Many people would argue, myself included, that Thai boxing is a tall person’s sport.
That doesn’t mean only tall people are good at it. There are, of course, awesome fighters at the vertically challenged end of every weight class. However, the difference between short and tall is especially conspicuous in relation to the use of knees.
A shorter boxer finds relative safety inside the reach of his taller opponent. As long as he stays close, he is inside the point of extension where maximum power is generated and can put his head on his opponent’s chest to hide it. A larger person also has larger targets and their body is much easier to reach.
Once knees become a feature of the rules, that safe distance is eliminated. In fact, close range becomes an even more dangerous prospect.
The knee itself is a spectacular weapon, more devastating than the kick. While a kick is a longer lever and moves faster, a knee generates a profound amount of force through a short, thick lever. Not to mention that it is crowned with a bony protuberance that will cut like a scalpel.
Throwing a knee is about extending the hip. You want to stand as tall as possible and, as with all striking, acknowledge the role of the spine as the primary lever at work. Transmission of force requires the spine is straight and the head is held high. The higher your head, the harder it is to hit.
When you strike, you don’t want to think blunt force trauma. You want to think about cutting. Boxing gloves were instituted to minimise cutting. Effective transfer of force is about honing in on those sharp bony protuberances and angling them into and onto your opponent’s body. This ensures the most effective conduction of force and protects you; you’re far less likely to break something of yours and far more likely to break something of theirs.
It’s all about penetration. The foot is as close to the buttock as possible, as if you’re firing a spear into your opponent from your hip. I prefer the straight knee; it’s harder to block and harder to see. If you’ve closed into the clinch, circular knees will become easier to administer. Just before the moment of contact, thrust the hip forward, courtesy of the standing leg.
Make sure your knee is fully flexed with the heel as close to your butt as possible. It will provide the most effective striking surface for the weapon, as well as ensure the bones involved in the strike are deployed as well as they can be.
The other reason is to ensure the patella is fully retracted. Worst case, if you drive a partially cocked knee into someone’s elbow, you’ll split your own knee-cap.
Blocking the Knee
Blocking the knee is best achieved by crossing the forearms and trapping the quadriceps muscle of the striker between the radial bones of your forearms. This will halt the strike and if you can spike your bones into the muscle, it provides a painful disincentive for the striker.
Case Study: Alistair Overeem
Alistair possesses sensational knees. While the leg kick is considered the staple of a skilful kickboxer’s arsenal, Alistair would maul his opponents with circular punches and finish them off with precision knee strikes. His K1 GP Final performance in 2009 was testament to this.
Check out his semi-final appearance opposite the ill-fated Ewerton Texiera.
Case Study: Semmy Schilt
It’s easy to deride the most dominant champion in fightsports as a behemoth in his division. At seven foot two and over one hundred and thirty kilos, Semmy had the height and weight advantage but never failed to put it to spectacular technical use. He used his reach to great effect and was the master of the step-up knee. Just ask Paul Slowinski.