September 4, 2022

Muay Thai Belts & Ranking System Explained

Muay Thai saw a huge increase in popularity of all the combat sports out there over the last decade. It is known by many names like Thai Boxing, Siam Boxing, etc. The origin of this unique form of martial back dates back to the 1200s.

Ask anyone who practices this art, and they will tell you that Muay Thai is acclaimed for its raw simplicity, power, and efficiency. The indigenous traditions are deep-rooted, however, thanks to a lot of movies on Muay Thai, it has now been commercialized to an extent.

In Thai traditions, Muay Thai has a symbolic place. Every aspect of the game, from training to fighting in the battlefield signifies something spiritual. Although training institutes and gyms (also referred to as dojo) have built their own standards, color codes, belts, and ranking systems, the sport in its originality had more to do with surviving a fight (which can’t be defined by belts).

In this article, we will clear some of the misconceptions about Muay Thai. We will shed light on the traditional rituals and the commercialized aspects.

Does Muay Thai Have a Belt System?

Traditionally, Muay Thai doesn’t have a belt system. During the older times, Thailand was constantly at war with its neighbors, and fighters trained in Muay Thai used to sweat it at the battlefield. It was a matter of surviving and fighting for the country.

martial art students in the hall before training with different belt levels

As time passed, this sacred form of martial art met westernization. The people accepted it, and commercialization happened. These days, training schools across the globe have devised individual ranking/grading systems. This has been done to motivate students to practice the art religiously. Hence, there is no common global code for these belts or ranking systems.

Do Muay Thai Belts Have a Ranking System?

No, traditionally it doesn’t, but there are a few belt-based ranking systems in dojos outside Thailand.

  • Bang Muay Thai belt ranking system
  • Evolve MMA (Singapore) ranking system
  • Roufusport Kickboxing Association belt system

Most of these systems are quite similar to other color-based rankings. In fact, this is quite similar to Taekwondo, Ju-Jitsu, and other similar combat sports. And, the World Thai Boxing Association (USA) also has an armband-based ranking system.

Why Doesn’t Muay Thai Have a Belt System?

Muay Thai is an art form that has deep-embedded traditional and spiritual values. And, these beliefs have strengthened with time. Traditionally, a trainee was ready to fight when his master decides it is time. There was (or is) no belts and colors to validate that.

A trainee becomes a fighter when they can prove their skill in the ring. Yes, an armband (Prajead) is given by the trainer to the new fighter, but it is meant for protection and doesn’t signify a rank.

muay thai professionals fighting

How Does the Ranking System Work in Muay Thai?

To set things straight, Muay Thai doesn’t have any form of ranking system. A fighter’s rank is decided by their fight record (wins), quality of wins (knockouts, etc.), skill, and the number of championship belts and titles owned.

But, in dojos outside Thailand, two ranking systems being followed – one is the normal belt-based ranking, and the other is the armband-based ranking. The belt ranking system is mostly identical to that of kung-fu, karate, taekwondo, and other forms of sports.

White belts are assigned to beginners. Next, up is the Yellow belt followed by Orange. Once trainees clear the required tests, they move up to receive the Blue belt. Then, there is a purple belt and a brown belt. Once, they trainees clear all final tests, they receive the Black belt.

What Are the Levels in Muay Thai?

Traditionally there are none, but commercially Evolve MMA (Singapore) has a level-based grading system. These levels originated in Kru Yodtong’s training camp in Thailand.

  • Leve1 – Novice
  • Level 2 – Intermediate Novice
  • Level 3 – Advanced Novice
  • Level 4 – Intermediate
  • Level 5 – Advanced
  • Level 6 – Expert
  • Level 7 – Kru

How Long Does It Take to Get a Black Belt in Muay Thai?

Black belt or the high belt is the topmost level (equivalent to Kru) in Muay Thai training academies outside Thailand. There is no specific time-limit, as leveling-up depends on the trainee’s skills and efforts.

However, comparing to other combat sports, getting a high belt in Muay Thai will take anything between 7 to 10 years, if not more. Again, this is dependent on the person learning and applying their skill.

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

4 thoughts on “Muay Thai Belts & Ranking System Explained

  1. Any gym doing this is so they can charge money for the ceremonies like traditional martial arts schools. It’s a pretty good money maker.

  2. I can understand that teachers want to organize their students and give them something to work towards..

    But there are obviously no belts in Muay thai.

  3. Muay Thai does have a ranking system that was developed in the late 70’s by 3 Masters now Grandmaster including GM Woody. It was developed for mainly western and European gyms. In Thailand you are a fighter then Kru when you retire.

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