Rules in Muay Thai

Rules in Muay Thai

The following article on Rules in Muay Thai was submitted by Robert from Way of Martial Arts.

Muay Thai (also known as Thai Boxing) is a striking martial art developed in Thailand. It uses elements of kickboxing and some ancient Asian martial arts to complete one of the most effective martial arts in the world.

Like many other martial arts, Muay Thai is also a combat sport. The competitions have a strict ruleset, and you won’t be allowed to use all the traditional techniques that are a part of Muay Thai as a martial art.

Here’s everything you need to know about the rules in Muay Thai and how the sport we know today came to be.

What Is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is a martial art and a combat sport that uses various striking and clinching techniques to incapacitate an opponent. It’s done only in stand-up, meaning there’s no grappling or fighting on the ground – it’s strictly a striking martial art.

It’s widely known as one of the most violent martial arts because every strike is delivered with as much force as possible. The fighters are always encouraged to move forward and engage. 

Also, Muay Thai is known worldwide as “the art of eight limbs” because it allows the use of elbows and knees as striking tools, unlike other martial arts.

Muay Thai was developed in the 16th century, but it was a lot more primitive than today’s sport. There were no gloves, and the rules were even more lenient. Modern Muay Thai became a worldwide popular art in the 20th century.

Muay Thai Rules in Competition

The general rules remain the same regardless of the level or venue in which the competition is held. However, some details vary depending on the type of competition. For instance, headgear is mandatory in amateur competitions, while it’s not allowed in pro bouts. 

I’ll focus only on professional Muay Thai. If you want to get into details of amateur Muay Thai competitions, you can find them on IKF official websites.

Technical Rules

Before I get into the techniques, you should know the technical rules first. The matches are held in square rings between 6.1m x 6.1m and 7.3m x 7.3m. The size of the ring depends on the competition or the agreed-upon ring size between the fighters.

There are numerous weight categories, going from 105lbs (mini Flyweight) to 209+lbs (super heavyweight). Every fight has an agreed-upon weight category between the fighters, but you have to be older than 15 years old to compete professionally in Muay Thai.

Every fighter has to wear WMC-sanctioned gloves, mouthguards, groin guards, and shorts. A Mongkol (traditional headwear) is required before the match to pay respect to Muay Thai tradition, while footwear is not allowed (other than ankle bandages).

Before every match, the fighters have to pay homage in accordance to Muay Thai heritage. That includes a ritual “dance” followed by tom-tom drums. Also, you need to show sportsmanship before the fights by shaking hands (touching gloves) before the fight begins.

Winning and Scoring Rules

The goal in Muay Thai is to hinder the opponent using striking. You win either by knocking your opponent out or by winning on points. Usually, every bout is divided into five rounds, with each round lasting three minutes. The rest period between rounds is two minutes. 

However, the number of rounds and their duration can vary depending on the sanctioning body governing the fight. Each round is scored individually by a panel of judges. The accumulated points at the end of the bout determine the winner.

The winner of each round gets 10 points, while the loser gets 9, 8, or 7, depending on how convincingly they lost the round. A 10:9 round is awarded when a fighter won the round without a significant advantage. A 10:8 round is awarded when the advantage was significant, and a 10:7 round is awarded if the opponent was in knockdown during the round.

If no fighter gets knocked out, and the scoring total is even at the end, the fight is considered a draw.

Technique Rules

Strikes are allowed all over the body, except kidney shots, groin shots, and shots in the back of the head. You’re allowed to use “eight limbs” (arms, legs, elbows, and knees). Passivity is not tolerated and can cost you a one-point deduction.

Only striking is allowed in Muay Thai, meaning there’s no grappling involved, especially submissions. Fighters have to stay on their feet the entire time, and no ground game is allowed. Sweeps and takedowns are sometimes allowed but rarely used in professional Muay Thai.

Some clinching techniques in stand-up are allowed, but only if you actively work in the clinch (throwing punches, kicks, knees, elbows, etc.). Techniques like tornado kicks, spinning backfists, slashing elbows, etc., are allowed, even encouraged.

About the writer

Robert from Way of Martial Arts

This article was submitted by Robert from Way of Martial Arts.

Way of Martial Arts tries to help all martial arts and combat sports enthusiasts, whether amateurs or professionals; or prospective martial arts fans.

The views and opinions in this article are those of the guest author and may not represent Fight Quality’s own. We welcome guest posts from knowledgeable and passionate writers, but have no affiliation with the author or connected companies/products.

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