Thai boxing is one of the most perfect stand-up martial arts. A good Thai boxer is a master of 8 limbs of Muay Thai – knees, elbows, kicks, and punches.
The majority of martial arts base its power on four, eventually six striking surfaces. But Muay Thai fighter is a long-range fighting expert and clinch specialist at the same time. Even if the distance between you and your opponent is less than 4 inches, you have many ways to knock him down/out or cut him open.
But you can do the same when you’re two meters away. How is this possible? Well, read on, I will get to know you with the secrets of 8 limbs of Muay Thai!
The Historical Aspect
The sport developed in the 1500s in Thailand. Even in its early stages, it was famous for a very broad range of strikes. In the first place, Thai boxing was a military martial art for battlefields. Soldiers were trained to use all parts of their bodies to maximize the damage on their opponents.
Then it transitioned to a sport, but fighters wore leather or hemp thread wrapped around the fists for protection, there were no ring and gloves. But 8 limbs of Muay Thai were first mentioned around the 1920s, after a significant western influence. Another important change were gloves, groin protectors, and ring, which led to the first official Muay Thai rules.
Fighters started performing Wai Kru, a ritual dance before the beginning of the fight. In the 1970s, this martial art became popular in Europe. Later it conquered other parts of the world too.
Thai Boxing – 8 Limbs of Muay Thai Or Infinite Ways To Defeat The Opponent?
I was asked this question so many times. I like to call Thai boxing one of the most perfect stand-up martial arts that have ever existed, so I’d choose option number two.
You can cut the foe open with your leading elbow, and rock him with a rear elbow. Create an opening with your left fist, then turn the light out with your right punch. Ah, there is more!
Pummel your foe and slam his head with your powerful left and right knee. You can even create damage from long-range too – left shin to the chin good night, right shin to the thigh and your opponent will start to limp. So you say that’s it, right? Well, I disagree!
Have you ever heard of powerful sweeps, trips, and throws? The inner parts of your foot and shin are a very powerful weapon, especially against an aggressive opponent. It is so easy to trip your foe after catching a kick. It leaves a better impression on judges, isn’t it?
You can land lovely clinch strikes from four basic positions – double underhook, cross lock, single-collar tie, a single-collar tie with overhook, crossface defense, and pummel (double-collar tie).
Muay Thai is on the second spot after Lethwei when it comes to the number of striking surfaces (headbutts are not allowed in Thai boxing). But eight limbs of Muay Thai are a lot more than just random ways to hit your opponent. Every position brings new construction options, and there are many ways to earn a win in the ring.
Now it’s time to take a closer look into each of the 8 limbs of Muay Thai. I will make a comparison between limbs and striking surfaces:
- Left + right punch – knuckles + lateral part of your fist;
- Left + right elbow – the edge of your elbow;
- Left + right knee – central + inner part of your knee;
- Left + right leg – shins, inner part of your foot (sweeps), the upper part of your feet, heel, and balls of your feet.
Yeah, there are 8 limbs of Muay Thai, but it means there are 20 striking surfaces, which makes Muay Thai one of the broadest stand-up martial arts!
The majority of fighters throw fists at a mid-range distance. You’ll rarely see a Thai warrior hiding behind Superman punches and overhands because they usually connect a punch combo with a powerful kick or knee.
The most often punch strikes are jab and cross, which are pretty much similar to western boxing. You’ll see it very often when a taller guy meets a shorter fighter.
Hooks are very famous for knockout power. Muay Thai fighters rarely throw uppercuts because it is a clinching or short-range strike by nature (they usually give advantage to knees).
But don’t forget lovely Superman punches and spinning backfists. Superman attack is a great way for a shorter fighter to turn the lights out on a bigger fighter.
Spinning backfist is mostly a defensive technique, highly applicable when a right-handed fighter attacks a left-handed fighter. When both fighters are in the same guard, this strike serves as a perfect long-range knockout strike.
So please don’t be narrow-minded when you discuss 8 limbs of Muay Thai topic, I will show you that you can use 8+ striking surfaces in this lovely martial art! Did you forget the power of legendary hammer-fists in the MMA? It originates from this martial art ladies and gentlemen!
Punches are very useful, especially if you’re an aggressive or an explosive tricky fighter. Rodtung Jitmuangnon is a perfect example of a one-punch knockout machine.
Unlike many other martial arts, Thai boxing is famous for the excessive use of elbows. You won’t see any elbows in kickboxing, boxing, or Savate tournament, but Muay Thai fighters are very dangerous from close-range especially thanks to these strikes. Their clinch skills simply rock.
Elbows are very sharp, and it is easy to cut your opponent. Don’t forget about very entertaining knockouts. Technically, you can throw so many various strikes – slashing, horizontal, diagonal, spear, upward, uppercut, or even a spinning back elbow.
But definitively, the most dangerous position for your opponent is a single-collar tie clinch. Your other hand protects his head from moving, and you can make significant damage via horizontal, diagonal, slashing, or an uppercut elbow.
Muay Thai is also one of the best martial arts for MMA due to ground elbows. You can land them from every single position – side control, half guard, north-south, crucifix, full guard, butterfly guard…you name it!
I’ll be honest with you – when you mention 8 limbs of Muay Thai to random people in the street, I’d bet my house that the first thing that comes to their mind would be – an elbow. Please look at Yodkhunphon Sittraiphum highlights, his moniker is “Elbow Hunter” for a reason.
Knees are also a trademark of Muay Thai, especially of the clinch. Knees are the most powerful close-range weapon among the 8 limbs of Muay Thai. But masters of the ancient Siamese martial art can land flying knees too. It’s so entertaining to watch, isn’t it?
The most suitable position for knees is double-collar tie clinch or pummel. You can deliver powerful straight, diagonal, or curved knee to turn the lights out on your opponent.
Flying knee strikes plus straight knee are also a fabulous way to defend a takedown attempt, while rabbit knees sound like a superb choice when you push the opponent in the corner or on the ropes.
And if you’d like to enjoy a knee star from Thailand, I recommend you to take a look at Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn (his moniker is Mr. Sky Piercing Knee, easy to guess the reason).
Kicks (Shin + Feet)
Well, kicks should be the most lethal strikes of Muay Thai. You can hit via four surfaces – shin, heel, the balls of your foot, and the plantar (upper) side of your foot.
The roundhouse kick is very much often in the world of Thai boxing. This strike can turn the lights out when it hits the temple. To maximize the strike power, smash your opponent with the lower third of your shin.
Muay Thai slashing low kick is also one of the most lethal strikes ever seen because it is so hard to check it. Even if you’re a leg kick blocking expert, a real Thai warrior can find a way to go around it.
Teep kicks are a fantastic way to create the distance and create an opening for another, more powerful kick. Unfortunately, the opponent might easily counter it, plus there is no knockout power, so better use it only when you have to.
Thai boxing isn’t much famous for spinning kicks. You’ll see a spinning back kick and a spinning heel kick from time to time, but knockouts are rare.
Unlike Taekwondo masters, elite ring warriors from Thailand rarely counter foe’s incoming blows with spinning techniques, so it very rarely leads to a stoppage.
Saenchai is a master of switch kick and scissor kick. Knockout power? Oh yeah, but only masters perform this amazing strike in the competition.
On the other side, kicking expert Superlek Kiatmoo9 makes this aspect of Muay Thai look so easy.
Each of the 8 limbs of Muay Thai is a story for itself. Overall, it means thousands of combinations and ways to confuse or outsmart your opponent and put him to sleep. You can learn your whole life, but you’ll always discover new strikes and combos. It just speaks on the infinite aspect of the amazing Siamese martial art.