Beyond The Eight Martial Weapons of Muay Thai Boxing

 Beyond The Eight Martial Weapons of Muay Thai BoxingMuay Thai is often referred to as the ‘Science of eight limbs’ which actually refers to eight weapons or points of contact. Namely, elbows, knees, fists and feet which translate into close range elbow and knee strikes and long and short range kicks and punches.

If weapon volume were a measure of effectiveness Karate with many more empty hand martial weapons than Mauy Thai, would come out winner. Restricted by the rules of the game Muay Thai is limited to little more than the eight weapons mentioned, in terms of striking, while the non-sport form of Karate unrestricted by such rules has many more.

There are all sorts, I used to be amazed by the bizarre hand shapes purported to be used to attack various body parts of a victim. That Karate retains these Martial Weapons and trains them all as strikes indicates their importance, at least at one time.

 Beyond The Eight Martial Weapons of Muay Thai BoxingOne of these, spear hand, (nukite) a toughening of the fingers to be effective. This initially requires the striking of sand then increasing grades of gravel, which maybe a little extreme for the Western palate, in most cases anyway.

But why bother? Back in Okinawa, an occupied nation had to learn to fight the bad guys who wore bamboo armour, punches just wouldn’t do the job. The narrow entry of the fingers of the spear hand would potentially pierce between bamboo slats and damage the wearer.

While finger tips of steel are outdated, there are Karate weapons retain some value. For instance, thumb and second knuckle attacks can be utilised in a standing/grounded grapple, while certain karate blocks can offer a whole dimension of attacks in close. I was once told there are 33 striking points between the finger tips and the elbow!

So in terms of weapon volume Karate could be considered superior to Muay Thai. However, in terms of damage caused the Thais have it, comfortably. As possibly the longest standing combat sport Mauy Thai has a proven method of delivering it’s weapons to their target. Some of the antiquated techniques from the ancient version, Muay Boran, have fallen out of use, presumably because they were less effective as ring rules progressed.

[youtube] [/youtube]

The superiority of Muay Thai over Karate lies in the delivery of it’s weapons to the target. Thai boxers throw the kitchen sink behind their weapons, whereas in Karate stance limitations greatly reduce the transfer of generated force or momentum into the target. Karate could do with loosening up and getting some kitchen sink into the delivery.

By comparing even an average Muay Thai fighter throw techniques with a standard Karate exponent the difference in potential for force transfer is apparent. The demands of the ring require a sorting of technique wheat from chaff, whereas the demands of form and tradition mean that all techniques are retained and formalised with the goal of remaining true to the original style.


While, probably, well intentioned the outcome of form and tradition is a dilution, of effectiveness, through stagnation. Hanging onto an antiquated method for the sake of history is a little like the battle reenactments of the Sealed Knot, style over substance.

Originally posted 2010-09-03 23:26:21. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

14 thoughts on “Beyond The Eight Martial Weapons of Muay Thai Boxing

  1. Great post! I retired from Taekwondo with my 1st dan – our school tried to balance sport with tradition. The female in that video is actually throwing a fairly modern (modern in the sense of karate or TKD) version of the round kick. Note that she is pointing the knee AT her target which increases the speed. If you really want to see contrast to the Thai kick then take a look at the traditional, chambered kick!

    The female gains some speed at the expense of power loss. The traditional version has much more power but due to chambering (cocking the knee at 45 degrees), telegraphs the kick and also loses some speed.

    The kick boxer learns how to throw that same kick from a higher and more mobile stance. Just as much power as the traditional version but it has the same speed as the modern taekwondo/karate knee-pointing version. It also has less telegraph than the traditional karate/TKD version.

    Bob Patterson recently posted..Martial Arts News 9310

  2. hi Bob

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    I was actually taught along the lines of the bloke in your example. I had trouble finding an equivalent to the kickboxer clip, I really wanted some karate guy kicking pads or something, but didn’t find what I wanted.

    Your example and explanation is correct the kickboxer has speed and power while the comparison videos sacrifice one for the other, well put.

  3. Karate_Stylist (KS) on “Superiority of Muay Thai Technique Over Karate Technique.”

    KS has been reading a number of the author’s posts on the drawback’s & limitations of karate form. Traditional karate form, in the author’s experience & opinion, constrains or contricts the delivery of physical power against the opponent. Before KS continues, KS will say, as I have earlier, that traditional karate overall has many weak points & drawbacks which must be addresssed for one’s karate to become effective, especially in fighting.

    Furthermore, KS agrees with the author that the Muay Thai style presents an excellent, if not best approach to delivering the greatest purely (external) physical power of the body against the target. The author captures this concept in his statement, “Thai boxers throw the kitchen sink behind their weapons ….” It is KS’s understanding that Muay Thai fighters do this by twisting & rotating their bodies as well as they often physically launch themselves forward utilizing both body weight & momentum to their advantage.

