Aficionados and connoisseurs of Muay Thai love a good brawl but also appreciate the technicalities of the art. There is a class of athletes renowned for their superior technical proficiency within the world of Muay Thai. They are known as Muay Femur.
Muay Thai is a hard sport. Fighters get knocked out, badly cut with elbows, bruised and dropped. But there is far more to it than just the brutality. It can be as much a game of strategic intelligence as all-out aggression.
In this article, let’s explore the world of the Muay Femur.
What is Muay Femur?
A Muay Femur or Fimeu (Thai: มวยฝีมือ) is a technical Muay Thai fighter who depends on intellect rather than aggression to win fights. “Femur” (ฝีมือ) means skills or art so Muay Femur is a skilled boxer or artful boxer.
Muay Khao fighters specialize in knees, Muay Tae are strong kickers and Muay Mat are heavy punchers. No particular weapon of Muay Thai defines the Muay Femur fighting style.
Instead, they rely on their mastery of all weapons in the art of 8 limbs and when to use what at the right time.
Muay Femur is a highly regarded style that is described as a noble display of fighting. It is also known as “The King’s Discipline” for this reason. Top Femur’s are always well-respected by peers for their technical superiority.
These ring technicians are often evasive, tricky and highly-skilled. Femur fighters move and strike with beautiful balance and form. They excel in counter-fighting but will put the pressure to zoom in for the kill when the opportunity arises.
This is a style that favors brains over brawn. There are several notable Femur fighters who are not particularly physically gifted but they make up for it by being technically talented.
Golden era legend Samart Payakaroon is said to have small lungs and poor cardio. Modern legend Saenchai is almost always shorter than his opponents. Both Femur’s have been able to find great success by possessing unparalleled Fight IQ.
How Muay Femur Win Fights
Muay Femur is like an elite assassin who is skilful with all weapons. They may not finish fights but are more likely to win the judges’ decision. They are well-versed with the rules of the game to see them through to a win.
Outwit & Outscore
Technical fighters avoid clashing head to head or trading blow for blow. They don’t just go for the head the way aggressive fighters do. Femur fighters focus on being perfectly balanced in both offense and defense.
The idea is to exploit the opponent’s weakness and outscoring at every step of the game. Many Muay Femur’s are counter fighters, boxing off their back foot controlling the fight instead of chasing it.
But when they detect a small window of opportunity, they won’t hesitate to step up and finish a fight.
Many Femurs have a great sense of space and movement. Boxing and kickboxing fans lambast Muay Thai for their lack of footwork or head movement. These critics clearly have not seen the works of legendary Femur’s like Somrak, Samart and Saenchai.
Femur’s of high order tend to have a long-lasting longevity in their career compared to forward-moving fighters. They do so with evasion and the seeming ability to read their opponents.
They are able to minimize injuries and have a low rate of getting knocked out. It is like a game of chess and they are able to stay ahead of their foes.
There is a division within the Femur’s that thrive on being predictably unpredictable. They equip themselves with an extended arsenal of weapons, feints and signature moves beyond the typical Muay Thai competitor.
Think flashy techniques like question mark kick, Matrix-style leanback, flying elbows and Muay Boran moves.
This special class of Femur’s are not just winning fights but doing it with a lot of style. They are crowd-pleasers who operate on another level technically and are always entertaining to watch in the ring.
The now-defunct Jocky Gym quickly comes to mind. This legendary camp produced a number of notable fighters who were slippery, tricky and innovative. Some of the Jocky alumni include Somrak Khamsing, Lerdsila Chumpairtour, Silapathai JockyGym and Saenchai.
Notable Muay Femur Fighters
Many Muay Femur’s win championship titles but the very best ones make it into the history books. Here are some of the greatest technical fighters from both the past and present:
Samart is the first person that comes to mind for many older fans. Many modern Muay Thai fans also consider him the GOAT.
The golden era legend was a 3-time recipient of the “Best Fighter of the Year” award in 1981, 1983 and 1988. He captured the Lumpinee title in 4 weight classes before switching to boxing where he won the WBC Super Bantamweight world title.
Samart possessed an unsurpassed mastery of every weapon of Muay Thai. He wasn’t flashy in the ring but would outclass his opponent with amazing movement and speed. He is right at the top when it comes to fight IQ. Samart is the very personification of what it means to be a Muay Femur.
(Read and find out if “Samart Payakaroon is the Greatest of All-Time“)
Somrak Khamsing is in a league of his own. He is a complete fighter with great head movement, unpredictable style, lightning speed and thorough grasp of the entire Muay Thai technical vocabulary.
Somrak set the tone for his fellow Jocky Gym campmates who brought an exciting and entertaining style to the ring. He is also one of very few who was able to incorporate ancient Muay Boran techniques in competitive ring fighting.
It is amazing that the 1996 Olympic boxing gold medalist has actually never won a championship title at the elite stadiums. Somrak was never given a shot at a stadium title but there is no doubt that he would have amassed a sizable collection.
Karuhat Sor Supawan
Karuhat is a highly underrated fighter from the golden era of Muay Thai. He is a 3-time Rajadamnern champion known for explosive speed and surgical precision. His elbows were especially menacing.
Karuhat was not particularly physically-blessed. He often had to fight opponents who were taller and bigger. His key to success relied almost exclusively on his technical virtuosity. Many old-timers consider Karuhat to be the best fighter of the ultra-competitive 122-lb category in the 90s.
Karuhat retired with 190 fights and an outstanding 165 wins.
There is no one quite like Saenchai in the world of Muay Thai.
His record speaks for itself with 300 fights in 346 appearances. Saenchai’s longevity in the game can be credited to his fighting style. It is a blend of nifty footwork, diverse range of techniques and exceptional ability to read his opponents.
What makes Saenchai special is really his playful and fun ring persona, as well as a repertoire of trademark moves. You would recognize him even if he had fought with a mask. You can’t say the same for the majority of fighters.
(Here’s why I think Saenchai is Muay Thai’s Greatest of All-Time.)
Nong-O Gaiyanghadao belongs to a classic breed of Muay Femur’s. He possesses strong fundamentals, immense power, and impeccable balance. No frills, all skills.
During his elite stadium years, Nong-O racked up a multitude of titles including 4 Lumpinee belts, Toyota Marathon Tournament champion, a Rajadamnern belt, and the 2005 Fighter of the Year award. There are fans who considered him one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of his time.
He came out of retirement in 2018, won the ONE Championship Bantamweight Muay Thai world title the following year and defended it for 3 times.
Honorable Mentions: Kongthoranee Payakaroon, Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtom, Attachai Fairtex
Modern Muay Femurs to watch: Panpayak Jitmuangnon, Tawanchai PKSaenchaiGym, Kaonar PKSaenchaiGym