As any seasoned Muay Thai enthusiast will tell you, nothing grabs hold of the senses quite like a perfectly executed flying strike. Thailand’s national sport has showcased the absolute cream of the world’s striking crop for centuries. Even in sports such as mixed martial arts, the most spectacular strikes landed on unwitting opponents tend to be derived from Muay Thai.
The flying strikes that have been mastered over years and years of warfare, combat, and practice have blessed the “Art of the Eight Limbs” with an expansive vault of weaponry for practitioners to access. It is difficult to say which of the sport’s flying strikes are the most potent, but any fighter or practitioner will surely have their favorite.
From the polarizing superman punch to the flying knee, these are the ultimate flying strikes you need to know.
The Flying Knee
There is no flying strike as dangerous and spectacular as the flying knee. It is one of the most brutal and cutting strikes in any martial art known to man. Given that it has become a favorite strike of mixed martial artists – and mixed martial arts fans across the world – the flying knee has grown even greater in popularity over the past two decades or so.
Make no mistake, this is a strike which is purely Muay Thai. The sport has been so refined and honed as to use every single weapon that is possible, that the most brutal and unexpected of knockouts can happen in a flash. The flying knee is that strike, quite simply. In Muay Thai, it is much more difficult to land this strike than in MMA, but that just makes it more appealing.
When throwing a flying knee, a fighter must create the space possible to build up the momentum which can cause damage. This can be done by throwing a push kick to create that distance, or by catching a fighter on the back foot.
The Jumping Switch Push Kick
Once again, space is going to be your friend when it comes to throwing the jumping switch push kick. Due to the nature of the strike, it can really catch an opponent off guard if the technique has been nailed. In order to get to the stage of being able to execute the perfect jumping switch push kick, you can expect an obsessive amount of drills before it becomes embedded in your muscle memory.
This isn’t a knockout shot by any means, but can really unlock the door to open up a series of potential follow up shots. It is one of the most unpredictable and downright sly strikes a Nak Muay can add to their arsenal. Providing a fighter is dedicated to drilling this strike as much as possible – in addition to perfecting their balance and fluidity – this is an ace in the hole which will be nothing less than an excellent tool in the bag.
Before you throw a jumping switch push kick, ensure that you have gauged the range between you and the opponent. Don’t overuse the strike, as if timed properly, an opponent could have a nasty surprise waiting for you, should you botch it.
The Superman Punch
Polarizing was the word used above to describe the superman punch. It truly does split many fans, given that it is seldom executed in the right way. Well, at least in MMA, that is. There are many fighters who have attempted to land a superman punch inside the cage, yet there are few who have ever made it look convincing.
In Muay Thai, this flying strike is rarely thrown by a practitioner who lacks the skill to make it work. Put another way, anyone who has yet to master the fundamentals has no business trying to throw such a flashy shot. When a technician pulls it off, it can really look impressive. There are few punches, at least, that can come close to the level of surprise and spectacular as the superman punch.
Most experienced fighters will throw a superman punch following a feint kick with the rear leg. By doing so, a fighter will hope that their opponent drops their guard and tenses up expecting a roundhouse, providing them with a window of opportunity to land a cutting punch over the guard.
The Downward Spiking Elbow
Easily the most brutal elbow in Muay Thai, the downward spiking elbow can be an absolute showstopper. In order to land this strike, a fighter must have perfect timing and a pretty convincing setup. The target area is the top of the skull, which means that the attacking fighter needs to work themselves into a position where they can drive down from the top.
There is no way that you will be able to get into this position without creating the space required to launch up and over your opponent. Even if that space has not naturally presented itself, there are a number of ways to create adequate distance between you and your opponent. One of the best methods you can use is a push kick, or a feint punch followed by a push kick.
Make no mistakes, this strike is not to be underestimated. If delivered right, it could spell the end of a fight, almost immediately.
The Jumping Roundhouse
Any Muay Thai enthusiast will feel honored to witness a deftly thrown jumping roundhouse kick in a competitive match. It is such an awesome thing to witness, providing it is thrown correctly. For all the beauty and spectator-friendly entertainment it inspires, it also a potentially brutal kick for any fighter to take. Eating one of these is akin to signing an agreement to be knocked out cold.
Another product of Muay Thai that made it across to other sports (such as MMA), the power and speed with which this kick is thrown makes it a potent weapon for any fighter to hold. The only way to truly master the art of the jumping roundhouse is to dedicate as much time as possible to drilling it and trying it out in sparring. In Muay Thai, any seasoned fighter will need a lot of tricking before they provide you with the license to throw it.
Perhaps the best way to set this kick up is with a jab and push from the forearm. This creates the distance required to generate enough power to make it work. More than anything, the jumping roundhouse strike requires some master deception skills to disguise the act of leaping into the air. Even with this nailed, you need to ensure you are not leaving yourself open to counter strikes or traps.
There is a case to argue that any novice fighter should resist the temptation to try these strikes out before they master the basics. These are among the flashiest and most spectacular techniques in the sport and should be ignored until you have progressed to a level where you have control over Muay Thai fundamentals. That being said, it is difficult to do just that.
Providing you do not neglect the basics, you can practice any of these techniques in the gym, or with sparring partners. Just don’t expect to make them look as good as the technicians in Thailand do. That will require years of practice.