Muay Thai

Muay Thai

The word muay derives from the Sanskrit mavya which means “to bind together”. Muay Thai is referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science of Eight Limbs” because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”, as opposed to “two points” (fists) in boxing and “four points” (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, such as kickboxing, boxing, and savate. A practitioner of muay Thai is known as a nak muay. Western practitioners are sometimes called nak muay farang, meaning “foreign boxer.

Various forms of kickboxing have long been practiced throughout Southeast Asia. Based on Chinese and Indian martial arts, practitioners claim that these systems can be traced back to a thousand years.

In Thailand, muay Thai evolved from the older muay boran (ancient boxing), an unarmed combat method which would have been used by Siamese soldiers after losing their weapons in battle. Some believe that the ancient Siamese military created muay boran from the weapon-based art, krabi krabong but others contend that both systems were developed at the same time. Krabi krabong nevertheless was an important influence on muay thai as seen in the movements in the wai khru.

Ajarn Surachai Sirisute , born October 16, 1948), commonly known as Chai Sirisute, is a martial arts Instructor who is the founder and President of the Thai Boxing Association of the USA and responsible for introducing Muay Thai to the United States. Born in Bangkok Thailand, Sirisute was indoctrinated to Muay Thai at the age of 4.

Biography

He formally studied both Muay Thai as well as karate beginning at the age of six. He earned his black belt in Shorin-ryu at the age of 12, an age at which he also started to fight in the ring in Muay Thai. Sirisute fought over 72 fights in Muay Thai and retired as a fighter in 1968, leaving Thailand to teach in America.

Upon arriving in the US, Sirisute managed to befriend and train a notorious motorcycle gang called the Hells Angels, having no idea who they were until the FBI explained it to him. Where upon, Sirisute volunteered to train the FBI agents.

During the 1970s and early 1980s Sirisute taught at several Southern California colleges: Chaffey College, Claremont Men’s College and Cal State San Bernardino and out of his home. His early students included Jim Vanover, Bryan Dobler, Mike Goldbach, Reggie Jackson, Glen Hernandez, Don Boyd, and the vice president Chai’s Thai Boxing Association, Tony Gneck whom he brought to Thailand in 1982 as the first American team to compete in the Muay Thai World Championships.

In 1978, trained another Martial Arts teacher named Dan Inosanto, Inosanto trained as a student in Chai’s backyard and eventually introduced Sirisute to his Jeet Kune Do teaching seminars, which greatly helped Sirisute extend awareness of Muay Thai in the U.S.A. as well as internationally. In 1983 Inosanto introduced Sirisute to Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys who soon incorporated Muay Thai into their pre-season conditioning with Sirisute as their instructor until the time of Landry’s departure in 1990.

Sirisute currently runs a Muay Thai camp in Oregon each year with more than 200 students from around the world attending. He founded the Thai Boxing Association of the USA in 1968 and has expanded it to more than 16 countries around the world. He maintains a busy seminar schedule travelling around the world teaching Muay Thai today

Techniques

Formal muay Thai techniques are divided into two groups: mae mai or major techniques and luk mai or minor techniques. Muay Thai is often a fighting art of attrition, where opponents exchange blows with one another. This is certainly the case with traditional stylists in Thailand, but is a less popular form of fighting in the contemporary world fighting circuit where the Thai style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable. Almost all techniques in muay Thai use the entire body movement, rotating the hip with each kick, punch, elbow and block.

Elbow (Ti sok)

The elbow can be used in several ways as a striking weapon: horizontal, diagonal-upwards, diagonal-downwards, uppercut, downward, backward-spinning and flying. From the side it can be used as either a finishing move or as a way to cut the opponent’s eyebrow so that blood might block his vision. The diagonal elbows are faster than the other forms, but are less powerful

Punching (Chok)

The punch techniques in muay Thai were originally quite limited being crosses and a long (or lazy) circular strike made with a straight (but not locked) arm and landing with the heel of the palm. Cross-fertilization with Western boxing and western martial arts mean the full range of western boxing punches are now used: lead jab, straight/cross, hook, uppercut, shovel and corkscrew punches and overhands as well as hammer fists and back fists.

