What is Muay Thai? Muay Thai is a sport and martial art from Thailand that uses punches, kicks, knees, and elbows in combat. It’s known as the ‘Art of Eight Limbs‘. Muay Thai has been around for a long time and has cultural and religious traditions woven into the sport. In Thailand, everyone, including boys, girls, kings, and queens, would have some form of training in Muay Thai.
To understand Muay Thai, it’s important to learn some basic terminology, the sport’s history and traditions, championship titles, fighting basics, and important people in the sport. To ask What is Muay Thai, let’s start with the history.
- What is Muay Thai – History and Tradition
- What is Muay Thai Fighting
- What is Muay Thai – World Championship Titles
- What is Muay Thai -Terminology
- What is Muay Thai – Notable Nak Muays
What is Muay Thai – History and Tradition
Muay Thai is a martial art that originated in Thailand in the 16th century and was originally taught to the military. The techniques taught in Muay Thai were used in actual warfare with weapons such as pikes, spears, or swords. However, over time, Muay Thai evolved into a sport, and fighters started using horse leather or rope to protect their knuckles during fights. In the 20th century, boxing gloves became normal in Muay Thai.
Muay Thai is also steeped in spiritual traditions, and fights used to be held at Thai Buddhist temples. Before each match, fighters perform a traditional dance called Wai Khru Ram Muay, and they wear a headband called Mongkon and armbands called Pra Jiad for good luck. Muay Thai fighters usually start their professional career as children between the ages of eight and fourteen and compete frequently, sometimes weekly. Muay Thai Music is played during matches, and gambling is a big part of Muay Thai.
Fighters are usually given nicknames that they use for their entire career, followed by the gym they train at. For example, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn was given the name ‘Dieselnoi,’ which means little diesel, and trained at the Chor Thanasukarn gym. However, Farang fighters (non-Thai fighters) use their birth name instead of the traditional nickname.
Fighters will often wear Mongkon’s and Pra Jiad’s in their fights. These are highly traditional with much history. the Mongkon or Muay Thai headband is an essential item for Muay Thai fighters. It is steeped in tradition and is always blessed by Buddhist monks. This braided headband is believed to bring good luck, protect the wearer in the match, and gift them with strength.
Along with the Pra Jiad, it is linked to history and tradition found in Thailand and Buddhism. Although it is a staple of modern Muay Thai, the tradition goes back hundreds of years and is related to Thai warriors. It is typically made from rope, braided cloth, or silk and sometimes has bones of a fighter’s ancestors or hair of a loved one woven into it as a blessing. The Wai Kru, a traditional Buddhist ceremonial dance that precedes every Muay Thai bout, is performed while wearing the Mongkon and Pra Jiad, and once completed, the Mongkon is removed, and the fight begins.
What is Muay Thai Fighting
What is Muay Thai? Well, the most important aspect is the fighting itself. Muay Thai is a sport where two fighters compete in a ring wearing gloves and shorts. They can use punches, kicks, knees, elbows, and clinching to try to defeat their opponent. Matches are usually three or five rounds and can be won by a judge’s decision, knockout, or technical knockout.
The most unique aspect of Muay Thai is the clinch, where fighters can work to control their opponent’s neck and deliver knee or elbow strikes. They can also use sweeps, throws, and dumps to drop their opposition to the mat. Muay Thai doesn’t always translate perfectly to other combat sports like boxing and kickboxing, but some fighters have found success in those sports as well. Fighters are allowed to catch kicks with their hands and counter with strikes.
In Muay Thai, fighters can use punches to hit their opponent’s head or body, just like in boxing. They can use different kinds of punches such as jabs, crosses, hooks, overhands, and uppercuts. However, unlike in boxing, they are also allowed to use backhand and superman punches.
In Muay Thai, fighters can use their legs to kick their opponent in different parts of their body, like the head, stomach, leg, or calf. There are many types of kicks, but the most popular ones are the teep kick and the roundhouse kick.
A teep kick is when a fighter pushes their foot forward to hit their opponent, while a roundhouse kick is when they swing their leg in a curve and hit their opponent with the shin. There are many variations of these two kicks, and other kicks like the axe kick, jump kick, and diagonal kick are also used in Muay Thai fights.
There are also a number of knee strikes a nak muay can use utilize as the straight knee, curving knee, spearing knee, flying knee, and several others.
In addition to these basic strikes, Muay Thai fighters are also allowed to use some more unique moves, such as sweeps, throws, and dumps. This means they can grab their opponent and drop them to the ground, which is not allowed in other combat sports like boxing or kickboxing. Sweeps, throws, and dumps are important techniques in Muay Thai and can help fighters gain an advantage over their opponents. What is Muay Thai? A combination of eight limbs to create an incredibly effective fighter.