    KS thinks a great example backing the author’s stated superiority of Muay Thai over Karate is the recent MMA bouts between Lyoto Machida (Shotokan karate) & Shogun Rua (Muay Thai). From a strictly full-contact fighting standpoint, KS accedes that Lyoto Machida’s karate was ‘outclassed’ in both fights by Shogun Rua’s Muay Thai.

    Having said all that, does KS believe that Muay Thai is superior to traditional karate? NO! WHY? To answer the issue correctly, KS believes you must look at & understand the BASIC PRINCIPLES underlying traditional maritial arts training. A number of the commentors dance around the issue of ‘form over function.’ Again, KS concurs, the author is accurate in his many observations on how karate can go wrong or fall short; however, the author’s conclusions about karate aren’t valid because the premise is wrong.

    Briefly, these premises are: KS’s believes that 1st, the type of physical power generated by the karate practitioner is fundamentally different in certains ways than that produced by the strictly physical bio-mechanics of an athletic approach such as Muay Thai. Furthermore, real karate is not a sport. KS is not trying to out scrimage a 300 lb. linebacker. The intent is to hurt the linebacker so he (all 300 lbs.) can’t play.

    KS, 2nd believes that, as opposed to ‘throwing the kitchen sink at the opponent,’ as exemplified by Muay Thai, traditional karate emphasizes CONTROL. The karate practitional always has & maintains complete control over his physical actions. The source of this control, comes from extreme mental discipline. The discipline of the mind leads to control of the body at all times. The (hoped for) result is the karate practitioner can act & respond in the exact way needed in order to defeat the opponent.

    The martial art purpose–besides physical conditioning, of the ‘perfect form’ everyone (rhetorical) is complaining about is to train the mind to exert that discipline over the body all the time ==> producing a precise & successful result. We meet brute force & physicality with mental & physical (forceful) precision.

    KS has experienced & witnesses exactly the types of training & students & instructors who are doing the form-over-funtion karate so rightly criticized by the author. The training goal SHOULD BE to really get inside and understand the true & legtimate principles of TRADITIONAL martial arts training. Once the karate practitioner begins doing this, the form will take on meaning and provide the desired effect–true martial art capability both physical & mental melded together (ie., marital function).

    And that mixture of abilities is fundamentally different than the sports-based, athletic (“muscle memory”) styles such as Muay Thai (which still is a very good practical fighting style in it’s own right–no argument). If karate people aren’t living up to the standards so often–it’s because karate training is so much harder to do properly.

    If you, the traditional karate practitioner, strive to do what KS has advocated, the “Form Police” may find themselves learning from you.


  4. KS – thanks again for taking the time to provide your thoughful viewpoint on this topic.

    Clearly, you are someway ahead of the ‘standard’ karate person, whatever that is. Please realise that when I discuss Karate in terms such as those in this article I am referring to Karate in very general terms. I have met and trained with some very exceptional Karate people over the years, Karate can produce exceptional martial artists but this is not always evident. In fact, it is rarely evident, a huge amount of the training has very little value.

    You mention that the

    training goal SHOULD BE to really get inside and understand the true & legtimate principles of TRADITIONAL martial arts training

    I agree that would be hugely more beneficial, but this is usually not the case as form over function takes the fore. The difficulty comes in understanding what these principles actually are. Often looking outside of Karate you can find the answers, or at least potential answers. It’s a bit of a process but very rewarding.

    I continue to find kata ‘applications’ the more I train. The interesting part is that the karate movements tend to be more effective when used in a manner different to that I was taught. Blocks are not blocks! While you say that the karate principles are fundamentally different to those of Muay Thai et al I both disagree and agree.

    On one hand they are different because of the manner in which these styles have developed over time yet similar because the body has only so many ways in which it can move and therefore only a finite number of ways in which the body can produce power. You touch on some of these in your response.

    The CONTROL issue is something that karate tends to ‘big up’ and is fundamentally flawed. But I will devote a blog post to this, to expand on what I have written previously.

    To finish, I’ll say that you are very insightful in your observations and I am sure that you can teach the Form Police a thing or two, in my experience they don’t want to listen……

  5. Great article, I have to agree that kickboxing is a much more effective more direct approach to fighting. It cuts out all of the unnecessary technique that the likes of karate and other martial arts introduced.

    As said above one of the major differences is the stance adopted by kickboxing which is a lot shallower allowing for faster transfer of weight and kicks.

    Ive been kickboxing for nearly 10 years and choose to use a stance somewhere in between a karate and thai boxing stance to try and get the best of both. Ultimately you need to be able to adapt it as required to different situations.



  7. Adaptation is key, you’re right John. That’s the main issue with karate the insistence on precise form which simply has to limit the free flow of your movements, not good. Thanks for the comment

  8. I do clench! But that’s another story……..

    We try to include methods from all sorts of MAs and anything that helps you control the other bloke is critical and included……

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge