Muay Thai 101: The Art Of 8 Limbs

Updated: Apr 18, 2018

MacKenzie vs Jerome from ECL2: Bring The Heat

The Edmonton Combat League (ECL) is dedicated to the growth and promotion of the sport of Muay Thai in Edmonton, Alberta, and Canada! As a part of that mandate we think it’s important to highlight the fighting art, and then take the time to explain some of the more nuanced traditional and spiritual aspects.

A martial art of Buddhist origin, Muay Thai is over a thousand years old, and is also the national sport of Thailand. Commonly referred to as the art of eight limbs, Muay Thai is unique in its freestyle form and use of punching, kicking, elbow and knee strikes. The true grace and beauty of Muay Thai however, is found in the Muay Thai clinch, a grappling element which allows practitioners the ability to move seamlessly from long, to middle and short distances, without losing the offensive, defensive and counter offensive capability.



Cross-fertilization with Western boxing has led to boxing punches being used in Muay Thai: lead jab, straight/cross, hooks, uppercuts and over-hands. Body punching however, is used in limited capacity in comparison to most other striking combat sports to avoid exposing the attacker's head to counter strikes from knees and elbows. You can however find crossover techniques such as spinning back fists that have made their way into the art via exposure to other martial arts.


Othmane Sedki from ECL1: Parking Lot Brawl

The two most common kicks in Muay Thai are teeps (your front kicks,) and the roundhouse kicks. The Thai roundhouse kick has been widely adopted by practitioners of other combat sports because of its power, speed and precision. The roundhouse kick draws its power almost entirely from the rotational movement of the hips. Counter-rotation of the shoulders and arms are also often used to add torque to the lower body and increase the power of the kick as well. Because of its fluid nature however, Muay Thai allows the use of most varieties of kicking aspects that can be found in various martial arts (spinning back and heel kicks, ax kicks, side kicks etc.)


Spinning Elbow from Scott MacKenzie

The elbow can be used in several different ways as a striking weapon: horizontal, diagonal-upwards, diagonal-downwards, uppercut, downward, backward-spinning and flying. From the side, it can be used as either a finishing move or as a way to cut the opponent's eyebrow so that blood might block their vision. What makes the elbow strikes special is the fact that they can be initiated as a short range weapon from a very close distance, or a transitional weapon to move from landing your punches on the outside, to getting on the inside and doing some serious damage with your knees and elbows.Elbows can also be used defensively in a variety of ways, making them very versatile and unique weapons. Remember, an elbow strike can cause serious damage to the opponent, including cuts and even a knockout…



The Muay Thai knee is a very dangerous weapon that can be used from the middle and short distances, as well as in the clinch. Knee strikes are not unique to Muay Thai, but certain applications of the knee strike are unique to Muay Thai, and make Muay Thai knee strikes a formidable weapon in the right hands.

Clinching & Neck Wrestling

Sweep from Karlando White at ECL1

In Western boxing when fighters clinch, they are separated, in Muay Thai however, they aren’t. It is often in the clinch where knee and elbow techniques are used to deadly effect. To strike and bind the opponent for both offensive and defensive purposes, small amounts of stand-up grappling are used in the clinch. Clinching effectively required the opponents to be strong, fluid, have good balance and reaction time. In a sense, the clinch is an entire close quarters fighting system of its own, and contains strikes, sweeps and throws that can be used individually or in combination to best your opponent.