Muay Thai is an incredibly intense sport that’s often referred to as Thai boxing, in it there’s standing up striking, kicking, and various clinching techniques that are allowed, but with a sport as intense and as loosely regulated as Muay Thai, how do we know exactly what moves are banned?
In this article we’ll be taking a closer look at this question, and asking what moves are completely off the table when it comes to Muay Thai, and trying to get some understanding behind why this is the case.
So without further ado let’s get started.
What Even Is Muay Thai?
So just before we break down some of the fundamental rules,what actually is it? Muay Thai is a discipline known as the art of ‘eight limbs’, as it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees and shins.
Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the late 20th to 21st century, when Westernized practitioners from Thailand began competing in kickboxing and mixed-rules matches as well as matches under muay Thai rules around the world.
Muay Thai has become popular enough to take place in every Olympics since 2017, and the sport continues to prosper by millions of fans worldwide.
According to IFMA rules and regulations, muay Thai is a martial art of using every part of the body limbs therefore making every strike including punch, kick, knee and elbow are allowed.
Generally, for a strike to count towards the point score, it has to hit without being blocked or guarded against by the opponent.
Strikes also do not score if they hit the opponent’s glove, forearm, foot, or shin. Strikes to the groin are against the rules and if found to be intentional are counted as fouls.
If both muay Thai fighters have the same score at the end of the round, the winner is determined by which fighter has the more powerful strike.
The Rules Of Muay Thai
So now that we understand how muay Thai actually plays, we can discuss some of the rules.
Something important to remember when thinking about muay Thai rules is that there are both written rules, and applied rules.
Whilst many different rules are written down, not all will necessarily be applied during a match.
Because there’s so many different attacks players can utilize when facing off against an opponent, it’s difficult to judge what is a foul and what isn’t when watching a match.
Instead, if a referee sees something particularly offensive, or downright unsafe then it will be considered as going against the rules.
In any case though, here’s a quick list on some of the standard rules that you’d expect to be enforced in muay Thai:
- wrapping your leg around the leg of an opponent from the inside or the outside and forcing them to the canvas
- locking an opponent’s neck and executing a hip to shoulder or hip throw
- grabbing the opponent’s hip in a waist lock and throwing using a hip throw
- grabbing an opponent’s arm, turning and using the calf and back of the thigh (hamstring muscle group) to sweep an opponent’s legs from under them
- grabbing an opponent and falling backward to throw the opponent
- a rugby style tackle on the legs and waist of an opponent
- grabbing an opponent’s waist from behind, then, placing a leg between the opponent’s legs, pulling the opponent backwards over the leg and hip
- grabbing an opponent from below the waist, lifting and throwing
- catching an opponent’s leg and using the other arm to push them off balance while taking more than two steps forward (“plowing” or “plowing”)
- catching an opponent’s leg and using the calf muscle to trip/sweep them off their feet
- tripping the opponent with the ankle
- leg sweeping the opponent using the calf or inside of the foot
- trapping the opponent’s arms in a waist lock, lifting them to throw
- grabbing an opponent from behind, lifting to throw
- grabbing around an opponent’s lower spine and hyper-extending their back in a “back breaking” move
Whilst this list isn’t necessarily complete, these would be the rules that you’d expect to see enforced during muay Thai, there can be exceptions here though.
The Cartwheel Kick
So as we can see, like any sport there are rules and regulations that are followed in muay Thai.
But the art of muay Thai comes with blurring the line of these rules just enough, that there’s moments of drama and crowd pleasing moves during every fight.
There’s plenty of popularized moves that could technically be considered illegal, and one of these is the cartwheel kick, originally created by Saenchai who is widely considered one of the best, if not the best maui Thai fighter of all time.
Technically, it’s illegal to touch the ground with your hand before you strike, a key part of this cartwheel, but Saenchai uses it so flawlessly and with so much drama that it’s considered his signature move.
The move’s been used so much since he first used it that there’s no conceivable way which you could call it illegal, so what gives?
In the simplest way possible, illegal elements can be used during muay Thai fights, so long as they are done quickly, in the least dangerous way, with a lot of force, and flair to back it up.
Sure, you can’t outright break the rules, but you can bend them in order to perform whatever moves that you want. So long as you’ve got the finnes to make it look good.
Muay Thai is an extremely fast paced, street sport that doesn’t follow the typical conventions of other sports, especially western ones.
Rules can be bent and twisted to players’ playstyles, so bear that in mind when next watching muay Thai.