Arjarn Nick Hewitson is from the Petchyindee Muay Thai boxing Camp International
I understand that the heading is likely to anger a great number of martial artists, well I'm sorry but its true, Thai boxing or Muay Thai as it is known is the most effective self defense system in the world. It is most commonly known as the ring based sport usually described as kick boxing, but Thai boxing is not kickboxing. Thai boxing is an unarmed combat system that was developed back in the fifteenth century by the country of Thailand (or Siam as it was then), to defend its poor country from the much larger and richer nations around it. Since it was introduced Muay Thai or Muay kaad Churk as the old style boxing was called, the country has been safe from the hands of its enemies. However the art has continued to be dynamic always developing and refining the art. In the 1920's the sport of Thai boxing was formalized in order to make it more acceptable to the rest of the world. This meant the introduction of boxing gloves and the refining of the rules to remove a number of the more lethal techniques. The sport of Muay Thai though has not diminished the art, as to this day it has beaten all other martial arts that have come up against it, so earning it the title "King of the Ring."
To the untrained eye Muay Thai appears to be very brutal, which it is if you don't understand how the art works. Thai boxing is the hardest physical contact sport in the world. The techniques are thrown at high speed and with full power. All training is conducted against physical objects, be it punching or kicking bags, kicking pads or focus mitts or against a physical opponent, as a result everything is real. The kicks in Muay Thai are not chambered as with Karate, Kung fu or Taekwondo. They are thrown through the opponent, with the power being driven through the hips. The kicks can best be described like using a baseball bat. With the other martial arts the kick is used like a poke with the bat. With the Thai roundhouse kick the shin of the kicking leg is thrown in the same manner you would swing a baseball bat if going for a home run. Another difference is that unlike the other kicking arts the roundhouse uses the shin bone rather that the foot as in most other martial arts.
Because of the reality based training that Muay Thai students go through there is a much better understanding of their ability and having to withstand these strikes and the physical conditioning involved makes them much better able to handle physical assaults.
After all rather than hitting air or pulling techniques at the last minute as in lots of martial arts, Thai boxers know that their kick or punch, knee or elbow will deliver the desired effect as that is what they have trained for. If your training partner weighs 200lbs and you kick them with all of your might and they are kicked across the room, you know that you can kick a 200lb man across the room. If however you are kicking air, you have no way of knowing how hard you are actually kicking. Also unlike the other more traditional arts the Thai pad men are there to help with your guard, so if your guard is not where it should be when you throw your technique, they will take great joy in hitting you in the head with the pad or boxing glove, so making you much more aware of the consequences of making a mistake. The same is not true of traditional arts where there guard can be down around their waist when a technique is thrown.
Because of the ongoing refinement of the techniques over the years the art is able to keep up with fighting trends, just as during the 1980's when the much more powerful Dutch fighters were competing in Thailand. The application of the roundhouse kick was changed, as the Dutch fighters having generally a larger upper body and their fighting relying more on powerful punches to win fights rather that kicks. As their Thai opponents threw the roundhouse kick the Dutch fighters would step inside and throw a right hand punch to the Thai's chin before the roundhouse kick connected with there ribs, so rather than throwing the arm out as had been done for many years the arm on the kicking side was pulled inside causing the elbow to come across the kicker's face as the kick was thrown, which meant if you were throwing a punch to the kicker's chin, the elbow would smash the punching hand before it got close and of course then the roundhouse kick would smash there ribs.
Muay Thai is all distance related when it comes to the techniques, for example you have the kicking techniques which are long range applications, punches which are medium range applications and the knees, and elbows where are the close or short range applications. Thai boxing also has the clinch from which most techniques can be applied to weaken and disorient and opponent. Unlike most of the other grappling based systems the Thai grappling is much more realistic as it is usually applied while you are wearing a pair of boxing gloves, therefore you use the skeletal framework of your opponent rather than grabbing there clothing as you would in Judo or Ju-Jitsu. Therefore making you use your leverage rather than your physical strength.
Another point to take into account from a self defense point of view is that Thai boxing's very powerful low kicks are thrown at there opponents legs. Therefore the usual limitation that a Taekwondo or Karate student might have due to wearing regular jeans which would hinder there ability to kick to the waist height doesn't become an issue.
There are no guarantees of success in any physical conflict however, it is in the manner that you train that fights can be won or lost. If you work with the actual and factual rather than the theoretical and untested you are more likely to prove successful in a situation of physical conflict. It could be a very painful lesson to learn after many years of training that your wonderful form and the "I could kill you with a single touch technique" don't actually kill or immobilize your untrained windmill-punching opponent.
One final note; as martial artists we learn to fight and cause pain to others, however the training that we go through teaches us the discipline, respect and honor of those arts so that we would rather not fight. It is much harder to walk away from a fight you know you could easily win than to actually fight.