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Muay Thai - The History, Benefits & Techniques Explained
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Muay Thai - The History, Benefits & Techniques Explained

4 months ago | Published: 2nd December 2023

Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing is a martial art and the national sport of Thailand. Muay Thai is often referred to as "The Art of Eight Limbs" as fighters use their fists, legs, elbows and knees, and is seen as a 'step up' from kickboxing. Although the precise history of Muay Thai is heavily debated as a large part of Thailands written history was lost around the 14th century, it is believed that the origins are tied to the Siamese (Thai) army who used the sport as a form of self-defence, though the earliest recorded history dates back to the 16th century. 

What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai, also referred to as Thai Boxing, is a term derived from the Thai language, where "Muay" means "boxing". This martial art, which originated in Thailand, evolved from the ancient practice of Muay Boran. It was during the early 20th century that Muay Thai transformed into a modern sport, incorporating influences from British boxing. This included the adoption of formalized rules and the use of a boxing ring. Fighters transitioned from traditional hand-wrapping techniques using ropes, known as "Kard Chuek", to wearing modern boxing gloves in competitions.

Characterized as a stand-up combat sport, Muay Thai involves two competitors who engage in a variety of techniques including punching, elbowing, kneeing, and kicking. The sport also permits clinching, sweeps, and throws. A distinctive feature of Muay Thai is the use of eight points of contact, setting it apart from many other striking sports. Additionally, Muay Thai is renowned for its rich cultural traditions, which include the pre-fight dance ritual called Wai Kru Ram Muay, the wearing of the Mongkon headband, and the Sarama music that plays throughout the match.

Muay Thai Techniques

The skills in Muay Thai are broadly categorized into three types: offensive, defensive, and counter-attacking techniques. Mastery of Muay Thai demands persistent practice, where the repeated drilling of these techniques leads to their integration into muscle memory.

Training in Muay Thai starts with mastering the fundamental stance and movements. This involves maintaining an upright body posture with the chin down and hands in a guard position to shield the head. The feet are positioned about shoulder-width apart. For right-handed fighters, the left foot is slightly forward, and the right foot is angled outwards at about 45 degrees. Conversely, left-handed fighters, or Southpaws, place their right foot forward. This stance ensures the fighter maintains balance and is prepared to either strike or defend as needed.

Offensive techniques in Muay Thai include a variety of punches, elbow strikes, knee strikes, different types of kicks, push kicks, and clinches. Defensive maneuvers encompass blocking, leaning back, deflecting, catching opponent's legs, and evading attacks. These techniques are often combined into various sequences or combinations for effective attacks or counters. A common combination taught and utilized is the jab-cross-low kick. Each offensive move comes with its own set of variations, adding depth to the fighter's arsenal.

What Are The Basic Muay Thai Moves?

In Muay Thai, the range of techniques employed covers various forms of strikes and holds, each with its unique application and effectiveness.

Punches: The most frequently utilized strikes in Muay Thai are punches. Key punch techniques include the jab (straight lead punch), cross (straight rear punch), uppercut, hook, overhead punch, and spinning back fist. The power behind a punch is generated from the feet, moving upwards with a shift in weight and a rotation of the hips and shoulders, contributing to the force and speed of the punch.

Elbows: Elbows, being one of the hardest parts of the human body, serve as potent weapons in Muay Thai. The versatility of elbow strikes is notable, with techniques ranging from sideways strikes to the head, downward strikes from above, reverse strikes to the chin, flying elbows, and spinning back elbows. Properly executed elbow strikes can be powerful enough to knock out an opponent or cause deep cuts, leading to fight stoppages.

Kicks: The shin-utilizing kicks of Muay Thai are formidable, often delivered from the outside. These kicks involve a backward arm swing and internal hip rotation to maximize force. Targets for these kicks vary, including the opponent's legs (low or leg kicks), body, arms, back, and head. Besides the standard roundhouse side kick, other variations like jumping kicks, spinning back kicks, axe kicks, and acrobatic moves like the cartwheel kick are also used, adding dynamism to the fighter's strategy.

Knees: In Muay Thai, knee strikes are primarily close-range weapons, frequently used during clinches. These strikes target the body, particularly the ribcage, thighs, and even the head. Jumping knee strikes can be especially impactful. The rear leg often delivers knee strikes for greater force, either straight or diagonally, sometimes in combination with clinching to maintain the opponent within striking range.

Teep (Push Kick): The teep, or push kick, is a versatile technique used for both defensive and offensive purposes. It helps maintain distance from the opponent or disrupt their advance. This technique can be executed straightforwardly as a front push kick targeting areas like the solar plexus or lead leg, and can even be delivered to the face. Variations include side teeps and jumping front kicks for added power.

Clinch: The clinch is a grappling method in Muay Thai that integrates well with knee and elbow strikes. Mastering the clinch requires extensive practice and skill. It enables takedowns or tripping of the opponent to the ground. Effectively used, clinching can be a strategic tool to outmaneuver and outscore opponents in fights.