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Muay Thai

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Muay Thai is considered by some to be a derivation of a general indigenous martial art style native to Southeast Asia. Muay Thai was the first of these styles to be popularized outside of Southeast Asia.


Muay Thai began as Krabi Krabong, the Siamese weapon-based style. When disarmed, Krabi Krabong practitioners resort to unarmed fighting techniques centred on kicks and judo-like throws. Developing through time and natural evolution of the art, it gave birth to Muay Boran, ancient style Muay Thai. As the basis of battlefield warfare evolved technologically, hand-to-hand combat was no longer required within the military. Muay Boran was divided to Muay ThaSao (North), Muay Thai Korat (Esarn or Northeast), Muay Thai Lobburee (Center region) and Muay Thai Chaiya (South).


There is a phrase about Muay Thai Boran that states, "Punch Korat, Wit Lobburee, Posture Chaiya, Faster Thasao. (หมัดหนักโคราช ฉลาดลพบุรี ท่าดีไชยา ไวกว่าท่าเสา)"


Muay Korat emphasizes strength. There is one technique called "Throwing Buffalo Punch", called this because it can supposedly defeat a buffalo in one blow.


Muay Lobburee emphasizes clever movements. Its strong points are the straight and turned punches.


Muay Chaiya emphasizes posture and defense, as well as elbows and knees.


Muay Thasao emphasizes in speed, particularly in kicking. Because of their faster speed, this Muay Boran was called "Ling Lom" (windy monkey or Loris).


Muay Thai became a sporting martial art, kept alive in Thailand as a competitive sport, and for many, a way of life.


Traditionally in the past, Muay Thai was used as entertainment to kings. It is thought by some sources that the gloves were made out of wrapped twine, tar, and broken pieces of glass to ensure a bloody event, however it is still a subject of debate. Some argue that the notion of incorporating broken glass into the gloves of a Muay Thai fighter could have been taken from a Jean Claude Van Damme movie. Others suggest it was abrasives such as ground glass and sand that covered the gloves, rather than actual pieces of broken glass.


Nai Khanomtom


Nai Khanomtom was a famous practitioner of Muay Thai who figures in a story common in Muay Thai circles. Around 1774, he was captured along with other Thai prisoners, either in a skirmish or at the fall of the ancient capital of Siam (Thailand's name at that time) of Ayutthaya. He was brought to Rangoon in Burma, where the Burmese king Mangra was holding a religious festival in honor of Buddha's relics. The festivities included many forms of entertainment. King Mangra was reported to be curious to see how the various fighting styles of Burma and other countries would compare. At one point, he wanted to see how Muay Thai (or Muay Boran) would compare to the Burmese art (Bama Lethwei). Nai Khanomtom was selected to fight against the Burmese champion. Nai Khanomtom did a Wai Kru (wai khru ram muay) pre-fight dance which puzzled all of the Burmese. When the fight began, he charged out and using punches, kicks, elbows, and knees, quickly pummeled the Burmese.


The referee was reported to have stated that the Burmese opponent was distracted by the Wai Kru, so the knockout was 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. The last Burmese was reputed to be a great boxing teacher. Nai Khanomtom defeated them all in a superior fashion. King Mangra was so impressed that he remarked, "Every part of the Thai is blessed with venom. Even with his bare hands, he can fell nine or ten opponents. As his lord master was incompetent, the country was lost to the enemy. If his lord had been any good, there was no way the City of Ayutthaya would ever have fallen." He 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 (Thailand). 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 Thai Day" in his honor and that of Muay Thai's.




Muay Thai, along with savate and karate, heavily influenced the development of kickboxing in Japan, Europe, and North America. However, unlike Muay Thai, many kickboxing competitions do not allow elbow strikes, knee strikes, and kicks below the waist. These rule changes have led some martial artists to consider kickboxing a 'watered down' version of Muay Thai.


