Muay Thai Rules

Muay Thai
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Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing is a martial art/combat sport that originated in Thailand. Unlike kickboxing which just uses punches and kicks, Muay Thai is known as the ‘art of 8 limbs’ as it utilises fists, feet, elbows, knees and shins (as well as the head traditionally, though this has been removed from modern competition). With a history stretching back to the mid 16th century, it has over time risen to become a popular sport that is practiced around the world.

Unlike many martial arts that are also sports, Thai Boxing has lost none of its martial effectiveness. Muay Thai is a devastatingly efficient full contact sport and one that all competitors have to be at the height of fitness to compete in. As well as being a popular sport in its own right, it is one of the most popular styles that MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) competitors train in due to its effective striking techniques and tough training regimes.

Object of Muay Thai

Muay Thai pits two competitors against each other in a boxing ring and the object of the sport is for one fighter to win the contest by knocking their opponent out, the opponent being stopped by the referee as unfit to carry on (technical knock out) or winning on points. Fighters utilise their fists, feet, shins, elbows and knees to try and win the fight as well as occasional clinch and grapple techniques. Despite the extreme physical and combative nature of the Muay Thai, it takes a lot of skill to become a proficient fighter and win matches at the higher levels of competition.

Players & Equipment

Under the World Muay Thai Council rules, to compete in a professional Muay Thai fight, a fighter must be over the age of 15 and must weigh at least 100 pounds. Fighters are all classified into weight divisions and when competing, there must not be more than 5 pounds difference in weight. The weight divisions are as follows (in pounds):

  • Super Heavyweight 209+
  • Heavyweight 209
  • Cruiserweight 190
  • Super Light Heavyweight
  • Light Heavyweight 175
  • Super Middleweight 168
  • Middleweight 160
  • Junior Middleweight 154
  • Welterweight 147
  • Junior Welterweight 140
  • Lightweight 135
  • Junior Lightweight 130
  • Featherweight 126
  • Junior Featherweight 122
  • Bantamweight 118
  • Junior Bantamweight 115
  • Flyweight 112
  • Junior Flyweight 108
  • Mini Flyweight 105

There is little equipment that is essential for Muay Thai competitors. All fighters must wear gloves sanctioned by the WMC and the correct weight for the respective weight classification must wear shorts at half-thigh length. A groin guard and mouth guard must also be worn and long hair is discouraged as are beards. All boxers must wear a Mongkol which is a sacred headband before the bout commences and each boxer may also wear a charm or inscribed cloth around their upper arm or their waist. No footwear is to be worn as fighters compete barefoot.


Scoring in Muay Thai fights is relatively straightforward and is scored on a round er round basis. Basically, the fighter who is judged to have won the round is given 10 points and the loser is given 9, 8 or 7 judged on their performance in the round. When both boxers are deemed to have performed equally well in the round, then each fighter is awarded 10 points.

  • A 10:9 round is where one fighter is deemed to have won the round.
  • A 10:8 round is where one fighter is deemed to have won the round clearly.
  • A 10:7 round is where one fighter is deemed to have won the round clearly and their opponent has been on the canvas and received a count from the referee.

Boxers who receive a warning in a round lose one point.

Winning the Fight

A Muay Thai fight can be won in one of three ways:

  • Knockout: If one fighter knocks his opponent out, they are immediately declared the winner.
  • Technical Knockout - Known as a TKO, this is the same as in boxing where the referee deems one fighter as not fit to carry on.
  • Points: At the end of the match, if neither competitor has managed to stop their opponent, then it goes to the judges scorecards. The fighter with the highest amount of points is judged to be the winner. If both fighters are on the same amount of points then the match is declared a draw.

Rules of Muay Thai

  • Muay Thai matches take place in a ring between 6.1m x 6.1m and 7.3m x 7.3m.
  • Competitors competing in a professional match should be over the age of 15 and their weight should be in the same weight category and not more than 5 pounds difference in weight.
  • Before every Thai Boxing match, each boxer is required to pay homage in accordance with the heritage of Muay Thai. This involves a ritual dance accompanied by music played by a Javanese tom-tom drum, a Javanese oboe and and a small pair of cymbals.
  • Once homeage has been completed, the bout is ready to begin and both fighters must shake hands before the bout begins to agree that they will compete in accordance with the rules and in a sportsmanlike manner.
  • Muay Thai bouts have 5 rounds each of 3 minutes each, with a two minute rest period between each.
  • Once the bout begins, both fighters attempt to win the match by utilising their fists, feet, elbows, knees and shins in an attempt to defeat their opponent.
  • The fight is won once one fighter knocks out their opponent, the referee stops the fight because they deem one fighter unfit to carry on or the fight goes the full distance and one fighter is declared the winner on points. Should the points totals be equal then the match is declared a draw.