Muay Thai is a combat sport from the muay martial arts of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. This physical and mental discipline which includes combat on foot is known as “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet, being associated with a good physical preparation that makes a full-contact fighter very efficient. Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the twentieth century, when practitioners defeated notable practitioners of other martial arts. A professional league is governed by the World Muay Thai Council.
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 where the Thai style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable. Almost all techniques in muay Thai use the entire body movement, rotating the hip with each kick, punch, elbow and block.
The punch techniques in muay Thai were originally quite limited 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: lead jab, straight/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 combat sports to avoid exposing the attacker’s head to counter strikes from knees or elbows. To utilize the range of targeting points, in keeping with the center line theory, the fighter can use either the Western or Thai stance which allows for either long range or short range attacks to be undertaken effectively without compromising guard.
Muay Thai, like Boxing and various forms of Kickboxing, is recognized as a very effective striking base within MMA and is very widely practiced among mixed martial artists. Fighters (some of whom have won titles) such as Maurício Rua, Wanderlei Silva, Thiago Silva, Gina Carano and Cristiane Santos employ a broad range of tactics born of Muay Thai. Countless other mixed martial artists have trained in the art and it is often taught at MMA gyms as is BJJ and Wrestling.
Many techniques associated with Muay Thai are often seen in MMA, such as punches, elbows, clinch fighting, high kicks, leg kicks and knees.
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