Muay Thai

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Muay Thai
Joe Schilling vs. Kaoklai Kaennorsing.jpg
USA vs. Thailand, M-1 Grand Muay Thai Championship Match
Also known asThai boxing, Thai kickboxing, Tharshanning
FocusClinch fighting, striking
Country of originThailand Thailand
Famous practitionersTony Jaa, Apidej Sit Hrun, Samart Payakaroon, Buakaw Banchamek, Sakmongkol, Changpuek Kiatsongrit, Yodsanklai Fairtex, Coban Lookchaomaesaitong, Matee Jedeepitak, Diesel Noi, Alexey Ignashov, Dany Bill, Giorgio Petrosyan, Saenchai Sor Kingstar, Kaoklai Kaennorsing, Artem Levin, Simon Marcus, John Wayne Parr, Vladimír Moravčík, Tomáš Hron, Stephen Wakeling, Joe Schilling, Andrei Kulebin, Chaz Mulkey, Romie Adanza, Ky Hollenbeck, Ilya Grad
ParenthoodMuay Boran, Krabi Krabong
Olympic sportno
Official website
  (Redirected from Mauy Thai)
Jump to: navigation, search
Muay Thai
Joe Schilling vs. Kaoklai Kaennorsing.jpg
USA vs. Thailand, M-1 Grand Muay Thai Championship Match
Also known asThai boxing, Thai kickboxing, Tharshanning
FocusClinch fighting, striking
Country of originThailand Thailand
Famous practitionersTony Jaa, Apidej Sit Hrun, Samart Payakaroon, Buakaw Banchamek, Sakmongkol, Changpuek Kiatsongrit, Yodsanklai Fairtex, Coban Lookchaomaesaitong, Matee Jedeepitak, Diesel Noi, Alexey Ignashov, Dany Bill, Giorgio Petrosyan, Saenchai Sor Kingstar, Kaoklai Kaennorsing, Artem Levin, Simon Marcus, John Wayne Parr, Vladimír Moravčík, Tomáš Hron, Stephen Wakeling, Joe Schilling, Andrei Kulebin, Chaz Mulkey, Romie Adanza, Ky Hollenbeck, Ilya Grad
ParenthoodMuay Boran, Krabi Krabong
Olympic sportno
Official website

Muay Thai (Thai: มวยไทย, RTGS: Muai Thai, [mūaj.tʰāj] ( )) is a combat sport from the muay martial arts of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques.[1][2][3][4] This physical and mental discipline which includes combat on foot is known as "the art of eight limbs" because it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet, being associated with a good physical preparation that makes a full-contact fighter very efficient.[5] Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the twentieth century, when practitioners defeated notable practitioners of other martial arts.[6] A professional league is governed by the World Muay Thai Council.[7][8]


The word Muay derives from the Sanskrit Mavya which means "to bind together".


Praying before the match
Muay Thai championship boxing match in Sterling, VA

Muay boran, and therefore Muay Thai, was originally called by more generic names such as pahuyuth (from the Sanskrit bahu-yuddha meaning unarmed combat), Toi muay or simply muay. As well as being a practical fighting technique for use in actual warfare, muay became a sport in which the opponents fought in front of spectators who went to watch for entertainment. These muay contests gradually became an integral part of local festivals and celebrations, especially those held at temples. Eventually, the previously bare-fisted fighters started wearing lengths of hemp rope around their hands and forearms. This type of match was called muay khat chueak (มวยคาดเชือก). Kickboxing was also a component of military training and gained prominence during the reign of King Naresuan in 1560 CE.