Mixed Martial Arts


Starting in the 1990s, Muay Thai has enjoyed a boost in popularity worldwide as it has been very effective in mixed martial arts fights, such as those held by the Ultimate Fighting Championship and PRIDE Fighting Championships. Mixed martial artists such as Marco Ruas (of Ruas Vale Tudo), Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (of the Chute Boxe Academy) have combined many striking elements of Muay Thai with grappling, submission, and choking elements from Judo, Wrestling, or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu into a hybrid synthesis that has been highly effective in defeating practitioners of "pure" martial arts. Other fighters that have used Muay Thai as their primary style in mixed martial arts include Duane "Bang" Ludwig, Yves Edwards and Spencer Cooper. Shoot-fighters and professional wrestlers who have trained and been influenced by Muay Thai include Satoru Sayama (the original Tiger Mask and founder of shooto), and Yoshiaki Fujiwara.


The Rules


Muay Thai is practiced in a lot of countries and there are different rules depending on what country the fight is in and under what organization the fight is arranged. These rules, however, are gathered from the rules section of the World Muay Thai Councils web site. This is not the complete rulebook but it contains a selection of the most important or most interesting rules.


Weight divisions

Category Weight (up to)

Super Heavyweight 209 lbs+ (95 kg.+)

Heavyweight 190 lbs+ (86.183 kg.+)

Cruiserweight 190 lbs (86.183 kg.)

Light Heavyweight 175 lbs (79.379 kg.)

Super Middleweight 168 lbs (76.363 kg.)

Middleweight 160 lbs (71.575 kg.)

Junior Middleweight 154 lbs (69.853 kg.)

Welterweight 147 lbs (66.638 kg.)

Junior Welterweight 140 lbs (63.503 kg.)

Lightweight 135 lbs (61.235 kg.)

Junior Lightweight 130 lbs (58.967 kg.)

Featherweight 126 lbs (57.153 kg.)

Junior Featherweight 122 lbs (55.338 kg.)

Bantamweight 118 lbs (53.524 kg.)

Junior Bantamweight 115 lbs (52.163 kg.)

Flyweight 112 lbs (50.802 kg.)

Junior Flyweight 108 lbs (48.988 kg.)

Mini Flyweight 105 lbs (47.727 kg.)


According to rule 8, section 2, the minimum weight to compete is 100 pounds (45.36 kg.).


Boxing Gloves


Category Weight (up to)

Junior Middleweight and upwards 10 ounce (284 grams)

Featherweight - Welterweight 8 ounce (227 grams)

Mini Flyweight - Junior Featherweight 6 ounce (132 grams)


Wai Kru and Round Definition


Prior to the start of the first round, both fighters shall perform the Wai Kru (paying respect to the teacher), accompanied by the appropriate Thai traditional music, incorporating the Ching (cymbal), Klong khaek (tom-tom) and Pee Java (Thai reed pipe).


A Muay Thai Match shall consist of five rounds, 3 minutes per round with a 2 minute break between each round. Any stoppage during the match for any reason, will not be counted as part of the 3 minute round time.




1.1. Points will be awarded for a correct Thai Boxing style, combined with hard and accurate strikes.


1.2. Points will be awarded for aggressive and dominating Muay Thai skill.


1.3. Points will be awarded for a fighter actively dominating his opponent.


1.4. Points will be awarded for the use of a traditional Thai style of defence and counter-attack.


The maximum score for each round is 10 points, the loser scoring either 9, 8 or 7.




18.1. Biting, eye gouging, spitting, or head butting.


18.2. Wrestling, back or arm locks or any similar judo or wrestling hold.


18.3. Deliberately falling on his opponent.


18.4. Holding the ropes for any reason.


18.5. Swearing or the use of abusive language during the match.


18.6. Knocking out or injuring his opponent after the referee has ordered the match to stop for any reason.


18.7. Deliberately striking the groin area.


To be penalized by the deduction of 1 point for each time committed.


A boxer, who has been hit in the groin, may request a 5 minute break before continuing the match.


Drug Usage


The use of drugs or stimulants, either before or after the fight is strictly forbidden. Any user will be disqualified. The sole drug allowed for the prevention of bleeding is Adrenalin 1:1000 and must be administered under a doctor's directions.


