Muay Thai The art of eight limbs

Muay Thai instructor Zamri Salleh gives a demonstration of how to execute a jab, as part of the Muay Thai 101 series (photo credit: Syukri Anwar).

Our latest Sports 101 feature takes a look at one of the most popular Mixed Martial Art forms in Singapore - muay Thai. Also known as the art of eight limbs, muay Thai one of the deadliest and most lethal striking martial arts to ever exist. 

Muay Thai includes the combined use of a person’s fists, elbows, knees and feet. Developed during the sixteenth century in Thailand, it is now practised in many countries all over the world, including Singapore.

There are many fundamentals and techniques a practitioner of Muay Thai must acquire before stepping into the ring. Zamri Salleh, a Muay Thai instructor and fighter with over twelve years of experience locally and internationally, shares some of the basics to Muay Thai.

According to Zamri, step one to being a Muay Thai practitioner or fighter is to have the right mindset. 

“As a student, you must have the right attitude. You cannot be arrogant just because you have previous martial arts background. You should be friendly to the others around you and most importantly be attentive to your instructors and don’t take safety precautions lightly.” 

The next step would be to learn the basic techniques of punches and kicks. Even though Muay Thai incorporates elbows and knees as well, beginners need to get their techniques for punches and kicks right before moving on to knees and elbows. Before starting on any actual techniques, safety comes first and to prevent hands from getting bruises or sprains, handwraps are encouraged to be worn. 

Handwraps are used to protect wrists from twisting inside the glove and also to prevent bruises on knuckles from hard punches. To get started, the wraps have to go around the wrist a few times first before proceeding upwards to the knuckles. After that, go between each finger then back to the wrist. Professionals use this common handwrapping technique as well to prevent injuries.

Basic Punches

There are three basic punches that are commonly utilised in any striking martial art - the jab, the cross and the hook. 
“The jab is a straight punch that is usually thrown with no intention of damage but it is used to measure the distance between you and your opponent. If your opponent is at the end of your fist when you throw a jab, it means you will be able to make contact if you throw a cross,” Zamri explained, as he threw countless jabs to demonstrate his point.

A cross is a punch thrown with much more power than a jab. It is thrown with the intention of either knocking someone out or at least doing some serious damage. That also means that throwing a cross requires more effort than a jab as well. It involves the twisting of the hips and the ball of the back foot in the direction of the punch, giving it more torque and speed, hence more power.

The hook and the cross are similar as they are both punches that go for the kill. However, a hook is usually not thrown without being set up. Usually, in order to throw a clean hook, it would be wise to set up a mixture of jabs and crosses first before throwing in the hook. In the midst of these punches, the opponent will not be able to predict the moves. 


Next on the plate after grasping the concepts of punching is to learn how to kick. Zamri introduces two types of kicking - the power kick and the speed kick. Both kicks are essentially the same, but serve a different purpose. 

Power kicks are usually practices on sand bags, which are generally harder than a regular punching bag. A common practice among Muay Thai practitioners is to practise their kicking on hard surfaces to toughen up their shins. Beginners will definitely feel the pain on their shins at first due to experiencing micro fractures.

Through the process of cortical remodelling, the fractures on the shin will heal over time, forming a harder bone on the surface. This will help to strengthen the shin and to prevent injuries to the shin during an actual fight.

Speed kicks are not thrown with as much force as power kicks but as the name suggests, are much faster in nature. Practising speed kicking is a good way to train endurance and build stamina. The key is to learn how to regulate breathing with each strike in order not to be gassed out too easily. Muay Thai practitioners have found themselves to feel much lighter after regular trainings of speed kicking, which allows their kicks to be much faster during sparring with an opponent. 

There are many variations to Muay Thai techniques that are unexplored, but there is no express route to being a great practitioner without going through the important fundamentals first. Zamri, a long time practitioner of Muay Thai, shares his experiences and advice for aspiring fighters. 

“I have trained, taught and fought Muay Thai for twelve years. My advice to anyone who wants to start is to attend your first class with a strong mind set. It will be physically tiring but with a never-say-die attitude, you will be able to overcome these challenges in times to come.” 

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