The first tool that I like any of my students to master is their teep. The teep is the most important weapon in Muay Thai, bar none. Having control over your teep lets you control the distance the fight is fought at. The teep serves as an effective counter to any strike from mid-range or a created mid-range. Despite the teep being so crucial, very few people ever actually put the time into truly mastering the teep. Today we’ll go step by step on how to do just that.
Understanding the difference between a lead and rear teep
This sounds obvious, but your lead and rear teep serve different functions. The lead teep is a stringing, probing weapon which you use to keep your opponent at the edge of your range. The lead teep is also the safest, most reliable defence to any strike. Think of a scorpion’s sting, or the quick bite of a rattlesnake.
The rear teep is for expanding distance. Rather than being a sting to keep the opponent away, the rear teep is an almighty shove that sends the opponent back, preferably towards the ropes. The rear power teep is harder to land, but great for pressure fighters wanting trap or corner their opponent.
Having quick reactions on both of these teeps will keep your opponent perpetually off balance and set up the rest of your tools in a fight.
Default Teep Technique
On either teep, the standard way to throw the teep is to lift the knee and extend the leg out rather than up. The hip engages and drives the teep forward, creating the pushing motion. Though it looks similar, it is different to a mae geri (front kick) in karate. The front kick is more like an uppercut, striking the target with concussive force, the teep is pushing your opponent back.
On this teep the toes face up towards the sky. The actual point of contact can vary, but ideally for me, the lead teep lands on the ball of the foot, stabbing into the opponent, pushing into their organs. Whereas a rear teep lands flat footed, allowing for me to push the opponent back further.
This standard teep is only one variation, and you should use different teep variations depending on your goal. Teep variations come largely from the angle of the foot when it lands on the opponent, and each variation has a different advantage over the other.
The side teep (a lead teep variant) is most famous thanks to Samart Payakaroon, the greatest Muay Thai fighter ever to do it. The side teep, which is most easily available through a slightly bladed stance, is an easy lose non-committal teep. You pick the leg up and place it in the same angle from which you’d throw a side kick.
The defensive important of this technique is well documented, but one of the most under rated uses for the side teep is the ability to add tons of level changes pressure to the opponent. Flicking multiple jabs before picking up a side teep will make it very different for your opponent to defend and fight you off. The reason you want a side teep for this instead of a regular teep, is the angle of the foot in a side teep is easier to recover.
When your kick is caught, it’s common to see fighters limp leg out, by turning their leg to the side and sliding the kick out. The side kick places your foot at this defensive angle by default. Meaning you can side kick with relative impunity at very little defensive risk.
This power teep is made famous by the fighters of Jocky Gym in Thailand, Saenchai, Silipathai, Arjan Pipa, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky and oddly UFC veteran Lorenz Larkin. Coming from the rear leg, this teep angles out with the heel pointing at the opponents centre-line. This angle allows the foot to practically wrap around the opponent’s midsection while blasting them backwards. The open angle of the hip creates plenty of space for power.
It’s very hard to slip on this teep, and in a fight situation where your opponent is sweating, or covered in Thai oil, this teep allows for more grip to shove the opponent back. Using this in conjunction with the side teep will make for very powerful offensive teeping.
Targeting the Teep
There are three main targets for the teep. The chest, the belly and the legs. Each provides a different benefit. Teeping the leg is the easiest and most reliable target. A quick teep to the leg on an opponent stepping in will halt their step. It should also be made clear these kicks are not illegal in Muay Thai, regardless of what anyone says. Read our article on them here.
Teeping the leg, whether it’s the thigh or hip, serves as a great interruption, because the hips are what generate your kicks and punches. The leg teep also cannot be caught without your opponent anticipating and ducking way down, allowing you an easy, dominant clinch position. If they’re smart they’ll simply check them, but this will do very little to damage your foot.
Teeping the belly is the most commonly taught tactic, it doesn’t require tons of flexibility to land and can push your opponent back further than a teep to the leg, for obvious reasons. Teeps are deceptively painful too, meaning consistent teeps to the stomach are not a fun time.
Finally teeping the chest is for when you want to ruin your opponents day. A teep to the chest forces the opponent to bend backwards, moving them way back. Bas Rutten was a big lover of this technique in MMA. The downside is of course, the flexibility and balance required to pull it off efficiently, meaning this is more of an advanced teep for people who have been training and practising for a while.
Honing the Teep
There are three main exercises that I recommend for people to really master their teep. And should be done in this order:
1) Dynamic Front Kick
Warming up by kicking your leg as high as it can possible go, with your toes always being pulled up to get the maximum stretch on your hamstring. This is crucial because this is the exact type of flexibility you will need to teep without resistance. This exercise not only will allow you to kick higher, but will allow you to kick with freedom and ease, you won’t be falling all over the place after doing this exercise for a few weeks. Be sure to do this exercise for 5 to 10 minutes each day. It is essential do not skip it.
2) The Wall Teep
Teeping a solid wall is the best way to ensure that your weight transfer and foot placement are correct. When you teep a wall it forces you to do two things:
First, it means you HAVE to place your foot correctly, or else you’ll bash your toes. So you can’t throw a lazy teep. This might sound like you’re setting yourself up for injury, but to this day I’ve never seen someone hurt their toes on a wall, because the wall makes it so clear that they HAVE to teep properly.
Secondly, because the wall has no give to it at all, if your teep is incorrect you will push yourself backwards. This is something you see beginners and intermediate boxers do a lot with their teep. They will teep, but they will do so incorrectly and the teep becomes a way of pushing themselves away from the target, rather than the target away from them.
When you’re teeping a heavy bag, it can be hard to know if you’re doing this right, because the bag is hanging and will give way regardless of how flimsy your teep is. The wall does no such thing, if you’re able to give the wall a hard teep without moving backwards, you will know that your weight is being transferred into the target.
3) The Half Bag Teep
When you have solid teep fundamentals from the wall, you’re now ready to move onto a swinging half bag. This is where you really get to practise your teeps accuracy. A properly executed teep should move the bag STRAIGHT backwards. If the bag spins, it means your foot wasn’t placed ideally. The bag might start to spin on its way back to you, that’s fine, that’s just physics, but when you teep that bag it needs to shoot straight back.
Doing 3 rounds of just teeping the bag aiming for that bag moving straight back is the best way to actually get your teep accurate.
Once you’ve got all these training drills down perfect, you’re now ready to take that teep into sparring.
Timing the Teep
You now have the form, and it’s all about putting it together. How do we effectively time the teep? Teeps function the same way that any kick does. You either kick after disguising it with a punch, or you kick when you see your opponents body move.
The best way to drill this reaction in sparring is to focus on the teep and wait for the moment you see the opponent’s upper body or hips twitch. The second you see that twitch, you fire the teep. This will likely get your dumped on your arse a few times as you’re learning and figuring it out, but these are simply mistakes to learn from.
When you watch top level Thai’s land any kick, a big part of the reason you don’t see leg breaks (see our video on McGregor/Poirier 3) is that the Thais only throw kicks when it’s the absolute opportune moment to do so. They have their timing down using this principle.
One final note is that while it makes sense to teep an opponent who’s on the ropes in theory, in practise this is useless, if your opponent is on the ropes, punches are the best method to keep them there. You want to cut their exits off, to hold them on the ropes, not throw a linear technique that can be easily stepped away from and risk you losing the opponent. They’re already at the ropes, you don’t need to push them further back to them.