An introduction to (for novices) and a refresher in (for vets) basic Muay Thai terminology. . .


Sometimes, a Muay Thai class can make you feel like the coaches are speaking another language. Jab? Cross? Roundhouse? What do all of these things mean??

Whether you’ve just started out or you are just beginning to think of going to your first class, here are some terms you can expect to hear. Muay Thai veterans! If I miss anything important, please be sure to comment below with your addition to the list!


Pakkalek (red) distracting Rodtang (blue) with some jabs.

The jab is one of the first things anyone will learn. It’s a straight punch from your front hand (so a left straight if you’re orthodox, right straight if you’re southpaw) to the face. It’s often used to set up other strikes and to create distance.


The cross a straight punch from your rear hand (right if orthodox, left if southpaw). It is often paired as a follow up to the jab for beginners. Many refer to the jab as the “bullet” and the cross as the “rocket,” as the cross generates much more power. The cross can be aimed at the face or the midsection.

CROSS –  Rodtang landing a cross to the body then Pakkalek follows up with jabs.


A hook is a punch that has a horizontal projection and goes towards the sides of the head or the sides of the midsection.  The hook can be thrown with either hand. Because of the torque generated from turning your hips into the hook, a well-placed hook (to the jaw, chin, or temples) can knock someone out. Left hooks to the body can drop someone as well, which is referred to as a “liver shot.”

HOOK – A right hook from Marat Grigorian connects and knocks out Superbon.


A low kick (also called “leg kick) is a kick directed at the hips or lower, usually the thighs. It can be thrown with either leg and can go to the inside of the thigh or the outside. The projectile of a low kick is angled down towards the target, similar to an ax cutting down a tree. Many “Dutch-style” fighters use this as part of their main arsenal. If landed with enough force at the right spot, the leg can give out. Fighters have won via leg kick TKO.

LOW KICK – Liam Harrison lands a low kick as his opponent comes in with punches.

TERMINOLOGY: Roundhouse Kick

Rodtang landing a left roundhouse kick.

Also called the “middle kick,” the roundhouse is a kick to the body (the region between the chest and hips), usually to the ribs (but sometimes land on the forearm). The projectile of these kicks is diagonally up towards the target. These kicks are arguably why many people train Muay Thai, and are an essential part of any Muay Thai school. Middle kicks, when landed, score very high in Muay Thai. They can be thrown with either leg.


A high kick is a kick directed at the head, neck, or jaw. It can be thrown with either leg and the projectile is coming at the target from the side. High kicks require high hip flexibility and good timing.

HIGH KICKSaenchai rocking Henrique Mueller with a high kick.


An uppercut is a punch that is thrown as an upward projectile. It can be thrown with either hand. Uppercuts are easy to get through a guard (compared to the other forms of punches). Uppercuts are aimed at the chin.


The teep is the Thai word for “push kick.” It’s done by lifting the thigh and extending the lower half of the leg out. The projectile is straight towards the target, which can be the body, thighs, hips, or even face. The hips are often squared when it’s thrown, but many fighters use a “side teep” (similar to a side kick, but still distinctly different) as it generates more power. It’s known as a “foot jab.”

The teep is very versatile as it can be used both defensively and offensively. If timed well with enough power, it can keep anyone at bay, making them unable to score.

TEEPLerdsila keeping his opponent far away by using the teep.


Sitthichai landing a cross to the body then a left knee that sends Davit Kiria down to the canvas.

The knee is a strike in a straight projectile that utilizes the kneecap and is usually aimed at the midsection or ribs. It can also be aimed at the face if someone’s head is brought down. Taking a knee can make you feel like you’re getting the wind knocked out of you; a well-placed knee can double you over, rendering you helpless.


A sweep or trip is when you off-balance your opponent and they fall. This can be done in a variety of ways, from catching the leg or using body locks. This can also be done in different ranges.

SWEEP Saenchai, famous for his sweeps and elusive fighting style, sweeps his opponent with ease.


Clinching (referred to as “grappling” in some places) is an integral part of Muay Thai that sets it apart from the rest of the standup martial arts. In the clinch, two people vie for dominant arm position. Knees and clinching go together and there are no clinch fighters that fight without knees (but there are knee fighters that fight without clinching).

CLINCHYodwicha looks to clinch and use knees to wear down Bobo Sacko.

Read and study the above terminology a bit before your next Muay Thai training session, and hopefully things are a little less confusing! Veteran nak muays – what did I miss? Comment below to add your suggestion to this list of basic Muay Thai terminology.

Learn to dominate grappling encounters in the clinch.

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Angela Chang
Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.

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