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Cracking the Code: Demystifying the Scoring System of Muay Thai Matches!

The information in this article is taken partly from muaythaijudging.com which is an excellent source of information on Muay Thai scoring and judging by my friend Dr. Tony Myers. I also attended a Judging and scoring seminar at Rangsit Stadiums Institute of Muay Thai.


"It is kind of ridiculous the amount of foreign fighters here in Thailand who don't have any understanding of how Muay Thai is judged" Kru Nai


Muay Thai is a martial art that originated in Thailand and is known for its use of powerful strikes and devastating techniques. As with any sport, understanding the scoring system is crucial to understanding the game and appreciating the athletes' skill and performance. In this article, we will discuss the scoring system used in Muay Thai matches and how judges evaluate fighters.

This is not as straight forward as it sounds though, Muay Thai judging in Thailand follows a format that often confuses Non Thai fighters and coaches who are used to competing in Kickboxing, MMA and K1.


To understand Muay Thai scoring, think cause and effect, not just number of strikes. Strikes that cause visible damage, such as pain or loss of balance, score higher. Flick kicks and light touches won't cut it. In Muay Thai, one strong jab trumps three weak jabs. You will understand the scoring system by grasping this fundamental concept.


Muay Thai Rules

A lecture given by the muaythaijudging.com team.

Before we dive into the scoring system, it's important to understand some of the rules of Muay Thai. The sport involves two fighters competing in a ring, each wearing gloves and shorts. The fighters use punches, kicks, elbows, and knees to strike their opponent, and clinching (holding the opponent) is allowed. Muay Thai permits striking the entire body, including the back, but penalizes the fighter who turns their back instead of the one who strikes it. Fighters can catch strikes, push, and even use open-hand slaps and shoves. The match lasts five rounds, each round three minutes long with a two-minute break.



Scoring and Judging

In Muay Thai matches, the winner is determined based on the judges' scores, unless there is a knockout, stoppage or the referee stops the fight. There are three judges who sit ringside and evaluate the fighters' performance. Each judge gives a score to each fighter at the end of each round, based on their performance during that round. The referee does not score the fight.

The scoring system in Muay Thai matches is based on a 10-point must system. This means that the fighter who performs better in a round is awarded 10 points, and the other fighter is awarded a lower score, usually 9 or fewer. If the round is deemed a draw, both fighters are awarded 10 points.

The judges evaluate the fighters based on several criteria, including effective striking, technique, aggression, and defense. Effective striking refers to the quality and impact of a fighter's strikes, while technique refers to the fighter's skill and execution of techniques. Aggression refers to a fighter's willingness to engage and take risks, while defense refers to a fighter's ability to avoid their opponent's strikes.



Effective Striking

Effective striking is perhaps the most important factor in judging a Muay Thai match. Judges look for fighters who land clean, powerful strikes on their opponent, particularly to the head and body. A fighter who lands more strikes and has more significant impact on their opponent will typically score higher in this category. In Muay Thai, balance is key. A well-placed strike that lands but causes the attacking fighter to stumble or lose balance isn't considered effective. Balance means starting and finishing in a strong position (or stance) that allows for both defense and offense. A strong position enables fighters to defend themselves against strikes and launch counterattacks.

As my old saying goes "If you're not in stance you don't have a chance!"




Technique

Technique is also an essential factor in scoring a Muay Thai match. Judges look for fighters who use proper form and execution in their strikes and other techniques. Fighters who demonstrate superior technique and skill will often score higher in this category.




Aggression

Aggression is a key factor in Muay Thai matches, and judges look for fighters who are willing to engage and take risks. Fighters who are more aggressive and assertive in the ring will often score higher in this category, as they are seen as taking the fight to their opponent.


Defense

Finally, defense is also an important factor in scoring a Muay Thai match. Judges look for fighters who are able to avoid their opponent's strikes and defend themselves effectively. A fighter who can block or evade their opponent's strikes will often score higher in this category.



Scoring the fight as a whole.

In Muay Thai fights, judges consider the fighter who is ahead and the extent of their lead throughout the fight, unlike in boxing where a narrow lead in the early rounds may make it impossible for the other fighter to win on points. In Muay Thai, even if a fighter is behind after the early rounds, they still have a chance to win the fight on points in the later rounds if they can rally back and dominate convincingly.


The Priority Rounds.

In Muay Thai, fighters tend to remain tentative and study their opponent's style and reactions during the first round of a typical five-round match. However, this doesn't mean that the early rounds aren't scored. The judges evaluate the entire fight, and the early rounds are important for feeling out the opponent. Judges may score early rounds as 10-10, but they also record the fighter who did enough to win the round, although the margin of the lead would not be significant.

In the fifth and final round of a Muay Thai fight, fighters may slow down and occasionally raise their hands in confidence or touch gloves more. If both fighters believe they have done enough to win, they may not risk further damage and the action may slow down. However, if the fight is close or the stakes are high, the intensity may continue until the end. Raising hands is a way of claiming victory, and a glove touch may signify acknowledging defeat. If the understanding is established between the two fighters, there may be no need to fight on.


Misconceptions around Muay Thai scoring.

It is common for Non Thai coaches and fighters to think that Muay Thai is the same as Kickboxing / K1 but with the addition of clinching, knees and elbows. They assume the judging and scoring is systematically the same and the only difference is the arsenal of weapons available. This is often the cause of disappointment when a fighter who may of won using "strikes landed" criteria loses a Muay Thai match. This can be compounded by judging being inconsistent in countries outside of Thailand. More needs to be done to educate the Muay Thai community in how fights are scored in Thailand.


Summary

In conclusion, understanding the scoring system in Muay Thai matches is crucial to understanding the sport and appreciating the athletes' skill and performance. Effective striking, technique, aggression, and defense are all important factors in judging a Muay Thai match, and judges evaluate each fighter based on their performance in these areas. By understanding these criteria, spectators can better appreciate the sport and the fighters' skill and athleticism.



Dr. Tony Myers studied Muay Thai scoring at depth in Thailand is a renowned Muay Thai Judging expert. His website is highly recommended. muaythaijudging.com


Post Script Anecdote:

I was once fighting at a temple fair in Fang province, North Thailand. The locals were not used to seeing foreigners and were taking the micky out of me quite a lot. I got revenge by telling the ring announcer my name was "Derry Red Lorry Yellow Lorry" (very difficult for thais to pronounce and we all had a good giggle.)

Before the fight I noticed a bottle of local whiskey on each of the judges tables and during the fight I was bemused to glance at one of the judges and see that he was clicking glasses with some friends back turned to the ring. Last laugh went to the Fang Temple Fair I guess.


Muay Thai Fever has a detailed section Muay Thai Rules :

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