What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is a form of Kickboxing that is the National sport of Thailand. This sport differentiates itself through other forms of Ring Combat and Martial Arts as it allows the use of eight parts of the body as weapons to strike the opponent with.
Those Eight bodily weapons are:

  • Two elbows
  • Two knees
  • Two hands
  • Two legs

Muay Thai is unique amongst a number of other similar ring combat sports and is often confused with American or Japanese Kickboxing by those without first hand knowledge. In reality the different named sports cannot be further apart in terms of styles, techniques and scoring criteria.

Muay Thai is an ancient fighting style with the origins of the art going back 2000 years or so. Known as the Sport of Kings the art or sport is widely practiced in various forms throughout South East Asia. The has developed from its brutal past into a modern competitive ring sport where the use of modern boxing gloves replaced hemp wrappings to protect the hands. Muay Thai allows the competitors to use punches, kicks, knees and elbows, together with a form of wrestling and holding to strike or gain physical advantage over your opponent. the strikes are always delivered with full power and the scoring is dependent on the perceived effect of the strikes thrown, the damage caused, the work rate of the contestant and the skills shown in gaining advantage whilst wrestling and kneeing. High scoring rounds towards the end of the bout have more scoring ‘value’ than high scoring rounds at the start – much the same as running the 1500 meters, its the person who finishes stronger that wins the event.

Some Westerners get confused when watching Muay Thai fights as it may look like one fighter is doing far more work than another during a bout but yet does not get the decision. However his opponent may have delivered more effective and damaging kicks, executed better clinch control and gained physical advantage over his opponent e.g. being able to get the to opponents back and score knees throughout the bout, thus earning the fighter who performed less work but used more efficient and effective work the win. Much the same as in real battle, the fighter/army that causes more damage to its adversary and uses less energy or resources to achieve this aim will win.

Japanese Kickboxing differs in as much as the competitors are allowed to use Kicks to the legs and also use knee strikes to both body and head, there is limited holding of the head or upper body to perform strikes and different levels of clinching are permitted between various organizations. Made popular by the Japanese K1 rules promotions this rule set gained popularity during the early noughties (2000-2008). Following the collapse of the K1 corporation, and the prominence of The UFC (C) the K1 brand and style seemed to lose some of its international mass appeal and the notoriety of the K1 brand and fighters fizzled out. Recent attempts at promoting this style of Ring Combat and Japanese style Kickboxing have been reasonably successful with Glory and more recently Enfusion becoming the stand out worldwide brands. Scoring with this style is based on aggression and effectiveness with penalties awarded against fighters who do not try to win the fight by aggressive powerful techniques, instead relying on taking points wins and avoiding risk.

American Kickboxing also known as Full Contact Karate is often contested by two fighters wearing long baggy pants similar to Karate trousers but often in flamboyant styles and colors. The fighters tend to perform fast, flashy techniques and use a scoring system identical to Western Boxing. All kicks are performed above the waist, kicks to the legs, knee strikes and elbows are classed as foul techniques. There is usually a minimum number of kicks to be performed per round otherwise a penalty is awarded to the opponent.

Author: Lee Power
Copyright: Lee Power (c) 2014

Anybody in Cardiff or beyond wishing to learn the art of Muay Thai or the K1 fighting styles in a safe, friendly enviroment with professional and experienced Champions should consider checking out Eagles Thai Boxing Wales. We have the most experienced and highest ranked fighters and instructors in Wales and have been regularly featured on the top promotions in the UK and Europe.