The most significant difference between Muay Thai & Chinese Sanda is that the former has strong roots whereas the latter has almost none! The Analects ?? say it well: "The Gentleman constantly seeks the root (of all things); (because) When the root is established the Way will develop (from there)." In the 80 years that Sport Muaythai that has been formed, it has never once separated from its roots in the 500 year old Traditional Muaythai, the very art that has been used on the battlefield when weapons break & arrows are depleted. In the centuries of constant fighting with the Burmese & Khmer invaders, Muaythai as well as its parent art Krabi Krabong have already reached high levels of maturity.
On the other hand, although Chinese Kungfu has a 4000 year old history, in the last century it has suffered greatly. Since the fall of the Manchurian Qing Dynasty, there was civil war, first between the Nationalists & the militant warlords & later between the Nationalists & the Communists. Then the Japanese invaded, & when they were chased out there was more civil war, followed by the Liberation, where the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, then the Great Leap Forward & the most disasterous period - the Cultural Revolution. All these historical turmoil in China had severely corroded all Chinese culture & traditions. Kungfu was affected in the same way. After the dust settled, when the Central Govt finally decided to carry out reforms, things were already quite different.
Thus in the 80s they came out with Modern Sport Wushu, consisting of newly made Taolu (forms) and half baked Sanda. The truth is, neither Taolu nor Sanda is rooted in Traditional Kungfu, even up till today. Why? Because most of the important tenets of Traditional Kungfu is already lost on the Mainland. Modern Wushu could not use what is left as its root even if it wanted to. But we shall not discuss Taolu, but Sanda. If we open our eyes wide, we could see that those fighters who are proven champions in Sanda today have all not practiced Traditional Kungfu before. For example, anyone can see that the superb, at times fancy kicking skills of former King of Sanda Liu Hailong are actually from Korean Taekwondo. The current King, Yuan Yubao is no different. Then there is Nashun Gerile, whose fast throws are obviously developed from his Mongolian Wrestling background. All these skills may be useful in the Sanda circuit, but at the end of the day, they are still not Chinese! Sanda in reality is just a mixture of Boxing, Taekwondo & Shuai Jiao, the only component that is partially Chinese. In all the previous Sanda VS Muaythai Challenges, though Sanda claims to represent Kungfu, they are actually deceiving themselves. So how can Chinese Sanda, without any roots in Chinese Kungfu, ever surpass Muay Thai, which is so firmly rooted & has such a long combat history?
However, on another side of the Earth, another Chinese martial artist had already shown the way. The famous Master Su, founder of the Pachi Tanglang MA Institute provides a good counter example of how Traditional Kungfu can be combined effectively with modern kickboxing sports. The Venezuelan Fighter that he trained up to fight in Thailand a few years ago achieved 5 World Muaythai Championship titles in 3 weight categories! It was a world record no less. He was able to do it because he had a solid base in Baji & Tanglang (Mantis) training. With these 2 traditional arts as his roots, he went on to train in Muaythai, in order to get use to their style of fighting. Adopting both the tradtional & the modern for fighting in the Ring, just look at the fantastic results of such a combination.
If the Chinese Wushu Association in Beijing really want Sanda to be equal, if not better than Muaythai someday, they only have 2 options. One option is to officially invite able traditional masters like Mr Su back to China to train a new batch of Sanda fighters, or choose to retrain the current Sanda fighters in the Traditional Kungfu styles of the Association's choice. But due to political reasons or perhaps just egoistic pride, I don't think they will choose the former. If fresh fighters are to train in exceptional kungfu styles as a base, they should do well when they progress to train in Sanda fighting. But since everybody claims their styles are the best, so what styles should one ordain as the compulsary basic?
During the initial years of the Han Dynasty, founding Emperor Liu Bang faced a problem of which school of thought should he adopt as his ruling system. There were a hundered different schools left over from the Warring States. Eventually, under the advise of his wise advisor, he chose to "Forsake the hundered schools, Venerate only the (Confucian) Scholars". Why? Because the Confucian system was adopted from the ruling system of the 800 year old Zhou Dynasty, based on Virtue, tempered with Rites & Music. It was the longest dynasty in Chinese history. In other words, no other school had such a long & illustrious history to back it. From then on, for more than 2000 years, right until the last days of the Qing Dynasty, no Emperor had dared to forsake the Confucian system of rule. Those who dared cause the downfall of their entire Dynasty without fail. So in the same manner should we choose the styles to adopt - based on historical merit.
It is necessary to divide the traditional styles into Northern & Southern, then among them choose the styles which are historically proven the most number of times. In the North, among so many styles, the Qing Dynasty Emperors had chosen to train themselves & their personal bodyguards in Bajiquan, for good reason. Later when Bagua Founder Dong Haichuan & his disciple Yin Fu entered the Forbidden City, the Emperor also chose to let the Palace Guards train in Baguazhang. From this we know that the value of these 2 styles is beyond doubt. If Baji is linear & explosive, then Bagua completely compliments it by being circular & ever-flowing. After the revolution, Bagua fell back into the populace whereas Baji continued to be used by the Nationalist Govt to train special forces as well as bodyguards for the important ministers. This practice carried on even after they fled to Taiwan after the Liberation. It is rumoured that even the Communists adopted this practice, even though many of them disdained Kungfu. Today, the world has changed a lot; the Nationalists in Taiwan are no longer Nationalists, just as the Communists in China are no longer Communists. But the view that Baji is a important Kungfu style for protecting the rulers on both side of the straits remains unchanged. Thus for Northern Kungfu, Baji & Bagua cannot ever be forsaken as the base of martial science.