Muay Thai, sometimes called Thai boxing, is an ancient martial art developed in Thailand. The purpose of Muay Thai was close combat using the whole body as a weapon. Each part of the body is used to mimic a common weapon of war. For example, the hands represent a sword or knife, the shins and forearms act as shields in blocking techniques, the elbow is used like a heavy hammer for massive blows, and the legs are used much like an axe or a staff. Meanwhile, the practitioner looks for an opening to grapple their opponent to the ground and finish them off.
The Art of the Eight Limbs
Like many other martial arts, Muay Thai was developed over a period of centuries through actual application in war situations. The art was passed down from fathers to sons and masters to students. Muay Thai was truly developed as a weapon of war, with every element looking to deliver a killing blow. The best fighters were able to teach others their techniques before falling to an enemy. Muay Thai is now referred to as the “Art of the Eight Limbs“, however, in its original form, it made use of nine weapons. The ninth was the head, but headbutting is no longer allowed in current Muay Thai rules.
Muay Thai Techniques and Weapons
Muay Thai considers nearly every part of the body a lethal weapon. The techniques in Muay Thai are divided into major and minor techniques, or Mae Mai and Luk Mai in Thai. Muay Thai is somewhat unique among martial arts in that it focuses on the development of core muscles because of the whole body movement needed to successfully deliver kicks, punches and blocks. Elbows are used as a striking weapon and one of the most common techniques is to cut the forehead of an opponent, thus causing blood to block the vision or raise awareness of injury and thus affect performance. The most common kicking techniques in Muay Thai are the foot jab and the angle kick. The angle kick is often used in other crossover martial arts forms. Punching in Muay Thai originally consisted of basic crosses and a straight circular strike using the palm heel. However, modern Muay Thai uses a variety of punching techniques from boxing and other arts.
Muay Thai Styles and Rules
Muay Thai rules can vary by tournament, however, there are some basic rules that are commonly used. Headbutting, as previously mentioned, is not allowed, and sometimes elbow strikes are not permitted other than in top classes. There are five rounds in most tournaments and the contestants must wear gloves and boxing shorts. Four regional Thai styles of Muay Thai exist. These are Muay Thasao from the north, Muay Korat from the east, Muay Lopburi from the central and Muay Chaiya from the south. The differences in the styles simply emphasize certain techniques over other techniques.