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Muay Thai – A High Level Overview

by Jeff Woo
muay thai

What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is a martial art born in Thailand. It derives its sources from Muay Boran, who is at the origin of the boxing and self-defense techniques currently practiced in Muay Thai.

This art includes percussion such as fists, elbows, feet, shins and knees. We also use projections to bring his opponent to the ground, which makes it a fairly complete combat system.

The sporting part of Muay Thai (or Thai Boxing) is world famous for its competitions. Indeed, the fights are visually impressive because of the use of elbows and knees that tend to cause cuts (so blood).

Muay Thai Origin

To have the first traces of a combat system, we must go back to the 16th century when the army taught its soldiers martial forms with bare hands.

During the battle between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam in the 18th century, a Siam soldier "Nai Khanomtom" was captured by the Burmese army in 1767. Moreover, the Burmese knew he possessed excellent knowledge of martial arts, and they offered him a fight to win his freedom. He won the match and returned to Siam as a hero.

Since that day, his fighting style was adopted as "national sport" and named Muay Boran .

Fights and Rules

Thai boxing fights are played on a ring that is between 5 and 7 meters apart.

The duration of the bouts can vary, but in Thailand, one practices 5 rounds of 3 minutes with 2 minutes of pause between each round. And each fighter is accompanied by 2 to 3 assistants (coach and trainers).

The blows of elbow and blows knee and some projections are therefore allowed in combat. This adds a particularly complete dimension to the fighting.

The judges look among other technical skill, accuracy, damage, strokes, control of the ring, and defensive skills to score a round. Therefore, 10 points are awarded for the winner, and 9 points for the loser; a round can be 10-8 or 10-7 if the advantage is pronounced.

Muay Thai fight

In the end, the fights can be won at the decision of the judges (cumulative points noted for each round), by KO , or by referee's stop.


In Thailand, it is above all the national sport. The number of professional fighters is high and Muay Thai schools recruit their fighters very early. In the gyms, we can often see children from 5 to 10 years old doing boxing. This is for many a way out of poverty.

Muay Thai Children

muay thai childrenFor professionals, training is often practiced during camps. Indeed, the Thai boxing camps are very famous in the world for their rigor and roughness. Generally, it is 2 workouts per day, but professionals can have a higher work schedule.

How To Practice

In America, Muay Thai is better known as Thai boxing or Thai boxing. And this practice is closer to a combat sport, than a martial art.  The majority of clubs are mainly focused on the competitive aspect of Muay Thai. "We go to the boxing club and we train for fights ", so the self-defense aspect is often put aside. I say "often" because there are more traditional clubs than others.

For this case, one could relate Thai boxing to a combat sport.

muay thai

In Thailand

Muay Thai is practiced in Thailand in all its amplitude. By preparing athletes for competitions, giving an educational system to children, and also teaching traditional self-defense techniques.

There are four forms of Thai boxing:

Muay-Chaiya: oriented on defensive postures using elbows and knees.

Muay-Korat: puts the accent on the techniques of force.

Muay-Lopburi: oriented on angles of attack and feints (combat intelligence).

Muay-Thasao: essentially consists in taking speed from one's opponent.


The 'Wai Khru' is an ancient practice that honors those who have knowledge (in this case the master or instructor). A form of "hi" therefore very important in Muay Thai, to build bonds between the coach and his students.

Muay Thai Ceremony

muay thai

Due to Thai beliefs, a ritual is necessary before starting a fight. This is to ask the spirits "permission" to fight and remove the bad waves from the ring. This practice is usually accompanied by traditional Thai music. Formerly, this ritual was never forgotten or neglected, in which case defeat was assured.

Currently, boxers practice this ceremony mainly to mentally prepare and psychologically conditioning the confrontation that follows.


Muay Thai is indeed a martial art in its own right with its rituals, culture and ceremonial. However, in the West, these aspects are put aside somewhat to focus on the sports side of Thai boxing.

To conclude, the border between combat sport and martial art is therefore thin in our regions. The important thing is to never forget the reasons and origins behind each technique or practice.

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