Muay Thai is referred to as the "Art of Eight Limbs" or the "Science of Eight Limbs", because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight "points of contact", as opposed to "two points" (fists) in boxing and "four points" (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, such as kickboxing and savate.[5] A practitioner of muay Thai is known as a nak muay. Western practitioners are sometimes called Nak Muay Farang, meaning "foreign boxer."[9]

19th century[edit]

The ascension of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to the throne in 1868 ushered in a golden age not only for muay but for the whole country of Thailand. Muay progressed greatly during the reign of Rama V as a direct result of the king's personal interest in the sport. The country was at peace and muay functioned as a means of physical exercise, self-defense, recreation, and personal advancement.[citation needed]

Masters of the art began teaching muay in training camps where students were provided with food and shelter. Trainees would be treated as one family, and it was customary for students to adopt the camp's name as their own surname. Scouts would be sent by the royal family to organize matches between different camps.[citation needed]


King Rama VII (r. 1925-1935) pushed for codified rules for muay, and they were put into place. Thailand's first boxing ring was built in 1921 at Suan Kularp. Referees were introduced and rounds were now timed by kick. Fighters at the Lumpinee Kickboxing Stadium began wearing modern gloves during training and in boxing matches against foreigners. Rope-binding was still used in fights between Thais but after the occurrence of a death in the ring, it was decided that fighters should wear gloves and cotton coverlets over the feet and ankles. It was also around this time that the term muay Thai became commonly used while the older form of the style came to be known as muay boran, which is now performed primarily as an exhibition art form.

With the success of muay Thai in the mixed martial arts, it has become the de facto style of choice for competitive stand-up fighters. As a result, western practitioners have incorporated much more powerful hand striking techniques from boxing although some Thai purists accuse them of diluting the art.[citation needed]

In 1993, the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur, or IFMA was inaugurated. It became the governing body of amateur Muay Thai consisting of 128 member countries worldwide and is recognized by Olympic Council of Asia.

In 1995, World Muaythai Council, the oldest and largest professional sanctioning organizations of Muay Thai was set up by the Royal Thai Government and sanctioned by the Sports Authority of Thailand.

In the difference to WMC, WBC and WPMF – WMF (World MuayThai Federation Pro) still holds the original mandate from the Thai Govt and also recognition by the Thai National Olympic Committee.[10] World MuayThai Federation is the more genuine and dedicated organization whose main goal is to promote the Art and Sport and not just to make money.

Today, there are thousands of gyms spread out across the globe.


Nai Khanomtom[edit]

According to Thai folklore at the time of the fall of the ancient Siam capital of Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1767, the invading Burmese troops rounded up thousands of Thais and took them to Burma as prisoners. Among them were a large number of Thai kickboxers, who were taken to the city of Ava.

In 1774, in the Burmese city of Rangoon, the Burmese King Hsinbyushin (known in Thai as "King Mangra") decided to organize a seven-day, seven-night religious festival in honor of Buddha's relics. The festivities included many forms of entertainment, such as the costume plays called likay, comedies and farces, and sword-fighting matches. At one point, King Hsinbyushin wanted to see how muay boran would compare to the Burmese Lethwei(Burmese Boxing). Nai Khanomtom was selected to fight against the Burmese champion. The boxing ring was set up in front of the throne and Nai Khanomtom did a traditional Wai Kru pre-fight dance, to pay his respects to his teachers and ancestors, as well as the spectators, dancing around his opponent. This amazed and perplexed the Burmese people, who thought it was black magic. When the fight began, Nai Khanomtom charged out, using punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to pummel his opponent until he collapsed.

However the Burmese referee said the Burmese champion was too distracted by the dance, and declared the knockout invalid. The King then asked if Nai Khanomtom would fight nine other Burmese champions to prove himself. He agreed and fought them all, one after the other with no rest periods in between. His last opponent was a great kickboxing teacher from Rakhine. Nai Khanomtom mangled him by his kicks and no one else dared to challenge him.

