• What Is Muay Thai? (And What It's Not)

What Is Muay Thai? (And What It’s Not)

To the untrained eye, many of the martial arts may look the same. But did you know there are HUNDREDS of distinct styles and school of martial arts? Each one is based on different techniques and sometimes guided by a set or philosophies or principals.

Today, we’re going to deep dive into one of the best self-defense martial arts, Muay Thai. What is Muay Thai? Keep reading to find out!

We’ll explore the rich history, differences between similar practices as well as some of the benefits of practicing this exciting sport.

What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai is the sport of Thai Boxing. While hugely popular today, it is deeply rooted in ancient Thailand.

This martial art is practiced across many ages and brings benefits to the young and old alike.

While similar to other martial arts, there are also many differences that make the sport quite unique.

Art of Eight Limbs

Muay Thai is often called the Art of Eight Limbs or simply Eight Weapons. It is known as this because practitioners use their hands, shins, elbows and knees to make eight distinct points of contact.

Originally there were nine weapons, the head, fists, feet, elbows, knees, and feet. Together this was known as na-wa arwud. However, in modern Muay Thai headbutting has been outlawed so remains the Art of the Eight Limbs.

Main Techniques

When asking “What Is Muay Thai?” it’s best answered by explaining the techniques and style used.

Muay Thai is a stand-up fight where opponents exchange blows. Where the mainstream sport is moving away from blow-for-blow fights, we see more combinations of clinching (elbow and knee moves) taking place in the ring. Distinctive to Muay Thai, opponents showcase the varied combinations coupled with complex hip rotations.

Using the art of the eight limbs, practitioners use the following moves, and many variations of each, to fight opponents.

  • Punching (Chok)
  • Elbow (Tee Sok)
  • Kicking (Teh)
  • Knee (Tee Kao)
  • Foot (Teep)
  • Clinching (Chap Kho)

History of Muay Thai

When asking “What is Muay Thai?”, The best place to start is at the beginning. The history of Muay Thai is one that is often debated among scholars. While many root the early days of the sport in the middle 16th century, others argue that the history goes far beyond the 14th century.

Regardless of the exact date Muay Thai began, the martial art was first practiced in Thailand, where to this day, it remains the national sport. In its infancy, Muay Thai or as it was formerly called, Toi Muay or Muay practice was a staple among young men in Thailand.

At its inception, Muay Thai, or as it was natively called, Toi Muay or Muay was practiced in the training camps of the first Thai army. Beyond the army, young men trained in Muay Thai across many socio-economic classes. Commoners and royalty alike took part in training camps across Thailand, especially in the city of Siam.

The Buddhist monks also took a keen interest in learning the art of Muay Thai and taught the art in their sacred temples. Deeply rooted in self-discipline and tradition, they passed the knowledge down through generations.

Differences from other martial arts

There are many similarities across the martial arts and within the differences, is where the beauty of Muay Thai lies.

Where known as The Art of Eight Limbs, Muay Thai has eight contact points whereas traditional Western boxing has only two (fists) and other sport-oriented martial arts, such as kickboxing, have four points (fists and feet.)

One of the biggest differences is what is allowed and disallowed between schools of practice.

Muay Thai allows for shin kicks and other hits below the belt (with the groin as an exception) where other sports do not permit such actions.

MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts, is a combination of many forms of martial arts, including some of the techniques of Muay Thai. However grappling striking on the ground are allowed in MMA but not in Muay Thai. Additionally, the gloves used in MMA have open fingers, allowing for grappling, which is not present in the closed gloves of Muay Thai.


There are many reasons why individuals choose Muay Thai as their martial art of choice. The benefits of this sport are outstanding and ensure a little something for everyone.

An excellent exercise, Muay Thai is a preferred sport for those looking to change their lifestyle, strengthen their body and lose weight. Since the sport is heavy on “core muscles,” many see toning and definition happen especially around their midsection.

In addition to the physical benefits, Muay Thai is highly beneficial to one’s mind. Muay Thai enhances your ability to be mindful and have a positive outlook. It has been noted that practicing the sport can teach student focus and confidence.

What’s more is that the sport can be practiced by individuals of any age.


What is Muay Thai perfect for?

Helping kids! Besides encouraging healthy activity, the sport offers significant benefits for children as well.

One of the mainstays of the sport is the courtesy participants show each other. In many western martial art fights, opponents are often seen “egging” one another on. In Muay Thai, there is a high value placed on respect, not only for the individual but for others as well.

It has also been shown that children especially gain an increased feeling of self-confidence and self-worth when engaging in the Muay Thai practice.

What is Muay Thai? A great sport for you!

By now, we’ve answered your question of “what is Muay Thai?” The only thing that remains is when are you going to try your hand at it?

With countless benefits and a rich history, Muay Thai really does offer something for everyone.  Practicing Muay Thai is something you can do not only on your own but as a family as well. Why not better your body while you bond?

Are you a practitioner of Muay Thai? Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below!


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  1. Jay May 30, 2017 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Muay Thai training has allowed myself to experience sttonger focus and emotional control. The training has benefited me immensely. From the running, stretching, and practice havenpur me in the best physical, mental and psychological shape I have ever been. I feel more grounded. The personal gains from this long term experience are tremendous and are a huge benefit that increases mindfulness and awareness of self.

    • OC Muay Thai June 24, 2017 at 1:09 am - Reply

      Thank you Jay for sharing your journey

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