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Muay Thai compared with Gwon-gyokdo

Muay Thai and Gwon-gyokdo are both striking martial arts that include punches, kicks, and other striking techniques, but they originate from different countries and have distinct characteristics and rulesets.

Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as “Thai boxing,” is a martial art and combat sport from Thailand that is known as “the art of eight limbs” It utilizes:

  • Punches
  • Kicks
  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Clinching (a form of stand-up grappling)
  • Throws within the clinch are allowed.

Muay Thai is known for its powerful striking, extensive use of both elbows and knees, and the clinch, where fighters try to control the opponent’s posture to land strikes or set up sweeps. Fighters wear traditional boxing gloves and the matches take place in a ring.

Gwon-gyokdo / Kwon-gyokdo origins

Gwon-gyokdo (sometimes spelled Kwon-gyokdo) is a Korean martial art that blends elements of Muay Thai and traditional Korean martial arts like Taekwondo. It translates to “the way of boxing with feet and fists” and has been influenced by the full-contact approach of Kyokushin karate as well. In Gwon-gyokdo:

  • Punches and kicks are the primary techniques.
  • It emphasizes high, powerful kicks, reflecting its Taekwondo heritage.
  • Elbow and knee strikes are not typically emphasized as much as in Muay Thai.
  • The clinching and throws found in Muay Thai are generally not a focus in Gwon-gyokdo.

While there is some information about Gwon-gyokdo, it is less internationally recognized compared to Muay Thai, and detailed information about its ruleset and techniques is more limited. Fighters in Gwon-gyokdo competitions wear a type of glove that is similar to boxing gloves, and they also wear foot protectors, reflecting the sport’s integration of high kicking techniques.

Overall, the main differences lie in the rules and techniques emphasized: Muay Thai’s signature use of all “eight limbs” and its clinching aspects, compared to Gwon-gyokdo’s blend of Muay Thai’s power striking with the high and varied kicks from Taekwondo and its Korean martial arts influence.

Gwon-gyokdo’s popularity internationally

Gwon-gyokdo, while recognized within Korea, does not enjoy the same level of international fame as Muay Thai, Taekwondo, or even other Korean martial arts such as Hapkido. Its popularity is mainly confined within the borders of its country of origin. Since Gwon-gyokdo is a hybrid martial art that has drawn inspiration from well-established combat sports like Muay Thai and Taekwondo, it competes for attention in a space already crowded with more globally recognized martial arts disciplines. In South Korea, it maintains a presence among martial arts practitioners who are interested in a blend of striking techniques, but it has not significantly penetrated the global martial arts community to the extent of becoming a widely practiced sport worldwide.

The reasons for its limited popularity are varied. One significant factor is the strong international governing bodies and widespread appeal of its contributing arts—Muay Thai has a deep cultural heritage and is recognized globally, with large international competitions and a professional circuit, while Taekwondo is an Olympic sport with a global following. In comparison, Gwon-gyokdo has not had the same level of international promotion or organization, which is often crucial for a martial art to gain widespread recognition. Moreover, the martial arts market outside of Korea is highly competitive, and a new discipline typically requires a robust infrastructure, including international competitions, high-level representation, and media exposure, to gain a foothold. Without these elements, Gwon-gyokdo remains relatively obscure on the world stage, appreciated primarily by a niche community of martial arts enthusiasts.