Muay Thai is a sport with many weapons. There are a huge number of techniques, ranging from the traditional ‘8 Limbs’ of punches, kicks, knees, and elbows, or the diverse range of sweeps and throws available for use in the ring. While there is a huge number of ways to approach a fight, it may surprise some fans to find that not every technique scores. Or, more specifically, many techniques only score under certain conditions.
This makes judging Muay Thai extremely nuanced and has resulted in quite a few misconceptions about what does or doesn’t count on the judges’ scorecards in many gyms outside of Thailand. As a result, there are a lot of fighters losing fights, not because they lack the skills to win, but because they aren’t armed with the correct knowledge on how to make their techniques count on the scorecards.
With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a look into the encyclopaedia of Muay Thai techniques and separated them into two key categories; those that will always score and those that don’t score unless specific conditions are met.
But First, A Note On The Scoring Criteria
Before we list Muay Thai’s “conditionally scoring” techniques, it is important to understand the scoring criteria that judges use to determine the winner of a bout as this will help clarify why a technique will score or not.
Simply put, the fighter who is most effective is determined to be the winner. If you are landing clean techniques on your opponent but they aren’t having a notable impact, they aren’t weighed as heavily on the scorecards or even scored at all.
For the sake of simplicity, an effective strike does any of the following:
- It knocks your opponent down.
- It throws your opponent off balance.
- It has a clear effect on your opponent e.g. it moves their body, causes damage, or makes them tired.
- It forces your opponent to turn their back.
- Well-executed and beautiful technique is also considered.
Scoring techniques are those that will always be favored by the judges regardless of their effect. these include:
Of course, the effect is still considered for these techniques, and the shots that move an opponent, knock them off balance, or send them tumbling onto the canvas will still score higher than those that simply connect but simply landing these techniques will be enough to get some credit from the judges.
Any sweep and throw that sends your opponent crashing to the mat should be pretty effective. But, considering Muay Thai is a sport of nuance, it is pertinent to explain the situations in which they won’t make an impact on the scorecards.
An ineffective throw or sweep would be one where you lose your balance in execution, or your opponent pulls you down with them. Sure, you’ve sent your opponent to the canvas but in doing so you’ve lost balance yourself and shown poor execution and technique. If this happens, you might have erased all of your hard work. So, if you want your sweeps to score, make sure you’re standing over your opponent afterward.
Conditionally Scoring Techniques
This list of techniques is much longer and much more complicated to explain, for each technique we list, we’ll also give you some clarification on the conditions you can use to maximize their impact in the eyes of the judges.
1) Leg Kicks
A leg-kick in and of itself will not have any effect on the scorecards but there are two ways in which you can ensure that your leg-chopping efforts are recognized by the judges. Firstly, you can boot your opponent with so much force that their leg buckles under the power. This will have a clear effect on your opponent and will also throw them off balance, therefore it is a scoring technique.
Alternatively, an accumulation of many leg kicks over many rounds can cause your opponent’s leg to bruise and swell or cause them to limp. If this happens, then your leg kicks will be noted to have had an effect. The risk here is if you are fighting on a global ruleset where the bout is judged round by round as opposed to as a whole, you may not be rewarded for your hard work until it is too late to make a difference on the scorecards.
Landing a high volume of punches on your opponent doesn’t score for much, especially if your opponent is kicking your body every time you throw your hands. That being said, punches will score if they are effective. A headshot that snaps your opponent’s head back, or a body shot that folds them over will score. Likewise, punches that wobble your opponent, turning their legs to rubber and staggering them score highly.
So, the secret to making punches count on the scorecard is simply, quality over quantity.
Elbows, like punches only score if they have a clear effect. An elbow that connects won’t score unless it either, knocks your opponent down, snaps their head back, unbalances them or causes a cut.
Having your foot connect with your opponent’s midsection while throwing a push kick won’t necessarily score. Luckily, it is pretty easy to make any push kick an effective strike. All you need is a bit of accuracy and timing and you’ll be able to unbalance your opponent or even knock them onto the canvas.
As a side note, judges in Muay Thai will also look at “ring action and control” when trying to determine the winner of a contest. If you can utilize teeps to effectively control the pace of a fight and consistently keep your opponent where you want them, this will have an impact on the outcome of a fight. The key here is consistency. One or two teeps throughout a fight does not constitute control so if you can land your teeps, ensure that you are either unbalancing your opponent or landing a lot of them consistently if you want them to score.
The Muay Thai scoring criteria make it incredibly dangerous to use blanket statements about which techniques score and which ones don’t. While kicks and knees to the body and head are highly favored, any legal technique can affect the scorecards. How much they score is determined by how effective they are. So, instead of lumping techniques into scoring/not scoring categories, it is smarter to think. If you’ve off-balanced, rocked, or damaged your opponent, you’ve landed a scoring shot.
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