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Muay 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.
One 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While finger tips of steel are outdated, there are Karate weapons retain some value.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.
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