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The rules of Thai boxing (Muay Thai)

by Pierre To
10 minutes to read

Learn all about the rules of Thai boxing as they are applied in Thai stadiums.

The sports organisation of Thai boxing is subdivided into many acronyms and federations, so that the rules can be formulated in different ways.

The rules of Thai boxing: the ring

The ring, which measures between 5 and 7 metres on each side, must be surrounded by at least 3 rows of ropes.

The floor shall be lined with a soft, elastic material, 4 cm thick, and covered with canvas.

Dress code for Thai boxing fighters

The boxers (nak-muays) will present themselves in an appropriate outfit for the fight, consisting of shorts and a jockstrap for the shell.

They must fight bare-chested and barefoot, but are allowed to wear anklets. They may tie a ribbon called a "prajeet" around one or both arms.

The sacred headdress called "mongkon" is permitted during the preliminary and ritual phases but must be removed before the fight begins.

Thai boxing shorts

Thai boxing shorts

Thai boxing bandages and gloves

The seams will be protected by a three-metre elastic band, secured with adhesive tape. Gloves can range from size 6 to 16 ounces.

The weight of fighters in muay thai

A doctor will perform a general physical check-up which will allow the boxer (or woman) to fight or assault (light-contact version).

The weighing operations are carried out in the presence of the opponent and his assistants, and take place at least 4 hours before the match.

The rules of Thai boxing: the rounds

The official matches have 5 rounds of 3 minutes with 2 minutes rest between each round in Thailand (sometimes even 1 minute 30 rest in Europe).

But in France it depends on the "class" in which the nak-muay practitioner evolves. The "classes" go from "D" to "A" for the seniors (20 years and older).

Thai boxing rules

Assistants to Thai boxing fighters

Each fighter may be accompanied by two or three assistants depending on the class (coach and trainer).

The rules of Thai boxing: the scores

Points are awarded according to the following evaluation criteria:

  • Technique, precision, power and damage caused by each blow (punch, kick, elbow and knee);
  • Defensive skills ;
  • Combativeness and attacking skills;

The judge's rating (focuses on the difference between the two fighters - professional English boxing code)

  • Tie: 10 points per round to each of the two protagonists,
  • Slight advantage: 10 points to 9,
  • Net advantage: 10 points to 8,
  • Overwhelming advantage: 10 points to 7.

When boxers score the same number of points, the victory goes to the one judged to be the most combative.

- Penalty: The referee is authorised to withdraw a point each time the fighter commits a serious fault or a repeated minor fault.

Thai Boxing Referees and Judges

The final decision is made by a referee and two judges, who fill in their respective bulletins (judging cards) at the end of each round.

The decision is made after the last round on the basis of the judge's cards.

Permitted moves

The following blows are allowed: punches, elbows, knees and kicks.

Hand-to-hand combat can be quite long, often involving knee strikes, and may end in a throw or even be interrupted by the referee.

The circular kick at different heights (head, trunk and thigh) is often delivered with the shin.

The roundhouse kick seems to be the most commonly used and is often considered the "basic kick" of the competitive fighter.

The rules of Thai boxing: irregularities

  • Striking the opponent when he is down, when he is getting up or after the round is over
  • Pulling hair.
  • Bite or spit.
  • Strike the eye with the thumb.
  • Support yourself on the ropes.
  • Fighting while holding onto a rope.
  • Maliciously avoiding the opponent's attacks, for example by pretending to fall, to slide under the ropes or to hide behind the referee.
  • Intentionally hitting the genitals.
  • Committing any incorrect action that may injure the opponent.

Reminder: A fighter who commits a foul but does not cause a handicap or injury to the opponent will be given a verbal warning and penalized by one point.

A fighter who deliberately commits an irregularity which disadvantages or injures the opponent may lose the match for fault or be disqualified by the referee, without notice, if he repeats his attitude during the match.

In the event of an unintentional fault preventing the continuation of the bout, the referee shall stop the match;

He will therefore award victory by technical knockout to the boxer with the highest score, or declare a draw if the scores are equal.

An athlete may complain about an irregularity to the referee, who shall make an immediate decision:

if he considers that the offence does not fall within the scope of those listed above, the fight will continue.

Victory in a Thai boxing match

Victory is declared:

to points ;
by K-O: the fallen opponent does not get up within 10 seconds;
by technical knockout: the referee interrupts the fight because an athlete :

  • is in no condition to continue
  • does not show up after the gong is called
  • suffers an injury that prevents him from continuing the fight
  • by doctor's decision, following an injury
  • by abandonment: one of the combatants declares that he does not want to continue the fight
  • by disqualification of the opponent for serious misconduct
  • by judges' decision: once the fight is over, the judges award victory to the boxer with the highest score

Thai boxing rules: decisions

unanimously: 3 votes in favour ;
by majority: 2 votes in favour and 1 against ;
draw :

  • if this is the decision of two out of three judges,
  • if the judges' opinions are all contradictory;

"No-contest: in case of an unforeseeable phenomenon or an injury at the beginning of the fight.

  • If this is the decision of the judges at the request of the supervisor, because the two athletes are fighting incorrectly or avoiding the confrontation.
  • When a fighter is on the ground, the referee orders his opponent to go to the neutral corner, and immediately starts counting from 1 to 10.
  • If the boxer who sent his opponent to the ground does not obey, he stops counting, repeats his order and waits until the order has had its effect before counting again.
  • If the fighter falls to the ground during the count or before being counted 8, the fighter may continue.
  • If the fallen boxer is not fit to continue the fight, he must continue counting to 10.
  • If the fallen boxer gets up before being counted 10, and then falls again, he must start counting the seconds again.
  • If both boxers fall to the ground:
  1. It starts counting and does not stop if one of them gets up.
  2. He declares the match a draw if, at 10, neither of them gets up.

Specific modalities in Thai boxing

The bell does not save the fighter from being knocked out of the fight (from counting seconds), except in the last round.

At the end of the seconds count, the boxer able to continue the fight will be declared the winner.

Professional categories

Official categories of Rajadamnoen : (At the Lumpini Stadium in Bangkokcategories stop at Welters)

Straw (-47.5 kg / -105 lb)
Mid-fly (-49 kg / -108 lb)
Fly (-51 kg / -112 lb)
Super-fly (-52.5 kg / -115 lb)
Roosters (-53.5 kg / -118 lb)
Super-cocks (-55.5 kg / -122 lb)
Feathers (-57.5 kg / -126 lb)
Super feathers (-59 kg / -130 lb)
Lightweight (-61.5 kg / -135 lb)
Super-lightweight (-63.5 kg / -140 lb)
Welters (-67 kg / -147 lb)
Super-welters (-70 kg / -154 lb)
Medium (-72.5 kg / -160 lb)

In Europe, the categories are different according to the federations and very often correspond to the international fist-boxing organisations (notably the WKA, ISKA, WKF and WAKO).

Thus, the categories under 75 kg, under 81 kg, under 90 kg and over 90 kg (heavyweight) must be added.

You can find accessories (gloves, shorts, oils) on :

The Muay Thai shop ofAmazon

See also :
Muay Thai, Thai boxing
Muay Thai techniques with illustrations
Thai boxing music
The Ram Muay, a ritual dance from before Muay Thai fights

Source: Photos: Thai boxing shorts: Henrik Björnklint; Muay Thai child: Love Krittaya; Match in Bangkok: Dmitri1999; wikipedia.org ; en.wikipedia.org

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