Muay Thai Belt System or Ranking (Does it Have Belts?)

Muay Thai is one of the most popular martial arts in the world. Most martial arts use a colored belt system. However, you rarely see Muay Thai fighters wearing belts? So, is there a Muay Thai belt system?

As a general rule, there is no formal belt system in Muay Thai and traditional schools do not wear belts. However, some Muay Thai schools have a belt system in order to acknowledge a student’s progress.

And in those schools, it also helps people choose a training partner of a similar skill level to them when drilling and sparring.

Muay Thai is one of the world’s most difficult combat sports. Let’s have a closer look at how the ranking system of Muay Thai works. I’ll also talk about how you can progress up the ranks of Muay Thai faster and easier.

Does Muay Thai have belts?

There is no formally recognized belt ranking system in Muay Thai. Belts were introduced to martial art when it moved to the USA and Europe. So many people were training, and they had no way of telling whether they were making progress.

So, belts were introduced. Instead of wearing belts in Muay Thai classes, you will see that there is an armband system in place. The armband is basically your belt color. There are many different colors of armbands that you will see on the arm of a Muay Thai athlete.

The order of armbands in the Thai Boxing Association of the USA is as follows:

  • White
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Blue and white
  • Purple
  • Purple and white
  • Red
  • Red and white
  • Brown
  • Brown and white
  • Black
  • Black and red
  • Black and silver
  • Black and gold

So, the black armband is not actually the highest armband. It is black and gold. If someone has a black and gold armband, it means that they are a senior instructor.

Many western Muay Thai schools have a ranking system. But you should keep in mind that Muay Thai armbands should not come easy. If you are training at a western school and find that you are progressing really fast up the Muay Thai ranking system, that’s a red flag.

Muay Thai is not an easy martial art, and if they are promoting you quickly, they are probably just money grabbers.

Also, the ranking armbands are not to be confused with Pra Jiad. These are the blue and red armbands worn in Muay Thai fights.

Are there gradings in Muay Thai?

As a general rule, there are gradings in western Muay Thai schools. Many schools will have their own unique belt system, as there is no official grading system in Muay Thai. Often, to progress to a higher rank, a Muay Thai practitioner will have to partake in a grading ceremony.

In the grading ceremony, there may be a technique demonstration. You may also have to talk about the history of Muay Thai, as well as the etiquette of training. A fighter’s rank is determined by how much they train and how much effort they put in.

How long does it take to get to a black belt level in Muay Thai?

As we’ve said, many Muay Thai schools don’t use a belt system. As such, a black belt is not possible.

But becoming an advanced player or fighter in Muay Thai takes about 6 to 10 years of training. You should be training at least 3 times per week. It may sound like a long time, but the good news is that it means you can fight.

There are some martial arts where people get black belts in 2 years. This is common in Tae Kwon Do and other Korean martial arts. It takes a long time to get good at Muay Thai.

If you want to learn more about traditional martial arts and whether they are effective, check out this recent article on my site.

Is it hard to become good at Muay Thai?

It is hard to get good at Muay Thai. This is because Muay Thai is a difficult martial art, and you have to learn a lot of technical knowledge. Some Muay Thai schools will teach better than others. In the sport of Muay Thai, there is no such thing as easy progress.

You have to work hard and earn your skills. Nothing worth having comes easy. You are going to have to strive to get through the different levels.

However, the good news is that Muay Thai is not the most difficult martial art to learn. In fact, in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it takes about 10 years to get a black belt! The first belt โ€“ the blue belt, takes about 2 years. And within those first two years of training, about 90% of people quit!

BJJ is one of the toughest forms of martial arts. The truth is, regardless of what you train, many of the martial artists around you are going to quit within a few years.

How to progress faster in Muay Thai

The best piece of advice I have if you want to progress faster in Muay Thai is to train at a good place. Pick a well-known gym.

One of the most popular places in the United States is Bang Muay Thai. Tj Dillashaw trains there. He has had a lot of good fights and some bad fights. However, the quality of his wins is outstanding. He is one of the most successful professional fighters in the western world.

If thatโ€™s not possible, try and find the most authentic Muay Thai gym that you can.

Iโ€™m not saying that you have to move to the middle of nowhere and train with local monks. Nor do you have to move to Thailand and train with a legend of the sport, like Kru Yodtong!

But remember that even if you are not training Muay Thai as a professional combat sport, you need good instruction. Look for a coach that has been training for a minimum of ten years. If they have competition experience, then thatโ€™s even better.

Make sure that you are training a minimum of three days per week. If you can, you should also be doing strength and conditioning outside of your Muay Thai training. Working on your mobility and flexibility will also help improve your performance and prevent injury.

Try not to overtrain or train too hard.

If you ever come face to face with a training partner trying to knock you out, ask them to calm down. If they donโ€™t calm down, walk away, and donโ€™t train with them again. Your health and safety is paramount.

Another great way to speed up your Muay Thai progress is to train alone at home. Iโ€™m not saying that solo training can replace your Muay Thai coaching. However, if you have a heavy bag at home, whatโ€™s stopping you from doing 30 minutes of training every day?

Nothing. Imagine the accumulated progress you could make if you just did a little bit of Muay Thai at home every day!

If you want to learn more about how to progress in Muay Thai, check out this recent article on my site. I talk about how hard it is to learn Muay Thai and how you can make your Muay Thai journey easier and more enjoyable!

Just click that link to read it on my site.

The Meaning of the Muay Thai Arm Bands


If you are training Muay Thai, donโ€™t worry about racking up championship belts and having a good fight record. Just train as much as you personally can handle. Learn to enjoy your martial arts training and be in the game for personal enrichment and learning.

In my overall experience in martial arts, most Muay Thai students will quit. Just focus on improving your skill level. It will take years of consistent training to reach a high level in Muay Thai. But then you will be expected to teach others!

So, enjoy your time as a Muay Thai student, and learn as much as you can!

Image by Renair Carvalho from Pixabay


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