Who is to blame for this misunderstanding in scoring and why has is come about?
I don’t think any individual is to blame and don’t feel that blaming anyone is productive anyway; there are reasons why we have such misunderstanding. Trying to Place blame will only serve to ostracise people and prevent them from coming to the table to discuss a way forward.
So what are the reasons?
I think the main reason is perhaps to do with when Thai Boxers first started fighting in this country they were doing so on kickboxing shows with kickboxing judges. Quite often they were not fighting under Thai rules at all but rather using kickboxing rules. When competing under these rules fighters had to modify their style to suit and did what was required to win. In fact had they tried to win in these particular bouts by applying strategies and technique patterns as if they were being judged using Muay Thai scoring criteria they would never have won a fight. Consequently, when fighters were able to compete on dedicated Muay Thai shows, where all the bouts were Thai fights there where few, if any, experienced officials who were judging and refereeing pure Thai style. This also explains the confusion over rules that is sometimes evident, where there is a debate over what is and isn’t legal. This has resulted in negotiations often taking place on the day of a show, with trainers discussing what is to be allowed and what is not. The typical type of argument for example might be “well if you are allowing low kicks we want sweeps etc.”
So why the reluctance to change to proper judging and rules now?
There are lot of reasons people give for not wishing to adopt correct scoring. However I feel the main reason is a reluctance to change. To be successful when being judged using correct Muay Thai scoring, training methods have to change, and there are a lot of people unwilling, unable or unprepared to do so.
What about the argument that the English people will not understand the Thai way of scoring?
Ethnicity has no impact on their ability to understand scoring system. Scoring in Muay Thai is very straight forward and I’ve always thought of this particular argument as being as being hog wash. I have never had a problem explaining Thai scoring to anyone and getting them to understand; be it a total “layperson ” or someone with other previous Martial Arts training. I am currently helping out holding pads at professional boxing gym and they can grasp the scoring quite easily despite the fact that they have been involved in a different combat sport for many years.
So explain why it is possible to win the first three rounds of a fight and lose the last two but still lose the fight despite winning 3 of the 5 rounds.
It’s simple; Thai scoring is based on who wins the whole fight. What matters is the effect of the shots landed, not the number of shots thrown, work rate or aggression. Effect over the whole fight is what determines who wins. This means in essence a fight could be won by a boxer “pulling ahead” significantly in a single round in the middle of the fight and holding onto that lead until the end of the fight. Equally it can mean a boxer wins in the last two rounds of a bout, for example, If boxer A is ahead after the first three rounds, but boxer B comes back in the last two and overtakes Boxer A by scoring with more effective blows in those two rounds than Boxer A’s managed in the first part of the fight, they win. If, in the first three rounds the effect of Boxer A blows was not sufficient to stop boxer B coming back at him in the last two rounds and scoring with more effective technique, Boxer A work in the early rounds was not effective enough. The latter rounds are often the time the accumulative effect of blows landed can be seen visibly and so can play a significant role in judges determining the outcome of a bout. This may also suggest boxer A failed to pace themselves correctly during the early part of a fight and is another reason why we should be adopting correct scoring methods from the start.
I personally think people worry too much about “how to fill in the score cards” when you are looking at a fight in this way. People should concentrate more on what techniques they are going to try to score with.
What about the argument that Thai’s score it the way they do because of the gambling?
The scoring system in Thai Boxing has evolved over a period of time and as with any other sport has been subjected to a number of influences. Initially the scoring was strongly influenced by the scoring methods used in international style professional boxing at the time Muay Thai adopted a boxing ring and gloves. Since that time it has been influenced by a number of other things. In reality it doesn’t matter why Thai boxing is scored the way it is, what matter is that, this is the way it is scored! Undoubtedly gambling has had an influence on scoring. Gambling has been a part of Muay Thai since the inception of the current rules in the 1920’s. It has necessitated a system whereby everyone can clearly determine who has won a fight. The system used is a very clear and quite simple system of scoring, with clear guidelines. The consistency of the Thai judging system is tremendous, Tony Myers has conducted great research (currently in review by a scientific journal) into this and has found by applying correct scoring criteria, consistency of judges was found to be over 90% compared to less than 75% in the variety of other judging styles used in the sport. This level of consensus is a much higher consistency than you will find in western boxing and kickboxing etc. Such consistency gives a clear direction to trainers and boxers on how to win fights.
