From boxingready.com comes this newbie-friendly assessment of the differences between the Sweet Science and the Art of Eight Limbs. . .
COMPARING MUAY THAI TO BOXING
Combat sports, as a whole, is non-existent. When examined closely, there are very few ways to generalize the vast number of disciplines and martial arts that make up “combat sports.” Where one fighting style is similar to another, so too do countless differences.
Consider the “Sweet Science” of boxing and the “Art of Eight Limbs,” otherwise known as Muay Thai.
Although boxing and Muay Thai do share some similarities, they are two wholly different sports, both very skillful. In Muay Thai, you learn how to use your whole body to attack your opponent, while in boxing you just use your hands.
If you wish to switch from one to the other, you will have to modify your techniques. Here’s what you need to know:
I. STANCE & POSITION
The orthodox boxer’s stance is side-on to his opponent with legs relatively wide apart. The boxer places his left foot farther in front of his right foot, having his weaker side closer to his opponent.
The boxer tucks his chin down towards his chest and keeps his rear hand guarding the right side of his chin at all times. His rear hand guard parries his opponent’s jabs and left hooks. His left lead hand is about eight inches from his chin, below your eyeline so that his vision will not be obscured. His rear elbow is tucked in to block body shots.
His knees are always bent for body support and to produce shattering power. His lead foot should be firmly planted and at about a 15 degree angle and your rear foot should be at about a 45 degree angle. His weight is evenly distributed between his front and back legs.
The Muay Thai fighter’s stance is also slightly side-on, but his feet are closer together with the heels lined up allowing his body to be balanced. The narrowed stance provides stability and power. His rear foot is at about 45 degrees to provide the power to push forward.
Both knees are bent to provide stability and increase readiness for strikes and blocks. His lower back and shoulders are curved slightly forward in a position ready to spring forward.
His chin is kept down towards the chest. His left hand is held at eye level and rear hand next to his chin, with his rear elbow tucked in.
Power in boxing comes from the legs, so footwork is vitally important to give our boxer the stability and balance that allows him to defend quickly and attack with power. Our boxer stays on the balls of his feet with weight equally distributed. He can move much more quickly from the balls of his feet.
When he steps forward and slides the back foot up, neither foot comes very far off the ground. He keeps his upper body relaxed and spine straight. He never crosses his feet, as he could lose his balance.
In Muay Thai, too, the correct footwork is essential. Our nak muay maintains perfect balance at all times. He never crosses his feet.
He plods forward with his front leg first, staying on the balls of his feet. His back leg follows. Moving to his right, his rear foot moves first. Moving to his left, his lead foot moves first. Quick and nimble movements from our mighty Thai warrior.
Our boxer relies only on his hands, focusing on punches to his opponent’s head and front of body. He employs, with lightning-fast reflexes and reactions, a slew of jabs, light and heavy punches, left and right hooks, uppercuts and combinations.
On the other hand, in Muay Thai, the nak muay’s feet, legs, knees, and hands are used on virtually any part of the opponent’s body.
Like in orthodox boxing, Muay Thai punches include jabs, hooks and uppercuts. Kicks include those to the body, legs and head. There are various knee techniques, including straight, diagonal, side, curving, jumping and flying. The elbow is used horizontally and vertically; forward-thrusting and slashing; backward and downward.
From his guard position, which he always maintains, the boxer handles incoming punches with various techniques:
Blocking means covering up his head with both arms held tightly together. He knows it’s better to take a blow on his arms than a more vulnerable part of his body.
Catching a punch entails meeting his opponent’s punch with the palm of his glove.
Parrying a punch simply deflects it, using his opposite hand to the one his opponent uses. With quick reactions, our boxer dodges incoming blows and slips left and right. Bobbing and weaving means he doesn’t stay a stationary target. A defensive jab against a very active opponent is very effective for our boxer.
Defensive techniques used by our nak muay are similar to that of the boxer, but different in that the whole body can be used for offense and defense. Blocking, parrying and dodging are common techniques for our Muay Thai fighter, followed by effective countering.
Disruption is a form of defense he uses to prevent an imminent attack, using techniques like foot-thrust jab, a.k.a. the teep.
–V. ANGLES & RHYTHM
Our boxer is a prolific cutter of angles, while our nak muay takes another route.
The boxer is continually rotating left or right to create different angles and advantages. For instance, he can deliver an uppercut by leaning to his left or right, creating an angle for more power and penetration.
Angles are less important for our nak muay. Generally speaking, he creates them, for example, by stepping to the rear with the back foot and rotating in an anti-clockwise position to throw a rear kick or a rear knee.
When it comes to rhythm, our boxer and nak muay most certainly dance to the beat of different drums.
For our boxer, there is a lot more body and foot movement prior to long punch combinations.
Our nak muay, on the other hand, tends to fight at a slower pace. He throws violently offensive combinations and often follows that up with a return to his guard or by transitioning into a clinch position.
In the ring, both our boxer and nak muay wear gloves and shorts, but the pugilist needs an additional item of clothing: boxing shoes.
One other difference is the flexibility of the gloves. Our nak muay works with a much less rigid glove than his boxing counterpart, primarily because this allows for better grip during clinch work.
–VII. SCORING SYSTEMS
Last, but certainly not least, is the all-important question: how do our boxer and our nak muay score victories in their respective martial art?
The scoring system in professional boxing is called the 10-point system. Both boxers start with 10 points and lose points if they are knocked down or commit an intentional foul following a warning. Judges will look for effective aggression, ring command, defense skills and hard clean punches.
Muay Thai contests are fought over five rounds. The judges consider aggression, ring and action control, effective technical execution, clear landing of techniques, the significant effect of strikes, posture and appearance of dominance and damage inflicted.
When considering these differences, plus the ones mentioned above, suffice to say that if you find yourself in a boxing or Muay Thai ring, it’s best to follow the rules – or accepted best practices of that sport.
- Simon Barker is the founder and chief editor at BoxingReady, a complete boxing resource covering fitness, product reviews, technique and general boxing information. When Simon isn't in the office, as a keen amateur boxer you'll find him under a jump rope or giving a punch bag a beating in the gym.