Muay Thai is referred to as “The Art 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, feet) used in the primarily sport-oriented forms of martial arts.
In its original form, Muay Thai consisted of an arsenal of nine weapons – the head, fists, elbows, knees and feet – known collectively as na-wa arwud. However in modern Muay Thai, both amateur and professional, headbutting an opponent is no longer allowed. To strike and bind the opponent for both offensive and defensive purposes, small amounts of stand-up grappling are used: the clinch. Formal Muay Thai techniques are divided into two groups: Mae Mai or major techniques and Luk Mai or minor techniques. Muay Thai is often a fighting art of attrition, where opponents exchange blows with one another. This is certainly the case with traditional stylists in Thailand, but is a less popular form of fighting in the contemporary world fighting circuit. With the success of Muay Thai in mixed martial arts fighting, it has become the de facto martial art of choice for competitive stand-up fighters. As a result, it has evolved and incorporated much more powerful hand striking techniques used in western style boxing and the Thai style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable. Note: when Muay Thai fighters compete against fighters of other styles (and if the rules permit it), they almost invariably emphasize elbow (sok) and knee (kao) techniques to gain a distinct advantage in fighting. Almost all techniques in Muay Thai use the entire body movement, rotating the hip with each kick, punch, elbow and block. The rotation of the hips in Muay Thai techniques, and intensive focus on “core muscles” (such as abdominal muscles and surrounding muscles) is very distinctive and is what sets Muay Thai apart from other styles of martial arts.
The punch techniques in Muay Thai were originally quite simple being crosses and a long (or lazy) circular strike made with a straight (but not locked) arm and landing with the heel of the palm. Cross-fertilization with Western boxing and western martial arts mean the full range of western boxing punches are now used: jab, straight right/cross, hook, uppercut, shovel and corkscrew punches and overhands as well as hammer fists and back fists.
As a tactic, body punching is used less in Muay Thai than most other striking martial arts to avoid exposing the attacker’s head to counter strikes from knees or elbows. To utilise the range of targeting points, in keeping with the Theory of Muay Thai – Centre Line, the advocate can use either Western or Thai stance which allows for either long range or short range attacks to be undertaken effectively without compromising guard.
Elbow (Tee sok)
There is also a distinct difference between a single elbow and a follow-up elbow. The single elbow is an elbow move independent from any other move, whereas a follow-up elbow is the second strike from the same arm, being a hook or straight punch first with an elbow follow-up. Such elbows, and most other elbows, are used when the distance between fighters becomes too small and there is too little space to throw a hook at the opponent’s head. Elbows can also be utilised to great effect as blocks or defences against, for example, spring knees, side body knees, body kicks or punches.
The two most common kicks in Muay Thai are known as the teep (literally “foot jab,”), and the Teh(kick)chiang (kicking upwards in the shape of a triangle cutting under the arm and ribs) or angle kick. The Muay Thai angle kick has been widely adopted by fighters from other martial arts and is considered one of or the most powerful kicks in martial arts. The angle kick uses a rotational movement of the entire body. The angle kick is superficially similar to a karate roundhouse kick, but omits the rotation of the lower leg from the knee used in other striking martial arts like Karate or Taekwondo. The angle kick draws its power entirely from the rotational movement of the body. Many Muay Thai fighters use a counter rotation of the arms to intensify the power of this kick. Muay Thai has a style of kicking unique to the martial art.
If a round house kick is attempted by the opponent the Muay Thai fighter will normally block with his shin. Thai boxers are trained to always connect with the shin. While sensitive in an unconditioned practitioner, the shin is the strongest part of the leg for experienced Muay Thai fighters. The foot contains many fine bones and is much weaker. A fighter may end up hurting himself if he tries to strike with his foot or instep.
Muay Thai also includes other varieties of kicking, such as the axe kick, side kick or spinning back kick etc. These kicks are only used in bouts by some fighters. It is worth noting that a side kick is performed differently in Muay Thai than the traditional side kick of other martial arts. In Muay Thai, a side kick is executed by first raising the knee of the leg that is going to kick in order to convince the opponent that the executor is going to perform a teep or front kick. The hips are then shifted to the side to the more traditional side kick position for the kick itself. The “fake-out” almost always precedes the kick in Muay Thai technique.
Knee (Tee kao)
Kao Dode (Jumping knee strike) – the Thai boxer jumps up on one leg and strikes with that leg’s knee.
Kao Loi (Flying knee strike) – the Thai boxer takes step(s), jumps forward and off one leg and strikes with that leg’s knee.
Kao Tone (Straight knee strike) – the Thai boxer simply thrusts it forward (not upwards, unless he is holding an opponents head down in a clinch and intend to knee upwards into the face). According to one written source, this technique is somewhat more recent than Kao Dode or Kao Loi. Supposedly, when the Thai boxers fought with rope-bound hands rather than the modern boxing gloves, this particular technique was subject to potentially vicious cutting, slicing and sawing by an alert opponent who would block it or deflect it with the sharp “rope-glove” edges which are sometimes dipped in water to make the rope much stronger. This explanation also holds true for some of the following knee strikes below as well. In a episode of Fight Science, martial artists performed and tested there most powerful kicks with a crash test dummie and scientest testing there power, the kicks including were the Karate Side kick, Kung Fu Flying double kick and Taekwondo Spinning back kick, the last one was the Muay Thai Knee Strike performed by Melchor Menor, a Muay Thai champion tested his Knee Strike which in terms of force, power, damage and chest deflection, inflicted the most out of all of the other techniques