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damien trainor

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Lets discuss the term “traditional” Muay Thai

23 Jan Posted by in Blog, Videos | Comments

Here is the USA’s Richard Abraham preparing for his fight on Glory at the world famous Sitmonchai gym in Thailand.

Not too long ago I shared a video of a combination to practice on the pads that consisted of 4 punches and one kick.

Someone commented to say that this wasn’t Muay Thai but more Dutch kickboxing as Muay Thai doesn’t use those type of combinations but focuses mainly on single strikes.

I responded by saying that wasn’t strictly accurate and it would all depend on what gym or style the fighter likes/comes from. When you look at gyms like Kaewsamrit, Sitmonchai or even the old Muengsurin gym from the golden era then you’ll notice they focus/focused a lot on their hands.

He disagreed and brought up how in the 80s and early 90s you had Dutch fighters, such as Kaman, Dekkers and Hippolyte fighting and winning in Thailand which subsequently changed the whole dynamics of the sport. Their hybrid style of boxing, kyukashinkai karate and Muay Thai was enough to beat some of Thailands best, in their own stadiums, on their own soil. With this, the Thais supposedly incorporated more boxing in to their training so they could deal with their new foreign opponents.
First off I don’t agree with this statement as you only have to look at fighters from that era such as Superlek, Coban and samransak and Samart (became WBC world boxing champion) to see certain camps liked to incorporate not only punching but actual boxing techniques in their training.

Even though the introduction of regular western fighters in Thailand did help the sport evolve, Muay Thai had already changed many times prior to this. If you look at MT fights from the 60s you’ll notice that many of the boxers moved around a lot more than today’s and there was a lot more punching involved. As the years passed the sport went through many changes and evolved in to what people now think is “traditional” Muay Thai.

For me, this idea of Muay Thai isn’t traditional, but more a stereotype of what we expect Muay Thai to look like. You have to remember Muay Thai has probably only been in the west since around the late 70s so our first impression of this fine art is already at an evolved state.

You can’t limit MT to just one style and those that do are the ones that are making many MT bouts in the west unappealing and lacking in excitement.

If you want to try and talk about traditional Muay Thai then I guess you’d really have to look at Muay Boran (translated as ancient boxing or ancient fighting) as that’s supposedly where MT originates from. As you can see from the video that isn’t what many would deem as traditional Muay Thai due to it’s flamboyant and theatrical style.

Agreed, there are key elements that must be followed in order for Muay Thai to remain Muay Thai and for it to be as effective as it is. How an attack is delivered such as the round house kick, elbow or the knee must be executed accordingly as they are done very differently to other martial arts. There are also rules that should be followed in order for the boxer to win a bout under the Muay Thai scoring criteria so certain techniques will be used more.

However, the person only throwing one single solid strike or the fighter who focuses on only clinch work is not the guy who is doing “traditional” Muay Thai.

If that was the case then people like Anuwat, Pornsanae, Wangchannoi, Superlek Sor.Esarn, Paluhadlek, Samransak etc etc and not to mention the two greatest Muay Thai fighters ever Samart and Saenchai, would not have reached the heights that they did in their careers.

Anyone who generally uses the term “they do traditional” anything are usually trying to down grade what others are doing and make theirs sound superior.

Muay Thai is known as the science of eight limbs which means you have eight weapons. Two fists, two elbows, two knees and two shins/feet (I know they aren’t technically all limbs but it sounds good and that’s the phrase). So in turn you have eight weapons to utilise in order to win your bout. Remember each weapon can out do the other and vice versa, it’s about how you go about using them.

There are many styles in Muay Thai that you can use for inspiration depending on what you prefer. I’ve included below a quick list of fighters and their styles for you to take a look at and see how each fighter has their own individual fighting style.
They do not all fight the same but they all fight Muay Thai.

Knee fighters: Luangsuan, Yodvicha, Diesel noi.

Punchers: Anuwat, Samransak, Superlek Sor.Esarn.

Kickers: Samkor, Singdam, Jo Nattawat

Evasive fighters: Saenchai, Samart, Lerdsila.

Warring fighters: Bovy, Rungravee, Pornsanae.


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