What is Muay Thai?

wrapped fists

So what really is Muay Thai? Where did it come from? And why is it so important in Thai culture?

Muay Thai has its roots in Thailand, and has been developed and nurtured throughout centuries as a favored form of martial arts practice implemented heavily by the Thailand military. It has similarities to kickboxing, and many people actually refer to Muay Thai as Thai boxing due to those similarities. It is also regarded as the national sport within Thailand, and throughout its history, practitioners who became experts at it often found favor with the royalty due to their expertise.

Within the sport of MMA, Muay Thai is one of the techniques that is used by fighters who like to be up on their feet rather than down on the ground. The striking techniques used include the use of the elbows, feet, knees, and the hands, and in order to adapt to them MMA sport, the practitioners of Muay Thai are more inclined to use traditional boxing type blows rather than the elbows strikes which are so traditionally Muay Thai. Rather than their feet, which have a tendency to get hurt when you kick somebody, Muay Thai boxers will often make use of their shins as they are much stronger.

Often times in MMA you’ll see two fighters get into a clinch where they are effectively grappling with each other up close. The reason that a Muay Thai fighter will do this is to be able to land solid knee blows while they’re up close and personal with the other fighter, as these are some of the most damaging blows that they can land to weaken their opponent.

The other main part of the body that Muay Thai fighters love the use in order to strike an opponent is the elbow. The most common and effective place for an elbow strike to occur is right above the eye due to the fact that if they are able to draw blood above the person’s eye, they can often get an opponent to forfeit the match because of the risk of actually getting blood in their eyeball.

There are lots of solid defensive measures that a Muay Thai fighter can take as well. Just like in boxing, a Muay Thai fighter will hold up his arms and his fists in front of his face so that he can effectively block blows that are being aimed at their face. In addition, if the opponent is trying to make a lower  body blow with their feet, or knees, one of the best defensive measures is to raise a knee in order to block the blow with their shin.

Today’s Muay Thai has its roots which develop from the ancient art of Mae Mai Muay Thai, which was actually developed to be implemented in battlefield situations. The whole idea behind it was to turn an individual’s body into a weapon by performing the similar types of actions that were performed with some of the common weaponry which was used at the time i.e. battle axes, spears, swords, and what not.

One of the common weapons used in these primitive battles was the pike which was instrumental in developing the Muay Thai system of blocking and striking with the shins. Another common set of weapons were the use of two swords, which helped the developers of Muay Thai implement the use of their arms for defensive postures. The development of the techniques including using the elbows and knees that were developed to absolutely crush the enemy came from the ancient battle ax. Those  are the types of moves that really brought Muay Thai out into the limelight because they are so devastating to the opponent and people just love to watch that. The spear was also implemented into Muay Thai techniques, and this is where the feet were implemented in order to mimic the use of these weapons for piercing.

Today’s MMA style Muay Thai is quite different than the battlefield techniques of the original art form as practiced by the combatants on the battlefield, but the majority of the individuals who have become skilled at the art still retain the fighting spirit that was so prevalent among those masters of old.

Due to the deadly strikes and moves that were developed with Mae Mai Muay Thai, it could never really be implemented fully within a ring as a competitive sport. Due to that, and the desire for competition among these fighters, they started implementing such things as weight classes, boxing gloves, and time limits for the matches so that the safety of the combatants could be protected.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Drawing blood around the eye sounds a little brutal. :s I really admire the skill involved in this sport and the respect it teaches the young people who practice it.


Great background! I always admired Muay Thai fighting, it’s crazy hard managing 8 attacking points, and I guess 8 attacking points of your partner. Thanks for this history lesson!


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