This is going to be a rather unusual blog, in that it is not as linear as most of my posts. And, honestly, I am not sure how people are going to react to it. To begin with, I am not sure how my friends in the Muay Thai community will feel after I post this. Because I am going to state that Muay Thai in the stadiums of Thailand is NOT about who is the “best fighter.” Rather, it is about who is the best at scoring under the system used in Thailand in the stadiums.
This distinction was never very clear. Both the Japanese and the Dutch strove for a significant period of time to “beat” the Thais using various combat methods. In the early Kyokushinkai vs Muay Thai matches, the Japanese fighters attempted to use Judo to counter. Toshio Fujiwara, a vanguard of Japan’s “new combat sport” movement, sought in western wrestling methods to counter the Thai clinch.
The Dutch were strongly influenced by the Kyokushinkai they had first studied. They were influenced by Savate traditions. The Dutch style was heavy on boxing combinations. The Dutch originated the conception that the only way to beat the Thais in Muay Thai was to KO them, and they were successful many times in this respect. Yet the basic truth still eluded them; the way to win in the ring in the stadium was not to be the “best fighter” but rather to understand the way the matches were being scored.
The unintended consequences of this misperception was not simply the creation of “kickboxing”, a Japanese sport that borrowed heavily from Muay Thai but never embraced Thai scoring, but also one of the major strains of “mixed martial arts” in Asia. Cross training to find methods of producing “better fighters” and/or to find external answers to Muay Thai methods created new arts entirely. Classic examples are Shooto and Shootboxing
A more troubling observation is that even today, despite DECADES of cross training and access to authentic Muay Thai training in Thailand, this distinction is still not really understood. In today’s UFC/MMA world, “Muay Thai” has become a default training for the athletes. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with this….
Often, a so called “MMA gym” offers some method of striking they label “Muay Thai” that is anything but! Muay Thai is NOT simply a collection of western boxing, some leg kicks and trying to grab the head to knee. Muay Thai’s clinch features UNBALANCES but not “throws” in the sense of Judo, Sanshou or Wrestling; yet students from “MMA gyms” enter Muay Thai contests and attempt double leg takedowns and hip throws!
On the flip side, authentic Muay Thai trainers often are hired to teach MMA athletes. Yet, if the coach doesn’t understand that MMA is NOT Muay Thai, and is not scored using the same criteria, certain tactics, indeed certain TECHNIQUES become not only unsuitable but irrelevant. In a stadium in Thailand under authentic Muay Thai rules, kicks to the body are high scoring. In the octagon they are being “blocked” by the arms, are not scoring and can actually lead to leg injuries. Western boxing scores as much, if not MORE, in modern MMA than kicks and clinch work. The list is extensive. Something to ponder, now go train! http://www.nybestkickboxing.com/