The quick answer is effective Muay Thai techniques.
An effective Muay Thai technique must produce a visible effect on the opponent. Typically strikes to the opponents arms or shins are not scored; the exception is if they cause the person to be knocked down, moved, or knocked off balance. Srikes to the shin and arms are not scored as highly as strikes delivered to the thighs, body, or head.
Muay Thai techniques are scored based on their effect on the opponent. For example a kick to the body might be scored higher than a kick to the leg. The variety of techniques used is not a factor in Muay Thai judging. A fighter can win a fight if they effectively use one technique. For example a fight can be won by only back leg round kicks to the opponent’s leg if they are done more effectively (causing more damage) than the other fighters techniques.
Fighters gain points for:
- Knocking an opponent to the floor with a punch, kick, knee, or elbow. Typically if a referee gives an 8 count 2 points are deducted from that fighters score card. If that fighter has been dominating the round sometimes the judges only deduct 1 point
- Unbalancing an opponent kick or throwing an opponent that is immediately followed up by a strong striking technique.
- Throwing an opponent to the ground (legally)
- Any attack that causes the opponent to turn their back
Fighters lose points for:
- Turning their back to the opponent. (Many tournaments will instantly disqualify a fighter for this)
- Running or dancing away rather than standing and fighting
- Committing fouls repeatably
- Dropping to the floor when their leg is grabbed or in clinch.
- Grabbing the ropes
Techniques that do not result in points:
- Any strike that is weak or delivered without force and on balance
- Any technique that is immediately countered by an equally strong technique
- Any technique that is walked through by the opponent
Techniques that can result in a point difference:
- Techniques that cause the opponent to stop advancing and not attack
- Techniques that cause the opponent to cover up and not fight back
What techniques do judges typically score higher
- Strong body kicks and teep kicks to the body are generally valued more than leg kicks
- Strong knees are typically valued more than punches that do not cause the opponent to fall or move
- Straight knees vs round knees
Muay Thai judges are looking to award the fight to the strongest fighter. They want to see composure, a willingness to fight, and the embodiment of the ‘Spirit of Muay Thai’. Any sign of weakness in the fighter or evidence of not wanting to fight weighs heavily against them.