While many martial arts have of knee & elbow strikes, few have developed the wide array of attacks as Muay Thai. Muay Thai’s knee strikes are deadly enough, but clinch fighting also brings fighters up close & personal to Muay Thai’s most devastating weapon, the elbow strike!
Like knee strikes, a fighter does not have to be in the clinch to employ elbow attacks. Elbows, however, are at their most effective from this range.
Some common elbow tactics employed from the clinch include:
Len Muay: (translated: touch hair) A fighter places his hand on top of his head with his elbow directly in front, driving it into his opponents face.
Taad Mala: (translated: place flower behind ear) Similar to ‘Len Muay’, except the fighter places his hand over his ear, tucking his arm into his head so that the elbow is in front of his face to spike his opponent.
The “Axe” Elbow: This is elbow banned from MMA competition, when a fighter spikes his elbow downwards onto his opponents head, shoulder, arm, or body.
Horizontal Elbow: A fighter slashes his elbow horizontally across his opponents scalp.
Uppercut Elbow: Similar to ‘Taad Mala’, but the fighter drives his elbow upwards like the punch of the same name.
Spinning Elbow: A fighter turns in the clinch, swinging his elbow around. Sometimes the elbow is brought horizontally, sometimes overhead, and other times it is brought upwards.
As there are many elbow strikes that can be utlized from the clinch, it is important for fighters to practice which elbows can be thrown from which angles. A fighter with inside bicep control is in position to launch Taad Mala or an Uppercut Elbow. A fighter with outside bicep control can launch a Horizontal Elbow or Axe Elbow. A fighter whose opponent has a weak clinch can execute a Spinning Elbow. A fighter who wishes to avoid clinching with his opponent can use Len Muay as his opponent attempts to close the range.
An important note in regards to using elbow strikes is that in Muay Thai, the elbows primary function is to cut one’s opponent. Muay Thai fighters attempt to slash their opponent’s scalp above the eyes to get blood flowing. If their opponent bleeds enough, the fight will be stopped as blood flowing into the eyes prevents fightesr from seeing properly, thus making the match too dangerous to continue. Fighters train to strike with the bony tip of their elbow rather than smash with the flat surface of the forearm.
(Next: “Entering the Clinch”)