King Mangra was so impressed that he allegedly remarked, "Every part of the Thai is blessed with venom. Even with his bare hands, he can fell nine or ten opponents. But his Lord was incompetent and lost the country to the enemy. If he had been any good, there was no way the City of Ayutthaya would ever have fallen."[citation needed]

King Mangra granted Nai Khanomtom freedom along with either riches or two beautiful Burmese wives. Nai Khanomtom chose the wives as he said that money was easier to find. He then departed with his wives for Siam. Other variations of this story had him also winning the release of his fellow Thai prisoners. His feat is celebrated every March 17 as Boxer's Day or National Muay Boran Day in his honor and that of muay boran's.[11]

Today, some have wrongly attributed the legend of Nai Khanomtom to King Naresuan, who spent his youth as a royal hostage in Burma while Ayutthaya was a Burmese vassal. However, Nai Khanomtom and King Naresuan lived almost two centuries apart.


Muay Thai match in Bangkok, Thailand

Formal muay Thai techniques are divided into two groups: mae mai or major techniques and luk mai or minor techniques. Muay Thai is often a fighting art of attrition, where opponents exchange blows with one another. This is certainly the case with traditional stylists in Thailand, but is a less popular form of fighting in the contemporary world fighting circuit where the Thai style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable. Almost all techniques in muay Thai use the entire body movement, rotating the hip with each kick, punch, elbow and block.

Punching (Chok)[edit]

JabแจบMat nueng
CrossหมัดตรงMat trong[màt troŋ]
Hookหมัดเหวี่ยงสั้นMat wiang san[màt wìəŋ sân]
Swingหมัดเหวี่ยงยาวMat wiang yao[màt wìəŋ jaːw]
Spinning Backfistหมัดเหวี่ยงกลับMat wiang klap[màt wìəŋ klàp]
Uppercutหมัดเสย/หมัดสอยดาวMat soei/Mat soi dao[màt sɤ̌j], [màt sɔ̌j daːw]
Cobra Punch*กระโดดชกKradot chok[kradòːt tɕʰók]

The punch techniques in muay Thai were originally quite limited being crosses and a long (or lazy) circular strike made with a straight (but not locked) arm and landing with the heel of the palm. Cross-fertilization with Western boxing and western martial arts mean the full range of western boxing punches are now used: lead jab, straight/cross, hook, uppercut, shovel and corkscrew punches and overhands as well as hammer fists and back fists.

As a tactic, body punching is used less in muay Thai than most other striking combat sports to avoid exposing the attacker's head to counter strikes from knees or elbows. To utilize the range of targeting points, in keeping with the center line theory, the fighter can use either the Western or Thai stance which allows for either long range or short range attacks to be undertaken effectively without compromising guard.

Elbow (Ti sok)[edit]

The elbow can be used in several ways as a striking weapon: horizontal, diagonal-upwards, diagonal-downwards, uppercut, downward, backward-spinning and flying. From the side it can be used as either a finishing move or as a way to cut the opponent's eyebrow so that blood might block his vision. The diagonal elbows are faster than the other forms, but are less powerful.

Elbow SlashศอกตีSok ti[sɔ̀ːk tiː]
Horizontal ElbowศอกตัดSok tat[sɔ̀ːk tàt]
Uppercut ElbowศอกงัดSok ngat[sɔ̀ːk ŋát]
Forward Elbow Thrustศอกพุ่งSok phung[sɔ̀ːk pʰûŋ]
Reverse Horizontal Elbowศอกเหวี่ยงกลับSok wiang klap[sɔ̀ːk wìəŋ klàp]
Spinning ElbowศอกกลับSok klap[sɔ̀ːk klàp]
Elbow ChopศอกสับSok sap[sɔ̀ːk sàp]
Double Elbow Chopศอกกลับคู่Sok klap khu[sɔ̀ːk klàp kʰûː]
Mid-Air Elbow StrikeกระโดดศอกKradot sok[kradòːt sɔ̀ːk]

There is also a distinct difference between a single elbow and a follow-up elbow. The single elbow is an elbow move independent from any other move, whereas a follow-up elbow is the second strike from the same arm, being a hook or straight punch first with an elbow follow-up. Such elbows, and most other elbow strikes, are used when the distance between fighters becomes too small and there is too little space to throw a hook at the opponent's head. Elbows can also be utilized to great effect as blocks or defenses against, for example, spring knees, side body knees, body kicks or punches.

