Muay Thai is a form of hard martial art practiced in large parts of the world, including

Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. The art is similar to others in Southeast

Asia such as: pradal serey in Cambodia, lethwei in Myanmar, tomoi in Malaysia, and Lao

boxing in Laos. Muay Thai has a long history in Thailand and is the country’s national

sport. Traditional Muay Thai practiced today varies significantly from the ancient art

muay boran and uses kicks and punches in a ring with gloves similar to those used in

Western boxing.

Muay Thai is referred to as “The Art of the Eight Limbs“, as the hands, shins, elbows,

and knees are all used extensively in this art. A practitioner of Muay Thai (“nak muay“)

thus has the ability to execute strikes using eight “points of contact,” as opposed to “two

points” (fists) in Western boxing and “four points” (fists, feet) used in the primarily

sport-oriented forms of martial arts.

Muay Thai techniques

In its original form, Muay Thai consisted of an arsenal of nine weapons – the head, fists,

elbows, knees and feet – known collectively as na-wa arwud. However in modern Muay

Thai, both amateur and professional, headbutting an opponent is no longer allowed.

To strike and bind the opponent for both offensive and defensive purposes, small

amounts of stand-up grappling are used: the clinch. 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. With the success

of Muay Thai in mixed martial arts fighting, it has become the de facto martial art of

choice for competitive stand-up fighters. As a result, it has evolved and incorporated

much more powerful hand striking techniques used in western style boxing and the Thai

style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable. Note: when Muay Thai fighters

compete against fighters of other styles (and if the rules permit it), they almost invariably

emphasize elbow (sok) and knee (kao) techniques to gain a distinct advantage in fighting.

Almost all techniques in Muay Thai use the entire body movement, rotating the hip

with each kick, punch, and block. The rotation of the hips in Muay Thai techniques, and

intensive focus on “core muscles” (such as abdominal muscles and surrounding muscles)

is very distinctive and is what sets Muay Thai apart from other styles of martial arts.

The punch techniques in Muay Thai were originally quite simple 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: jab, straight right/cross, hook,

uppercut, shovel and corkscrew punches and overhands as well as hammer fists and back


As a tactic, body punching is used less in Muay Thai than most other striking martial arts

to avoid exposing the attacker’s head to counter strikes from knees or elbows.To utilise

the range of targetting points, in keeping with the Teory of Muay Thai – Centre Line,

the advocate can use either Western or Thai stance which allows for either long range or

short range attacks to be undertaken effectively without compromising guard.


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