As a tactic, body punching is used less in muay Thai than most other striking combat sports to avoid exposing the attacker’s head to counter strikes from knees or elbows. To utilize the range of targeting points, in keeping with the center line theory, the fighter can use either the Western or Thai stance which allows for either long range or short range attacks to be undertaken effectively without compromising guard.

Kicking (Te)

English Romanization
Straight Kick Te trong
Roundhouse Kick Te tat
Diagonal Kick Te chiang
Half-Shin, Half-Knee Kick Te khrueng khaeng khrueng khao
Spinning Heel Kick Te klap lang
Down Roundhouse Kick Te kot
Axe Heel Kick Te khao
Jump Kick Kradot te
Step-Up Kick Khayoep te

The two most common kicks in muay Thai are known as the thip (literally “foot jab”) and the te chiang (kicking upwards in the shape of a triangle cutting under the arm and ribs) or roundhouse kick. The muay Thai roundhouse kick uses a rotational movement of the entire body and has been widely adopted by practitioners of other combat sports. It is superficially similar to a karate roundhouse kick, but includes the rotation of the standing leg, like in Kyukushin, Goju, Kojosho and Kenpo, it is done from a circular stance with the back leg just a little ways back (roughly shoulder width apart) in comparison to instinctive upper body fighting (boxing) where the legs must create a wider base. This kick comes with the added risk of having the groin vulnerable at times, which is against Karate and Tae Kwon Do ideology in general except for brief moments after a kick for example. The roundhouse kick draws its power entirely from the rotational movement of the body; the hips. It is thought many fighters use a counter rotation of the arms to intensify the power of this kick, but in actuality the power is from the hips and the arms are put in said position to get them out of the way.

If a roundhouse kick is attempted by the opponent, the Thai boxer will normally check the kick, that is he will block the kick with his own shin. Thai boxers are trained to always connect with the shin. The foot contains many fine bones and is much weaker. A fighter may end up hurting himself if he tries to strike with his foot or instep.

Muay Thai also includes other varieties of kicking such as the side kick and spinning back kick. These kicks are used in bouts only by few fighters.

Knee (Ti khao)

English Romanization
Straight Knee Strike Khao trong
Diagonal Knee Strike Khao chiang
Curving Knee Strike Khao khong
Horizontal Knee Strike Khao tat
Knee Slap Khao top
Knee Bomb Khao yao
Flying Knee Khao loi
Step-Up Knee Strike Khao yiap
    • Khao dot [kʰàw dòːt] (Jumping knee strike) – the boxer jumps up on one leg and strikes with that leg’s knee.

 

    • Khao loi (Flying knee strike) – the boxer takes a step(s), jumps forward and off one leg and strikes with that leg’s knee.

 

  • Khao thon [kʰàw tʰoːn] (Straight knee strike) – the boxer simply thrusts it forward but not upwards, unless he is holding an opponents head down in a clinch and intend to knee upwards into the face. According to one written source, this technique is somewhat more recent than khao dot or khao loi. Supposedly, when the Thai boxers fought with rope-bound hands rather than the modern boxing gloves, this particular technique was subject to potentially vicious cutting, slicing and sawing by an alert opponent who would block it or deflect it with the sharp “rope-glove” edges which are sometimes dipped in water to make the rope much stronger. This explanation also holds true for some of the following knee strikes below as well.

Foot-thrust (Thip)

The foot-thrust or literally “foot jab” is one of the techniques in muay Thai. It is mainly used as a defensive technique to control distance or block attacks. Foot-thrusts should be thrown quickly but yet with enough force to knock an opponent off balance.

English Romanization
Straight Foot-Thrust Thip trong
Sideways Foot-Thrust Thip khang
Reverse Foot-Thrust Thip klap lang
Slapping Foot-Thrust Thip top
Jumping Foot-Thrust Kradot thip

Clinch and neck wrestling (Chap kho)

 Muay Thai clinch

In Western boxing the two fighters are separated when they clinch; in muay Thai, however, they are not. It is often in the clinch where knee and elbow techniques are used. To strike and bind the opponent for both offensive and defensive purposes, small amounts of stand-up grappling are used in the clinch. The front clinch should be performed with the palm of one hand on the back of the other. There are three reasons why the fingers must not be intertwined. 1) In the ring fighters are wearing boxing gloves and cannot intertwine their fingers. 2) The Thai front clinch involves pressing the head of the opponent downwards, which is easier if the hands are locked behind the back of the head instead of behind the neck. Furthermore the arms should be putting as much pressure on the neck as possible. 3) A fighter may incur an injury to one or more fingers if they are intertwined, and it becomes more difficult to release the grip in order to quickly elbow the opponent’s head.

