Styles make fights
The old saying is true. Yes, Muay Thai is rounds and rules. Yes, the referee controls the action. But it’s the fighters that make the action happen. And it’s how they do damage that's exciting. It’s the variety. Nak Muay express themselves in different ways. Their primary vehicle is their fighting style.
There are three primary styles in Muay Thai: Muay Fimeu, Muay Mat, and Muay Khao.
There are four secondary styles as well.
Primary Muay Thai Styles
Muay Fimeu: มวยฝีมือ – Technical Fighter
The Muay Fimeu fighter uses timing and technique to outscore their opponent. Generally these athletes are looking to control the game: คุมเกม/khoom game. They will avoid direct conflict. Technical fighters emphasize scoring and then defense. Minimizing damage comes from backward movement, stalls, sweeps and hand controls. When the Muay Fimeu fighter is in the lead they will play defense and use clock control to stay ahead. Killing time leads to a points victory.
Experience is a staple for the Muay Fimeu. It’s what they use. But they can succumb to continual pressure. Muay Khao fighters with their relentlessness can make them tire out.
Fight example Rebellion Muay Thai 16: Matthew Smith vs Singpayak Chombeung – Round 5
In Matthew Smith vs Singpayak Chombeung, the Thai athlete uses his experience. Singpayak uses teeps and body kicks to stall Smith. The hand controls stifle Smith’s big hail mary shots. When things get dangerous Singpayak ties up to stall.
Having a strong lead Singpayak controls the fight and cruises to a points win.
Muay Mat: มวยหมัด – Punching Fighter
In western boxing there is the technical brawler. In Muay Thai there is the Muay Mat. As Heavy handed fighters they come in for Ko’s. Muay Mat use basic punches, check hooks, and leg kicks. Their goal is to create the most damage as possible in the least amount of time. Explosive and powerful, the Muay Mat’s frame is generally short and stocky.
Combinations for attacks are simple. There is the cross, hook, leg kick. The one, two, leg kick, the check and leg kick etc. Occasionally uppercuts and hooks to the body are thrown. Higher level Muay Mat angle themselves as they punch to create better opportunities.
Punches off balance the opponent. Then the leg is chopped. The two primary targets for the Muay Mat are the legs (usually lead) and chin. Attacking the legs punctures the tires – เจาะยาง – jaw yang. Once the leg gives way the opponent can no longer stand. Punches or leg kicks finish off the job.
Fight Example: Road To Rebellion 6: Samuel Bark vs Alexi Petroulias - Round 3 - Watch here
Sam Bark uses his jab to distract Alexi Petroulias. Bark stands heavy on his lead leg to generate more power in his punches. The jabs also turn into braces for heavy shots from the Tor Sangtiennoi athlete. When Bark and Petroulias gets in close Bark moves his hips in close to stall the action and create a break.
Muay Khao: มวยเข่า – Knee Fighter
Stamina and endurance is the name of the game for Muay Khao fighters. These athletes drown their opponents in the clinch. Grabbing on they drive in the knees. The game plan is generally simple, push forward until the opponent collapses. This strategy takes both commitment and time. Three round fights are not enough time for Muay Khao fighters to do damage. They often see the impact of their work in the fourth and fifth round.
The difficulty for Muay Khao fighters is clinch entry. Technical fighters will use stalls and lateral movement. Muay Mat athletes brace against them with their hands to create that distance.
Successful Muay Khao use varied forward rhythm to come in. Examples would be a simple hop into engagement. Some Muay Khao will walk or speed up into a trot. Yodwicha Por Boonsit boxes his way into the clinch. This lets him set up his hand positioning as he comes into the grapple.
Knees to the body are very draining, especially knees up the middle. When the fighters are in close often corners will scream out: แทง – spear – thaaeng. This is a driving knee up the middle. The power comes in the leverage of stepping back and pulling the opponent into the knee.
Fight Example: Road To Rebellion 5: Kurtis Staiti vs Roy Wills Round 4 - Available here
Lamnamoon Sor Sumalee prodigy, Staiti fought like his teacher. He came forward and drove in the knees. Staiti walks forward and punches or uses teeps to clinch up. Wills arms gassed out due to the continual clinching. Staiti uses a grip around the head. He locks both hands together behind Wills head. This allows him to punish with the knees. He drops his head into the neck of Wills to irritate him as well.
