Muaythai Judging: What Techniques Score?
By Tony Myers
Differences between associations
What techniques score?
How are fights actually scored?
Some common mistakes made when judging Muay Thai bouts, and how to avoid them
The simple answer is all effective MuayThai techniques. However, this needs some explanation. The technique needs to be a Muaythai technique and not a kick or strike from another form of martial art. To produce a good score the technique should have a visible effect on an opponent. If a technique strikes the opponent's arms or shin, then generally the technique doesn't score. However, there are exceptions. For example, if a kick makes contact with a fighter's arm and physically moves the person being kicked or causes them to lose balance, solely due to the kick's power, that kick would score; although not as highly as a kick that had the same effect but cleanly made contact with the body.
The most important or best scoring techniques in MuayThai are those that have the greatest effect on the opponent. In both amateur and professional competition it is not the number or variety of techniques delivered but their effectiveness that is important in determining the winner of a fight. Therefore, it is possible for one competitor to use one type of technique exclusively and win if the use of that technique results in that competitor delivering more, effective techniques than their opponent. For example one competitor may win by only kneeing their opponent.
The very best scoring techniques include:
There are a number of techniques that judges in Thailand consider to be the best scoring techniques. These are the primary techniques that win fights, they include:
Knocking an opponent to the floor with a concussive blow (if the referee gives an eight count, two points are initially be deducted from the counted boxer's score card, if the boxer fights back strongly or has previously dominated the round, a one point difference may be awarded)
Unbalancing an opponent with kick or throwing action and immediately following with a strong striking technique
Knocking an opponent off their feet with a strike or kick
Throwing an opponent to the canvas using a legal throw
An attacking technique or combination that results in an opponent turning their back on the attacking boxer.
Although judges are looking for overall effectiveness and dominance, the successful delivery of any of these techniques, without a similar or equivalent response from an opponent, would result in a fighter winning that round. Maintaining physical and mental composure is the essential for a fighter if they are to win a fight. This is the reason fighters in Thailand place such emphasis on stance, footwork and balance.
Judges are looking to award the fight to the strongest fighter. They are looking for evidence of the effect of techniques, mental strength, physical condition and technical ability. If a fighter is forced by his opponent to show weakness, or any evidence of not wanting to fight, the judges will award the fight to their opponent.
Fighters will normally lose a round if they:
Turn their back on an opponent (In Thailand turning away from a fighter would result in a fighter losing the fight and not only the round)
Run or dance away rather than standing and fighting
Committing repeated fouls on their opponent
Use spoiling tactics or avoid fighting this includes, dropping to the floor when their leg is grabbed or in the clinch to avoid being countered and grabbing the ropes with intention of getting the referee to break the clinch.
Just because techniques make contact with a legitimate target doesn't mean they will score.
Techniques don't result in a point difference if:
They are weak and not delivered with force and on balance
They are immediately countered by an equally strong technique
They can be walked through by the opponent with little effect (e.g. an advancing boxer looking to attack, walking through a series of combination punches to deliver a strong kick would result in no score for the boxer delivering the punches)
Techniques that can result in a point difference include:
Techniques that cause a boxer to stop advancing and where that boxer doesn't counter attack immediately
Techniques that cause a boxer to cover up and not attempt to fight back (e.g. a boxer covers their body with a cross arm guard to avoid getting kneed and takes repeated strong knees to the arms or covers up using an international guard without fighting back)
Although the rules suggest that all techniques have an equal chance to score, certain techniques are favoured by judges as being more effective than others. Judges generally consider:
strong body kicks and well timed teeps (pushing kicks) that cause a loss of balance to be more effective than leg kicks (unless the low kick knocks an opponent off their feet or causes them visible injury)
Strong knees as more effective than punches (unless the punch staggers or drops an opponent)
Straight knees to be more effective than circle knees
Elbow strikes as not being particularly effective, unless they cut, stagger or drop an opponent.
So a number of techniques are favoured over others by judges when scoring, and the techniques listed in the best scoring section are considered particularly important. Even if a fighter is fractionally behind in a round, and they deliver one of the techniques detailed in that section, they would clearly win that round. For example, if a fighter, slightly behind in round five of an otherwise equal fight, managed to throw their opponent off balance and follow with a strong knee, the technique would win the round and the fight for that fighter (unless the opponent countered later in the round with an equally good scoring technique).
On to Fouls?