Sometimes called Muay Thai Boxing or Thai Kickboxing; Muay Thai differs from Western-style boxing most noticeably in its allowing the use of elbows, knees, feet, and certain holds and throws. Because a Muay Thai fighter uses hands, elbows, feet, and knees, it is called “the science of the eight limbs” – although Muay Thai actually involves all parts of the body. Muay Thai also permits a wider range of targets, to strike “below-the-belt” is not illegal.
Although Muay Thai is generally regarded as a very hard, external style, some consider it to have a spiritual aspect as well. Thai boxers typically perform the “wai kroo,” or homage to his teacher before each match. This is followed by the graceful “rum muay” which is considered a warm-up exercise that enables the fighter to relax and focus.
To an uninformed spectator, a Muay Thai bout may seem like a lawless brawl. However; with all of the allowances, there are certain tactics that are prohibited: choking, head-butting, and hair-pulling, to name a few. Muay Thai differs from Asian martial arts in its use of a boxing ring and uniforms, timed rounds, padded gloves, and in standup grappling. Two articles of clothing are also unique to Muay Thai, both acting as good luck charms. First is a band worn around the bicep throughout the match. The other is a cord worn about the head, which is removed before the bout begins.
Practicing Muay Thai is a vigorous workout and produces tremendous cardiovascular endurance. Practitioners learn about thirty basic techniques, mostly practiced by sparring. There are no forms in Muay Thai. In formal competitions, groin protectors and gloves are mandatory. Muay Thai’s effectiveness is well-known.
Training is rigorous, similar to Western boxers. It includes running, shadow-boxing, and heavy bag work. Kicks are of primary importance in Muay Thai and the art is best known for its shin strikes. The characteristic Muay Thai round kick is delivered with the shin, therefore, there is shin conditioning. There is also a lot of emphasis placed on performing various drills with “Thai pads.” A trainer wears the pads, and may hold them to receive kicks, punches, and knee and elbow strikes, and may also use them to punch at the Muay Thai trainee. However, full-contact kicks, knees, and elbows are typically not used in training.