Styles by Weapon And Activity
In describing fighters coaches and promoters will use short hand. This athlete has a strong punch. This boxer can elbow. This fighter can kick. They will also describe how active the boxer is. If they are especially aggressive the boxer is a มวยเดิน – Walking fighter – muay deern. These are common categories for athletes.
Muay Sok – มวยศอก - Elbow Fighter
The elbow is a dangerous weapon. It can cut, it can bludgeon, and it can end fights. Athletes that are adept with this weapon use it in two distances. There is a “long range” and “short range.”
Elbows at long range use boxing and hand controls. For example, an athlete jabs then up elbows through the guard. Or the boxer may parry the opponent’s hand down to come over with a 45 degree elbow.
Targets for elbows include the brow line, nose, top of the forehead and chin.
As a slicing weapon the elbow draws blood. Cuts above the eyebrow can stop the fight. If blood runs into the eye the medical doctor and referee wave off the fight.
Fight Example: Road To Rebellion 5: Toby Smith vs Chanachai Kaewsamrit - Watch here
Perth legend Toby Smith positions his arm in the clinch with Chanachai. In the tight exchange Smith keeps his head locked down and low against Chanachai. He positions his left arm to push the face of his opponent. This give him space to sneak an upward elbow into Chanchai. The Thai athlete drops and the fight ends.
Muay Dte – มวยเตะ – Kicking Fighter
Muay Thai’s most iconic weapon is the kick. The power comes from the rotation of the hips. Athletes swing out their arm and target the ribs or arms. The attack is like a baseball bat swing. The crack of shin against body is notification that the fight is Muay Thai.
Boxers splash their shin – ราดแข้ง – laad kaeng on their opponents. This phrase highlights the way the kick lands across the opponent.
Kicks can stall foes and break their arms or legs.
Athletes like Superlek Kiatmoo 9 or Samkor Kiatmonthep are known as Muay Dte fighters. They kick, kick, and kick some more. The rapid succession of attacks breaks down the guard and the opponent.
Fight Example: Rebellion Muay Thai 14: Roy Wills vs Alexi Petroliaous Round 4 - Watch here
When Petroliaous attacks, Wills is quick to counter with a chopping leg kick. The Perth athlete whips out the kick to the bicep. Petroliasous cops the kick and his guard starts to fall. Wills from Perth splashes out more kicks onto Petroliasous' body. The ribs turn red as a fire hydrant. Wills stays at kicking range using stalls on Petroliasous.
Muay Buak -มวยบวก – A Relentless Fighter
Some fighters have an arsenal that keeps firing away. The Muay Buak athlete presses, presses, and presses somewhere. Unlike the Muay Khao athlete the Buak’s weapons are more diverse. They will brace and use punches and body kicks. Their tornado of activity storms over unseasoned opponents. Even experienced fighters have difficulty controlling the tidal wave of attacks.
Fight Example: Rebellion Muay Thai 27 Tyson Harrison vs Tum Winner Muay Thai - Watch here
Another Tor Saengtienoi star, Harrison came into the fight with experience. Not as much as seasoned Tum though. Harrison used his length, long guard and body kicks to close the distance. Tum was clever. He grabbed to the body and stalled. But Harrison kept pressing in. It was when Tum went to stall the action that Harrison was able to land a fight stopping elbow.
Muay Sai - มวยซ้าย – Southpaw
The weapons of the southpaw are simple. The left kick, the left cross, the jab, the right hook and the left push kick. Their advantage comes from their simplicity. Since they do not have many weapons to use they make them very complete.
Southpaw stars like Yodsanklai Fairtex did damage using his left kick. Like many left handed fighters he could understand rhythm – จังหวะ – jangwa.
Fight Example Roots 21: Brittany Thomas vs Michaela Jorgensen – Round 1 - Watch Here
Fighting out of 8 Blade Warriors, Thomas understands the left kick. Thomas uses simple one two punches to power in the rear kick. Utilizing feints, Thomas blasts out the attack to the bicep. At times Thomas draws her opponent in. This allows her to time the powerful left kick.