Associations and Federations


International Associations


World Boxing Council Muay Thai (WBC Muay Thai) http://www.wbcmuaythai.com/

International Federation of Muay Thai Amateurs (IFMA) http://www.ifmamuaythai.org/

World Muay Thai Council (WMC) http://www.wmcmuaythai.org/


National Associations


Thai Boxing Association of the USA http://www.thaiboxing.com

United States Muay Thai Association (USMTA) http://www.usmta.com

Czech Muay Thai Federation (CMF) http://www.muaythai.cz/cmf/en/main.html

The Danish Muay Thai Federation (DMF) http://www.nakmuay.com

Muay Thai Association of Finland (MTAF) http://www.muaythai.fi

The Swedish Thai Boxing Federation (STBF) http://www.swedishmuaythai.nu

Muay Thai Association of Spain (CEMT - FEMT) http://www.muaythaispain.org

Spanish Association of Muay Thai (AEMT) http://www.aemt-muaythai.com

Scottish Muay Thai Council (SMTC) http://www.scottishmuaythaicouncil.co.uk

French Federation of Muay Thai (FFMDA) http://www.ffmda.com

Israel Muay Thai Federation http://www.israelmuaythai.org

Italy Muay Thai Federation http://www.fimt.it


Media Depiction



  • In 2004, Muay Thai boxer Asanee Suwan was named best actor at the Thailand National Film Association Awards for his portrayal of Parinya Charoenphol (affectionately known as Nong Thoom in Thailand) in Beautiful Boxer. The movie tells the true-life story of a man who masters Muay Thai in order to realize his dream of becoming a woman.
  • The 1971 Shaw Brothers Studio film, Duel of Fists, is set in Bangkok's Lumpini Boxing Stadium and stars Ti Lung as a Muay Thai boxer who is the long-lost brother of a Hong Kong martial artist, portrayed by David Chiang.
  • Recently the films Ong-Bak, Tom-Yum-Goong (The Protector), and Born to Fight helped to popularize Muay Thai. Ong-Bak demonstrates some techniques of the older style of Muay Thai - Muay Boran and Tom-Yum-Goong illustrates the fighting style of the Thai Royal Bodyguards (Jaturongkabaht, circa 1400-1700s) - Muay Koshasan (Elephant Boxing style). Muay Koshasan is also known as Muay Chang Tumlai Roang - (Smashing Elephant Boxing style) in that it emphasizes a lot of throwing, crushing, and breaking of joints and limbs.
  • The film Kickboxer starring Jean Claude Van Damme was a film set in Thailand and based on the sport of Muay Thai. Van Damme's portrayal in this film should not be taken as an accurate depiction of Muay Thai.
  • The film Muay Thai starring Jason Willis is set in Evansville, Indiana, about one of the best upcoming Thai fighters in 2006.
  • The film Chok Dee starring Dida Diafat who plays himself in this semi-fictional story of his life. The film covers a lot of the training that is used in the camps in Thailand.
  • The Oxygen channel original reality-documentary Fight Girls featured seven women training to become Muay Thai competitors.

Computer and Video Games


The video game characters Sagat and Adon (Street Fighter), Joe Higashi (Fatal Fury), King (Art of Fighting), R.A.X. Coswell (Eternal Champions), Zack (Dead or Alive), Bruce Irvin and Bryan Fury (this is not sure, because he's listed as being a kickboxer, but uses Muay Thai techniques such as knees attacks or elbow attacks) (Tekken), Tong Yoon Bulsook (Urban Reign) and Brad Burns (Virtua Fighter) and Major Jackson "Jax" Briggs (Mortal Kombat) are Muay Thai fighters.

Vanessa Lewis (Virtua Fighter) uses Muay Thai as an alternate stance in addition to her standard Vale Tudo move set in Virtua Fighter 4. Jax (Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance) also uses a watered-down form of the style.


Notable Figures in Muay Thai


Alphabetized order.


Ajarn Chai Sirisute

Mark Dellagrotte

Dida Diafat

Buakaw Por.Pramuk

John Wayne Parr

Ramon Dekkers

Sinbi Taewoong aka Thopadak

Matee Jedeepitak

Tony Jaa

Nick Burns


Extracted from Wikipedia: Muay Thai

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