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Head Movement, Boxing and Footwork in Muay Thai

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I often see the criticism repeated that nak muay have "bad" footwork, "no hands", and a "lack" of head movement, especially compared to western boxing. What are your thoughts on this?

Personally I think people who repeat the sentiment just don't watch a lot of stadium muay Thai and are only referencing what they know from being taught in their western muay Thai gyms, and I think people who say that despite watching a lot of muay Thai just don't know what they're watching. Obviously moving your head is going to be different in muay Thai than it is in boxing, because of kicks and knees and in-fighting is going to be much different because of the clinch and elbows. I don't think that means it's "worse", it's just different. I still see tons of slipping in muay Thai, tons of angling off and tons of lateral movement when they have room for it. People try to analyze muay Thai through the lens of boxing and don't consider or don't care that boxers only have to worry about two things: the left hand and the right hand. Naturally that's going to allow you much more freedom to move out of the way of attacks. If anything, to me that makes the head movement in muay Thai that much more impressive and the subtlety is lost on a lot of people. You're not afforded massive drastic slips and bobs because you'll be punished for it.

As far as the criticism of footwork goes, I think it's again people trying to analyze muay Thai through a boxing lens because the footwork in muay Thai is definitely not bad or worse imo. There's tons of stance-switching, angling, attacking while moving, etc. Again the movements are much more drastic in boxing because they're allowed to be, and in muay Thai it's more opportunistic. Furthermore a lot of it is stylistic and matchup dependent. There are gyms that produce punchers, gyms that produce kickers, gyms that produce knee fighters etc. If you're watching two knee fighters clinch each other, of course there's going to be fewer boxing exchanges and less head movement as they work forward towards a clinch. On the other hand I don't know how someone could watch any of the old Jocky Gym fighters for example and say they have bad footwork or movement. Same goes for the boxing, it's not emphasized in muay Thai scoring so people think they're bad at it. But then you watch fighters like Veeraphol, Lakhin, Toto, Somrak, Samart, Wangchannoi, Boonlai, etc and they have excellent hands. Some of them even transitioned to western boxing and did extremely well.

What do you think? Am I overestimating the abilities of nak muay or are people who share the criticisms underestimating and misunderstanding the sport? I don't think it's fair to compare footwork and head movement in a sport like boxing to something like muay Thai where it's simply not viable to fight the same way. Does the different ruleset mean nak muay are worse, or just different? I think if they were worse or "bad" there wouldn't be so many nak muay who transition to western boxing and still perform at high levels. Thoughts?

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I think as a whole if you took someone from Muay Thai and had them box without training boxing as a sport the combinations boxers throw might give them some trouble if the Thai is trying to stay in the pocket and exchange.  However I think Thais fair one thousand times better in boxing than boxers do in Muay Thai.  I’d image most boxers wouldn’t have the tools to close the distance and would be getting teeped to death.  

As far as head movement goes you’re absolutely right.  Idk what else to say.  They’re different sports, both are masters of head movement for their respective sport.  If you want to see a sport with bad head movement, that’s classically been kickboxing.  Maybe people mix up the two? 

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  • 5 months later...

"I often see the criticism repeated that nak muay have "bad" footwork, "no hands", and a "lack" of head movement, especially compared to western boxing. What are your thoughts on this?"

Depends on who's talking.

Someone untrained?  I ignore that completely and drink my beer.

Someone who's only experience is boxing?  I'll take what they have to say about boxing seriously but lowering your head makes it easier to get kicked/kneed in it.

Someone who's experience is in kickboxing/muay thai?  Them I'll listen too.

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