Kicking (Te)[edit]

Muay Thai boxer delivering a kick
Straight KickเตะตรงTe trong[tèʔ troŋ]
Roundhouse KickเตะตัดTe tat[tèʔ tàt]
Diagonal KickเตะเฉียงTe chiang[tèʔ tɕʰǐəŋ]
Half-Shin, Half-Knee Kickเตะ ครึ่งแข้ง ครึ่งขาTe khrueng khaeng khrueng khao[tèʔ kʰrɯ̂ŋ kʰɛ̂ŋ kʰrɯ̂ŋ kʰàw]
Reverse Roundhouse KickเตะกลับหลังTe klap lang[tèʔ klàp lǎŋ]
Down Roundhouse KickเตะกดTe kot[tèʔ kòt]
Axe Heel Kickเตะเข่าTe khao[tèʔ kʰàw]
Jump KickกระโดดเตะKradot te[kradòːt tèʔ]
Step-Up KickเขยิบเตะKhayoep te[kʰa.jɤ̀p tèʔ]

The two most common kicks in muay Thai are known as the thip (literally "foot jab") and the te chiang (kicking upwards in the shape of a triangle cutting under the arm and ribs) or roundhouse kick. The Thai roundhouse kick uses a rotational movement of the entire body and has been widely adopted by practitioners of other combat sports. it is done from a circular stance with the back leg just a little ways back (roughly shoulder width apart) in comparison to instinctive upper body fighting (boxing) where the legs must create a wider base. The roundhouse kick draws its power entirely from the rotational movement of the body; the hips. It is thought many fighters use a counter rotation of the arms to intensify the power of this kick, but in actuality the power is from the hips and the arms are put in said position to get them out of the way.

If a roundhouse kick is attempted by the opponent, the Thai boxer will normally check the kick, that is he will block the kick with his own shin. Thai boxers are trained to always connect with the shin. The foot contains many fine bones and is much weaker. A fighter may end up hurting himself if he tries to strike with his foot or instep.

Knee (Ti Khao)[12][edit]

Straight Knee Strikeเข่าตรงKhao trong[kʰàw troŋ]
Diagonal Knee Strikeเข่าเฉียงKhao chiang[kʰàw tɕʰǐəŋ]
Curving Knee Strikeเข่าโค้งKhao khong[kʰàw kʰóːŋ]
Horizontal Knee Strikeเข่าตัดKhao tat[kʰàw tàt]
Knee Slapเข่าตบKhao top[kʰàw tòp]
Knee Bombเข่ายาวKhao yao[kʰàw jaːw]
Flying Kneeเข่าลอยKhao loi[kʰàw lɔːj]
Step-Up Knee Strikeเข่าเหยียบKhao yiap[kʰàw jìəp]

Foot-thrust (Thip)[edit]

The foot-thrust or literally "foot jab" is one of the techniques in muay Thai. It is mainly used as a defensive technique to control distance or block attacks. Foot-thrusts should be thrown quickly but yet with enough force to knock an opponent off balance.

Straight Foot-ThrustถีบตรงThip trong[tʰìːp troŋ][13]
Sideways Foot-Thrustถีบข้างThip khang[tʰìːp kʰâːŋ]
Reverse Foot-ThrustถีบกลับหลังThip klap lang[tʰìːp klàp lǎŋ]
Slapping Foot-ThrustถีบตบThip top[tʰìːp tòp]
Jumping Foot-ThrustกระโดดถีบKradot thip[kradòːt tʰìːp]

Clinch and neck wrestling (Chap kho)[edit]

In Western boxing the two fighters are separated when they clinch; in muay Thai, however, they are not. It is often in the clinch where knee and elbow techniques are used. To strike and bind the opponent for both offensive and defensive purposes, small amounts of stand-up grappling are used in the clinch. The front clinch should be performed with the palm of one hand on the back of the other. There are three reasons why the fingers must not be intertwined. 1) In the ring fighters are wearing boxing gloves and cannot intertwine their fingers. 2) The Thai front clinch involves pressing the head of the opponent downwards, which is easier if the hands are locked behind the back of the head instead of behind the neck. Furthermore the arms should be putting as much pressure on the neck as possible. 3) A fighter may incur an injury to one or more fingers if they are intertwined, and it becomes more difficult to release the grip in order to quickly elbow the opponent's head.

