Counter Attacks

Recently, I received an email from a reader asking me to send him a list of some basic counters vs. common techniques/attacks that he could focus on in his training. I have decided to answer his questions here rather than privately so that we will all have a chance to chime in...

Now, he specifically asked regarding coutering the JAB, CROSS, and ROUNDHOUSE KICK. So lets focus on those three first.

JAB/CROSS COUNTERS (I'm putting these two together because they are both straight punches, and the counters are essentially the same for each):

1. Slip to outside of punch and throw body punch to exposed ribs. You can flesh this counter out to something like: SLIP to outside, HOOK to ribs, UPPERCUT to jaw, HOOK to jaw, clinch and KNEE

2. Lean away from the punch and kick straight up into the exposed ribs. This requires good timing! Also, don't lean straight back, lean slightly back and to the inside of the punch to drive the kick up into the exposed ribs effectively.

3. Push Kick. Because they are straight punches (long punches) you may be at a good distance to use a Push Kick as a "stop hit" counter. Again, this requires timing.

4. Uppercut Elbow Counter. Slip to inside of the straight punch and use an Uppercut Elbow Strike. The rising elbow also serves as a block.

5. Lean away and strike with a free-standing straight knee attack. Again, as when you're using a roundkick, you don't want to lean straight back, but slightly to the side. You can use either knee to counter either punch. In most cases, if you lean properly, your straight knee attack has greater reach than your opponents straight punches.



1. Push Kick. This is by far the most effective counter vs. the roundhouse kick. You can either simply stop your opponent in his tracks, or you can push hard to knock him on his ass!

2. Roundhouse kick to support leg. Time the kick and "mirror" your opponent. If your opponent throws a right-side roundhouse kick, you step to your right and throw the left kick at his support leg. You should REALLY try to kick all the way through the support leg because you want to take the leg out from under him.

3. Step in with a JAB-CROSS combo right onto your opponents button. With him standing on one leg, you will drop him if you land it effectively. The downside is that you end up eating a kick. The upside is that the more effectively you land this counter, the more you will nullify the effectiveness of his kick.

4. Catch the kick. I prefer to use the "underhook" or "guillotine" trap to catch the leg. I only recommend doing this against a mid-level roundhouse kick. Don't try to catch a low kick or a high kick in this manner. Once the leg is "guillotined", you can either grab his shoulder and knee, throw him, punch him, or kick his support leg out from under him. YES, it IS legal to hold and hit in Muay Thai. There is even a way to "roll in" with the trap and perform a spinning elbow strike.

5. Against a high kick, you can lean away from it so that it misses. As your opponents leg spins him past you, throw a roundhouse kick of your own straight up at his head. I would recommend throwing the same leg as your opponent. If he threw a right roundhouse kick, lean away and counter with a right roundhouse kick of your own.

6. Overhook trap. As most Thai boxing students learn, you block a mid-level or high roundhouse kick with your arms held TIGHT to your body for the extra support. In this block/counter, lets say your opponent has thrown a right roundhouse kick. You keep your left arm tight to absorb the shock, but the right hand reaches over top of the kick and traps it. You then take a 1/2 step back and push the leg down into the floor, exposing your opponents side. From here I recommned roundkicking the back of your opponents thigh, or roundkicking him in the back of the head. Yes, base of the skull. Technically, that target is kind of a gray area in Muay Thai. Officially, you're not supposed to kick there. But in practice, I've seen it produce winning KO's with no warnings or disqualifications.

Well, I think that is enough to get us started. We can discuss countering elbows, push kicks, and knees later in this thread...

Khun Kao

Thanks Khun Kao, I was the one that emailed you. I will get to work on these techniques tonight. Allot to remember for now.


(c'mon, can't someone pretend they care? lol)

Khun Kao, I did not get a chance to try these techniques against an opponent yet. I fractured my finger grappling so I am out for a few weeks. I will drill them though.

Its all good!


So how do you counter a push kick?


you always have good stuff

good stuff. thanks.

I care! lol :) thanks once again good stuff.


First, we should go over the proper methods for avoiding, blocking, and redirecting a Push Kick.


Put simply, sidestepping the Push Kick. This is obviously more difficult than it sounds because a good fighter does not telegraph his kicks. Rather, he sets them up first. Depending on how you wish to counter the Push Kick will determine whether you wish to sidestep to the outside of your opponents kick, or to the inside.

You can also avoid a Push Kick by stepping or skipping back out of its reach, but this is not ideal because it gets your momentum going backwards. It also gives your opponent an opportunity to continue pressing his attack forwards, which usually results in you having to continue moving backwards to avoid the barrage of attacks.


Push Kicks are difficult to block. The thrusting power of the kick will often push you backwards anyways. However, the blocking technique is the same vs. the Push Kick as it is the Round Kick. To block a low or mid-level Push Kick, raise your knee to meet the oncoming kick. To block a high Push Kick, keep your arms tight to the body and use the forearms as a barrier. If possible, use the elbows to block.