What is Muay Thai – World Championship Titles
What is Muay Thai’s most important world titles? Not all world titles are of equal importance. The two most important world championship titles in Muay Thai are Rajadamnern Stadium and Lumpinee Stadium. These Muay Thai stadiums have been around for a long time, since the mid-19th century, and the best fighters in Muay Thai history have fought there. Currently RWS, ONE Championship, and WBC Muay Thai are the most prestigious. Other titles like Omnoi Stadium, Channel 7 Championship, and True4U Muaymunwunsuk. are also important, but not as much as the titles from Rajadamnern and Lumpinee.
What is Muay Thai -Terminology
|Muay Thai:||Thai Boxing|
|Nak Muay:||Muay Thai Fighter|
|Kru:||Muay Thai Master/Instructor|
|Farang:||Foreigner of Western (European/American) Descent|
|Wai Khru Ram Muay:||Traditional Dance|
|Muay Mat:||A fighter who is focused on punch attacks. For example Rodtang Jitmuangnon|
|Muay Tae:||A fighter who is focused on kick attacks. For example Buakaw Banchamek|
|Muay Khao:||A fighter who is focused on knee attacks. For example Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn|
|Muay Sok:||A fighter who is focused on elbow attacks. For example Nathan Corbett|
|Muay Femur:||A fighter who is focused on being a technician, strong overall. For example: Nong-O Gaiyanghadao and Samart Payakaroon.|
|Mongkon:||Traditional headgear worn by Nak Muay|
|Pra Jiad:||Traditional armband worn by Nak Muay.|
What is Muay Thai – Notable Nak Muays
What is Muay Thai – Golden Era Fighters
There are many great Nak Mauys who competed in the golden era that a Muay Thai follower should know. Such as Sagat Petchyindee, Pud Pad Noy Worawoot, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn, Chamuekpet Harpalang, Apidej Sit-Hirun, Somrak Khamsing, and Samart Payakaroon. These fighters were masters of Muay Thai basics and advanced techniques. Not much footage of these fighters exists.
What is Muay Thai – 2000’s Era Fighters
The notable modern era fighters that Muay Thai fans should know: Thongchai tor Silachai, Buakaw Banchamek, Nathan Corbett, Yodsanklai Fairtex, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky, Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Saenchai, Petchboonchu FA Group, John Wayne Parr, and Sam-A Gaiyanghadao.
What is Muay Thai -Modern Era Fighters
There are many great Nak Muays currently active in Muay Thau today with lots of high definition footage, unlike in prior eras. For example, Rotang Jitmuangnon, Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, Superlek Kiatmoo9, Tawanchai PK.Saenchai, Prajanchai PK.Saenchai, Superball Tded99, Ferrari Fairtex, among others.
What is Muay Thai – Female Fighters?
Women athletes active in Muay Thai, called Muay Ying, is relatively new. Traditional stadiums in Thailand are only just starting to welcome female athletes. Lumpinee Stadium only had its first female champion crowned in 2021.
Female fighters that fans know would be Stamp Fairtex, Tanawan Thongduang, Nirawan Tangjew, Smilla Sundell, Jackie Buntan, Anissa Meksen, Sawsing Sor Sopit, Wondergirl & Supergirl Jaroonsak, and Phayahong Ayothayafightgym. See here for many Muay Ying.
What is Muay Thai? ‘The Art of Eight Limbs’ has a rich history and is steeped in cultural and religious traditions. It began as a form of military training in the 16th century and evolved into a sport over time. Muay Thai fighters perform traditional dances and wear headbands and armbands for good luck before fights, and matches are accompanied by music and gambling. The sport also includes unique moves such as clinching, sweeps, throws, and dumps, which are not allowed in other combat sports like boxing or kickboxing. Rajadamnern and Lumpinee Stadiums are home to the two most important world championship titles in Muay Thai.
Muay Thai is more than just a combat sport. It is a cultural tradition that has been a part of Thailand’s history for centuries. Despite its roots being in Thailand, Muay Thai has gained popularity worldwide, and the sport has evolved to meet the demands of changing times. Yet, Muay Thai basics, such as punching, kicking, and clinching, remain an essential part of the sport. As the world continues to change, Muay Thai will undoubtedly change too, but its fundamental values and techniques will remain intact. Hopefully this helps with the question of What is Muay Thai?
Timothy Wheaton is a combat sports writer who covers MMA, Kickboxing, and Muay Thai. Tim is the authority on kickboxing and combat sports journalist who has covered K-1, PRIDE FC, UFC, GLORY Kickboxing, Bellator, ONE Championship, and plenty more.