The basic offensive techniques in Muay Thai use fists, elbows, shins, feet, and knees to strike the opponent. To bind the opponent for both offensive and defensive purposes, small amounts of stand-up grappling are used: the clinch.
The clinch is applied by holding the opponent either around the neck or around the body. In Western Boxing, the two fighters are separated when they clinch. Defensively, the concept of "wall of defense" is used, in which shoulders, arms and legs are used to hinder the attacker from successfully executing his techniques. Blocking is a critical element in Muay Thai and compounds the level of conditioning a successful practitioner must possess. Low and mid body roundhouse kicks are normally blocked with a raised shin.
Mid to high body strikes are blocked with the forearm, knee/shin. Roundhouse kicks to the mid section are often blocked/accepted by a slight rotation of the torso so that the attacking shin strikes the back quarter of the rib cage. Mid section roundhouse kicks can also be caught/trapped, allowing for a sweep or counter attack to the remaining leg of the opponent. Muay Thai is often a fighting art of attrition, where opponents exchange blows with one another. This is certainly the case with traditional stylists in Thailand, but is a less popular form of fighting in the contemporary world fighting circuit.
With the success of Muay Thai in mixed martial arts fighting, it has become the de facto martial art of choice for competitive stand-up fighters. As a result, it has evolved in order and incorporated much more powerful hand striking techniques used in westen style boxing, and the Thai style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable. Note: when Muay Thai fighters compete against fighters of other styles (and if the rules permit it), they almost invariably emphasize elbow (sok) and knee (kao) techniques to gain a distinct advantage in fighting.
Two Muay Thai techniques were adopted by fighters from other martial arts: The Thai low kick and the Thai roundhouse kick. They are actually variations of the same kick, but hit at different heights. The low kick uses a rotational movement of the entire body to hit the opponent's outer thigh or side of knee with the shin. When not properly defended against, this technique often leads to the end of the fight, as the opponent has great difficulty standing after a few powerful low-kicks. The Thai roundhouse kick is also unique and was adapted for its efficiency. The kick is carried out with a straight leg and the entire body rotating from the hip, which is "locked" right before the leg makes contact to the opponent. At close ranges, Thai boxers strike with the shin; at longer ranges, the foot makes contact.
Some knee techniques ("kao")
-Kao Dode (Jumping knee strike) - the Thai boxer jumps up on one leg and strikes with that leg's knee.
-Kao Loi (Jumping or Flying knee strike) - the Thai boxer jumps up or takes step(s), springs up off one leg and in mid-air switches to the other knee to strike. A quite spectacular sight when it connects.
-Kao Tone (Straight knee strike) - the Thai boxer simply thrusts it straight upwards. According to one written source, this technique is somewhat more recent than Kao Dode or Kao Loi. Supposedly, when the Thai boxers fought with rope-bound hands rather than the modern boxing gloves, this particular technique was subject to potentially vicious cutting, slicing and sawing by an alert opponent who would block it or deflect it with the sharp "rope-glove" edges or sometimes by the glass glued onto the "rope-gloves". This explanation also holds true for some of the following knee strikes below as well.
-Kao Noi (Small knee strike) - the Thai boxer hits the inside upper thigh (above the knee) of the opponent when clinching. This technique is used to wear down the opponent or to counter the opponent's knee strike or kick.
Almost all techniques in Muay Thai use the entire body movement, rotating the hip with each kick, punch, and block. The rotation of the hips in Muay Thai techniques, and intensive focus on "core muscles" (such as abdominal muscles and surrounding muscles) is very distinctive and is what sets Muay Thai apart from other styles of martial arts.
During a competition, the participants perform a lengthy ritual and ceremony before the fight (wai khru ram muay). The ritual is both for religious reasons and as a stretching warm-up.
Reference: Muay Thai. (2006, June 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:00, June 23, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Muay_Thai&oldid=59973234.