The Art of Eight Limbs, also known as Muay Thai, originated from Thailand and is practiced by millions around the country. In the beginning, Nai Khanomtom was a POW and used his hand-to-hand combat expertise to escape his captors. Billed a hero, his fighting style became mega popular and soon was turned into a national sport.
It is probably the most violent martial art used in the UFC. And although Muay Thai is a Thai sport, you will notice that it is extremely popular in Brazilian MMA fighters. Shogun Rua, Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, Renan Barao employ a wide variety of tactics from Muay Thai. Muay Thai fighters are insane.
Muay Thai is one of the more simple Martial Arts to understand. The explanation of the sport can be found in the phrase, The Art of Eight Limbs. Thai boxing utilizes punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight points of contact. Simple, right?
Let’s dive a bit further
The punching techniques include the straight punch, swing, hook, uppercut, spinning backfist, superman punch, upper cut, and the overhead punch. The elbow techniques are the elbow slash, upper cut elbow, horizontal elbow, forward elbow thrust, spinning elbow, reverse horizontal elbow, elbow chop, midair elbow strike, and the double elbow chop. Majority of elbow strikes are used when there is not much distance between fighters.
The kicking techniques are straight kick, diagonal kick, roundhouse kick, spinning kick, axe heel kick, half spin half knee kick, jump kick, and step up kick. The most common used kick is the foot jab. Do yourself a favor and youtube “Jose Aldo leg kicks”. You will want to ice your legs after watching it. Aldo, UFC Featherweight Champion, is a master at leg kicks. Anderson Silva despite him now having nightmares about leg kicks (see story below). The knee techniques include the straight knee strike, diagonal knee strike, horizontal knee strike, curving knee strike, knee slap, and flying knee.
A characteristic of Muay Thai that differs from others is the utilization of the clinch. The fighter holds the opponent through the head, body, or neck with the hands locked together. The clinch is a very hard maneuver to defend because you can use elbows and knees at a very close range. Anderson Silva is a pro at this technique. Unfortunately, he is currently on suspension for PEDs (more on the UFC drug policy at a later date), so just YouTube “Anderson Silva Clinch” to get a good visual.
One aspect of MMA that I should go over is something that you will see in every single MMA fight. Watch any UFC fight and the outstanding commentary of Joe Rogan, Brian Stan, or Kenny Florian, and you will hear the term check. Checking a leg kick is a universal technique, not just for Muay Thai. Basically, you lift your leg up to block an incoming kick.
There are two little details that makes this move so effective, but if performed incorrectly, the risk of injury dramatically increases.
First, you don’t want to lift the leg too high. This is because the kick will miss its primary target which is the front leg, which is good. However, the leg kick will just hit the back leg which will knock you off balance, which is bad.
Secondly, the toes should be pointed upward throughout the leg raising motion. This will tighten the muscles in the shin and makes it very painful to the kicker.
A depressing but educational story
The newly crowned Middleweight Champion, Chris Weidman, was facing the G.O.A.T., Anderson Silva, in a rematch of the most shocking upset in UFC history at UFC 168. The first round was going Weidman’s way-he took Silva to the ground and started beating him from there. Fast forward to the second round. Silva threw a leg kick and Weidman, using the techniques I mentioned, checked the kick. Next thing you know, Anderson Silva is on the ground screaming in agony as his lower leg is shattered.
VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED! DO NOT WATCH THAT CLIP!
I warned you.
So basically, he breaks his leg, misses a full year to rehab, comes back after a year to win a fight, but then tests positive for steroids in one of the more bizarre and embarrassing NSAC hearings ever, thus being suspended and having his reputation tarnished, and his whole career being questioned. All because of a leg kick. Leg kicks can save your life… or ruin it. You’re welcome.
If you don’t take anything away from this piece, take this: Leg kicks can save your life. Or end your career. You decide, America!
Up next: Kickboxing.