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Why doesn't Muay Thai incorporate the Karate/TKD Front Snap Kick? Muay Thai instead has a Teep kick with slightly different motion.

I understand why Muay Thai has its own roundhouse kick, as its more fluid rotation, faster motion, and more power with hip and legs. Wanted to learn why the Karate/Taekwondo kick is not efficient in Muay Thai.

Front snap kick being delivered to a held pad

Image of a front teep being thrown at an opponent's guard

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It comes down to the same reasons which hold for the different roundhouse kick: power and dmg vs. speed and predictability. Thai fighters have a different goal compared to karate and TKD fighters as they have different rulesets: Muay Thai fighters don't want to touch, they want to penetrate.

That is the reason why Muay Thai doesn't mind if there is slightly more reaction time for the opponent (since their kick cannot be "nullified" by a flick of the arm). Compare MT and kyokushin karate (also full contact and KO rules) front kicks and you will find that they are doing the exact same thing.

Now, if you look at the snap kick, you'll notice that your kick direction is mainly up. It may be devastating if you happen to be able to do a snap kick behind and under the rib cage - a rationale I once heard to justify this type of kick in actual fights - but that is virtually impossible against a live, moving opponent. Instead, you want to be as snappy as possible so that your leg isn't caught while having the direction of force to penetrate your opponent, ie. directly frontwards. This necessitates exactly what you observe here: while you also have to lift your knee up, your heel will move in a more or less straight line from your hip towards the point of contact. And since you want to maximize damage (physically, the pressure into the opponent's body), you minimize the area of contact (pressure = force per area). Et voilà, a teep kick.

That being said, the TKD kick shown above is obviously great to kick between the legs in the groin fast and hard...it's just that this is forbidden by the rulesets of any competitive martial art.

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    @mattsmith5 Oh I didn't mean that they don't hit - they certainly do, that's the whole point of doing them that way - but rather that they don't hit with the toes behind the rib cage from below (with potentially lethal consequences and so on). In other words: Yes, snap front kick does what it is supposed to do - it hits fast - but it certainly does not do significant physical damage (except to the forbidden genitals) or breaks the opponent's balance like a teep kick to, for example, the bladder does. Oct 15 at 19:41
  • @mattsmith5 I think Dave would actually agree that this "one hit one kill" philosophy lead to a training regimen and skills that were increasingly detached from full-contact fighting. As I wrote in a comment below his answer, a good teep kick is like a blend between an extremely fast snap and a relatively slow push kick, as the power generation is similar to the latter but the way of hitting (fast in, fast out) is closer to the former. Oct 16 at 9:30
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    I do agree with that Oct 16 at 13:51
  • interesting, you put a comment for the teep kick, want to be as snappy as possible, as opposed to regular snap kick : ) ?
    – mattsmith5
    Oct 19 at 7:36
  • @mattsmith5 Aye...you know, I think it is useful, as we did in comments, to discuss a TKD snap kick and a push kick as two extremes with a teep kick in between the two. If a teep kick isn't "snappy" as in getting in fast and retracting the foot as soon as the penetrative force is applied, it is a dangerous technique as people can catch your foot. The feeling, timing, and execution are significantly different from a snap kick proper though since you have a different goal, power generation and direction, and time it takes to apply force. Oct 19 at 12:12
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First of all, both approaches are valid and quite useful. A modern martial artist should be able to do both.

Why the divergent approach? It's hard to say because it's so thoroughly a historical-cultural difference rather than a true philosophical choice, which means it often comes down to luck or personal preferences of unknown people in the unrecorded past.

Nevertheless, one explanation that I find persuasive is that the Japanese/Korean karate philosophy is extremely different from Muay Thai judging and its value system.

The former is strongly influenced by a military fetish, thus highly valuing orderly regimentation (especially for large groups) and a somewhat unrealistic elevation of the "one hit one kill" philosophy. This happened to evolve into extremely low-volume, partial-contact competitions largely dependent on reaction time, featuring single explosive attacks that one can argue would have been disabling had the strike not been pulled before impact. Under these conditions the snap kick is an extremely low-risk, high-reward tool.

In contrast, muay Thai is strongly influenced by a very specific tradition of frequent, public, full-contact, one-on-one competition that involved getting paid either directly or through betting. This happened to lead to one particular (logical) strategy: avoiding high-risk, high-damage affairs, because the upside of a bloody fight today isn't justified by the downside of not being able to fight next week and thus missing out on future income.

This in turn happened to create judging criteria that valued demonstrating composure and thus a desire to disrupt the composure of one's opponent. Forcing your opponent to stumble or limp thus became a high-value tactic. Two logical tools to reach for in this case are a strong round kicks (whether to the thigh muscle, body, or head) and a push kick, both of which we see in abundance in muay Thai. These strikes are quite good at forcing the opponent out of their stance when the whole point is to no-sell every attack.

(An aside: the Okinawan karate tradition actually contains both kicks, though its teep-like push kick has fallen out of popularity in proportion to the degree it borrows from the Japanese-style large-group approach.)

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  • Agreed on the Okinawan karate section. Goju ryu trains the double approach (snappy and penetrative technique) for roundhouse kicks as well. Oct 15 at 12:49
  • are front snap kicks illegal in Muay Thai? what would happen if person used that kick in Muay Thai and hurt opponent? is it frowned upon? "analogy eg sort of like in basketball NBA where people bank shots on the backboard?"
    – mattsmith5
    Oct 15 at 16:45
  • @mattsmith5 Not illegal, not frowned upon, nothing unusual would happen if it was used. It's just a cultural difference based on history and judging criteria. Oct 15 at 18:44
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    Dave, this sounds like you'd say that a snap kick could be as devastating as a teep kick where you bring the hip in. What McGregor did in this fight were not snap kicks, he pushed the toes in and got his hip into the motion. A snap kick essentially means you flick with your leg more than anything. The only reason why you'd train both for actual fighting is that a good, fast teep kick is somewhere in between a snap and an overly pronounced (and slow) push kick IMHO. Oct 16 at 9:24
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    @PhilipKlöcking I guess I usually give the snap kick a little leeway between training (which usually focuses entirely on speed from a static stance, thus "flicking") and application (which IMO allows for a little digging in with the ball of the foot). I think your description of a spectrum is persuasive. And if the scale is 0 (pure flicking) to 100 (a slow horizontal push/stomp) then most situations call for 25-75? Oct 16 at 13:55
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Another major reason after speaking with Muay Thai Coach who fought professionally, if you use a snap kick with the toes up, an opponent can simply block place his elbow above, and this may break your toes/feet bones. Using a push teep, will alleviate this issue.

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