Muay Thai is commonly referred to as the “art of 8 limbs”. It is a combat sport that uses both striking and clinching techniques. The art of 8 limbs refers to the use of punches, kicks, knees and elbow strikes.
In this article, we discuss the 8 limbs of Muay Thai, the common techniques fighters use and their effectiveness in the ring.
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A Brief History of Muay Thai
Muay Thai’s history traces back to the 18th century. The art developed as a form of hand to hand combat, used during the Burmese-Siamese war. As well as being an effective battle technique, Muay Boran became a sport where opponents fought each other at festivals and celebrations.
The era of modern Thai Boxing begun during the reign of King Rama VII. He pushed for the introduction of universal Thai Boxing rules. In 1921, Thailands first boxing ring was installed.
Muay Thai peaked in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. The golden age of Muay Thai saw stadiums full of fans, where gambling was almost as popular as the contest itself.
The WMC (World Muay Thai Council) was established by the Thai government in 1995 and is one of the oldest and largest Muay Thai sanctioning organisations.
Over the past twenty years, the popularity of Muay Thai has exploded. Organisations including ONE FC and Yokkao attract the best fighters from around the world.
To this day, Thailand remains the home of Muay Thai. Fighting for the prestigious Lumpinee or Rajadamnern belt, is still the largest prize in the sport.
Kicking – Te
Out of the “8 Limbs of Muay Thai” kicks are the most effective technique in a Muay Thai fighters arsenal. Kicks that land flush score highly in the eyes of the judges.
The roundhouse kick is the most common kick in Muay Thai. Roundhouse kicks can be devastating, as they use the full force of the body to drive the leg through the opponent. Another common kick in a Muay Thai fighters arsenal is the teep. A teep kick is effectively a Nak Muay’s version of a jab, and is used to measure distance and unbalance opponents.
Kicks are one of the most effective techniques in Muay Thai. Fighters look to attack all areas of their opponent including the head, body and legs to stop them in their tracks. When it comes to Muay Thai scoring, clean Muay Thai kicks score heavily in the eyes of the judges.
Fighters who specialise in the kicking game are called Muay Tae’s.
Many of the greatest Muay Thai fighters in history have been Muay Tae’s. Our favourite fighter is Buakaw Banchamek. Buakaw is a two-time K1 world champion, and has made a name for himself fighting on shows outside of Thailand.
Knees – Ti Khao
Knee fighters in Muay Thai are aggressive fighters. Knee’s are one of the most brutal techniques that are aimed at either the head or body of the opponent.
Knee fighters are constantly moving forwards looking to strike with long-range knees or engage with knees in the clinch.
Out of the 8 limbs of Muay Thai, knees are one of the most brutal techniques. Knees score well in Muay Thai fights. Judges look favourably at the fighter who is more active with knees in the clinch.
The real benefit of throwing knees is the ability to knock the wind out of your opponent’s body or throw knees to the head to finish the fight.
In Muay Thai, knee fighters are called Muay Khao. They are usually taller fighters who have a reach advantage, so can throw long rangy knees.
Knee fighters are fan favourites due to their aggressive fighting style. Our favourite Muay Khao fighter is Petchboonchu FA Group. He is a former Lumpinee and Rajadamnern champion.
Elbow – Sok
Out of the 8 limbs of Muay Thai, you don’t want to get hit with an elbow! Elbows are used in Muay Thai to cut your opponent, leaving them unable to continue in the contest.
There are lots of elbow variations in Muay Thai. Elbows require you to be in close and are effective during the entry and exit of the clinch.
Effective technique is the most important criteria for Muay Thai scoring. Clean elbows score well, but they land far less than kicks or punches. What elbows do well is end fights. They have the ability to end the fight with one strike. Fighters cut by elbows are unable to continue the fight due to impaired vision and heavy bleeding.
Muay Thai fighters who specialise in elbow techniques are called Muay Sok. Fighters don’t like facing off against Muay Sok’s as it often means a face full of stitches.
Our favourite Muay Sok has to be Sudsakorn. Sudsakorn is a Muay Thai world champion. He is known for his vicious elbow techniques that cut open his opponents.
Punches – Chok
Punches are the most utilised technique in combat sports. In Muay Thai, fighters wear 8Oz gloves to protect the hands during the fight. All of the strikes that are legal in boxing are used Muay Thai.
The jab is the most fundamental and underrated punch in Muay Thai. Jabs are vital for both offensive and defensive techniques. Another use of the jab is to gauge distance and set up combinations.
In terms of Muay Thai, punches are an extremely effective technique. Muay Thai fighters use punches to set up their kicks and combinations.
In Muay Thai, punchers are called Muay Mat’s. Fighters with this style are known for their aggression, heavy punches and brutal low kicks. Muay Mat’s typically score less than their opponents, so are always looking to finish the fight via TKO.
Our favourite Muat Mat fighter is Ramon Deckers. Deckers (who sadly passes away in 2013) was a Dutch kickboxer, who was an eight-time world champion. He was a fan favourite due to his aggressive style and his willingness to fight the best Thai’s in their country.
Muay Thai fighters use a range of techniques including; punches, kicks, elbows and knees. That’s why it’s named the art of 8 limbs.
Although the scoring criteria states “A score will be awarded when boxers use fists, feet, knees, and elbows to hit an opponent powerfully, unprotected and accurately“, not all strikes are equal in the eyes of Thai judges.
Kicks and knee’s are high scoring techniques that will win the judges decision. On the other hand, low kicks and punches don’t score well unless they cause significant damage.
The beauty of the 8 limbs of Muay Thai is that it’s such a diverse martial art. For that reason fighters can win bouts by specialising in certain techniques such and elbows or kicks.
Aspiring Nak Muay should practice using all of the 8 limbs of Muay Thai. As fighters gain experience, they will adapt towards a specific Muay Thai fighting style.
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