Muay Thai is a form of boxing using kicks and punches in a ring with gloves similar to those used in Western boxing.

Muay Thai is known for its distinct rituals, incredible conditioning, devastating round (Thai) kicks and, of course, the extensive use of knees and elbows.


Muay Thai is derived from the hand-to-hand aspect of the ancient Siamese art known as, "Krabi Krabong;" and was once performed for the entertainment of the King of Siam.


Muay Thai is referred to as "The Science of Eight Limbs", as the hands, shins, elbows, and knees are all used extensively in this art. A practitioner of Muay Thai ("nak muay") thus has the ability to execute strikes using eight "points of contact," as opposed to "two points" (fists) in Western boxing and "four points" (fists and feet) used in the primarily sport-oriented forms of martial arts. For the different kickboxing styles per points of contact, see: kickboxing.

Thai kickboxing match, rising Knee-strike technique.
Photo: TommyIX

Elbows can be delivered in a hooking, uppercut or overhand motion.

Elbow Chop
Photo courtesy of TommyIX

Diagonal Knee Strike
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Knees can be straight, horizontal, diagonal, curving, jumping, etc. Good knee technique is vital in the clinch (see further).


One of the fundamentals of Muay Thai is the Yaang Sam Kun, or three-step walk. It forms an integral part of all footwork in Thai boxing and without mastering it thoroughly a thai boxer will never be able to move on to an advanced level. During the Ram Muay pre-fight ritual dance the walk is stylistic and graceful. Different styles of the Yaang Sam Kun have developed according to the area or master, but the basic movement remains the same and is designed to maintain balance.

Originally the punches in Muay Thai were quite simple, but under influence of western kickboxing styles other punches have been added to the Muay Thai arsenal. Common Thai boxing punches are the straight punch, jab, hook, cobra (diving punch) and uppercut.

Muay Thai (Thai Boxing)
External links:
Muay Lao, the forgotten art of kickboxing by By Antonio Graceffo: the grappling technique common in Muay Lao and described in this article also applies to Muay Thai.
Mixed Martial Arts:
The Book of Knowledge

by BJ Penn, Glen Cordoz,
Erich Krauss
More info >>

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Flying kick technique (jumping roundhouse-kick)
Photo: TommyIX

An important component of Muay Thai the clinck work (see: clinch fighting). The fighters lock up, grappling each other and struggling to get dominance over the opponent and eventually throw him to the ground.

A well known saying describes the relative importance of Muay Thai techniques:

'Kick loses to punch, punch loses to knee,
knee loses to elbow, elbow loses to kick'

A never-ending cycle showing the importance of practicing and mastering all of the Muay Thai techniques in order to become a competent Muay Thai fighter.

In modern Muay Thai, both amateur and professional, headbutting an opponent is no longer allowed.

The most prestigious stadium for thai boxers is the Rajadamnern Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Jumping Knee Strike
Photo courtesy of TommyIX

One of the most common kicks in Thai boxing is the foot thrust teep (literally "foot jab"). It is mainly used as a defensive technique to block attacks or to bring the opponent off balance.
Diagonal kick
Photo: TommyIX

Spinning back kick
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The diagonal  or roundhouse kick can be used to attack all parts of the opponent's body or to counter any type of attack. This kick has three different target areas: the low kick, which aims the lower parts of the legs, the mid kick which aims for the ribs and the high kick which aims for the head or neck.

The main difference with other kickboxing styles is that with the Muay Thai roundhouse kick the hip is rotated into the kick, and the abdominal muscles are strongly solicited to add strength to the rotation. Unlike in other martial arts the boxer will raise up on his toes while he kicks, for increased turning speed and additional power.

Another difference is that Muay Thai roundhouse kicks use the shin, instead of the foot, to hit the target.
Straight Foot Thrust
Photo courtesy of TommyIX