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Mastering Muay Thai: Understanding Permitted and Prohibited Techniques in Fights

Muay Thai is a martial art form that originated in Thailand, and it has gained popularity worldwide over the years. This combat sport is known for its highly effective striking techniques, which use the hands, elbows, feet, and knees. However, like any other combat sport, Muay Thai has its own set of rules and regulations that govern the techniques that are allowed and prohibited during fights. In this article, we will discuss the Muay Thai techniques that are permitted and prohibited in fights.

In a nutshell, Muay Thai is pretty much anything goes stand up except:

  • Nut Shots

  • Headbutts

  • Biting

  • Eye Gouging

  • Spiting

  • Disobeying The Referee’s Command

  • Provocative Manners

  • Catching The Opponent’s Leg Plus Making More Than Two Steps Without Using Any Weapons

  • Kicking The Downed Opponent

  • Illegal Throws

  • Striking whilst holding onto the ropes

  • The Use Of Forbidden Substances Sanctioned By WADA

Permitted Muay Thai Techniques:

  1. Punching: Punching is a basic technique in Muay Thai, and it involves striking with the fist. Fighters can punch to the head and body.

  2. Kicking: Kicks are an integral part of Muay Thai, and fighters can use their feet to strike their opponents in various ways. Kicks to the legs, body, and head are allowed.

  3. Knee strikes: Knee strikes are powerful techniques that are used in close-range combat. Fighters can use their knees to strike their opponents' legs, body, and head.

  4. Elbow strikes: Elbow strikes are devastating techniques that can cause severe damage to opponents. Fighters can use their elbows to strike their opponents' head, body, and legs

  5. Clinching: Clinching is a technique used to gain control over opponents in close-range combat. Fighters can use their arms to hold their opponents and deliver knee strikes or elbow strikes. However, excessive clinching is not allowed, and fighters are expected to break away from the clinch and resume striking.

  6. Pushing: Muay Thai is unique in that allows pushing and holding.

  7. Catching: It is permissible to catch kicks, but once caught, only a limited number of steps are allowed before releasing the caught leg. Running across the ring with the opponent's leg caught is not permitted.

  8. Sweeping: Sweeping your opponents leg is permitted.

Prohibited Muay Thai Techniques:

This is not a concise list but a good summary of what are classed as fouls;

  1. Headbutting: Headbutting is strictly prohibited in Muay Thai, and fighters cannot strike their opponents with their heads.

  2. Groin strikes: Groin strikes are highly dangerous and can cause serious injury to opponents. Groin strikes are not scored and the opponent will be given time to recover during a timeout.

  3. Hip throws / Judo Throws. Although throws are permitted in Muay Thai, hip throws or Judo throws are prohibited. This is because executing these throws requires the fighter to turn their back on the opponent.

  4. Turning your back on an opponent. If at any point you turn your back on an opponent you will receive an eight count.

  5. Biting: Biting is strictly prohibited in Muay Thai, and fighters who violate this rule are immediately disqualified from the fight.

  6. Profanity: The use of profanity or disrespectful language by the fighter or their corner can result in disqualification from the match in Muay Thai.

Muay Thai Rules, Regulations, Scoring, and Judging:

In addition to the permitted and prohibited techniques, Muay Thai fights are governed by a set of rules and regulations that ensure fair play and safety for all fighters. The scoring system in Muay Thai is based on a 10-point system, where fighters are awarded points based on their striking techniques, defense, and aggression. Judges score the fighters based on their technique, strategy, and overall performance, and the fighter with the most points at the end of the fight is declared the winner. For more on Muay Thai scoring go to our blog post on the subject:


If you commit a foul in Muay Thai, the referee may issue a warning, though the severity of the offense will determine this outcome. Generally, three fouls during a match will result in disqualification, so if the referee believes your rule infraction was unintentional, they may give you a verbal warning for the first or second offense. It is uncommon to witness an immediate disqualification in Muay Thai, even for a serious foul.

3 Points of Contact

In Muay Thai, a fighter is considered "down" when they have three points of contact with the floor, typically one hand and both legs or feet. At this point, it is not permissible to strike the downed fighter, and the referee will intervene to prevent any further strikes. However, it is acceptable to showcase a strike to the judges without making contact with the fallen opponent. It is common to see Thai fighters throw a kick and miss the downed opponent as a show of dominance. Unfortunately, this practice is widely misunderstood and has even caused riots in the past.

Muay Thai is a highly effective martial art form that requires discipline, skill, and endurance. While the sport allows for a wide range of striking techniques, there are also strict rules and regulations that govern the techniques that are allowed and prohibited during fights. Fighters who adhere to these rules and regulations are able to compete safely and effectively, and their performance is judged based on a set of criteria that ensure fair play and accuracy in scoring. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced Muay Thai fighter, it is important to understand and follow these rules.

To learn more about fouls in Muay Thai and the corresponding penalties, check out our upcoming blog post:

For more information on Muay Thai rules, regulations, judging and scoring plus full BBS / WBC / IAFMA rules go to our webpage.


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