A correct clinch also involves the fighter's forearms pressing against the opponent's collar bone while the hands are around the opponent's head rather than the opponent's neck. The general way to get out of a clinch is to push the opponent's head backwards or elbow them, as the clinch requires both participants to be very close to one another. Additionally, the non-dominant clincher can try to "swim" their arm underneath and inside the opponent's clinch, establishing the previously non-dominant clincher as the dominant clincher.

Muay Thai has several other variants of the clinch or chap kho [tɕàp kʰɔː], including:

Defense against attacks[edit]

Defenses in muay Thai are categorized in six groups:

Punches and kicks[edit]

Defensively, the concept of "wall of defense" is used, in which shoulders, arms and legs are used to hinder the attacker from successfully executing techniques. Blocking is a critical element in muay Thai and compounds the level of conditioning a successful practitioner must possess. Low and mid body roundhouse kicks are normally blocked with the upper portion of a raised shin. High body strikes are blocked ideally with the forearms and shoulder together, or if enough time is allowed for a parry, the glove (elusively), elbow, or shin will be used. Midsection roundhouse kicks can also be caught/trapped, allowing for a sweep or counter-attack to the remaining leg of the opponent. Punches are blocked with an ordinary boxing guard and techniques similar, if not identical, to basic boxing technique. A common means of blocking a punch is using the hand on the same side as the oncoming punch. For example, if an orthodox fighter throws a jab (being the left hand), the defender will make a slight tap to redirect the punch's angle with the right hand. The deflection is always as small and precise as possible to avoid unnecessary energy expenditure and return the hand to the guard as quickly as possible. Hooks are often blocked with a motion sometimes described as "combing the hair", that is, raising the elbow forward and effectively shielding the head with the forearm, flexed biceps and shoulder. More advanced muay Thai blocks are usually in the form of counter-strikes, using the opponents weight (as they strike) to amplify the damage that the countering opponent can deliver. This requires impeccable timing and thus can generally only be learned by many repetitions.


A fighter punching a heavy bag in a training camp in Thailand
A fighter before a round

Like most competitive full contact fighting sports, muay Thai has a heavy focus on body conditioning. Muay Thai is specifically designed to promote the level of fitness and toughness required for ring competition. Training regimens include many staples of combat sport conditioning such as running, shadowboxing, rope jumping, body weight resistance exercises, medicine ball exercises, abdominal exercises, and in some cases weight training. Thai boxers rely heavily on kicks utilizing the shin bone. As such, practitioners of muay Thai will repeatedly hit a dense heavy bag with their shins, conditioning it, hardening the bone through a process called cortical remodeling[citation needed].

Training that is specific to a Thai fighter includes training with coaches on Thai pads, focus mitts, heavy bag, and sparring. The daily training includes many rounds (3–5 minute periods broken up by a short rest, often 1–2 minutes) of these various methods of practice. Thai pad training is a cornerstone of muay Thai conditioning which involves practicing punches, kicks, knees, and elbow strikes with a trainer wearing thick pads which cover the forearms and hands. These special pads (often referred to as thai pads) are used to absorb the impact of the fighter’s strikes and allow the fighter to react to the attacks of the pad holder in a live situation. The trainer will often also wear a belly pad around the abdominal area so that the fighter can attack with straight kicks or knees to the body at anytime during the round.

