Muay Thai vs San Shou?

One of our fighters, forum member Ejovi, came back from Thailand and said "hey, you were right, not many elbows" but he said that there was one match where suddenly it turned into an elbow fest. He said there was blood everywhere. After seeing it, and telling the gym guys, no one was that anxious to fight with elbows anymore :)

Most interesting.

Yeah very true, but not just with elbows.
Like Ikfmdc said, the fighters want to fight every
week, they don't want injuries. So even with punches,
kicks and knees they will do the minimum required to
stay ahead or break even on points, while keeping
their eyes open for the one KO opportunity to
end the fight.

If their opponent starts to up the intensity and lands
shots, they will respond and the tempo suddenly

Often in the last round, if a fighter recognises he
has lost a fight on points and is beaten, he will
give his opponent a nod. It means "let's just be
nice to each other this round, you have beaten me
and I accept that." He wants to fight again next week
and try to make up for the loss.

Interesting fight culture amongst the professionals.


How come your boys / girls never fight with elbows?
Are there many full Thai rules fights in the states
at all? I mean amatuer of course...

Is it a choice your club has made because of safety
or some other reason? Or is fighting full contact
with elbows just not the done thing?


elbows are friggin hard to find period in North America. The only promoter that I know of that puts them in consistantly is Mike Miles in Calgary. They dont allow spinning back fists though. Go figure, spinning elbows are allowed but not spinning backfists. LOL

In my experience, for Professional Rules Muay Thai, both Pennsylvania and New York used to allow full rules Muay Thai, elbows and knees to the head allowed! This may have changed however. (it's been awhile...)

Khun Kao

Elbows but no spinning backfists???
Y'know - that's become a real trendy move in Thai
fighting - the spinning backfist. I love it. I have
seen it used in Thailand and very popular here in
Australia too.

I guess that could be something that could be an example of a move that came from karate to Thai

I know here in New Englamd they are Illegal even for Pro Bouts (Damned Boxing Comissions) !


we'd fight elbow with the new pads, but not without. Why? My view is that it is far to easy to get cut up with an elbow, and for an amateur what would be the point?

Many of you seem not to be aware that the elbow isn't even that common in Thailand! For good reason, it's a business and many of the fighters want to be constantly fighting, not healing from cuts, to make money. Most of the time, they sort of agree not to elbow. Though I've seen instances where when one guy elbows, the other comes back with it also and suddenly it becomes and elbow-fest... and a bloody one at that

I've seen and heard the same thing. There is sort of a "gentleman's agreement" regarding using elbows. Kind of an unspoken rule that I won't use elbows if you won't. But, like lkfmdc said, after that first elbow is thrown, the "gloves are off".

Khun Kao

I was told that backfists in the UK, are no longer alowed due to a fighter knocked into a coma for 2 weeks. Thai backfists are not kickboxing backfists. in KB the arm comes around to the head before the hips. In Thai the opposite, so a Thai backfist has most of your bodyweight in it. I saw a great tape from Limpini where a fighter lands a BF on his opponent, while the opponent had a nice solid guard. He still got KO'd. As for elbow very few places in the US allow them. New England is such as wierd place. After campaigning for years to get just kickboxing legalized here, the boxing commision finally relented. One of the first shows had a couple of Muay Thai matches where fighters were throwing knees and elbows to the head. Lots of KO's, but the rep from the Boxing commission was horrified. Now no Elbows, and no Knees to the head. All amatuer fighters have to wear headgear and shinguards, which of course most MT fighters don't want to do. I had a couple of people fight in Virginia Beach where elbows to the body were allowed, but thats rare. While I understand from a sport safety point of view, I can't help but feel taking away weapons from the art only lessens it.

It is true, there are no spinning backfists allowed here in the UK. For a long time elbows were not allowed, however, recently there have been bouts where elbows have been allowed.

However, this is only in pristigious matches, such as the European Title etc.


I hate to admit it, but I agree with Bad Brad, mostly. San Shou is a little better for the MMA game then straight Muay Thai for the exact reasons he's mentioned.

I would say that learning Muay Thai's knee and elbow strikes is very important for the MMA game also. From what I understand, San Shou typically does not allow elbows and knees in competition, in favor of throws. Muay Thai is the opposite.

Each specialize in different areas of clinchwork, or inside fighting. San Shou is probably more practical for MMA, but it's still a good idea to learn the elbows and knees, because they will still come into play.

Or, if you can find a school that trains San Da, which is basically the best of the Muay Thai and San Shou Worlds combined, I'd recommend training in that. My understanding is that San Da not only trains for knees and elbows during the clinch, but throws too. Like I said, the best of both worlds...

(Nai Khanom Thom is rolling over in his grave now...)

Khun Kao

I would say the best thing to do for MMA is to train both. I would imagine that takedowns woyuld not be as easy when a good clincher knows how to use the knees. The same can be said for a guy who is good with knees will find it hard placing good knees when his opponent is trying to take hime down with foot sweeps etc.

Just my opinion. You should take the qualities from both of them and then work out your own way of fighting standing up.

Hope this helps,


Bad Brad- Thanks:)

Khun Kao-

If I'm not mistaken, you're familiar with David Ross/lkfmdc ( his school train "San Da"? Do you know of any other schools in the NYC area that train San Da?


I *believe* David Ross' school trains both, but it'd be best to ask him directly. I don't really know a heck of a lot about San Shou or San Da at this time other than a few basics about the systems. It's pretty new to me also.

So, as you can also imagine, I can't even begin to point you to any schools that teach San Shou/San Da other than Dave's.

Khun Kao

We train throws, knees and elbows (though never fight with the elbows); our guys compete Muay Thai as well as San Shou and soon we will start promoting San Da matches...