Muay Thai Rules [Your Complete Guide]

Last update:
muay thai rules

So you bought the gear. You paid for a membership in a Muay Thai gym and you’re training your bum off. But have you stopped to learn the Muay Thai Rules?

Well don’t worry, you’ll know them by the end of this article. 

Rule number one of all combat sports: There are no rules. Just kidding.

There are all kinds of rules and you must follow them. 

Whether you’re new to the martial art or you’re a bit experienced with the technical aspect, this article will help clarify some of the rules to make sure you have some idea of what is and is not acceptable in a Muay Thai fight.

Fighter & Equipment Requirements

The equipment used in Muay Thai is minimal, which makes it an accessible sport to just about anyone. 

Fighters of both genders must wear shorts at half-thigh length. Fighters in the red corner may wear shorts in red, pink, maroon, or white. A blue corner boxer may only wear black or blue boxing shorts.

Apart from making sure fighters look good, keeping fighters safe is also important. During a bout, mouth guards and groin guards are required and elastic ankle bandages are permitted. Shin supports, ankle and leg wraps and any other forms of footwear however, are forbidden.

While men are required to fight bare chested, female boxers are required to adhere to the same rules as men with a few additional requirements: they must wear sleeveless or short-sleeved shirts as well as a chest protector.

Additional equipment allowed to be on hand include two small drinking water bottles, two towels, two water spraying bottles, two stools and two buckets for use during the break time. 

Muay Thai Hand Wraps

Traditionally, a fighter’s hands were wrapped with horse leather, cotton, or other textiles. After wrapping, the fighters dipped their hands in a bucket filled with glue mixed with sand or glass. 

Fortunately for everyone, we’re living in a different age. Today Thai boxers must wrap their hands with soft material type hand bandages and it goes without saying that dipping them in sand or glass is not allowed.

The approved soft hand bandages must be less than six meters long and no more than five centimeters wide. Tape can be used to fasten the hand wraps to the wrist, but taping up knuckles is expressly forbidden.

In a professional fight, boxers are given their hand wraps by the boxing stadium manager and must use these. Personal hand bandages belonging to fighters are not permitted for use in a sanctioned fight.

Hand wrapping must be inspected by a fight official before gloves can be put on the fighter to ensure that the rules are being followed. 

Selecting the Correct Muay Thai Gloves

Fun fact: Boxing gloves were first introduced to Thailand in 1929 by visiting Filipino boxers. 

Today, any boxing gloves used in competition must be approved by the World Muay Thai Council. The specifications for approval include the requirement that the leather portion not be heavier than one-half (1/2) of the glove’s total weight and the glove’s inner pads must weigh at least one-half (1/2) of the globe’s total weight. 

Furthermore, the size of the glove for the fight literally goes hand-in-hand with the weight division of the fighter. 

Thai boxers in the Mini Flyweight division (105 pounds) to the Featherweight division (126 pounds) must use the gloves of six ounces .

Fighters in ranging from the Super Featherweight division (130 pounds) and the Welterweight division (147 pounds) are required to fight using eight ounce gloves.

The boxers between the Super Welterweight division (154 pounds) fight with ten oz gloves.

Cultural Equipment in Muay Thai

Depending on how closely to the letter of the law of the World Muay Thai Council the fight will be, you should also note the following cultural rules spelled out in the regulations.

According to the official rules of Muay Thai, a fight can only start after fighters must pay homage. Musical instruments for this ceremony include the Javanese oboe, a Javanese tom-tom (drum), and a two small cymbals. 

A sacred headband is required to be worn by fighters when paying homage.

Amulets around the upper arm (Prajiad) or wrapped around the waist are also permitted.

What is Illegal in Muay Thai

As we’ve said, traditional Muay Thai began with very few rules and the winner was the last fighter standing.

Needless to say, many additions have been made to the regulations of Muay Thai over the years. 

There are now many things deemed to be forbidden in today’s Muay Thai.

Before we list off illegal techniques in Muay Thai, let’s begin with looking at attitudes and behaviors that will result in a foul.

Disrespectful and provocative conduct and mannerisms and abusive language are not acceptable parts of Muay Thai. This includes spitting on an opponent, as well as sticking out tongue to make faces.

Disobedience or disrespect shown towards a referee is also a serious offence. 

It is also important to note that according to the official rules published by the World Muay Thai Council, fighters may not be given advice or council during a fight by their seconds or cornermen.

In terms of forbidden techniques, arm locks, use wrestling techniques and judo throws are specifically outlined as warranting fouls or other sanctions.

An offending boxer uses any of these techniques will receive either a verbal warning, a point deduction or a disqualification from the referee if he sees them. 

Similarly, the following techniques are prohibited:

  • Eye gouging
  • Kicks and knees to the groin (a fighter hit in the groin can be given a rest period of up to five minutes to recover after which time he should resume fighting).
  • Stomping or kicking the knees
  • Biting
  • Hitting with the inside of the hand
  • Head butts and head butt under the chin (check out Lethwei vs Muay Thai)
  • Hitting a fallen opponent or an opponent who is getting up after having been knocked down
  • Blows to the neck or back

It is also worth noting that Muay Thai rules sometimes vary in unexpected way depending on the stadium in Thailand.

For example, some Muay Thai arenas require fighters to wear long pants while others allow shorts or skirts. Long hair and beards are forbidden in some stadiums. So if you’re follicly gifted, you might need to get out the old electric razor. If you’re follicly challenged, keep on keeping on. 

