Two distinct overarching technical branches of Muay Boran evolved out of numerous regional styles of Muay Boran.
These two distinct technical branches comprise the gamut of Muay Thai techniques seen today.
The “Hard / Solid” Styles of Muay Thai Training evolved in the North and North-East Regions of Thailand. Some of the names of the more recognized “Hard / Solid” styles include Muay Korat, Muay Lopburi, and Muay Uttaradit (named after provinces in Thailand).
The “Soft / Fluid” Style of Muay Thai Training evolved in the Southern Region of Thailand. Among these regional styles, Muay Chaiya is the most well known of the “Soft” Styles. Modern Muay Thai techniques take from both ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ styles in order to achieve the optimal use of the 8 limbs in combat.
The ‘Hard’ Style of Muay Thai – “Muay Lug”
(“Lug” translates to ‘Heavy’ ‘ Basic’ ‘ Solid’)
In the Muay Thai stance, the Muay Lug Warrior is stable and unshakable. The fighter cautiously moves the body with a vigilant, watchful pace, like a Tiger, waiting for the right time to pounce. The fighter is calm, not wild, and can be aggressive when he or she decides to be.
The ‘Hard’ Style of Muay Thai is a style of calculated movements, which may seem slow to the opponent, but is actually very responsive to the opponents attacks. The Muay Lug fighter is highly skilled in the art of blocking and guarding the vital spots of the body.
Another primary focus of the Muay Lug fighter is to develop tremendous power behind their punches, knees, and kicks while maintaining proper balance. With a calm demeanor, impenetrable blocking abilities, and strikes with knockout power, the Muay Lug fighter is skilled at putting the opponent on the ground and ending fights.
The combination of a well conditioned body, armed with powerful strikes, calmly waiting behind an impenetrable guard for the opponent to make a mistake, in order to deliver the fatal blow. This is the strategy of the Muay Lug warrior.
The ‘Soft’ Style of Muay Thai – “Muay Giaw”
(“Giaw” translates to ‘Soft’ ‘Fluid’)
The ‘Soft’ Style of Muay Thai, or Muay Giaw, is founded on the ability of the fighter to move fluidly with the movements of the opponent. The style is comprised of ferocious attacks to the legs, highly refined elbow strikes, as well as jumping attacks.
In order to execute this style of fighting, the eyes must be very good and spotting openings to get through the opponents tight guard. The Muay Giaw fighters elbow strikes are highly trained and very dangerous. In close, expect the Muay Giaw fighter to press the action.
Many of the defensive techniques they will use will involve the Muay Kiaw fighter quickly stepping off the center-line to evade the strike while simultaneously delivering a blow to the opponent, combining both evasion and striking into one highly calculated movement with the opponent.
A Muay Thai Fighter Needs to Learn Both ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ Styles of Training
Training a mix of strategies, tactics, and techniques creates a balanced Muay Thai/Boran fighter. This would include training in both the ‘Hard’ as well as ‘Soft’ styles of training. The very best fighters combine training into both and it takes enormous amounts of time to become a master in both approaches These two overarching training philosophy’s characterize the collective strategies for efficiently utilizing the ‘8 limbs’ in combat.
“A real expert of Muay Boran cannot leave aside any of the two, they are as complementary as day and night – Yin and Yang, a lack of one of the two approaches would cause serious gaps in a Thai Boxer’s personal technical baggage.”
De Cesaris, Marco – Muay Thai Boran: The Martial Art of Kings (2013)
Muay Thai Training Begins with Developing the Stance
Regardless of style, the first priority of a Muay Thai practitioner is always to learn to feel ready in the stance. The proper stance enables a fighter to efficiently use guards or blocks and counter-attacks against their opponent. Through training from the proper stance, a practitioner will develop a strong guarding abilities against an attackers strikes.
Under proper training, reaction time and ability to track an opponent’s rhythm naturally occurs as the brain adapts to the visual speed of the strikes, and the kinesthetic feel of the techniques.
With confidence and refined technique, the speed of combat appears to ‘slow down’. The mind is calm, the breathing is deep, the eyes begin to see more. The fighter develops both a Receptivity to the opponents strikes as well as a Rigidity in dealing with them.
With a calm demeanor towards training and combat, new techniques, more ‘Soft’ and ‘Playful’ Techniques which require tremendous finesse, accuracy, and timing – can be introduced to a practitioners training, again continuing to push the students to develop new capabilities and refine them – ad nauseum – toward Mastery.
Next – The Foundation of the Muay Thai Fighting System
For more on the history of Muay Thai, click here.
Next, we will be going into a 3-Part series regarding arguably the most important topic for anyone new to training Muay Thai – the Muay Thai Stance. Particularly, in part I, we’ll be discussing the foundation of the Muay Thai Stance and all Muay Thai techniques – The 3-point footwork of Muay Thai known as the ‘Triangle Stance’.
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