Muay Thai – Kickboxing – Children’s Classes – GRIT

Judging Bias. rules of major organisations compared (Part 2 of 2)

A comparison and review of the different scoring from different sanctioning bodies.

This is a 2-part article.

  1. Biases and how they subconsciously affect everyone’s view of a bout.
  2. The scoring rules of sanctioning bodies compared and reviewed.

Please read part 1 first.


Rules from different sanctioning bodies and how they differ in scoring, explanation, and culture. Show how judges trained in one organisation can make mistakes with another, and anyone not trained in the scoring of one body can struggle to understand some decisions. It also addresses what can be seen as strong bias influence in scoring/opinion when it is obvious some promoters/trainers and fighters use one set of rules as their sanctioning body, but their biases outweigh the actual specific intention of the rules. Not all bodies have the same rules and I have not tried to include everyone. Just the main bodies from my environment and a comparison with the most popular current version of Muay Thai – One FC. I have only included excerpts from the scoring section of rules and there are other parts that effect the scoring interpretation excluded to be expedient.

Rules and scoring variances. Sanctioning body rulesets differ and those that think that Muay Thai is Muay Thai, will always go toa show with a bias towards that belief but the fact is each bodies scores bouts differently. I think there are attempts by some to interpret all rules the same and bring their influence to steer the scoring this way despite the rules they are meant to use as it doesn’t suit their agenda and their bias.

Someone may be a prominent official, even an experienced stadium judge from Thailand, or a famous gym owner, or a Lumpini judge or a sanctioning body ref or have done a few One FC shows. None of that means they are an expert in every set of rules. That doesn’t mean they aren’t either, just that we all must run a critical eye over ‘who’ is saying what or training trainers at understanding scoring. People who are firm they know the rules, hate the question, ‘what ruleset do you specialise in?’ It is common to lean towards all rule-sets being the same and having the same principle because it is Muay Thai, one sport. However, a more detailed analysis will show that it is not one sport, as sports are defined by their rules, not just their name.

IFMA does not score like the WBC and their own rules differ from WMC. One FC differs from everyone and ISKA and WKA have Muay Thai rules different to the MTA, which is different to WMC and IFMA and not like the WBC at all. MASA is more like ISKA of old but like MTA, although similar, the training and judging is done by people with different training and gym backgrounds.

Predominant Rule. Is there a hierarchy of rules?

If Muay Thai was, was Muay Thai and scored the same, why would we need different rulesets and why would every sanctioning body write the rules differently, using different words, have different training and interpret the rules differently? If all Muay Thai bouts are scored the same, then why is there varied wording and explanations in varied rulesets? I am not criticising anything or anybody, I am just making the logical point – if we really want Muay Thai to be one sport then we need less rule sets and to ensure that Muay Thai has the same scoring across sanctioning bodies.

Yes and no. If you are in a state with combat sports legislation, you must follow legislation before rules in order to not break the law. States do approve rulesets but don’t really care about interpretation of scoring as they are focused on regulation, safety, weigh-ins and gender identification.

There is far more to rules than scoring and cover round times, gloves sizes, ring and medical requirements etc etc but when it comes down to it, it is the scoring we are talking about here.

The answer depends on what you compete at, promote, or believe in. The Thai Boxing Authority of Thailand publishes a ruleset that should be the bible, but it is not and it has many subsets and variations (like the real bible). The rules prepared by the Office of Boxing Sport Board, professional sports, and boxing department of the Sports Authority of Thailand could be argued as the primary source for the sport. I will show the scoring of these rules first.

Every sanctioning body wants to differentiate itself, so it has its own rules and interpretations. From the IOC perspective and global sport governance, the IFMA rules and versions of them are the basis of rules from a global political perspective, but do not represent the sport on any one-off promotion or professional events. The IFMA rules are only tournament-based international rules and many in Thailand do not like them or use them for any promotions. They are padded, tournament rules and not suitable for one-off bouts.

In Australia, the only rules approved by the Australian Sports Commission are the MTA rules, but if you are in NSW and fight on a MASA show, then their rules are more important to you. States have approved many rules for sanctioning bodies to use for amateurs as amateur competition must be run by an approved amateur body. For professional shows, you don’t actually need a sanctioning body and can use anyone, or none, as long as you go through the legal registration requirements in your state. QLD, TAS and NT have NO legislation so you can do whatever a promoter wants.

For a more detailed understanding of this, please read my article – The State of Play in Australia.

RULE BIAS. Everyone has them. Learn yours by reading article 1. When you prefer a fighting style, you often default to that thinking while watching fights, and it is common for people to talk Muay Thai rules and act like they know them, but not be able to articulate the difference between rules in a practical scoring perspective. Unfortunately, it is common to have scoring beliefs that override detailed rule adherence in the sport, especially from trainers. This is due to a bias towards your anchoring beliefs that supersede the actual rules

When you think you know how Muay Thai is scored. Ask yourself – in accordance with what rules and why do I think that way? Have I read the rules I get my opinions from, or just have a general view I apply to all fights.    


