Muay Thai is one of the toughest martial arts out there. It’s renowned for delivering brutally efficient kicks and punches to an opponent. The question is, how brutal are these kicks?
Can a Muay Thai kick break ribs and kill? The answer is yes, definitely. The kick of a well-trained Muay Thai fighter can break ribs and can kill. Such a kick can be as strong as getting hit with a baseball bat! Fortunately, Muay Thai fighters are trained and disciplined enough not to kick with maximum force.
Let’s take a look at what goes into a kick that can break ribs, and how Muay Thai fighters prevent that from happening.
How Much Force Can A Muay Thai Kick Deliver?
Before we tackle exactly how much force anything involves it’s probably best to mention that force is typically measured in Newtons (and 1 Newton is the force required to accelerate 1 Kg of weight by 1 meter per second).
So, if you wanted to move a 100 Kg (that’s 220 lbs.) person, you would need to give them a 100 Newton shove to get them to move away from you at 1 meter per second. Whereas if the same person were to stand on you, they would exert a 980 Newton force upon you because gravity accelerates them downwards at 9.8 meters per second.
As you can imagine, it’s quite uncomfortable being stood on by somebody who weights 100 Kg.
So, how much force can a Muay Thai kick deliver? Well, Live Science magazine investigated this and concluded that your well-trained (somebody with no training cannot come close to this level of force) martial artist can launch into a kick which registers up to 9000 Newtons of force!
That’s roughly the equivalent of getting 9 of our 100 Kg people to stand on each other’s shoulders before standing on you!
However, the world recording breaking kick (as featured on Military.com) is said to have been delivered by Shogun Rua, a Muay Thai fighter, who kicked out at 12,227 Newtons of force!
That’s the force of 12 x 100 Kg people all standing on the same point of you at the same time! That’s a very serious blow, indeed.
Related Article: How hard can a martial artist kick?
However, is all this force enough to break someone’s bones or to kill them? Let’s take a look.
How Much Force Is Needed To Break Someone’s Ribs?
It is possible to break someone’s rib with a fairly small force, ribs are quite fragile as bones go and they’re very close to the surface (particularly in thinner people) and don’t need a huge force to break. The typical breaking force for a rib is probably 3,300 Newtons.
Why probably? Well, it’s not very ethical to smash people’s ribs to find an average breaking force, so scientists have estimated this figure based on observation and bone density.
So, could a Muay Thai fighter break someone’s ribs with a kick? Most definitely, in fact, they wouldn’t need to be a top-grade fighter to kick this hard. Anyone with a few year’s training ought to be able to kick with a force of 3,500 Newtons or more.
How Much Force Is Needed To Kill Someone?
This is one of those “how long is a piece of string” questions. You could, in theory, cave someone’s skull in with a force of just 3,000 Newtons! That’s slightly less than the effort required to break a rib though it would be much less likely to happen because people tend to move their heads away from a kick and thus don’t take the full impact.
However, there’s really no way of usefully defining the force you would need to use in order to kill someone with a kick. Can it be done? Yes. How much effort, precisely, would it require? There are simply too many variables to take into account to come to a good answer.
While it might be easier to kill with a kick than to break someone’s ribs, in reality, it’s probably going to be quite a bit harder to pull off a killing blow with a Muay Thai kick without specific training to do so and, probably, even then you would require the advantage of surprise.
Why Don’t Muay Thai Kicks Normally Kill People, Then?
There are a couple of good reasons that people don’t die every time they go to fight in a Muay Thai tournament and why these tournaments aren’t full of contestants nursing broken ribs for that matter.
The first is the fairly obvious one – most fighters aren’t seeking to severely injure an opponent. With the exception of certain competitions, it’s generally frowned on to hurt an opponent seriously.
No Muay Thai fighter is going to get in the ring and then unleash a 13,000 Newton kick on the other guy – they’d end up in jail (quite rightfully too) if they did but they won’t do it because they have too much discipline to do it.
That sort of fighting is saved for movies where actors pretend to hurt each other and for real wars where combat tends to be much less pretty than a martial arts contest.
The second reason is that the opponents are trained to take blows. While you can, in theory, stave a rib in with 3,300 Newtons of force, this is only true if they opponent is standing still and offering up the rib as a sacrifice to your foot.
In real fighting, the opponent will be rolling with the blow, which hugely reduces the amount of force that is absorbed by the rib. That means that the rib is never under enough pressure to break even when a very hard kick is unleashed.
If you ever go to watch professional Muay Thai fights in Thailand, you’ll quickly come to realize that nobody cooperates in allowing their opponent to injure them and that their opponent would prefer not to injure them in the first place.
This is also what makes killing someone with a kick from a Muay Thai fighter unlikely, the opponent will be defending and working to reduce the impact of every blow.
It’s not impossible for someone to break a rib or to die when fighting a Muay Thai fighter but it’s a much rarer occurrence than the bare physics suggest too.
Lerdrit: The Lethal Version Of Muay Thai
Lerdrit featured in our recent piece on the 10 most difficult martial arts to learn and that’s because you can only learn it if you join the Thai military – it’s not taught anywhere else in the world. This is, probably, a good thing because Lerdrit is Muay Thai on steroids.
As you might have guessed from the military connection, Lerdrit is Muay Thai for the act of war and it’s a very brutal martial art that is meant to teach soldiers to kill their opponents with a single blow or kick and, ideally, without giving the opponent any warning first.
However, because of the close-range nature of Lerdrit most of the time a deadly blow is more likely to come from a knee, elbow or first than it is from a kick.
When Thai recruits learn Lerdrit they are required to fight with “non-compliant partners” that is people who are genuinely happy to hurt them in a fight because otherwise, they would find that, in real combat, their skills would be of no real use.
You’re not likely to find a Lerdrit fighter anywhere outside of Thailand though and, by and large, you are never going to get into a fight with a student of Lerdrit because their superior officers would be very unhappy about them fighting with random civilians.
Can a Muay Thai kick break ribs or kill? Yes a muay thai kick can certainly break ribs or kill someone. Not only can it do so, but occasionally it does. Fortunately, most of the time the fighters are well trained enough that they know how to deflect such attacks and not to deliver them in the first place. There is a variant of Muay Thai known as Lerdrit which is designed to kill but it is only used by the Thai military.