Unlike other martial arts, Muay Thai bout is known for a unique ruleset. If you got used to twelve rounds of boxing, three five-minute rounds of mixed martial arts, or five two-minute periods of bare-knuckle fighting, I bet you’ll have a hard time understanding Thai boxing rounds and recover periods.
So how many rounds is a Muay Thai fight? Which rounds are the most important for the judges? Is there a difference between slow and fast rounds? Please read on my thread to discover answers to these magical questions.
Traditional Thai Boxing Match – How Many Rounds Is A Muay Thai Fight?
Muay Thai is unlike other martial arts, as the rest period usually lasts one minute in the majority of martial arts. But if you’ve watched the Thai boxing battle in the official competition, then you’ve noticed there are five three-minute rounds with 2-minute rest periods between.
Oh, but you forgot the most amazing part before the fight – the Wai Kru dance. It adds extra 5-15 minutes to the fight as it’s a very important part of the ancient tradition. Before and upon entering the ring, the fighter shows respect towards his dojo, ancestors, friends, and family… Everybody who followed the ring warrior en his route to the fight is credited via the traditional dance.
Then the fight starts. The referee calls fighters and explains the rules. I’ll be honest, 99,99% of ring warriors know rules perfectly. Yet, explaining the rules is the duty of the third man in the ring. The match can’t kick off until he/she “get to know” the fighters with the prohibited actions and movements.
Then comes the part after the fight when the referee announces the winner if the match went the distance. The judges render their scorecards, then the third man raises one or both hands, depending on the score.
If the bout was finished before the end of the final round (KO, TKO, or doctor stoppage), both warriors stand beside the referee. He’ll raise the winner’s hand unless the other opponent is hurt badly. In that case, only the man who won the contest stands next to the third man inside the ring. After that, fighters leave the ring. It usually adds extra 1-5 minutes to the bout.
So how many rounds is a Muay Thai fight? According to the ruleset, it is five, but I like to say seven. You can’t ignore the ritual before the match, and the ceremony after, can you?
The Difference Between Rounds
If you’re a fan of a violent street fight, then I bet your answer to the question “how many rounds is a Muay Thai bout” won’t be 5. Some diehard lovers of the ancient Siamese martial art look at this area of the game differently.
Rounds 1 And 2
The syntax “how many rounds is a Muay Thai fight” is a very sensitive topic. While, according to the rules, the match lasts for five three-minute rounds, diehard fans might share a different opinion. Here’s why.
During the first two rounds, and especially in round 1, fighters are testing each other. The pace of the fight is mostly slow and the majority of Thai boxing stars are slow starters.
I know many people who told me that a Muay Thai fight lasts for two or three rounds. When I asked why they offered a very simple explanation – you’ll hardly see brawling during the first two periods, and Thai boxing is about attacking and leaving the heart inside the ring.
Sounds interesting, right? Knockouts might happen in round 2 from time to time, but round 1 mostly serves to get to know your opponent and discover his weak spots. Judges score the bout as a whole, so these rounds will not carry much weight on their scorecards.
Rounds 3 And 4
The pace increases in round 3, and you’ll see more brawling and toe-to-toe fighting. Fighters are ready to risk more. The music plays while the crowd might start chanting ring warriors’ names.
Usually, a fighter with better skills and cardio leaves a better impression on judges. But when you ask huge fans “how many rounds is a Muay Thai fight”, you might hear the answer “three”. Some of them honestly believe the competition kicks off at the beginning of round 3.
Well, this is a very specific parameter. If one fighter was dominating for four rounds, his pace might slow down during the last period of the match because he’ll try to focus on counters. There is no need to waste too much energy because judges will hardly give the victory to his foe. Yet, the losing ring warrior must march forward.
When the fighters were even throughout the previous part of the match, they will continue throwing everything they have at each other. But if the dominant competitor destroys his opponent in the first two or three minutes of round 5, he might relax tempo and focus on the defensive aspect of the game.
Many experienced Muay Thai warriors are aware of whether they’re losing or winning on judges’ scorecards, so it reflects on the pace of the final round.
When you ask “how many rounds is a Muay Thai fight”, someone could even say two, but don’t be shocked. Their logic looks like this. The first two periods are slow or very slow. Rounds 3 and 4 bring amazing domination of one fighter. The dominant fighter defends in the final round of the match, outworks his foe, and wins via decision.
I hope I answered the question “how many rounds is a Muay Thai fight”. Rules say five, but everybody has a different way to view the world. I like to say seven, while diehard fans of violent exchanges stick to numbers two or three. It depends on who you are talking to.