You don’t have to watch MMA for very long before you hear the term “Muay Thai” mentioned. It’s very common to hear fighters or commentators refer to someone’s Muay Thai skills. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that isn’t often explained and could pose some confusion to the new or casual MMA fan. So here, we’ll quickly go over what Muay Thai is and how it’s employed in the sport of MMA.
Muay Thai (aka Thai Boxing) is the national sport of Thailand and is a specialized form of kick boxing. It has been referred to as “the art of eight limbs,” because there are eight points of contact used in Muay Thai: hands, elbows, knees and feet. In addition to striking, Muay Thai also includes some stand-up grappling, specifically a clinch where a fighter, facing his opponent, grabs the back of his head with both hands and presses his elbows into his collarbone or chest. This is used to control the opponent so that knee and elbow strikes can be landed accurately and effectively.
In recent years, Muay Thai has enjoyed a resurgence because of its popularity with MMA fighters. Most MMA fighters use Muay Thai or Muay Thai-influenced striking techniques to develop their stand-up fighting style. Combined with more powerful western boxing-influenced hand strikes, it has become a very effective art form in the world’s fastest growing sport. Fighters like Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, and Gina Carano have been very successful in making Muay Thai a large part of their arsenal. Leg kicks, elbows, knees and the “Muay Thai” clinch are commonly used in MMA and are almost mandatory components of a well-rounded fighter’s skill set.
No matter how much Muay Thai you see used in MMA, it doesn’t look the same as true Muay Thai does all by itself. Muay Thai fights are very active and entertaining. I find it very interesting to watch the various martial arts used in MMA in their pure form. It’s informative and gives the MMA fan a more educated perspective when watching fights. There are lots of Muay Thai fights on YouTube if you’re interested in watching some. Below, I’ve included a video of highlights from Yodsaenklai, one of the top fighters from Thailand.
By: Eddie Graveline