Female Muay fighters are required to keep their hair tied with rubber or elastic bands to ensure there are no loose strands which could interfere with the fight. 

Scoring in Muay Thai Fights

Throughout much of Muay Thai’s history, the rules have been largely minimal. Essentially, fighters fought without any official points system. So, they would fight until one dropped or gave up, leaving the man standing as the obvious winner. 

Today, In Muay Thai, scoring is generally uncomplicated, inspired by British boxing rules, and calculated on a round-by-round basis with individual score sheets marked by judging officials.

The fighter that’s been judged as the winner for a round will get a maximum score of 10 points and the opposing fighter will score either 9, 8 or 7 based on his or her performance during that round.

Muay Thai Round Scoring

In the case of a draw, both fighters will be awarded 10 points.

  • A 10:9 round is where one fighter is judged to have won the round.
  • A 10:8 round is where one fighter is judged to have won the round decisively.
  • A 10:7 round is where one fighter is deemed to have won the round decisively and the opposing fighter has received a count from the referee.

A foul will result in a point deduction for the violating fighter.

BUT wait! There’s more!

Resilience and aggression are also both important aspects of scoring in Muay Thai. A fighter can lose a fight for using the count to catch his or her breath following a knock down even before the tenth count.

A quick leap back into action following a knock down will get a nod from the judges as it demonstrates resilience.

Similarly, strong punches called “luk kangrang” earn higher points. But a luk kangrang is only considered as such if the recipient shows any sign of a reaction.

No reaction, no point. If a luk kangrang results in a grimace or flinch or any number of physical reactions, the aggressive fighter receives a point (so be sure to check out our guide on how to stop flinching).

In other words, the effective execution and contact of a strike is part of the equation when gaining points but these can also be dependent on whether the recipient of the strike is able to control his reaction. 

Dominance and control of the ring and the pace of the fight also helps judges determine the winner. Fighters who move forward and maintain aggression throughout the fight earn points.

Timekeeping in Muay Thai

King Pra Chao Sua wrote an important book on Muay Thai that is still today seen as the “bible” of Muay Thai and in this book fights do not have a time limit; but rather took as long as needed for one of the fighters to start bleeding. The referee than decided whether the fight was ended or would continue. 

In other words, there was no limit to the number of rounds, and boxers fought until there was a clear winner or until one of them gave up.

Eventually, the need to standardize the length of rounds emerged. One early method of timekeeping was through the use of a coconut shell which would have a hole punched in it and be floated in a water tank. When the coconut shell sank, a drum signaled the end of the round.

Today there are more define rules which serve to protect both the fighters. Bouts are five three-minute rounds in length, with two minutes between rounds.  During the interval between rounds, fighters will hydrate, be cooled with spray bottles and towels, or treated by their “seconds” or corner men.  

Muay Thai Weight Classes

Throughout much of the long history of Muay Thai, there was no concept of weight classes — everyone competed against everyone.

It is also worth noting that there was less range in terms of the average weight of fighters since much of the population subsisted on a similar limited diet.

Gradually, fighters were weighed by stone as Thailand came into contact with the West. This weight measurement gradually shifted to kilograms, and by 1948, pounds were adopted as the measure of a boxer’s weight so as to be in accord with international standards.

Matching fighters with the correct weight is very important and fighters must meet a minimum weight to be cleared for a fight:

The weight divisions are as follows (in pounds):

  • Mini Flyweight 105
  • Junior Flyweight 108
  • Flyweight 112
  • Junior Bantam weight 115
  • Bantam weight 118
  • Junior Featherweight 122
  • Featherweight 126
  • Junior Light weight 130
  • Light weight 135
  • Junior Welterweight 140
  • Welterweight 147
  • Junior Middle weight 154
  • Middle weight 160
  • Super Middle weight 168
  • Light Heavyweight 175
  • Super Light Heavyweight 182
  • Cruiserweight 190
  • Heavyweight 209
  • Super Heavyweight 209+

Boxers competing with each other must never have more than five pound difference in weight between them. 

How to Win a Muay Thai Fight?

Obviously to win a fight you need to best your opponent through a combination of resilience, training and preparation and heart. A lucky strike can make all the difference.

But how specifically can you win?

There are three ways to win a Muay Thai fight can be won in one of three ways:

Knockout: If one fighter knocks his opponent out, they are immediately declared the winner.

Technical Knockout: Known as a TKO, this is the same as in boxing where the referee deems one fighter as not fit to carry on. We put together a full breakdown of TKO vs KO you may be interested in.

Points: At the end of the match, if neither competitor has managed to stop their opponent, then it goes to the judges scorecards.

The fighter with the highest amount of points is judged to be the winner. If both fighters are on the same amount of points then the match is declared a draw.

Respect is Part of Muay Thai

Muay Thai is an effective martial art but also one rooted in respect. 

Before a fight, fighters show respect to their opponents. They bow to the audience to show respect. They bow to their deity. They show respect to their teachers and their corner.

So it goes without saying, that a true Muay Thai fighter must also respect the rules when in competition, whether for amateur fights or championship bouts. 

Follow the rules and enjoy the ride.

Discover more important information with the Muay Thai stance.

Sources: RulesMT (

Photo of author


We're a team of fight fans and martial arts practitioners. Many of us have been involved in martial arts our entire lives.