The Ultimate Guide to Muay Thai Knee Strikes: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks (2023)

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Ever wondered what sets Muay Thai apart from other martial arts? It’s the brutal efficiency of its strikes, especially the knee strikes. For the unacquainted, Muay Thai knee strikes, also known as “Khao”, are a staple in the repertoire of any Nak Muay (Muay Thai fighter). They can be delivered from various positions and angles, and trust me when I say they are as devastating as they sound. But how do you master this deadly weapon in your Muay Thai arsenal?

Let’s delve into that.

The knee is the most devastating weapon in Muay Thai.

– Saenchai

The Different Types of Knee Strikes in Muay Thai

There’s a whole arsenal of Muay Thai knee strikes that fighters can utilize in the heat of combat. Let’s dive into some of the most common types!

1. The Straight Knee Strike 

Also known as ‘Khao Trong’, the straight knee strike is a staple in the repertoire of a Muay Thai fighter. It’s a straightforward attack (no pun intended) that involves thrusting your knee directly into your opponent’s midsection. Here’s how you do it: 

  • Stand in your fighting stance: Left foot forward if you are right-handed, right foot forward if left-handed.
  • Bring up your rear leg: Thrust your knee upwards while pointing your foot downwards.
  • Strike: Aim for the midsection of your opponent. Remember, accuracy is key, not just power.
The straight knee strike is a staple in the repertoire of a Muay Thai fighter
The straight knee strike is a staple in the repertoire of a Muay Thai fighter

2. The Diagonal Knee Strike 

Known as ‘Khao Chiang’, this knee strike is similar to the straight knee but with a twist. Instead of going straight, you’re diagonally aiming toward your opponent’s ribs or chest. Here’s how you do it: 

  • Stand in your fighting stance: Like before, left foot forward if you are right-handed, right foot forward if left-handed.
  • Lift your knee: Lift your rear knee diagonally across your body.
  • Strike: Strike your opponent’s ribs or chest. The diagonal motion can catch opponents off guard.
The diagonal knee strike is similar to the straight knee but with a twist
The diagonal knee strike is similar to the straight knee but with a twist

3. The Curving Knee Strike 

‘Khao Krong’, or the curving knee strike, is a sneaky move that can do some serious damage if landed correctly. This knee strike is thrown in a curved trajectory toward the opponent. Let’s break down how to do it: 

  • Stand in your fighting stance: Maintain the left foot forward if you are right-handed and vice versa.
  • Lift your knee: This time, lift your knee in a curved path toward your opponent.
  • Strike: Aim for the sides of your opponent’s body. This move is great for bypassing an opponent’s guard.
The curving knee strike is thrown in a curved trajectory toward the opponent
The curving knee strike is thrown in a curved trajectory toward the opponent

Note: Remember, practice makes perfect. Muay Thai techniques require time, effort, and consistency. Always train under the supervision of a certified instructor and mind your safety above all else.

The Role of Muay Thai Knees in Self-Defense Situations

One cannot overlook the importance of knee strikes when discussing Muay Thai. They are a potent weapon, a force to be reckoned with, and when executed correctly, they can put an immediate end to any self-defense situation. But how do these knee strikes come into play, and how can one use them effectively? 

For starters, understanding the dynamics and mechanics of these knee strikes can significantly alter the outcome of a self-defense situation. Here is how: 

  • Powerful Impact: A well-placed knee strike can be a game-changer. Imagine channeling your body’s power into one concentrated area. The result? A powerful strike that can stun, incapacitate, or even knock out an opponent.
  • Close-Quarter Combat: In tight situations, where space is limited, and punches or kicks may prove ineffective, the knee strikes shine. They allow for maximum damage with minimal space.
  • Versatility: From straight knee strikes to flying knees, the versatility of these strikes is unmatched. They can be used offensively or defensively per the situation’s demands.

Proper Technique for Muay Thai Knee Strikes

How exhilarating it is to land a perfect knee strike in Muay Thai! As a martial art practitioner, I can precisely attest to the power and satisfaction of executing this move. But it takes more than just a bit of enthusiasm to get it right. So, let’s dive deep into the world of Muay Thai knee strikes and discover the secrets to their proper execution. 

1. Understanding the Fundamentals 

Before we get into the mechanics, it’s essential to understand the fundamental principle behind a successful knee strike in Muay Thai. It’s not just about the knee. It’s about the body working in unison to generate power and control. Would you believe me if I told you that generating force for a knee strike is a lot like the crack of a whip?

In Muay Thai, a knee strike is not just throwing your knee forward. It’s about utilizing the entire body’s power, much like a whip, where the handle is your standing leg, and your striking knee is the tip of the whip.

2. Steps to Perfecting Your Knee Strike

Now that you understand the principle, let’s break down the steps to performing a knee strike. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t nail it the first time. 