To redirect and Push Kick, you need to slap it aside as it comes forward. The most common method is the Pendulum block. For instance, if your opponent throws a right Push Kick, you would sweep the Push Kick aside with your right arm.

Another method of redirecting the kick is to slap the kick aside with your other arm, almost as if you are using a Shovel Punch (body hook). Again, your opponent throws the right Push Kick. This time, you use your left arm to slap the kick across your body to the right.

Another option is to actually trap the kick rather than redirect it. You start to redirect the kick as above, but rather than slap it aside, you scoop it up and hold on. If trapping the kick is the option that you choose, you must IMMEDIATELY launch your counterattack! Most Thai boxers train to punish opponents who trap a kick and hold it without attacking immediately!

Now, on to the COUNTERS:

In my experience, the most effective counters are used after sidestepping or redirecting/trapping the Push Kick.

After moving or redirecting, the possible counter attacks are endless, but I'll cover a few of the basic, most common ones.


A Cross or Hook at this time is often just what the doctor ordered. If you're fast, you can catch your opponent while he's still balanced on one leg. Also, many fighters tend to drop their shoulders while kicking, so you can sometimes catch them really cleanly.


This is the most common, and arguably, the most effective counter attack. After sweeping the kick aside, or trapping it, you deliver a roundhouse kick to the support leg and take your opponent off of his feet. You can also kick to the head if you catch your opponent dropping his hands.

Well, that's pretty much it for now.

Khun Kao

Great thread. Thanks Khun Kao!


Wow, awesome thread KK.

How about counters against a leg grab (underhook/overhook)?


Knees and elbows please?! I know I am a lurker, but, this is one of the forums I come to for tangible advice. I usually don't have to ask because someone else usually has the same questions I do and post them. Great thread non the less.


Knees and Elbows?

In most cases, the counter for a Knee or Elbow strike is a Knee or Elbow strike of your own.


When discussing knee counters, you must keep a few things in mind. For one, you have to realize that 90% (easily!) of knees thrown during a match are clinching knees. The other thing to bear in mind is what your distance from your opponent will be. With this in mind, there are only a few counters that are practical.

1. "Turning" your opponent and throwing return knee strikes. During the clinch, one of the most important skills that a Thai boxer will develop is his "sensitivity". What this means is that during the clinch, the boxer "feels" the attack regardless of whether or not he actually sees it. When you "feel" your opponent throwing the knee strike, you pivot and pull on his neck to throw him off balance, thus nullifying the knee attack. Done properly, you are then in position to return a quick knee strike of your own.

2. Elbows. This is the best time to sneak in an elbow strike against your opponent. Clinchwork puts you at the exact range for elbow strikes. Again, as you feel your opponent attempting a knee, fire in an elbow strike. Catching your opponent on one leg is a great way to score a knockdown, if not a KO!

3. Hooks and Uppercuts. Boxing is not what I would personally recommend. Knees beat punches, plain and simple. However, that is not to say that the perfect opportunity won't present itself. Watch for an opening for a clean hook or uppercut. Beware, however! To throw a punch means that you have to let go of your opponent with one arm, which can turn the clinch in your opponents favor. Again, I reiterate... KNEES BEAT PUNCHES!

4. Flying Knee Counter. If your opponent attempts a flying knee, you have options. A mistake that many fighters make is dropping their hands as they knee. However, if you saw the recent thread "Khun Kao Pics", one of the fight pics is of a guy who was KTFO'ed while performing the Flying Knee strike. Why? He dropped his hands. His opponent side stepped the knee and threw the Right Cross to the point of his chin. Nighty Night!!!


Elbow strikes have the closest range of all Muay Thai strikes, making them difficult at best to effectively counter.

1. The most obvious counter is an elbow strike of your own.

2. Knees. As elbows can be used to couner knee strikes, knee strikes can be used to counter elbows. Counter with long-range knee strikes where your "lean back" with your shoulders as you knee, so that you get your head out of the path of the elbow.

3. Boxing. Though elbows have the closest range of all Muay Thai strikes, they are not always used exclusively from the clinch. Therefore, boxing can often be used effectively to counter an elbow. Which punches used will depend on the situation, but any punch which stops the elbow from landing is a good punch.

Remember, in *most* cases, long range counters against knees and elbows are ineffective. The knee and elbow are close range weapons which require close range counterstrikes. Occassionally, a fighter will attempt to "hot dog" and throw an elbow or knee from longer range than what is normally considered effective, so at that time, you may punch, push kick, or round kick as the situation calls for.

Now, I have by no means covered all counters against the techniques listed in this thread. Just a few basic ones against each for people to start working. Also, I don't want to give away ALL of my tricks... LOL

Final bit of advice: KEEP YOUR GUARD UP!!!!!!!

Khun Kao