Focus mitts are specific to training a fighter’s hand speed, punch combinations, timing, punching power, defense, and counter-punching and may also be used to practice elbow strikes. Heavy bag training is a conditioning and power exercise that reinforces the techniques practiced on the pads. Sparring is a means to test technique, skills, range, strategy, and timing against a partner. Sparring is often a light to medium contact exercise because competitive fighters on a full schedule are not advised to risk injury by sparring hard. Specific tactics and strategies can be trained with sparring including in close fighting, clinching and kneeing only, cutting off the ring, or using reach and distance to keep an aggressive fighter away.

Due to the rigorous training regimen (some Thai boxers fight almost every other week) professional boxers in Thailand have relatively short careers in the ring. Many retire from competition to begin instructing the next generation of Thai fighters. Most professional Thai boxers come from the lower economic backgrounds, and the fight money (after the other parties get their cut) is sought as means of support for the fighters and their families. Very few higher economic strata Thais join the professional muay Thai ranks; they usually either do not practice the sport or practice it only as amateur muay Thai boxers.


2013 Southeast Asian Games' fights (for 14 gold medals) will be ruled by Southeast Asian Muay Federation.[14] Other rules are those of International Federation of Muaythai Amateur(Ifma) and subordinate organizations (Federation of Amateur Muaythai of Asia(Fama) and other organizations recognized[14] by Ifma (such as Amateur Muaythai Association of Thailand—Amat).

There have been tournaments where elbow strikes are only permitted in the last fight of each weightclass.

Attempt to unite boxing styles[edit]

At an ASEAN meeting in 1995 regarding the upcoming King's Cup Muay Thai competition, Cambodia wanted to rename Muay Thai as "Sovannaphum boxing" or "SEA Boxing", which represented Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Sovannaphum means "golden land" in Khmer and is written as Suwannabhumi in Thai. The name refers to mainland Southeast Asia in the Indian language of Pali.

Thailand would not compromise, stating that each Southeast Asian country including Cambodia's Pradal serey has its own boxing style and that Thailand was responsible for making its kickboxing an international sport. At the 2005 Southeast Asian Games, Cambodia did not enter the Muay Thai event in protest of the name used to refer to the sport.[15]

Use in other combat sports[edit]

Mixed martial arts[edit]

Muay Thai, like boxing and various forms of kickboxing, is recognized as a very effective striking base within MMA, and is very widely practiced among mixed martial artists. Fighters (some of whom have won titles) such as Anderson Silva, Benson Henderson, Maurício Rua, Wanderlei Silva, Thiago Silva, Gina Carano and Cristiane Santos employ a broad range of tactics born of Muay Thai. Countless other mixed martial artists have trained in the art and it is often taught at MMA gyms as is BJJ and Wrestling.

Many techniques associated with muay Thai are often seen in MMA, such as punches, elbows, clinch fighting, leg kicks and knees.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fighting into the night". Malaysia Star. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  2. ^ Colman, David (2005-01-09). "It's Hand-to-Hand for a Keeper of Faces". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  3. ^ Fuller, Thomas (2007-09-16). "Sugar and Spice and a Vicious Right: Thai Boxing Discovers Its Feminine Side". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  4. ^ Perry, Alex (2001-06-11). "Fighting for Their Lives". Time. Retrieved 2010-12-07. 
  5. ^ a b Get fit the Muaythai way
  6. ^ "The History of Muay Thai Boxing". July 2007. Retrieved 2011-08-28. 
  7. ^ "IFMA Governing body of Muay Thai". January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  8. ^ "World Muaythai Council for Professional Muaythai". January 2013. Retrieved 2013-01-15. 
  9. ^ "Fighting as a 'farang' for a fist full of Baht". Telegraph (London). 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2010-08-10. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Spain Pays Respect to Nai Kanom Tom". 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2013-05-11. 
  12. ^ "Muay Thai Weapons" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-29. 
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-12-29. 
  14. ^ a b Kittipong Thongsombat (2013-07-30). "Thai fighters likely to miss SEA Games". Bangkok Post. 
  15. ^ "Cambodia to boycott Thai boxing event over name row". Turkish Daily News (Turkish Daily News). 2005. 

Further reading[edit]