Confirmation bias. This is when you tend to search for (look for) something that supports or values or confirms what you already believe in preference for other information that me be of equal or greater value. This means, you can I could also rad the rules differently. Me, influenced by my own biases and you influenced by yours which is why two people can interpret something written the same differently. I have tried to not be biased and be aware of my biases in this article and only interpret the words actually written in the rules and what they mean. I ask you to do the same.

To illustrate my point that all rules are not the same I will demonstrate the difference in scoring for common rulesets. They differ further in Thailand by stadium, association, sport, entertainment, and gambling influences. The rules are all written differently so it is logical that they cannot be the same scoring across all bodies. For a minority sport, we could all learn from tennis, football or any other major sport that has one set of rules. Any bias for one set of rules will taint anyone’s understanding of another set by a preferential bias. If we had one set of rules, it would be simpler and less open to bias and variances. It is no wonder Muay Thai is hard to score. Anyone who thinks they know the rules, already has a bias, because it is hard to know all the rules without having a bias towards your predominant framing bias.

There is evident bias at all levels which contributes to inconsistency. This is manifested and most noticeable outside of your original, competitive area. You go local, then interstate, then across sanctioning bodies, then overseas, you will experience different interpretations. This is experienced by anyone who travels interstate to compete often. No two states score the same, but they are all right and all the best. Often across sanctioning bodies, people think they are the same rules just written differently. That is an affinity bias towards your preference. This is often demonstrated with people so invested in the industry they are not willing to re-learn, take criticism, or evaluate what they should be scoring because of belief and anchoring bias.

Note: Scoring is usually in priority order. The first point is how you score the round. If that point is the same, then you progress to the second point and so on until one fighter wins that category/ scoring emphasis. Some rule sets score criteria in entirety. I have only focused on systems that use the 10 points must system (and have taken for granted the audience understand the basic premise of this) and no other point scoring/counting systems. Even with in this framework, 10 point must systems vary regarding how to score 10-9 vs 10-8 and how 8 counts are countered. This is not outlined in this article as it is focused only on how you get to the scoring of each round.

Scoring is perhaps the most important part of all rules; however it is usually imbedded deep in the rules, which is weird.

Every set of rules have slightly different wording for scoring techniques, fouls, 10-10 must scoring, weight divisions, etc. This is only a bout drawing out the scoring for each round to highlight the differences. 

Boxing Authority of Thailand Rules.

Rule 15 – scoring procedures.

15.1 – The fighter with MORE attacks on his opponent by Muaythai fighting weapons wins the round. (very much like the WMC rules more than the WBC rules – ‘More’ is scored before power)

15.2 – The fighter with more heavy, powerful, and clear attacks on his opponent by Muaythai fighting weapons wins the round. (Point one for WBC and but Point 2 for WMC)

15.3 – The fighter who can do more damage to his opponent by Muaythai fighting weapons wins the round (point 1 with One but not with WMC)

15.4 – The fighter who shows more offensive and aggressive attacks wins the round. (Same as WMC ad WBC – if all things are even above, then the more aggressive fighter wins the round)

15.5 – The fighter who shows better offensive skills, defensive skills, elusive skills or counterattacking skills by Muaythai arts and techniques wins the round. (much the same as WBC – is very clear that the defensive skills come after offensive skills in ALL rulesets, but is not always scored that way on promotions.)

15.6 – The fighter who violates the rules the least. (I like how only when you get to this point does violating the rules be considered to measure the difference between fighters) 

Not evaluated here but it is off considerable note that in these rules; one 8 count is automatic 10-8 round, 2 by 8 counts is automatic 10-7 rounds. Plus if you win the round, i,e would have been scored 10-9 plus get a knockdown for an 8 count, the score should be 10-7 for the round.

These rules have 2 min round with 2 min breaks for juniors and 2 min rounds for females which could contribute to why sanctioning bodies are required to write their own rules as they need to cater for different environments.  They also have 6oz gloves for juniors under 40kg.

One FC Global Muay Thai Rules

(The most modern and simple to ready system, which has a simple priority scoring system.)

Three judges will evaluate the relative effectiveness of each athlete’s performance according to the following prioritized criteria.

1. Number of knockdowns (not clear in other rulesets, as only factors in for 10-10 scoring)

2. Damage inflicted on the opponent (damage is before quantity of strikes) (point 1 for WBC and point 2 for WMC)

3. Number of clean strikes landed (point 1 for WMC and point 3 for WBC)

4. Cage Generalship (ring control and fight rhythm control)

5. General aggressiveness that does not score in the above categories. (same as most others, but no mention or credit for defensive skills at all)

It should be noted that in assessing the general impression, attack is valued higher than defense.

