Precision In Your Muay Thai Kicks

Muay Thai, like all martial arts, is a game of precision. it isn’t enough to just hit your opponent harder and more often than they hit you. In order to win, you need to make sure that you are hitting them where it counts, and that means hitting them where it will have the most effect both on them physically and on the judges’ scorecards.

Precise kicks are an asset to any Nak Muay and are an invaluable part of their arsenal. Finding the right openings in your opponent’s guard, hitting them before they close and consistently hitting their painful spots is down to training both accuracy and speed. These attributes, hand in hand with honing your eyes to find such openings as quickly as possible are the building blocks to precision.

In this article, we will give you 3 drills that you can use to maximize the precision of your kicks. Some will train the individual faculties of precision so that you can work on your weaker aspects in isolation, while others will train these building blocks alongside one another. All of them are great drills to add to your Muay Thai training if you find your kick precision lacking.


1) Add Targets To Your Heavy Bag

A timeless mantra in Muay Thai is “aim small, miss small.” That is, if you train yourself to kick smaller and smaller targets accurately. Then eventually, even if you miss slightly, you’ll still be able to get your shin through the holes in your opponent’s guard.

Using electrical tape to mark small targets on a heavy bag you can turn that giant, hanging blank canvas into a swinging shooting gallery for your shins and feet.

Begin by taping targets at various kicking heights on the bag and practice firing your kicks at stationary targets until you have the accuracy of a Special Ops sniper. Then, you can swing the bag by using a few teeps to make it sway and spin before you begin firing kicks at moving targets for some added difficulty.

This drill can also be enhanced with a partner once you have mastered the first variations. Once you feel confident, write numbers on the taped targets, and have your partner call them out at random when the bag is either stationary or swinging. This addition to the drill will train your eyes to find openings and respond to them quickly.


2) Kick A Tennis Ball

These tennis ball drills take the “aim small, miss small” mantra that we introduced on the heavy bag and send the difficulty skyrocketing. So, don’t be disheartened if it takes a fair bit of time to master the next two drills.

Firstly, you can begin by tying a tennis ball to a piece of string and then hang it from a bag rack at kicking height. Practice throwing your kicks at the small hanging target slowly until you can hit it clean and consistently and then gradually add speed to the movement.

Once you have the hang of kicking a stationary tennis ball, you can begin training your eyes to respond to openings by trying to roundhouse a moving target.  You, or a partner, can bounce a tennis ball off of the mats in front of you so that you can try and kick it before it lands back on the ground. Remember; this drill is about precision, not power, so don’t feel the need to kick the ball as hard as you can, power will only slow you down.


3) Drill With Reactive Pad Work

The pads we use in Muay Thai are huge compared to other martial arts. They have to be so that a Padman doesn’t get his arms blown off every time he holds for a powerful roundhouse kick, and as a result, pad work doesn’t generally train precision. Reactive pads vary from this because instead of telling you which combo to throw your trainer will stand with the pads by their side, lifting them quickly and without a prompt when they want you to throw a shot.

As Thai pads are huge targets, some people will only hold boxing-style focus mitts for this drill, trusting their partner to be light and accurate. Others will mark the pads with tape to give a smaller target for the striker to focus on, while others will use pool noodles which require more precision to land a clean kick. Whichever version you decide to use remember, that this drill is about speed and accuracy. If you throw shots with power, you are almost certain to hurt your trainer by mistake.

There are 2 ways to practice this drill:

  • The pad holder will stand with the pads down by their side while the striker stands opposite them prepared to strike. Without warning the pad holder will raise the pads and say “Now!” The striker will then try to kick the target as fast as possible.
  • The pad holder will call out a hand combination without stating which leg their striker is to kick with afterward and whether they’ll be targeting the leg, body, or head. The striker will then throw the hand combination and follow with the appropriate kick as soon as the trainer holds it. This reactive drill trains higher levels of precision as the size of the target they are kicking shrinks.


Final Comments

It takes time, patience, and discipline to build precision in your kicks. While your instinct might be to approach these drills by throwing your kicks as fast as possible, speed is in fact the last aspect of precision to train. You need to hone your accuracy first and then, when you finally build to reactive drills, your eyes second. Speed is the last of the ingredients you need to add to the recipe of precision. So, as frustrating as it might feel to be kicking at a snail’s pace when you first start drilling remember that going slow builds the skills, you’ll need to eventually land these kicks with lightning speed.


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