  1. Stance and Balance: Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart. Your weight should be evenly distributed on both feet. This will provide the necessary stability and balance.
  2. Initiate the Motion: Shift your weight onto your standing leg. Simultaneously, bring the other knee up, driving it forward.
  3. Use Your Hips: Extend your hips as you drive your knee forward. This generates power and brings your body into the strike, like the earlier whip analogy.
  4. Control Your Arms: Contrary to what you might think, your arms play an important role too. Swing the arm on the side of the knee strike down, and pull the other arm across your body. This helps generate more power and also protects your face.
  5. Return to Stance: Bring your knee back down after the strike and immediately return to your initial stance. This is as important as the strike, as it prepares you for the next move and helps maintain your balance.

3. Practicing Your Knee Strikes 

Practice, as they say, is the key to mastering any skill. In the case of Muay Thai knee strikes, repetition and consistency are your best friends. But how do you effectively practice this move? 

  • Shadow Boxing: This is an excellent way to practice your knee strikes. It helps you focus on your form and technique without the pressure of an opponent.
  • Bag Work: Practicing on a heavy bag lets you work on your power and timing. It also provides resistance, which can improve your strength and conditioning.
  • Partner Drills: This involves practicing the knee strike with a partner. It’s a great way to get real-time feedback and make necessary adjustments to your technique.

Remember, mastering the Muay Thai knee strike is a marathon, not a sprint. With patience, dedication, and proper technique, you’ll land knee strikes with power and precision in no time.

Shadowboxing is an excellent way to practice your knee strikes
Shadowboxing is an excellent way to practice your knee strikes

Training Tips for Developing Powerful Muay Thai Knees

Unlocking the power of your Muay Thai knee strikes takes time. It’s a journey that requires dedication, persistence, and a keen understanding of the technique. So how do we master the art of throwing these devastating knees? Here are some training tips that have helped me in my journey, and I am confident they’ll also help you. 

1. Master the Basic Techniques 

Staying a strong foundation with your basic Muay Thai techniques is crucial before throwing powerful knee strikes. As the saying goes, you can’t run before you can walk. So, what are the fundamental techniques that you need to master? 

  • Stance: Adopting a strong, balanced stance is the cornerstone of any good Muay Thai fighter. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with your weight evenly distributed between both legs.
  • Footwork: Being light on your feet will allow you to quickly move in and out of range, effectively setting up your knee strikes.
  • Guard: Keeping your hands up and elbows tight will protect you from counter-attacks.

READ NEXT: Mastering the Muay Thai Elbow Strike: Techniques and Tips for Beginners

2. Practice Knee Strikes on the Heavy Bag 

Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to start practicing your knee strikes on the heavy bag. This is where the magic happens, where you start to feel the power of your knee strikes come to life.

But remember, it’s not just about power; it’s also about precision. Are you hitting the bag with the right part of your knee? Are you driving through with your hips? As you practice, keep these questions in mind. 

3. Strength and Conditioning 

Let’s be real. You can’t expect to deliver powerful knee strikes without a strong and conditioned body. This is a sport that demands physical fitness at its peak. So, how can we condition our bodies for this? 

  1. Strength Training: Incorporate exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts into your routine to build lower body strength. Core exercises such as planks and Russian twists will also help improve your knee strikes.
  2. Flexibility Training: Flexibility is key in Muay Thai. Stretch regularly to maintain a good range of motion in your hips, which is crucial for effective knee strikes.
  3. Cardiovascular Training: Muay Thai is a high-intensity sport. Regular cardio, such as running or skipping, will help improve your endurance to maintain the intensity of your knee strikes throughout the fight.

4. Sparring 

No amount of bag work can replicate the experience of a real fight. Sparring gives you the chance to apply your techniques in a controlled environment. It’s where you learn to adapt, to read your opponent, and to land those knee strikes when it counts. Remember to always spar with control and respect for your training partner.

Sparring gives you a chance to apply your techniques in a controlled environment
Sparring gives you a chance to apply your techniques in a controlled environment
(image source:

Effective Drills to Improve Your Muay Thai Knees

I will share some of the most effective drills you can do to improve your knee strikes. These drills will help you build strength, accuracy, and speed, turning you into a formidable opponent in the ring.

1. The Strength-Building Drill 

First, let’s talk about strength. A powerful knee strike can take your opponent by surprise and deliver a crushing blow. But how do we build up that strength? By doing the strength-building drill, of course! 

  • Stand in your Muay Thai stance: feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, hands up in guard position.
  • Bring your right knee up: Angle it so your knee points towards your opponent’s midsection. This is your power knee.
  • Drive your knee forward: Use your hips and core to drive your knee forward, imagining it going through your opponent. Repeat this movement 10 times before switching to your left knee.

Remember, the key is consistency, not speed. Take time to perfect the technique, and the strength will naturally follow.

2. The Accuracy Drill 

Now let’s improve that accuracy. After all, what’s a powerful knee strike if it can’t hit its target? Here’s a drill that will help you hit the mark every time. 

  • Set up a target: A pad held by a partner or a punching bag.
  • Visualize the target: Aim for the mid-section, the most effective area to land a knee strike in a real match.
  • Perform the strike: Bring up your knee and drive it forward, like in the strength-building drill. But this time, strike the target.