MTA rules: (derived from WMC rules and IFMA rules to have one rule set for Australia that can be approved by state CSA) (I comment more on these rules because I wrote them! and have a bias towards the interpretation but it could also be appropriate for me to explain the meaning) 

16.1. A point will be awarded for each Muaythai skill that strikes a scoring target without being blocked, guarded against, or infringing the rules. A strike consists of a punch, kick, knee or elbow and must land powerfully and accurately.

16.2. Scoring advantage is awarded to:

  • The Athlete who lands on target more than their opponent with Muaythai strikes. (this is point 3 of the WBC rules, SO THEY ARE NOT THE SAME RULES) (note: MORE is the key word, and all strikes are the same value. A leg kick countering a rib kick is not of less value as an uppercut is not less than a teep as long as it is powerful and clean)
  • The Athlete with more force and power using Muaythai skill. (point 1 has to be equal to go to point 2 and then it is a measure of who is more powerful – after more is scored)
  • The Athlete who can cause more physical exhaustion and damage to their opponent by use of Muaythai skill. (The athlete more tired, not engaging, doing less should not win this category and it only scores if 1 and 2 are even.)
  • The Athlete who shows a more aggressive style. (not the athlete backing up more, picking shots, and not being aggressive and being too defensive)
  • The Athlete who demonstrates better defence with Muaythai techniques. (This is obvious but dodging, not engaging, moving, being evasive doesn’t win with only a few clean shots unless all previous points are equal, and I often see these criteria given far more weight to early in the scoring process for what it was intended which is a form of demonstrated bias.)  
  • The Athlete who violates the rules the least.

16.3. Scoring advantage is not awarded to:

  • The Athlete who violates any rule.
  • Muaythai strikes on the opponent’s arm(s) or leg(s) as is their self-defence techniques. (That the strike to the arms is blocked and has no effect on the opponent balance, posture and does not score damage) (Rib kicks blocked with arms don’t score, simple. They only score if they are powerful, cause damage and are not blocked – If an athlete does rib kicks that do not stop their opponents forward movement, aggression, cause injury or slow down the opponent’s counter or punching how can you argue (without a bias) that the rib kick is effective to the arms?
  • The hit is light, without power or body weight behind it. (knees in clinching that are tap tap, slap, slap shouldn’t be scored)
  • An Athlete is thrown on the ring floor after having their kick caught. (negates the rib kick, doesn’t score more, just means the rib kick doesn’t score)
  • Throwing the opponent on the floor without using any muaythai weapon. (foul takedowns)
  • A strike after the bell or after the referee has called break/stop.
  • A strike after a foul or using a foul to strike.

World Boxing Council – WBC Muay Thai

Perhaps the most complicated rules, with the most open to interpretation scoring suggestions. Difficult to compare to or say they are the same as One FC or MTA rules. No direct correlation and are written to be different.  The largest flaw in simple understanding compared to One FC is the ‘mental calculations’ aspect of scoring the round. This directs you to be subjective not objective in your scoring without being definitive. This will vary between people greatly.

10 point must outline in rules. 

  • A 10-9 score shall be given in a round with a slight advantage in overall action favouring one fighter. (does not say more or damage, just action of fighter > very open to bias and opinion or interpretation of what action constitutes)
  • A 10-9 score shall be given, also, when there is a clear advantage but not an overwhelming advantage.

Main scoring point:

Clean and effective strikes: Landing punches, elbows, knees, or kicks to the scoring area of your opponent with power, volume, and accuracy to cause damage, domination, or disruption to your opponent. (lots of things to consider and weigh against each other to determine a winner)

15.1.1 Scoring Procedure: (this section is very clear and better than the training/advice provided earlier) The boxer who can do more damage to his opponent by Muay Thai fighting weapons wins the round. (damage first – very clear) Same as One FC The boxer with more heavy, powerful, and clear attacks on his opponent Muay Thai fighting weapons wins the round. (more power – very clear) The boxer with more attacks on his opponent by Muay Thai fighting weapons wins the round. (more technique – this is rule one with MTA, so this scoring is significantly different) The boxer who shows more better offensive and aggressive attacks wins the round. The boxer who shows better offensive skill, defensive skill, elusive skill, or counterattacking skill by Muay Thai arts and techniques wins the round. (so better skills all around, which is very open to who determines better skill. – It shows that offensive scores before defensive and counter skills) The boxer who violates the rules less wins the round.

World Muay Thai Council (WMC) 

These are essentially the same as MTA rules!  For scoring BUT note – you must be 18 to compete under them. Rounds are also 3-minute rounds AND THERE IS NO PROVISION FOR AMATEURS OR JUNIORS. IT IS A PROFESSIONAL RULESET ONLY.

