Controlling the center-line between you and the opponent is a huge part of success in a Muay Thai Kickboxing match. The jab is an integral part of controlling this space where combatants close distance for an attack and keeping the opponent at bay.
Inside of the Muay Thai Kickboxing ring, the most dangerous…most difficult strike to counter/defend is the straight jab. Fast, efficient, blinding, and if it lands, disorienting. Having the skill to defuse this one attack from the opponent makes responding to the other attacks easy to deal with in comparison. Most attacks you’ll have coming at you which have a high probability of landing are often initiated by a blistering fast jab. Looking back at all of my Muay Thai Kickboxing bouts and sparring sessions, I can say, that this statement is true for me and I’m sure a lot of other Muay Thai fighters (‘Nak Muay’s – means boxer in Thai) would agree.
This is true in Thailand and especially true in the states, where most fighters are punch heavy with a few kicks. To thrive in the states in competitive fighting, there’s no getting around it. Fighters need to be proficient in defending and countering boxing, and particularly the jab and cross. Without this, at best, you will have inconsistent success in the Muay Thai Kickboxing ring and in using your hard trained techniques in self-defense situations.
Inside of the Muay Thai Kickboxing ring, learning to use the jab to close distance and keep the opponent at bay… some would argue that this is more than half the battle.
In Thailand, punching is important too but it’s overshadowed by the ability to of Thai fighter’s to diffuse punching with clinch techniques. Muay Thai Kickboxing in Thailand utilizes more of the clinch, and a fighter can end a fight quickly using one swift knee (that can be all it takes) to the body against a boxer too reliant on the punches.
Even still, in Muay Thai Kickboxing, as in Western Boxing, the jab and straight punch are king. Most solid offensive techniques are followed behind a quick jab, whether it’s a feint, a quick shot to the line of sight, or a stiff jab to the chin. Defensively, no other attack can irritate or throw off the center of an opponent like this strike. It’s a probing and menacing weapon which can be used to frustrate an opponent. While fighters don’t necessarily have to be the best boxer per se, they do need to be able also handle the opponents jab effectively. Without this, the sharpest elbows, knees, and kicks will have difficulty landing. The jab keeps an attacker at bay without compromising footing.
So while it’s not the sexiest technique out there and there’s nothing particularly flashy about that jab, it’s effective. And inside of the Muay Thai Kickboxing ring or a self-defense situation where the stakes are a matter of life and death, what else really matters?