3. The Speed Drill 

Finally, we can’t forget about speed, the component that can catch an opponent off guard and tip the scales in your favor. To help you increase your speed, here’s a simple but effective drill.

1. Set a timerSet a timer for one minute. This is going to be an intense, non-stop drill.
2. Start with slow knee strikesStart with slow, controlled knee strikes, focusing on technique.
3. Gradually increase speedAs the seconds tick by, gradually increase your speed. By the end of the minute, you should be performing fast, controlled knee strikes.

Advanced Muay Thai Knee Techniques for Experienced Fighters

This section delves into advanced Muay Thai knee techniques that can elevate your fighting prowess. 

1. The Diagonal Knee or “Khao Chiang” 

The Khao Chiang, or the Diagonal Knee, is a powerful strike that can catch your opponent off-guard. What makes it unique? 

  • Speed: The Khao Chiang is typically faster than a straight knee because it originates from a narrower angle.
  • Power: This knee strike’s diagonal trajectory allows you to put more hip into the movement, thus increasing its power.
  • Reach: The extended trajectory can help you cover more distance than a straight knee.

So, how can you master this technique? Here’s a step-by-step guide: 

  1. Positioning: Start in your usual Muay Thai stance. Your weight should be slightly forward, ready to explode into the knee strike.
  2. Movement: Lift your knee diagonally across your body, aiming for your opponent’s midsection.
  3. Execution: As your knee moves upward, twist your hips into the motion. This imparts more power to the strike.
  4. Recovery: As soon as the knee strikes, retract it quickly, returning to your original stance, ready for the next move.

2. The Flying Knee or “Khao Loi” 

Often considered the showstopper of any Muay Thai fight, the Khao Loi, or Flying Knee, requires strength, agility, timing, and spatial awareness. It’s a high-risk, high-reward technique that can be a game-changer when landed correctly. 

Here’s how to perform the Khao Loi: 

  • Appro: Start by closing the distance between you and your opponent. The Khao Loi requires you to be in close proximity.
  • Jump: Spring off your back foot, driving your knee upward and forward. Your other leg should kick out behind you for balance and momentum.
  • Strike: Aim your knee at your opponent’s body or head. Remember, accuracy is key in this technique.
  • Land: After the strike, focus on landing safely and returning to your fighting stance as quickly as possible.

Remember, these advanced techniques require consistent practice and seasoned skills. It’s not about how hard you hit but how well you can execute these moves. In the world of Muay Thai, technique always trumps brute force.

Flying knee requires strength, agility, timing, and spatial awareness
Flying knee requires strength, agility, timing, and spatial awareness

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Throwing Muay Thai Knees

1. Not Maintaining Proper Balance 

Balance is vital whether in the ring, sparring, or just practicing. This is especially true when throwing knee strikes. The nature of the movement can easily throw you off balance if not done correctly. Now, what good is a powerful strike if you can’t stay on your feet?

Remember, your stability is as important as your agility in Muay Thai.

2. Incorrect Body Positioning 

One common mistake I often see is incorrect body positioning. When you throw a knee strike, your body – from your standing foot to the kneeing leg, right up to your upper body – should be well-aligned. A misaligned body can lead to ineffective strikes or even injuries. 

  • Standing Foot: Your standing foot should be flat on the ground, providing a stable base.
  • Kneeing Leg: The kneeing leg should drive upwards, with the hip moving in sync.
  • Upper Body: Your upper body must be upright, not leaning backward or too far forward.

3. Failing to Use Hip Drive 

I’ve seen many fighters throw knee strikes using only their leg strength. But here’s the real deal: a powerful knee strike is not just about the leg; it’s about the hip drive too. Without proper hip drive, your knee strike will lack the power it needs to be effective. So, the next time you throw a knee strike, remember to engage your hips effectively. 

4. Not Protecting the Face 

Let’s face it: in Muay Thai, protecting your face can never be overemphasized. And it’s no different when you’re throwing a knee strike. Many fighters lower their guard while executing a knee strike, exposing their face to counter-strikes. Always make sure your face is well-guarded when you throw that knee!

Learn More about Muay Thai Knee Strikes


As we reach the end of this invigorating exploration, it’s evident that Muay Thai knee strikes are not just about strength but also technique, precision, and timing. It’s an art, a dance, a lifestyle deeply woven into Thailand’s culture and now respected worldwide.

Let’s quickly recap what we’ve learned about Muay Thai knee strikes: 

  • The importance of correct form and technique.
  • The different types of knee strikes and how to execute them.
  • The impact of these strikes in a Muay Thai match.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right first. It’s all part of the journey. So, keep training, improving, and, most importantly, enjoying every moment.

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Michael B. Ryan

Michael is a passionate Muay Thai enthusiast and founder of Fancy Muay Thai. He shares tips and resources to help others improve their skills and provides unbiased product reviews. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliated sites. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates.