Muay Thai Styles images courtesy of Kyle Ching: instagram.com/muaythaixl
Muay Thai is not just an exchange of punches, elbows, knees and kicks. Winning in Muay Thai is also not only achieved by knockouts.
Thai boxing is as much a tactical game as it is physical. Fighters rely on a combination of skills, heart, power, and strategy. Scoring in Muay Thai has less to do with quantity of strikes and more with the quality. This is contrary to what many casual fight sports viewers believe.
What is a Muay Thai Style?
Muay Thai styles describe the manner in which Nak Muays fight in the ring. This might be the preference of certain weapons of Muay Thai, preferred fighting range, the aggressiveness, level of fight IQ, or striking power.
Many fighters may adapt their strategy according to their opponents. The styles of such fighters are not so apparent. However, there are those whose style is so strongly defined that they have come to be known for it. They are expected to fight in a certain way every time.
Types of Muay Thai Styles
There are several types of Muay Thai styles, some more easily distinguished while some overlap with others in certain ways. Many fighters -from golden era to present-day- fall into one of these styles or at least try to.
Muay Femur: Technical All-Rounder
The Muay Femur is a master of all trades, adept at using all weapons of Muay Thai.
He is known as the “King’s disciple”, a fighting style of the highest order. The Femur is a technician supreme with good footwork, defense, and offense. They excel in their precision and diverse arsenal of weapons.
Muay Femurs avoid the brawl and win fights by outwitting, out-manuevring and outscoring their opponents. They can be evasive, counter-fighting on the back foot but can switch swiftly into the offensive when the window of opportunity opens.
Femur masters include Saenchai and Somrak Khamsing who are armed with a bag of tricks and signature moves. Then there are also femur legends like Samart Payakaroon and Nong-O Kaiyanghadao who are masters skilled with every aspect and weapon of Muay Thai, backed by strong fundamentals and superior movement.
Muay Femurs of this generation include Panpayak Jitmuangnon and Sangmanee SathianGym.
Read “Muay Femur: The Technical Supreme” to learn more about Muay Femur and the supreme fighting style.
Muay Khao: Clinch-and-Knee Specialist
Knee fighters are known to win fights and belts in the elite Thai stadium scene.
Muay Khao’s are are clinch-range offensive fighters who use their superior clinch prowess to trap opponents into relentless knee strikes. They are one of the most well-conditioned fighters with exceptional cardio and muscular endurance.
The types of knee techniques available at a knee fighter’s disposal cover different ranges. Knees are not used exclusively but supported by punches and kicks. Some Muay Khao’s also take advantage of the close-range fighting in clinch with effective elbow attacks.
Chamuakpetch Harpalung and Petchboonchu FA Group are two of the most decorated Muay Thai fighters in history who happen to be renowned knee fighters. Another golden-age legend known for his devastating knee attacks is Dieselnoi Sor Thanasukarn.
Read “Muay Khao: The Knee Fighter” to learn more about Muay Khao and the knee fighting style.
Muay Mat: Heavy Puncher
Left hooks and liver shots are Muay Mat’s best friends. Add some low kicks to the mix and you have a winning combination.
Mat means “to punch” in Thai and Muay Mat’s are fighters who rely on their heavy hands more than other weapons. Punches are faster and easier to deliver than other weapons of Muay Thai. They are the number one move when it comes to knockouts.
Muay Mat’s also rely on adding low kicks for complete destruction. They will find a way to tear down their opponents from the top-down or the bottom-up.
Anuwat Kaewsamrit quickly comes to mind when I think about Muay Mat. The “Iron Hands of Siam” . Ramon Dekkers’ Dutch kickboxing style is also commonly associated with the Muay Mat.
Rodtang Jitmuangnon is quite possibly the most successful Muay Mat fighter today.
Muay Tae: Powerful Kicker
The roundhouse kick delivers the most amount of force in the Muay Thai arsenal.
The Muay Tae is rarely a one-trick pony who relies only on his kicks. These fighters often have a solid foundation in all aspects of Muay Thai but his kicks are especially impactful.
Muay Thai kickers derive their power from years of relentless practice, drilling the same kicks over and over. Fighters from Kiatmoo9 camp such as Singdam, Superlek and Petchpanomrung are known for their rib-breaking kicks.
As Bruce Lee once said, “Fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks. But the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.” The quote best sums up what the Muay Tae is all about.
Muay Bouk: The Tank
This style is best summed up by the now-classic Rocky quote: “It’s not about how hard you hit; it’s about you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take and keep moving forward.”
For the Muay Bouk, that’s how winning is done.
While there is some overlap and confusion with the Muay Mat, the Muay Bouk may choose to employ a wider range of strikes including kicks and elbows. Think of them as a steam-roller or tank that only advances.
Like the Muay Mat, Muay Bouk’s are fan-favorites because of their exciting fighting style. If you love to watch a good brawl, look out for Seksan Or Kwanmuang, Thanonchai Thanakorngym or golden-era legend, Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj.
Muay Sok: Elbow Hunter
Like a good left hook to the chin, the Muay Thai elbow is an extremely effective weapon that can quickly end fights.
The elbow is one of the hardest bones of the human body and the sharpest. Thrown with speed and bad intentions, the elbow can slash the human skin, potentially knock out the opponent and cause serious injury.
Muay Thai elbows are close-range weapons but can also be delivered in medium range with devastating results.
Yodkhunphon Sittraiphum and Karuhat Sor Supawan are both golden age masters of the elbows while Muangthai PKSaenchaiGym combines a forward-moving aggression with his sharp elbows to lethal effect.
Finding Your Muay Thai Style
Muay Thai fighting styles are but a means to an end (to win a fight) and not an end in itself. The advantage of knowing your style is that it allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses and then work on them accordingly.
Finding your Muay Thai style is more complex than simply picking one just because you like a certain fighter’s style. There are factors to take into account including physical build, reflexes, ability to take a hit, etc.
It also depends on the style that your trainer teaches and your compatibility with the style. Some trainers will teach only one style of fighting and there are others who teach based on what they think suits the student.
There is no point trying to fight like Seksan if you can’t take a hit. Not everyone has the acute reflex of Somrak or Lerdsila. Make use of your physical strengths and double down on them.
Muay Thai style is more a discovery than a pursuit. Your style is a complete expression of your training, the knowledge of your teachers, and your natural athleticism.
Just keep training and trust in your trainers and your instinct. You will ultimately find out the best Muay Thai styles that work best for you.