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The In-Depth Guide To 4 Muay Thai Elbow Techniques

muay thai elbow techniques
elbow techniques

The elbow is one of the most powerful weapons of ancient Siamese martial art. Even if you don’t rock or knock the opponent down, you can still hurt him with a big powerful razor-sharp human blade.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen many fights getting stopped because of cuts. The ring doctor sometimes can’t risk the fighter’s safety and has no choice but to stop the fight.

But what makes elbow so dangerous? Why do these strikes cause so much damage? Is its striking surface similar to a knife or another blunt object? Please read on and get to know everything about the power of Muay Thai elbow techniques, I’ve got you covered!

Muay Thai Elbow Techniques – Variations

There are three types of Muay Thai elbow techniques – basic, devastating, and deadly. You can learn some of them in the first class, but remember, practice makes perfect. I’d also like to add group four – modified Muay Thai elbow techniques. Now let me guess the question. What the heck am I talking about?

Basic techniques are the ones you learn in the first Muay Thai class. You must use them wisely to make some damage because these are close-range strikes. You can count them on the fingers of one hand, but we’ll talk about that later.

Devastating techniques are helpful, but technically a bit harder to land. Yet, you can end the fight via these moves in the decisive moments of the fight. They are usually hard to defend.

Deadly techniques are extremely dangerous for your foe because they usually lead to a knockout blow, even life-threatening situations. I advise you not to use them in a street fight unless you have to.

Modified Muay Thai elbow techniques are used by masters and specialists, mostly in MMA. Have you ever seen a fighter who fakes with a left straight and then slams the opponent with a violent slashing elbow that causes massive bleeding? Well, I did, many times. These strikes are so tricky and hard to defend, so if you eat one of them, it might lead to a fight stoppage.

1. Basic Muay Thai Elbow Techniques

The basic elbows are horizontal / hook elbow, uppercut elbow, elbow chop, and the spinning back elbow.

You will learn the majority of them in the first training session. Some practitioners though consider a spinning back elbow a devastating technique because you need some skills to master it and you can land a vicious knockout. Yet, I don’t consider angle change rocket science, so it stays under basic ones in my thread.

Horizontal / Hook Elbow (Sok Tad / Sok Tat)

That is the first strike you will learn when you enter your Muay Thai dojo (after punches, of course). If you know to throw a hook, you shouldn’t have a hard time landing this elbow. But it’s not easy to turn the lights out via this strike.

Elbow Chop (Sok Sub)

This elbow is similar to an overhand, so MMA fighters shouldn’t have a hard time with this. Hammer fists are pretty useful on the ground unless you’re Israel Adesanya.

All you have to do is raise your elbow above the level of your forehead and hit the person under you. Imagine you have to cut someone’s forehead open to defend yourself and you’ll learn it swiftly.

You can also catch the opponent into a Muay Thai plum and unload a barrage of knees and powerful punches later. Of course, it takes some time to master it, but repetition is the mother of success.

Uppercut Elbow (Sok Ngat)

Do you know to throw uppercuts? Excellent just hit your opponent with the bottom side of your elbow. You have to be very close to your opponent to make some damage though.

Spinning Back Elbow (Sok Clap)

This technique could be tricky, especially when you’re trying to win the fight via knockout. Gaston Bolanos, a Bellator fighter, is a real master of a spinning back elbow. I consider it one of the most demanding Muay Thai elbow techniques. I will share with you why.

First of all, when you attack, you must be very close to your opponent, which demands one step to your right to open an angle for your right spinning elbow attack (step to the left for the strike with your left hand). Then you must be aware that a miss could cost you a lot because you will mostly lose balance, which leaves you open for big overhands and all other kinds of counters.

Second, do you plan to counter via this strike? If your answer is “yes”, you must prepare yourself and assume a sideways stance or something similar. It will work against beginners or very aggressive opponents, but an experienced fighter is going to read your intention in a split second.

There are two kinds of a spinning back elbow – the one where your arm travels straight and the one where your arm travels a bit downwards (suitable for taller fighters). Jon Jones is known for the second version of this strike, and the best example was seen in his first war against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165.

Yes, you can turn the lights out, but you must land right on the button – in this case, it’s the opponent’s chin or the temple.

2. Devastating Muay Thai Elbow Techniques

Devastating techniques are known for an excessive amount of damage and the ability to hurt your opponent badly. These techniques are not easy to master, and you’ll have to train them at least three months before a successful appliance in the fight. Yet, land one clean strike and you’ll spectacularly win the bout!

Double Elbows or Double Elbow Chop (Sok Ku or Sok Klap Khu)

Double elbow chop is a very rare technique, but when the opponent gets closed, especially when he’s smaller than you, you can take advantage of it.

My piece of advice is – please try it out only when you grab your opponent into a Muay Thai plum, or you might end up on the canvas. Your other hand cannot defend your face, so this strike is not the best option against a high-level opponent.

