Often referred to as Thai kickboxing or simply Muay Thai, Muay Thai kickboxing is a form of martial arts that originated in Thailand. In fact, the country widely celebrates the sport as a national pastime. It is believed to have evolved from muay boran, an ancient form of boxing used by the Siamese military against their enemies, the Burmese. Many speculate that Muay Thai kickboxing dates back more than 2,000 years.
Muay Thai kickboxing is often called the Science of Eight Limbs, mainly because it relies on eight points of contact: the hands, elbows, knees, and feet. This is the very aspect that separates the sport from other forms of martial arts, such as boxing, karate, kung fu, and even kickboxing. Each of the aforementioned styles primarily rely on two points of contact — usually the fists, or both the fists and feet. Although Muay Thai shares the most similarities with traditional kickboxing, it distinguishes itself entirely with vertical grapples that fighters can use for their strikes.
Stand-up grappling is one of the most unique aspects of Muay Thai kickboxing, particularly a move known as the clinch. A clinch is a technique wherein a fighter is facing his opponent, and uses his hands and elbows to strike the challenger in the chest or collarbone. This particular technique is used to keep the opponent at bay, so the aggressor can land strikes with more accuracy and efficiency.
Although it may have existed since medieval times, Muay Thai kickboxing has only recently received mainstream exposure. Most of this notoriety can be directly attributed to the growing popularity of mixed marital arts (MMA). A large number of MMA fighters use Muay Thai, or techniques influenced by the art, to craft their fighting style. Many combine it with Western boxing styles and other martial arts techniques. Anderson Silva, Mauricio Rau, and female MMA fighter Gina Carano, are just a few well-known fighters to adopt this increasingly popular form.
Muay Thai kickboxing is viewed by many fans as the ultimate combat fighting sport. With the exception of the head, just about any part of the body can be used to throw strikes, and almost any part on an opponent’s body is considered a fair target. Though some call it a violent sport, Muay Thai proponents often state that it is an enlightening form of martial arts that encourages discipline and self-awareness. Some people have also discovered that Muay Thai training is an ideal exercise for health and fitness.