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Does Muay Thai have grappling?

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

Does Muay Thai have grappling?

Table of contents:

If your new to Muay Thai, you may be a little confused around what the rules are, and how it differentiates its self from other martial arts such as Kickboxing and Boxing. One of the most common questions we get asked from Muay Thai newbies is, does Muay Thai have grappling?

Muay Thai does have its own aspect of grappling, but it's not the form of grappling that you'll be used to from more mainstream sports such as MMA where fighters take each other down. In Muay Thai, the clinch is the form of grappling, allowing fighters to master the art of fighting in close quarters.

Takedowns are not permitted in Muay Thai, however you can sweep your opponents to off balance them and get them to the ground, which is a high scoring move if used effectively in a fight.

What are the main rules in Muay Thai?

The main rules of Muay Thai are:

  • Fights take place in a ring between 6.1m x 6.1m and 7.3m x 7.3m.

  • Competitors competing in a professional match should be over the age of 15 (outside of Thailand) and their weight should be in the same weight category and not more than 5 pounds difference in weight.

  • Before every Thai Boxing fight, each boxer is required to pay homage in accordance with the heritage of Muay Thai. This involves a ritual dance accompanied by music played by a Javanese tom-tom drum, a Javanese oboe and and a small pair of cymbals.

  • Muay Thai bouts have 5 rounds each of 3 minutes each, with a two minute rest period between each.

  • Once the bout begins, both fighters attempt to win the match by utilising their fists, feet, elbows, knees and shins in an attempt to defeat their opponent.

  • The fight is won once one fighter knocks out their opponent, the referee stops the fight because they deem one fighter unfit to carry on or the fight goes the full distance and one fighter is declared the winner on points.

  • Should the points totals be equal then the match is declared a draw.

Rules in Muay Thai will vary dependant on your location, and if the fights are amateur or semi-professional, however the rules above reflect the most common rules you'll see in Muay Thai bouts.

Can you take someone down in Muay Thai?

The takedowns that you see in MMA can't be used in Muay Thai, however you can use sweeps and techniques to off balance your opponent and get them to the ground. If you successfully do so, and you off balance or ground your opponent, this is seen as a high scoring move in a Muay Thai bout.

Learning how to correctly sweep an opponent in Muay Thai takes a lot of time, and practice and it's one of the harder techniques to learn, as you'll also need to have a good judgement of when someone is off balanced, which will only come with experience and plenty of sparring and technical practicing.

Below is a video which highlights some brilliant sweep techniques, and how to perform them.

What is clinching in Muay Thai?

Clinching is a form of grappling in Muay Thai where you hold your opponents neck to launch your attacks, mainly knees and elbows.

Clinching requires the fight to take place in close quarters, and it's an extremely technical and grueling position to be in, that if you haven't trained adequately in, you'll begin to feel the energy and strength sap from your shoulders.

If you are facing an aggressive opponent, the clinch is a great option to neutralize their attacks and close the distance. To hold your opponent, you have a variety of options such as the double collar tie, single collar tie, bear hug or double underhook clinching positions.


Muay Thai does have its own form of grappling in clinching, and it's an extremely important part of Muay Thai training that shouldn't be overlooked. In Thailand fighters spend at least an hour every day just training in the clinch as they know how important and how effective the clinch can be.

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