Ancient Styles of Muay Thai
The History behind Muay Thai
We all know about the ring sport called “Muay Thai” or “Thai Boxing”, its explosive and devastating techniques have thrilled audiences worldwide and ensured its popularity, but where did this sport come from, where are its origins?
It is believed that the Siamese people had their own styles of fighting, in each Kingdom a different style. These fighting systems have clearly been evolving for many hundreds of years and have been known under many different names such as; “Arwut Thai” (meaning Thai Weapons), “Pahuyut” (armed, unarmed combat).
Much later, at the end of the Ayuthaya Period, or around the beginning of the Thonburi Period after a long history of fighting against the Burmese, King Phra Thaksin “The Great” finally pushed all invaders from the Kingdoms of Siam and with this the Chakri dynasty began. The Chakri dynasty with King Rama I on the throne, marked a period when nearly all of the separate Kingdoms of Siam joined together to become the country we now know as Thailand.
At the end of the 1700’s, with wars against invaders over,fighters began to compete locally, and often in front of the King to see who had the best style. Most people recognize this period in the history of Muay Thai as fighters used to wrap their hands in cotton twine. Today, people refer to this style of fighting (during this period) as “Muay Kaad Chuak” although at the time, this isn’t the term people used. “Muay Kaad Chuak” began to decline around the 1920’s, finally ending in 1929 with a death in the ring.
Although the government of the time prohibited this style of fighting (with wrapped hands) people still continued to practice the arts and fight underground. Eventually, by introducing rules, and providing fighters with better protection, competition became safer, and the sport of Muay Thai was born.
Here we provide a list of the most popular styles of “Muay Kaad Chuak”. This section will attempt to explain the defining characteristics of each style along with additional background information.
Paak Tai – Southern Styles
Muay Chaiya is the style of the South, created in Chaiya city in the province of Surathani in the South of Thailand. The style was created by a soldier named Por Tan Mar from Bangkok who eventually became a monk in the temple of Wat Tung Jab Chang in Chaiya city, where he remained until his death.
It was during his monkhood that Ajarn Por Tan Mar developed the Muay Chaiya style. He taught the style to the governor of Chaiya (“Praya Vajisata Ya Rat”) named “Kam Sriyaphai”. The governor had a son called “Kiet Sriyaphai” who learnt Muay Chaiya from his father. Kiet Sriyaphai also learnt other styles from 12 different Ajarn’s. He was to become the Master of Muay Chaiya. The last Ajarn of Kiet Sriyaphai was the famous Ajarn Kimsaing who was master of the Paak Klang style.
One of the best students of Ajarn Kiet Sriyaphai, Kruu Tong, has taught many Thai people who are still living today.
It is believed that the style of Muay Chaiya is more than 250 years old. The Muay Chaiya stance is very low and compact, with the center of gravity between the legs. Both knees are bent and all the joints are facing forward, ready to be used as a shield against any incoming attack. In Muay Chaiya, the fists are placed one higher than the other, facing upwards. Proponents of the style usually lead with the right side of the body but can use both sides very well.
Muay Chaiya specializes in blocking with the elbows and knees. Every leg or arm is bent, even when the boxer attacks. Limbs are never extended completely. Some people call it the “Durian Style”, named after a fruit covered in very sharp spikes.
The footwork is fast and smooth, and sometimes the body weight is placed entirely on one leg. The Muay Chaiya boxer often moves in a springing motion. The attacks are very quick and come as a series of machine-gun like blows coming from all angles. Muay Chaiya is considered by some teachers to be a hybrid style. This is because the person who developed the style, Ajarn Por Tan Mar, brought the style from Bangkok.
The Muay Chaiya style was developed by a monk, so the style carries many Buddhist concepts amongst its teachings. The Muay Chaiya boxers were trained in meditation and the Thamma (teachings of the Buddha).
The Muay Chaiya boxers wrap only their hands as they want make their primary weapon, the elbow, as effective as possible.
Muay Maa Yang
Muay Maa Yang is another less well known southern style of Muay Thai. The name “Maa Yang” translated from Thai means “The Horse’s Walk”. The master of this style was called Kruu Tankee.
The classic stance of this style has the boxer with one leg raised up in a guard position, with the same hand held close to the hip, the other hand in front of the face also in a guard position.
Kruu Tankee was well known for his cruelty whilst fighting, so was not a well liked teacher. One story has Kruu Tankee removing the eye of his opponent Kruu Noree (Muay Chaiya Style) who broke Kruu Tankee’s forehead with a jumping kick. Kruu Noree continued to fight after losing his eye, but later died of a hemorrhage related to his injuries.
Paak Eesaan (The eastern style of Muay Thai, also known as Muay Korat)
Muay Korat is named after the place where the style originated; Na Khorat Rachasima which is located in the center of Thailand towards the east. The style of Muay Korat appears to the public around the time of King Rama IV (date needed), but perhaps the Korat people have had this style for more than a thousand years.
The governor of the city of Na Khorat Rachasima, Phra Hemsamahan was since we know the transmitter of Muay Korat. Phra Hensamahan teach the style to Deng Thaiprasert who became the first fighter to represent the Korat style fighting in front of the King, and winning the competition acquiring the title of “Muan Changat Cherng Chok”, meaning “The King’s Champion”.
Another student of the art, taught by Phra Hemsamahan, was Kruu Bua Wathim. This is considered the real master of the Muay Korat system. Kruu Bua became a soldier and taught cadets in the Army all his life. His real name was Kruu Bua Ninarcha, meaning “The Black Horse”.