Reverse Horizontal Elbow (Sok Wiang Klap)

A reverse horizontal elbow is very rare, but the power it brings is amazing. It is very easy to adjust it and change the angle, plus the opponent’s having a hard time seeing your real intention. Anderson Silva turned the lights out on Tony Fryklund via this strike.

Muay Thai Diagonal Elbow (Sok Chiang)

Here is an instructional video on one of the most dangerous Muay Thai elbow techniques. It lands on the tip of the chin, so a knockout power is real!

I know throwing your elbows inside and upwards under a 45-degree angle might be a bit tricky, but please, train more! You don’t even know how dangerous this strike could be to a casual opponent! If you move your hips and foot along with your arm, you might turn the lights out with a hit to the cheek too!

Slashing Elbow

I’ve heard many people calling it “reverse diagonal elbow”. The only difference is the fact that your elbow travels inside and downwards under a 45-degree angle. Let me tell you this… do you know to throw an overhand right? You do, right? Well, you shouldn’t have a hard time landing a slashing elbow!

It is one of the best Muay Thai elbow techniques for shorter opponents! For example, you’ll love it when your opponent is way taller than you, or if you’re a “weight bully” like Rousimar Palhares!

And by the way, this is not a myth! A 5 foot 3 inches tall opponent can put the 6 ft rival with a slashing elbow to sleep – it targets the tip of the chin by default! Oh yeah, it is such a dangerous strike!

Spear Elbow

If you hear the syntax “direct elbow”, please don’t get confused. It kinda reminds me of a straight punch or a jab a bit, but you hit your opponent with the tip of your elbow. I know it looks easy, but the distance is different, so you’ll have to train hard before you execute it properly.

But here comes problem number 1 – if you mastered jabs, it doesn’t have to mean you’ll master spear elbows! You have to make one extra step, plus the center of gravity is a bit lower, so you’ll need way more extra repetitions!

Forward Elbow Thrust (Sok Phung)

One step to the side followed by a specific push of the elbow towards your opponent. Many mix it with a spear elbow, but here is the difference – the fluid motion creates a problem, not the power of muscle contraction at the end of the motion.

3. Deadly Muay Thai Elbow Techniques

Deadly techniques can make very big damage, and even endanger the opponent’s life if applied correctly. So please, be cautious before you use any of them.

All Variations Of Jumping (Flying) Elbows (Gra Dod Sok)

When discussing jumping elbows, many will right off the bat think of jumping elbow chop. But I must say stop! You can create more than 50% of elbows into their jumping versions, which can be useful to decrease the distance and make a significant amount of damage.

Please look at ONE FC fighter Tawanchai, he mastered those strikes. I’ve seen flying slashing, diagonal, horizontal, spear, even uppercut, and reverse horizontal elbow. When you’re creative, anything’s possible!

Downward Elbow

Imagine the opponent pressing you against the wall or the fence. This strike is prohibited in the early stages of the UFC for a good reason – it lands on the back of the head and the fight might end with the death of your opponent. If your life’s at stake, ok, but try not to mess with this type of strike too much!

Reverse Upward Elbow

I kindly advise you to take a look at the fight between Yair Rodriguez and The Korean Zombie. I am not going to comment on one of the most dangerous defensive Muay Thai elbow techniques. The buzzer-beater elbow teleported his opponent to another dimension!

Clinch Elbows

When you hold the opponent with your other arm, the power of your strikes is going to be stronger because he cannot move his head. You leave him no space to absorb the strike. These are some of the deadliest Muay Thai elbow techniques for a reason. Please watch the tutorial below carefully!

4. Modified (Feinting) Elbows – What Makes Them So Tricky And Hard To Defend?

Well, imagine the opponent feinting with a left hook and hitting you with a right horizontal or slashing elbow out of nowhere. You’ll have small chances of defending the strike because you’re prepared for his left hand. The greater chance of landing makes these strikes so dangerous!

The modern MMA has changed, and the era of tricky shots and angle changes has arrived. These are by far the hardest Muay Thai elbow techniques to defend for a reason!

Which Muay Thai Elbow Techniques Are The Best?

Sorry, but I will have to be brutally honest with you. The ones that land, the ones that make damage, bring you victory and make you leave the ring with your hand raised. There is no specific rule here!

For example, when your opponent is vulnerable to a slashing elbow, it’s the best possible move cause it will eliminate him. You can raise the crowd on its feet ten times with a spinning back elbow, but if he survives and you lose, your super-entertaining strike is pointless!


I tried very hard to guide you through the world of Muay Thai elbow techniques. Every single one on the list can be more or less dangerous, depending on your performance and affinities.

Which is your favorite elbow and why? Would you like to add something else, did I forget to put some magical elbow on this list? No probs hit me up and I’ll resolve the issue!

Last Updated on July 9, 2023 by Deni

Picture of Deni


Hi, I started training Muay Thai back in 2016 and fell in love with it. So I decided to create this blog in the pursuit of this passion and share my experience with you.

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