A score shall be awarded when boxers use fists, feet, knees, and elbows as muaythai fighting weapons to hit his opponent powerfully, accurately, unprotected, and according to the rules.

14.2. Scoring advantage is awarded to:

14.2.1. The boxer who goes on target with muaythai weapons the most. (point 3 in WBC rules)

14.2.2. The boxer with heavier, more powerful, and the most accurate hits on target, using muaythai weapons. (Point 2 with WBC as well)

14.2.3. The boxer who can cause more physical exhaustion to his opponent by use of muaythai weapons.

14.2.4. The boxer who shows better style of aggressive attacks.

14.2.5. The boxer who shows better defence of muaythai art and techniques. (shows that offensive should out score defence)

14.2.6. The boxer who violates the rules the least.

International Federation of Muaythai Associations. (IFMA)

Note – these are international ‘tournament rules’ and not designed for one off bouts, for novices or development. They are 3 by 3 min rounds in set padding with no adjustment allowed for round times or rounds. Not suitable to translate directly to the Australian environment.

25.1: SCORING MUAYTHAI SKILL A Muaythai skill is a punch, kick, knee or elbow applied with force and intent to cause effect. One score will be awarded for each Muaythai skill that strikes against a scoring target without being blocked, guarded against, or infringing the rules. 25.1.1: Target (The Target for Muaythai means, any part of the body except the groin). 25.1.2: Non-scoring Targets The gloves, forearms, foot, and shin are not scoring targets, unless a strike is applied with enough force to affect a non-scoring target (e.g. a high kick against the gloves of a blocking opponent off-balances the target.)

25.2.1: Steps for Awarding Points • First, an Athlete wins the round when utilizing more scoring Muaythai skills than the opponent; (more scoring strikes, not damage)

Non-Awarding of Points • Striking with lack of Muaythai skills; • Strikes which are effectively blocked by the opponent’s forearms/gloves or shins/feet (again with the blocking rib kicks with arms).

At end of round: If the Athletes are equal in both scoring Muaythai skill and the forcefulness of their Muaythai skill then an Athlete wins then round by any of 1. Showing less exhaustion or less bruising than the opponent; 2. Showing more willingness to lead off or aggressive intention to compete than the opponent; (to lead off with aggressiveness, so it doesn’t favour the defensive fighter)

International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA)

Awarding of points:

Whether an effective and accurate attack is recognized, and damage is inflicted on the Opponent by authorized fighting techniques. Points will be awarded in this priority: (very like One FC)

  • Number of downs (2) The overall Effect or Damage inflicted on the Opponent (3) Number of clean hits (4) Degree of effective aggressiveness (points in the offensive)

(This is the reverse of MTA – effectiveness scores above quantity which I suggest is not the common view.)

  • Even Round 10 10 Neither contestant dominates the other with superiority in effectiveness of technique.
  • Slight Edge 10 9 One Contestant dominates with a marginal superiority in effectiveness of technique.
  • Wide Edge 10 8 One Contestant dominates with exceptional superiority in effectiveness of technique. (no mention of 8 count here)


Evaluate your biases and understand how they affect your view on scoring.

Read the rules whilst aware of your confirmation bias.

Consider that all sanctioning bodies have written their rules differently, with different words and clearly different priority scoring. If all scoring was the same then why would there be different wording for how to score each round? That is because the rules are different.

The conclusion based on these facts is that there is not one set of Muay Thai rules that you can apply to every fight you watch. The only way to be aware and accurate is to read each ruleset, as logically and objectively as possible, evaluating the wording in the ruleset prior to scoring a bout from a sanctioning body before your own bias of how Muay Thai is (or you believe should be) scored.

We have judges, trainers, fighters that operate on many different shows, in different states, with different sanctioning bodies and on different promotions. Anyone that thinks they know the Muay Thai rules, is generalising and factually inaccurate, as there is not one set of rules that applies to all bouts. Scoring a fight based on your perception of how Muay Thai should be scored will be accurate at times, which will reinforce your biases, however this will not be the case in all bouts – particularly close bouts where you have an emotional bias towards the outcome.

Judges, promotors, fighters, trainers – please be aware when you go from one show to another – read the scoring rules every single time, unless you have a photographic memory. Regardless of your training or experience. The more often you vary the sanctioning body or show you are on, the more you will refine your beliefs to make it simpler for your brain to comprehend (and make decisions) and you will automatically start to believe you are considering what you see fairly, when your biases are actually controlling your view. 

Humans do want to make complicated decisions all the time and we naturally default to what we know and what our values are. It would be great if Muay Thai did have one set of rules and one training system for judging. I have a bias (and so do you) for a certain style of fighting, but I am willing to adapt and learn.

If we can universally acknowledge the inconsistency in Muay Thai rulesets and understand and mitigate the impact of our personal biases, the system could be greatly improved


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