The stance in Muay Korat is quite different from other styles. The stance is quite long and very narrow with both feet almost in one line, both pointing forward. The hands are placed one in front of the other, lined up together in front of the nose. The front, or lead leg is straight and the knee is locked. The back leg is also straight, tensed and ready to kick upwards, or to use footwork to change the angle against the opponent. The back leg heel is also up off the floor. The body’s center of gravity is close to the front leg with the head positioned over the front foot, body leaning forward.
Muay Korat kicks and punches are completely straight. The kick travels in an upwards arc, twisting a little bit to reach your opponents head or neck.
This style of Muay Thai prefers to intercept an attack by simultaneous block and strike, or to choose to evade an attack by moving out of range. Rarely does the Korat style teach students to block and then attack. The kind of footwork used is “Suua Yang”, which means “Tiger Walk”. These techniques are closely guarded. The most powerful weapon in Muay Korat is called “Viang Kwai”, means “Swing of the Buffalo”. This technique is executed after a kick and uses the knuckles to strike the opponent behind the ear. Another famous attack is called “Taa Krut” which is used as a counter-attack, launching two strikes simultaneously.
In ancient times, the boxers of Muay Korat followed a Buddhist Code known as “Sin Haa”, the five precepts. Meditation was a very important part of their training, followed by a strong respect for seniors and the golden rule of not to fight in the ring with other Muay Korat boxers.
Paak Klang (The central style of Muay Thai, also known as Bangkok Style)
The master of this famous style was “Ajarn Kimsaing” who was from Ayuthaya. Ajarn Kimsaing learned Muay Ayuthaya from Kruu Kiao. He then moved to Bangkok to study international boxing and Muay Paak Klang with “Luang Vitsam Darunkon”.
The stance in Muay Paak Klang is not so wide. The arms are held low and the fists are clenched facing upwards. Both arms are placed at the same height, parallel to each other pointing forward, with the left hand held forward slightly.
Sometimes the front foot is held off the ground, extended outwards, but pointing down towards the opponent. The footwork in this style is very interesting; when the Muay Paak Klang boxer steps, his feet come together with his hands held in front of his face in a high guard position, then the boxer steps outward again, feet separating and the guard lowering again.
The style is sometimes known as the “Ghost steps” as Muay Paak Klang boxers move so quickly and smoothly with little effort, seemingly covering ground in many places at the same time.
The master of this style, Ajarn Kimsaing was the last Ajarn of the very famous teacher of the Muay Chaiya style; Ajarn Kiet Sriyaphai.
Muay Paak Klang boxers wrap their hands down to the middle of the forearm.
Paak Klang – Muay Lopburi
This style born in the Ayuthaya Period when King Narai was on the throne. At this time a lot of foreigners were working with the King, so it is believed that Ajarn Muun Men Mat learned deadly skills from them.
The typical stance of Muay Lopburi looks almost identical to that of a western boxer around the 1900’s, the classic upright stance with both arms extended outwards, both forearms pointing forwards. This style is based in very accurate and deadly punches. The most dangerous weapons of Muay Lopburi were the upper cuts to the opponents adam’s apple and the thumb strikes to the eyes. This style was nominated as one of the most clever and tricky styles of the era. Sometimes the boxers would fake an injury waiting for an opportunity to attack. Some say that this style was part of another style called “Muay Paak Klang” or the central style.
Muay Lopburi wrapped the arm only halfway in cotton twine, and sometimes no wraps were used.
Sadly, this style has been lost completely. The premier Ajarn (teacher) of this dangerous style was called “Muun Men Mat”, meaning “Ten Thousand Accurate Punches”. Legend has it that Ajarn Muun Men Mat didn’t teach Thai people his art because in one of his last fights he killed a man with a fatal blow. After this he decided to stop teaching and lived in a Buddhist Temple helping Monks. This was in the Ayuthaya Period.
Paak Klang – Muay Ayuthaya
The master of the Muay Ayuthaya style is called “Kruu Kiao”, which means “the green teacher”. He was from Ayuthaya and was the teacher of Ajarn Kinsaing who later became the master of Muay Paak Klang.
One of the characteristics of this style is the stance of the boxer, who has the left shoulder raised up, close to the chin, protecting the face. Muay Ayuthaya used to attack with two weapons at the same time in order to counter other styles effectively. One of the most common counters against Muay Chaiya was left-roundkick and a short chopping downward right-cross.
This style was not very famous but became well known because the master of Muay Paak Klang learned Muay Ayuthaya before going to Bangkok.
Paak Nuua (The northern style of Muay Thai)
Paak Nuua Muay Lampang
In the era of King Rama V when the Lanna Kingdom (the northern most provinces) was united with, and became part of the Kingdom of Siam (later to become Thailand), legislation prohibited the practise of martial arts in the north. While people in Bangkok were permitted to train with weapons, people in the north (Lanna) could not, and so with time these skills dissapeared from the area.
Muay Paak Nuua boxers were famous for having extensive knowledge about vital points in the body. Muay Lampang boxers would often strike using the hands in a pincer-like action, grabbing and exerting pressure on vulnerable parts of the body.
Paak Nuua – Muay Uttaradit
Muay Ta Sao is an style of Muay with witch Phraya Pichai Daab Haak defeat many opponents.
The guard in the Muay Ta Sao is long and the weight it goes in the back, so the front foot is barely touching the floor. It is a fast and quick style were the long range is preferred when fighting. The front hand is far from the face and the front shoulder is elevated, the rear hand is lower resting on the side of the mandible. The stance is almost sideways and the feet are positioned one in front of the other.
The main philosophy in the Muay Ta Sao style is to finished the opponent as soon as possible; His attacks are extremely explosive and effective.
In the city of Uttaradit this style is still alive today. Some low profile schools are hidden in the outskirts but practice goes everyday. They don’t teach foreigners except under special circumstances. And it is almost impossible to find them. Don’t try without invitation. They are very strict about their knowledge. I can understand why….