JudgeNow this will be a difficult blog to write about, but I’m going to attempt it. I’m not going to write an in-depth analysis of the scoring criteria, more highlight certain points and explain them to the best of my ability.

I get asked often by some of the lads in the gym how a particular boxer may have won their match, or even how they lost one of their own bouts. So the aim is to try and enlighten a little on how and why it’s scored the way it is.

Most of you reading this are probably already doing Muay Thai and already know what a great art it is. All its techniques are some of the strongest in any stand up contest. What you may need to think is that a Muay Thai contest wasn’t designed to be the ultimate fighting system; I’ll explain what I mean.

As any sport, Muay Thai has its own set of rules which make it unique from some of the other fighting arts. Like in football, the idea is to get the ball from one end of the field to the other but you can’t pick it up, it would certainly be easier to pick the ball up and run down the field, but you don’t because of the rules. So there are rules to how a Muay Thai fight is scored.

The highest scoring techniques are those that show greatest effect and that define Muay Thai as an art. Some examples of effect would be physically wobbled, moved off balance from a shot, off balancing or turning in the clinch followed by a knee.

Certain techniques that define Muay Thai are favoured more than others, such as kicking to the body or a straight knee. Say one boxer is mainly relying on boxing and leg kicks and his opponent is relying on kicks or long knees to the body, if none of these are showing any visual effect then the ‘kicker’ will win the exchange over the ‘boxer’.

However, if the boxer/low kicker is showing visual effect i.e. the opponent is physically shaken or he’s folding with the low kicks and those body kicks aren’t moving the boxer off balance then the boxer/leg kicker is in control. If they are moving him off balance then…well, you probably get my point.

I suppose you can look at it as quality of attacks not the quantity that will win the fight.

I recently attended a Tony Myers judging course and took the assessment at the end scoring 100%, which I was quite pleased with. Tony is the leading authority in Muay Thai judging in the U.K and I would recommend his course to anyone with an interest in competing and coaching.

Tony said something which I found really interesting and I hadn’t really thought of it before. There was a study to show how different cultures perceive things. I find this fascinating as I had to learn about this a great deal while in Thailand.

As part of the study a group of Westerners and South East Asians were asked to look at a picture, in the picture was a fish. After studying it they were handed another picture which had a number of fish all over the page. They were asked to study this second image and then identify the fish they had seen in the first of the two pictures.

The Westerners didn’t really have a problem with this, as we are very literal. They studied what fish it was, what colours, what position it was in etc. The South East Asians on the other hand struggled as they studied the whole picture. They looked at what pond the fish was in, what flowers surrounded the pond and any other small details that were on the picture. So they looked at the whole page not just one detail. It’s interesting on how two cultures look at things differently.

This is very similar to how a Muay Thai fight is scored, where it’s looked at as a whole, rather than individual rounds.

How much of a margin you win the round by is another one that seems to confuse people over here in the west. I’ll give an example;

Imagine you’re fighting, to make it easy we’ll score the first two rounds as 10/10 each. Let’s say you edge round three marginally, the score card would show 10/9 to you. You lose round four massive it’s a complete landslide, no eight count was given, scorecards would still say 9/10 to the opposition, but the judge must remember this round. This is where it can get confusing, round five you win again marginally so the score should go down as 10/9 to you, but it doesn’t. You have to remember what work was done by your opponent in the fourth, because of how strong a performance he displayed. Round five would probably go as 8/10 to your opponent as to reflect the rightful winner. Here’s a diagram so you can understand what I’m getting at.

The diagram is only an example, I stress rounds aren’t scored in percentages but this is an easier way for you to see my point. If you look at it in a literal way red corner wins by 20%

Just to get rid of an urban myth that I hear quite often, the first two rounds DO score in Muay Thai! To win the contest you must be the more effective boxer, so in the first two rounds generally you are feeling each other out or as its early stages you are both fit and strong so it’s physically harder to show effect on your opponent. So more often than not it’s an even round.

In all fighting sports there are decisions that people don’t agree with, I for one would not be a judge or a referee, as you’ll probably get some abuse off someone who happens to disagree with you. I’ve even seen corner teams kick off at the judges which in my opinion isn’t appropriate, there is always a correct way in how to approach and address a situation.

I do how ever understand how people can get caught up in the fight especially if it’s a mate competing and emotions are running high. A judge telling them to go and learn how to score a fight before they express an opinion is correct but not the right way in addressing that situation, no-one wants to be told they’re stupid. This is where I think a bit of snobbery can be shown; “I know Muay Thai and you don’t” kind of attitude. It was this attitude that influenced my decision to take Tony’s course and test my own knowledge of the scoring criteria.

I have seen judges get attacked on public forums, which again is not necessary and uncalled for. The best way to deal with this is to not bite back, as more often than not they are only after a reaction. Argue your point with facts and they will soon get bored.

I’ll say it again I would not be a judge; I’ve only learned how it’s scored for my own benefits, fighting and teaching.

As I said I wasn’t going to go into an in-depth explanation of the scoring just highlight a few points that tend to confuse Joe public or even those that have been in the game for years. I hope this has been insightful and you understand a little more on how a fight is won.

Muay Thai is MuayThai. Love it or hate it. That’s how the game is played.