Our current crop of rules and scoring systems used here in the UK are based on the influence of a number of different sports and different perspectives on these sports. How many times do you hear boxing commentators discussing what the judges are going to like in a fight? How many disputed decisions do you see in boxing especially when one boxer may have been dancing around the ring jabbing into thin air, pinching points whist one boxer is pressing forward throwing more meaningful shots? You very rarely have disputed decisions in Thailand.
What about the people who refer to Thai scoring as stadium scoring?
This system of scoring isn’t just used in the two main stadiums in Bangkok; it is used throughout Thailand and in all parts of the world that have adopted the correct method of scoring.
People argue that there are enough people in the UK doing Muay Thai to have an influence over scoring
If some people in the UK don’t like the rules and correct method of scoring, fine. They should lobby Thailand and every other country adopting correct Muay Thai criteria to get it changed or continue as they are but not using the terms Muay Thai or Thai Boxing as they are misleading people! If they do not use correct methods, then call it something else, we already have K1, S1 and I1, call it whatever, but don’t include the word Thai.
What about the argument anything other than 5x3 Full Thai rules is kickboxing?
Whilst I can understand what they are trying to say, in this country a system exists where juniors fight without head contact and boxers learn their trade in bouts where elbows and knees to the head are not allowed. If we judge these differently, or change the rules in any other way than we already have by removing head contact, or elbows and knees to the head, then we will have to change the way we educate and train our fighters, It’s stupid and counterproductive.
Should all Thai fights be over five rounds?
Absolutely!! Again it’s a development thing; boxers should learn how to pace a fight accordingly from day one. It is not difficult to have fighters fight for the first time over five rounds, most of my fighters fought five round there first time in the ring with no problems. In fact four of them fought for titles in their first fight and all four won! I have heard the argument that work rate should count for something in junior bouts, why? Where is the development if we adopt a significant change in the scoring criteria? I agree with no head contact for juniors, but I don’t see it makes a big difference. Instead the juniors have to learn how to use the traditionally accepted higher scoring techniques of body, front kick, clinch and knee, instead of ploughing forward with boxing combinations followed by the odd kick!
What got you so switched on to correct scoring?
I asked a question ages ago on an internet forum, why do Thais fight the way they do? Why do they stand and trade at times, and why don’t they adopt the combinations and evasive footwork style adopted here etc. I was bombarded with emails from knowledgeable people who sought to educate me, one of the better ones coming from Tony Myers. This prompted me to read his article on judging and then subsequently arrange seminars and assessments at my gym. After this I found myself looking at old fights I had never been able to understand the decisions of, and I then saw them in a completely different light. I realised why I had seen Thai’s come over here, appear not to try and then complain when they didn’t get the decision. The fact was they had won quite easily using correct scoring. I’ve had lots of conversations with people who spend a lot of time in Thailand and people who are actually living in Thailand all of which support Tony’s courses. Tony spent more than like ten years researching the correct scoring methods and really ANYONE who has not done one of his courses should do! People argue about small things on this course but all I can say is using the criteria set out in Tony’s courses I have yet to get a decision on a Thai v Thai fight wrong.
One of the bigger arguments is that Tony says low kicks do not score.
This is incorrect; Tony does not say low kicks do not score! In order to score, low kicks must show effect, they must move the leg, off balance an opponent or result in a clear show of “discomfort”. I have thought about this a lot as it is an argument people are always making. I actually think that low kicks are more likely to score over here than in Thailand. In Thailand people are educated more on the necessity for a good stance and position in relation to the opposing boxer. This makes it easier to block low kicks. Over here I don’t think enough people stress the need for a good stance and consequently low kicks are more likely to have effect. It is one of the reasons why low kicks became such a big part of UK Thai boxing, we were always fighting people who had no idea how to stand or how to defend against them, and so it was easy to beat them. It’s not the case anymore!
So how does it get better?
Promoters have a responsibility to only use properly trained judges and referees. They can no longer just grab a few mates out of the audience who they have felt obliged to give a free ticket to.
Also the inconsistent message put across by commentators and trainers has to change. They have a duty to educate both their paying customers and also the general public in what is and isn’t legal and what does and doesn’t score! It is this mixed message that makes Muay Thai scoring seem complicated when it is actually very simple.
When discussing this problem a while back, One very well known Trainer said to me “I think what will happen is that the successful big gym will adopt the Thai way and perhaps start referring to it only as Muay Thai, the smaller less well successful gyms will stay as they are and start calling it something like Thai Kickboxing.” At which point I replied “so in order to be successful you adopt the Thai Way?” This wasn’t what he had meant to say, but even he had to admit, it was what he had just said!