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a large group of Easton Muay Thai students wearing their colored ranked shirts

There’s No Ranking System in Muay Thai

The ancient and battle-tested Art of Muay Thai can be traced back all the way to the 16th century in the Kingdom of Siam. Before the modern sport of Muay Thai came about, the art was practiced as a form of hand-to-hand combat for the military. By the 20th century, the Art evolved into a sport with rules and scoring with the help of King Rama VII. 

In the motherland of Thailand, the sport of Muay Thai is very much a business: a business of developing fighters, running the gym, and creating champions. Unlike other martial arts (Jiu Jitsu, Karate, Taekwondo, Judo) there is no formal ranking system in Muay Thai. In Thailand, the only “rank” that can be earned is through winning fights and championships. The only accolades held are championship belts and trophies. 

So Why the Ranking System at Easton? And What Does it Mean? 

After reading the intro to this blog, you may be confused. Why does Easton Training Center’s Muay Thai program have a ranking system? How is that possible? Does it even mean anything? Do the Easton Muay Thai ranked shirts matter anywhere else? These are common questions not only from new students, but visitors who stop in to train with us. So let’s dive into why we have a Muay Thai ranking system at Easton and the benefits it brings to our program! 

The Difference Between Muay Thai in Thailand and Muay Thai in America 

Photo by Joe Stump

As I mentioned before, the sport of Muay Thai in Thailand is very much a business. A business of making fighters. Muay Thai is also a business in the US, but it’s a business with a different objective. The majority of students who join any Muay Thai gym in the United States don’t necessarily want to compete. Muay Thai, at its core, can be a brutal sport. If you decide to pursue a fighting career, you’re likely to accumulate a long list of injuries from the sport.

It makes sense that most students are looking to learn something new, learn self-defense, and exercise, without risking serious injury by fighting. So, Muay Thai in America focuses more on teaching the Art of Muay Thai without living the life of a grizzled Nak Muay (Thai Boxer). In Thailand, parents often send young children to Muay Thai camps to fight and earn money for their families. It’s a job in Thailand, and an unforgiving one at that. In the United States, Muay Thai is a hobby for most people. It’s excellent exercise and it’s a healthy escape from the day-to-day grind. 

Easton Training Center’s Muay Thai Ranking System

With that in mind, we created the Easton Muay Thai ranking system. It is unique to Easton Training Center. This means that if you visit a non-Easton academy or travel to Thailand to train, people won’t know what your shirt rank means. In fact, you’ll probably get a pretty confused look! But that’s totally okay. Because there is no formal ranking system in Muay Thai, we have the opportunity to develop a useful one at Easton, while acknowledging that it is unique to our program. 

The Easton Muay Thai ranking system has 8 shirts, ranging from White Shirt to Black Shirt. The requirements to earn each shirt vary. They increase in difficulty and time required as a student progresses through the system. We designed each rank for a different level of the Easton Muay Thai program. Let’s take a look at three huge benefits to having a ranking system in our Muay Thai program! 

1. The Ranking System Provides Safety

One of the most important things students look for at martial arts academies is safety. We’ve all heard the horror stories. Someone drops into a gym to train, only to be paired with the guy going as hard as he can from the first bell. Or the partner who has no control on the pads. These experiences make training Muay Thai very unpleasant and often drive people away from the sport.

Having a ranking system greatly reduces the chances of these experiences happening at Easton! Knowing your partner’s rank will give you a very good idea of the amount of time they’ve been training and their general skill level. Instructors generally try to pair students with partners close to their own rank so pairs are working at around the same speed.

At gyms without a ranking system, it can be difficult to gauge experience at a glance. How can you tell who the more experienced students are and who is newer to the journey? What if you misjudge and someone gets hurt? The ranking system at Easton takes out the guesswork. Students can relax and focus more on improving their Muay Thai instead of worrying about getting injured. 

2. The Ranking System Provides Goals

Since most students won’t compete in Muay Thai, the ranking system gives students clear goals and benchmarks. Each shirt in the Easton Muay Thai Ranking System requires a certain comprehension of technique, a minimum number of classes attended, time since the last promotion, and consistency in training. These ranks cannot be purchased. They must be earned, and the only way to earn them is by consistently training and studying the Art of Muay Thai!

It takes approximately 10 years to earn the rank of Black Shirt in the Easton Muay Thai program. Imagine the number of hours spent training, studying Muay Thai fights, sparring, conditioning, hitting the heavy bag, etc. that you can accumulate over 10 years! That is no easy feat to achieve for anyone. If you are interested in learning more about the requirements of each shirt rank, ask your instructor! 

3. The Rank Recognizes Progress

One of the most important factors to me in the Easton Ranking System is that the shirts represent Time. Time devoted to studying the Art and sport of Muay Thai. Time spent with the Easton Training Center family on and off the mats. Time spent on making oneself a better human being.

Sometimes people look at students of higher rank (Purple, Brown, Black) and assume they have to be the best at Muay Thai to earn that shirt. While most of them are highly skilled, that’s not the main requirement! There are some people who have simply devoted the time to earn the right to wear that rank and stand at the front of the line when we start and end class. They have endured rigorous training sessions, injuries, setbacks, doubt, and exhaustion and still haven’t given up. They have made their bodies and spirits stronger by sticking with Muay Thai, so that shirt is a representation of the journey.

The shirt doesn’t always necessarily represent absolute skill, but it represents how far someone has come from when they started! It’s a daily reminder to the student wearing it that they have come this far, and still have so much further to go. It’s a source of inspiration every time they step on the mats. 

Conclusion

The Easton Muay Thai ranking system, while unique only to Easton, provides so many great benefits and structure to the martial arts journey. As I stated before, Muay Thai in America is different from Muay Thai in Thailand. At Easton, we do our best to respect and honor the traditions, culture, and history of the Art and sport of Muay Thai, while incorporating features that benefit our students at Easton. Be proud of the rank you wear right now, and when the time comes, you’ll earn a new one! Remember, even when you achieve your Easton Black Shirt, there is so much more to learn about Muay Thai. The journey is only just beginning! 

I look forward to seeing you all in class! 

Khob Khun Krap,

Coach Sean 

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