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Monday, September 20, 2010

Muay Thai Is A Battle Art Born In War!

Here at Jungle Miami we get asked all the time:

"What's the difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing?"

Muay Thai is 1,000 to 2,000 years old (records were destroyed during the Burmese occupation so we don't really know).  It was born on the battlefields when warriors lost or broke their weapons, or when battle conditions became to tight to use them.  When this happened, the Thai warriors would revert to their natural weapons: elbows, knees, kicks, and punches.

During times of peace, competitions were held between villages to keep these skills sharp because war was perpetually being waged with neighboring countries.  These competitions became Thailand's national sport today, and are held in large arenas that are televised all over the country.  The only place one can compete in these competitions is in Thailand, because they are considered too brutal by the rest of the world.

On the other hand, Kickboxing has multiple histories.  The oldest is Japanese Kickboxing (we call this "Oriental Rules Kickboxing"), and is a descendant of Muay Thai, with certain restrictions for safety (like no elbows, ruling "knockdowns" more conservatively, and limited clinch).  However, the one that we are familiar with is American Kickboxing, which is a descendant of the Karate point-fighting competitions.

Here, in America, in the 1970s, a group of Karate point-fighters decided that the current competitions were not realistic enough and wanted to compete more like Boxing... with kicks (hence the term: Kick-Boxing).  As a matter of fact they took the exact rules of Boxing, and added kicks.  You fought in a ring, with gloves, and judges and rounds.  You were allowed to kick and punch above the waist only.  To prevent pure boxers from entering the competitions and cleaning house, an 8-kick minimum was introduced where both fighters needed a minimum of eight kicks each round, or lose a point for each missed kick--making it impossible for boxers to win.

These were the days of Bill "Superfoot" Wallace, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, and Don "The Dragon" Wilson.  You were not allowed to knee, elbow, or strike in any way below the belt.  Although you could sweep the front leg only, and from outside to inside only.

Also worth mentioning is Boxe-Francaise Savate.  Savate originated in France in the 1700s.  It is the only form of Kickboxing where shoes are an integral part of the art.

A problem occurred when Thaiboxers, Japanese Kickboxers, American Kickboxers, and Savateurs tried to fight each other.  Namely, Thaiboxers and Japanese Kickboxers found the American rules too restrictive, and the American Kickboxers found the Japanese Kickboxing and Thaiboxing rules too overwhelming.  So, the International Kickboxing Rules (sometimes called "Freestyle Rules") were formed where fighters could punch and kick only, but the legs (above the knees) were now a legal target.

Nowadays there are three different rule-styles of Kickboxing aswell as Savate.  Then, there is Thaiboxing, which is commonly mistaken for Kickboxing.   It is mistaken for Kickboxing because, with the dominance of Thaiboxing over all other forms of Kickboxing and its rising popularity in the UFC, Kickboxers have jumped onto the bandwagon feeding off of the lack of knowledge people have for this foreign and little-known art.  They throw on a pair of Muay Thai shorts and call what they are doing Muay Thai Kickboxing.

(A little side note here: Thaiboxers get a little offended when you call us Kickboxers, however, we put up with it since it is so common.  But when we find people teaching Kickboxing and calling it Muay Thai...that really offends us.  These people know nothing of the traditions and the history like the Wai Kru, Ram Muay, Mongkol, Prajioud, nor whom Nai Kanom Tom or the Tiger King are! If you want to have a fun time, ask these instructors to perform their Wai Kru and watch as their eyes glaze over.  Sorry, I had to get it out.  The rant's over.)

So there you have it; the difference between Muay Thai and Kickboxing.  Kickboxing (as we know it) is Karate point-fighting mixed with Boxing.  Muay Thai is a battle art born in war and kept sharp through competition too brutal for the rest of the world.  It is not designed to win rounds.  It is designed to break whatever is in front of you, and to move on to the next.

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