A correct clinch also involves the fighter’s forearms pressing against the opponent’s collar bone while the hands are around the opponent’s head rather than the opponent’s neck. The general way to get out of a clinch is to push the opponent’s head backwards or elbow them, as the clinch requires both participants to be very close to one another. Additionally, the non-dominant clincher can try to “swim” their arm underneath and inside the opponent’s clinch, establishing the previously non-dominant clincher as the dominant clincher.

Muay Thai has several other variants of the clinch or , including:

    • arm clinch: One or both hands controls the inside of the defender’s arm(s) and where the second hand if free is in the front clinch position. This clinch is used to briefly control the opponent before applying a knee strike or throw

 

    • side clinch: One arm passes around the front of the defender with the attacker’s shoulder pressed into the defender’s arm pit and the other arm passing round the back which allows the attacker to apply knee strikes to the defender’s back or to throw the defender readily.

 

    • low clinch: Both controlling arms pass under the defender’s arms, which is generally used by the shorter of two opponents.

 

  • swan-neck: One hand around the rear of the neck is used to briefly clinch an opponent before a strike.

Defense against attacks

Defenses in muay Thai are categorized in six groups:

    • Blocking – defender’s hard blocks to stop a strike in its path so preventing it reaching its target (e.g. the shin block described in more detail below)

 

    • Redirection – defender’s soft parries to change the direction of a strike (e.g. a downwards tap to a jab) so that it misses the target

 

    • Avoidance – moving a body part out of the way or range of a strike so the defender remains in range for a counter-strike. For example, the defender moves their front leg backwards to avoid the attacker’s low kick, then immediately counters with a roundhouse kick. Or the defender might lay their head back from the attacker’s high roundhouse kick then counter-attack with a side kick.

 

    • Evasion – moving the body out of the way or range of a strike so the defender has to move close again to counter-attack, e.g. defender jumping laterally or back from attacker’s kicks

 

    • Disruption – Pre-empting an attack e.g. with defender using disruptive techniques like jab, foot-thrust or low roundhouse kick, generally called a “leg kick”(to the outside or inside of the attacker’s front leg, just above the knee) as the attacker attempts to close distance

 

  • Anticipation – Defender catching a strike (e.g. catching an roundhouse kick to the body) or countering it before it lands (e.g. defender’s low kick to the supporting leg below as the attacker initiates a high roundhouse kick).

Punches and kicks

Defensively, the concept of “wall of defense” is used, in which shoulders, arms and legs are used to hinder the attacker from successfully executing techniques. Blocking is a critical element in muay Thai and compounds the level of conditioning a successful practitioner must possess. Low and mid body roundhouse kicks are normally blocked with the upper portion of a raised shin. High body strikes are blocked ideally with the forearms and shoulder together, or if enough time is allowed for a parry, the glove (elusively), elbow, or shin will be used. Mid section roundhouse kicks can also be caught/trapped, allowing for a sweep or counter attack to the remaining leg of the opponent. Punches are blocked with an ordinary boxing guard and techniques similar, if not identical, to basic boxing technique. A common means of blocking a punch is using the hand on the same side as the oncoming punch. For example, if an orthodox fighter throws a jab (being the left hand), the defender will make a slight tap to redirect the punch’s angle with the right hand. The deflection is always as small and precise as possible to avoid unnecessary energy expenditure and return the hand to the guard as quickly as possible. Hooks are most often blocked with a motion most often described as “combing the hair”, that is, raising the elbow forward and effectively shielding the head with the forearm, flexed biceps and shoulder. More advanced muay Thai blocks are usually in the form of counter-strikes, using the opponents weight (as they strike) to amplify the damage that the countering opponent can deliver. This requires impeccable timing and thus can generally only be learned by many repetitions.
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