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January 8, 2024

Competition for Kids in Muay Thai

Easton Admin

Competition for Kids in Muay Thai

While competition for kids in Muay Thai looks a little different than in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with the right coaching, prep and tools, you can help your child create a safe, positive, and formative experience that builds confidence and inspires them to keep working hard.

Whereas children can begin competing in Jiu Jitsu as white belts anywhere, competition in Muay Thai is more nuanced and the safest approach requires a more specific path.

Traditionally, with its strikes, knees and elbows, competing in Muay Thai can feel a lot more hard core than Jiu Jitsu – especially when it comes to head contact. 

For this reason, Easton has designed its Kids Muay Thai competition opportunities with safety at the root of any competition process.

Image: Forrest Bishop.

The breakdown

In striking competition, amateur Muay Thai uses a class system – A, B and C classes, A class athletes having the most fights under their belts and C class having the least. However, even at C class, fighters can make full head contact as long as they don’t use elbows or knees.

This makes beginner competition a little tricky because opponents may be ready to make head contact before your kid’s technique can handle dealing with that kind of aggressiveness. 

“If you google ‘kids Muay Thai in Thailand’ as a parent,” says Matt Bloss, our Kids Muay Thai Program Director, “you’ll probably be terrified. That’s why it’s so important for us to have a rule set where kids can compete and do so safely.”

[Easton Kids Muay Thai Belt Ranking System]

Coach Matt with a Tiger at the Easton Open Scrimmage. Image: Greg Streech.

A big focus for Easton the last couple years in Kids Muay Thai has been providing safe outlets for competition. 

To problem-solve some of these gaps in experience for beginner competitors, Easton has added and works within two other classes implemented by the US Muay Thai Federation – D and E. 

E class has no winner or loser; it’s an education class. We run our Kids Muay Thai Scrimmages at an E-class level: no head-contact at all and a protective body shield specifically made for Muay Thai, as well as headgear, shin guards, Thai shorts and a mouth piece. 

E-class success at the Easton Open! Images: Forrest Bishop.

At E-class level, kids get used to competing in Muay Thai gear, but they’re forced to use their teep – their body kick – to target the body. Kids have to do between three to five E-class bouts before moving on to D class. 

D class, Decision Class, carries the same rule set, but now it includes a winner and a loser. We will render a decision if there’s a winner or loser from a judge. Kids have to win at least five D-class bouts before moving up to C class. 

Some organizations recognize these classes, but some won’t;  unless they’re sanctioned underneath the USMF, they don’t carry D and E classes. 

By going through classes E and D first, focusing on body-kicks and strategy, children will learn how to get out of the close-range zone first before they go into using full head contact.

Image: Forrest Bishop.

Instead of a chaotic first fight experience that looks completely different from class, by the time they get to C class, they’ve competed 10-15 times – which marks A-class level for adults. 

This way, when your kid gets to that C-class level that most local state fights start at, rather than freeze up and burst into tears while the more aggressive kid advances, sprinting and punching, they’ll know how to grab them with the clinch and dominate them. 

“We want our kids to display a tactical and beautiful expression of Muay Thai,” says Coach Matt. “Putting your head down and throwing punches is like a hockey fight. That’s not what we’re doing.”

Plus, with what we know about head trauma and concussions, we’re not in any rush to have kids taking hard shots in the head!

A building process: from 0 to Olympian

Historically, because of the intensity of traditional Muay Thai, with 11 year-olds going on full rules, no gear and yes, elbow cuts, people have had trouble navigating its competitive space to make it safe for kids. 

For this reason, while Easton began 25 years ago and has a robust Kids BJJ Competition Team, we’re about 10-15 years behind on Youth Muay Thai as far as numbers of competitive youth athletes.

Whereas in Thailand, they’re pros the first time they step into the ring, we’re trying to make it more of a sport in the States. Our goal at Easton is to provide competitive outlets that look like the opportunities we have for our Kids Brazilian Jiu Jitsu program

Our Tigers Fundamentals Muay Thai class is our onboarding program for kids, and some but not all of our schools have Intermediate and Advanced classes. While we don’t have an official Easton comp team for kids in Muay Thai, we’re in the process of building it!

This year, we also put on our first ever strictly Tigers Muay Thai Scrimmage that was outside of our big Easton Open. The goal? To share the spirit of Muay Thai!

With Muay Thai on its way to being recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), we want to help educate parents about its benefits as a healthy outlet.  At the moment, Muay Thai is recognized but not medaled, meaning they’ll test it out with exhibitions before deciding to make it official – similar to what they did with skateboarding. 

Not only will Muay Thai improve your child’s confidence and self-defense skills, but it could lead to your child becoming an Olympic athlete. 

One of our ultimate goals for Easton Kids Muay Thai lies in what’s known as the ascension model – to take a kid who has never done Muay Thai and help them reach the Olympics!

Easton Open February 2023. Image: Greg Streech.

Who, what, where

If your child wants to compete in Muay Thai at a local level, you’ll definitely want to talk to a coach!

As an Easton student, they will start at one of our in-house events – either the scrimmage at the Easton Open, or the Tigers Muay Thai Scrimmage we’ve started doing on the off-quarter of the big events. These kids-only (no adults competing) events will use those as our E class bouts.

Once they get three to five bouts in and we feel confident about their skillset, they move up to D class.

Kids can start Muay Thai at Easton when they’re seven and can begin competing with a coach’s approval at yellow belt level. Typically, this takes around four to six months of training. 

Unlike Jiu Jitsu which has the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), with so many sanctioning bodies out there for Muay Thai all with different rulesets, processes and promotions, Easton strives to find the safest spaces and opportunities for its kids Muay Thai students.

Because the addition of E and D classes is still relatively new and not recognized by everyone, finding a place that will announce a winner/loser at the D class remains tricky. 

However, with our Adult Muay Thai Program Director, Sean Madden, on the board of the US Muay Thai Federation (USMF), we stay connected to the latest developments in the Muay Thai world and will have some exciting opportunities for our kids Muay Thai fighters!

Easton is a USMF-sanctioned academy – the only sanctioning body that is pushing the ascension model for kids. The Thai Boxing Association (TBAs) also partners with the US Muay Thai Federation and have offered D class fights before!

Ready to start your Muay Thai journey? Sign up for a free class at one of our eight academies!

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