Knee Strike

I trained knees for years in Muay Thai.  There are a multitude of variations with different names, and it seems like the naming conventions changed several times over the years—I could not keep the nomenclature straight to save my life.  In any case, the knee, used correctly, is a force to be reckoned with.  I failed to find the video on YouTube, but there was a show produced by National Geographic called Fight Science.  It has received its fair share of criticism, but they did some interesting tests with crash test dummies to measure the impact force of different strikes.  I believe Bas Rutten delivered an “MMA kick” to the dummy on one of the episodes.  In addition, a dedicated Muay Thai practitioner threw a knee into the dummy, and according to the show, it was the equivalent of a 35 mph car crash.  I could not determine how many pounds of force that equates to, nor am I a physicist, NOR am I versed in all the science behind crash testing, but I will go out on a limb and say that is probably pretty powerful.  You can generate a lot of force, indeed, and I can attest to the pain of being struck in the solar plexus.  My training partner was moving fairly hard and fast, but not exactly with all his might.  I felt like every last ounce of air had been sucked out of my lungs.  Now, imagine inflicting damage against the bad guy when you really, really mean it. 

The easiest knee strike to teach, and that we often use in Gutterfighting, is the Straight Knee.  It just projects forward from the body, into the target.  The target might be the abdomen, the groin, the inside of the thigh (femoral nerve), or the outside of the thigh (the common peroneal nerve).  Keep in mind the range when you use knees.  I used to see some people try to land a knee from kicking range.  Unless you are launching yourself towards the target (flying knee) like they do in the ring when the opponent is bouncing off the ropes, or you are going airborne in a whole crouching-tiger-hidden-dragon sort of way, you may as well kick him.  The same goes for trying to throw a kick in knee range—if you are jamming yourself against him with your kicking leg, just knee!  The hip drive is the special sauce for this technique.  Even with the Straight Knee, I use my hips.  Some new students’ hips, and glutes, for that matter, are completely turned off.  They don’t really know how to employ their powerhouse.  Without the hips, a punch and elbow are just arms, and the knee and kick are just legs. 

I prefer to grab the body and drive it into my knee strike.  Typically I will hook the back of the neck with one hand and grab the shoulder simultaneously with the other, thereby impaling the adversary on my kneecap.  You could check the shoulder and apply a knife hand to the side of the neck.  You could also wrap the arm, while pushing away the head as you strike.  Alternatively, you could go into the clinch position and apply one Straight Knee, or rapid-fire alternating Skip Knees, like they do in Muay Thai.  Employing leverage here is really helpful in landing the strike.  Just make sure you know how to keep your balance and avoid takedowns.  I think the High Low Principle is very important—the more you can confuse him with high and low line strikes, the more control you exert over his decision loop.  I would also say that it is important to know how to disengage forcefully, after you have finished with a knee coupled with a grab.  Either push him away, or finish with some other strike—it could be a Hammer Fist, or an elbow strike, or whatever your position dictates. 

Kelly McCann talks about a Knee Lift.  With this strike, the opponent is doubled over, and the knee is essentially traveling upward instead of in an outward thrust (TANG!), like with the Straight Knee.  This opportunity might present itself after you have already done something very nasty to him, and you throw in one knee for good measure just before you fly away. 

One nice target for the knee that I want to mention briefly is the head, if it becomes available.  Sometimes it does, and if you feel it is necessary to end the fight and/or keep this guy from running after you, then use it. 

The knee strike is a great tool, and I really recommend you practice it.  I have logged countless hours of practice with it myself, so it is part of my JKD and something I tend to use naturally, now.  I cannot promise you that yours will be car-crash strong, but with some practice, it can be pretty darn effective for you.  


Levine, Darren, and Whitman, John.  (2007).  Complete Krav Maga: The Ultimate Guide  to Over 230 Self-Defense and Combatives Techniques.  Berkeley: Ulysses  Press. 

McCann, Kelly.  (2009).  Combatives for Street Survival: Hard-core Countermeasures for High-risk Situations.  South Korea: Black Belt Communications, LLC


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