Martial Arts For Complete And Utter Morons
Here comes another style I am not as familiar with: Muay Thai. It's a pretty hardcore martial art, from what I've seen, and requires a lot of training. I was helped by a reviewer who identified herself as Alexandra Weise. Thanks Alex! This information was complied by her. I've copied it and edited it from email to make it easier to read.
I've been studying Muay Thai for about two years, at what is unfortunately the only gym that teaches Muay Thai in the area. I've done quite a bit of research into the subject, as I'm eventually going to have to submit a research paper to the regional WMC office as part of the junior instructor certification process.
There is a great amount of ritual in Muay Thai. Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, is considered the patron god/sprit of the martial art, and many of the traditional techniques are named after him (Hanuman Taiwai Wen, Hanuman Hak Kor Erawan, etc.) It's also a tradition for boxers competing in Thailand to
make a pilgrimage to the Hanuman Shrine in Bangkok before bouts.
Many scholars believe that the basic techniques of Muay Thai originated from Krabi Krabong, the Thai weapons art, which uses a pair of short swords very similar to machetes. Unfortunately, much of the information about the early development of Muay Thai was lost when the Burmese army invaded
Thailand in 1767 and destroyed the library in the capital of Ayuddhaya. From what is
known, it is believed that in its early stages Muay Thai was actually used for dueling and was very brutal: both duelists would wrap their hands and forearms in knotted rope, cover the rope with resin, and then cover the resin with powdered glass. This practice has been illegal for several decades, but is still in use in some of the more remote areas of Thailand.
Muay Thai, now the national sport of Thailand, was made famous over the last few centuries when the Thai royal family began to endorse it. In the late 1600s King Prachao Suaa, or the Tiger King, would often disguise himself as a peasant so that he could compete in Muay Thai bouts without anyone giving
him an unfair advantage. A century later, in 1774, Nai Khanom Tohm, a famous Thai boxer, was kidnapped by the Burmese king as an insult to Thailand. After widespread protests, the king of Burma declared that if Nai Khanom Tohm could defeat ten of Burma's best Bando boxers, he would grant him
his freedom. Nai Khanom Tohm defeated all of them and was released. (Now March 17th is celebrated as Nai Khanom Tohm Day in Thailand.)
Many Muay Thai schools take ritual very seriously. Instructors are addressed as Kru (teacher) or Arjan (master). (More relaxed teachers don't insist on this, including my instructor, who thinks "Kru Tony" sounds weird.)
Similar to the belt-ranking systems of some other martial arts, Muay Thai uses colored armbands called Kruang Ruang (or Pra Jer). These are worn around the upper arm and sometimes have lucky amulets attached to the tassels. For purely traditional purposes, boxers also wear a headband called a Mongkon, whose design indicates what part of Thailand the student or the student's teacher comes from (or the teacher of the teacher, in my case). The Mongkon and the Kruang Ruang are usually only worn during the pre-bout rituals in competition, as during the actual bout or training they just tend to get in the way.
Beginning students, once joining a school, are required to sign the following pledge: "I, , hereby abide to uphold all the principles of Muay Thai and promise to honor the code of conduct taught by my
teacher, Arjan/Kru . I will respect and honor my teacher, my seniors and my fellow students. I will continue to promote and enhance the name of Muay Thai with great endeavor. I will respect the laws and traditions of Muay Thai and I understand and appreciate that I am learning a potentially dangerous martial art. Therefore I promise not to use the art unless under extreme provocation where I might be compelled to defend myself, my family or my friends or in support of law and order."
There is also a set of rules referred to as the Muay Thai Code:
Take note of your elders' advice, especially that of your teacher.
Value yourself above money.
Do not get angry.
Be charitable and help others les fortunate than you.
Do not accept any illegal offers.
Do not boast about your prowess in Muay Thai.
Do not be vengeful--vengeance begets vengeance.
Do not bully.
Be loyal to your school and peers.
Be truthful in word and action.
Before competing in a match, both boxers must perform a pre-bout ritual made up of three parts: the Wai Kru, the Yarng Sam Krum, and the Ram Muay.
Wai Kru (bow to teacher): student performs three kneeling bows in the direction of his/her instructor
Yarng Sam Krum: a ritual dance demonstrating the basic footwork of Muay Thai
Ram Muay: a longer ritual dance intended to illustrate the boxer's ability. Many of the traditional Ram Muays depict scenes from the Ramayana (or Ramakien, in Thailand). The Ram Muay of my school represents Rama hunting the golden deer, with a focus on maintaining balance.
Muay Thai is also called the "Art of Nine Weapons", meaning two fists, two elbows, two knees, two legs, and one head. (The 'head weapon' isn't literal-- headbutting is illegal, but the idea is that the student uses
their brain to strategize.) Each pair of weapons is used depending on the distance between the boxer and his/her opponent: Long range--legs, closer range--fists, closest-- knees and elbows.
Fists: The boxing element of Muay Thai includes the jab, cross, hook,
and uppercut. Punches can be parried but are usually dodged or taken. Some
moves unique to Muay Thai are Hanuman Taiwai Wen ("Hanuman's Ring"), a
jumping double uppercut punch aimed at the opponent's jaw, and the "Cobra
Strike", leaning back to dodge a high round kick and then using the momentum to
throw a cross to the opponent's face.
Elbows: The elbows are used extensively in Muay Thai and are useful in that they can deliver serious blows with relatively little damage to the boxer. (As opposed to striking with the fists, where there is always some danger.) One of the most feared techniques in Muay Thai is an elbow strike called "Hanuman Catches the Stars". This devastating move is virtually impossible to block and can result in a clean knockout-- the boxer jumps into the air and delivers a downward elbow strike to the top of the opponent's head. The elbows are also useful in blocking high kicks aimed at the head, and can also be used to block kicks aimed at the body by bringing the knee and elbow together so that the opponent's shin strikes solid bone.
Knees: With the exception of some of the more spectacular flying knee strikes, most knee techniques involve grabbing the opponent in a clinch and throwing straight or side knee strikes to the body. An exception is Hanuman Hak Kor Erawan ("Hanuman Breaks the Elephant's Neck"), in which the boxer grabs the opponent's neck, forcing his/her head down and delivering a knee strike to the face. This technique is simple but rarely used because of the risk of severe injury.
Legs: There are two basic kicks in Muay Thai: the round kick (daet) and front kick (teep). The round kick is performed keeping the leg flexible so that a whip-like effect is achieved and the knee is brought into use. A very subtle round kick technique is Tayae Kamsao, when the boxer waits for his/her opponent to throw a round kick and then kicks their supporting leg out from under them. The teep kick is a push kick delivered straight forward and can also be adapted into a side kick. Similar to the difference between a jab and a cross, the front push kick (usually done with the left leg) can be used to keep the opponent at a safe distance, block kicks, or jab, while the rear push kick (right leg) is much more powerful and causes serious damage.
Blocks have a substantial role in Muay Thai, but the main idea is to be prepared to take whatever your opponent throws at you. Training includes a lot of conditioning exercises, including kicks and punches to the legs and body, and clinch practice.
The more complex techniques of Muay Thai are divided into two forms: Mae Mai Muay Thai and Luk Mai Muay Thai.
Mae Mai Muay Thai consists of a set of very difficult moves that show supreme mastery of the art. Mae Mai Muay Thai includes Choraked Faad Hang ("Crocodile Whips Its Tail") a backwards spinning round kick, Hanuman Hern Weha, when the boxer jumps into the air, steps onto the opponent's thigh, and delivers a round-knee strike to the head, and Hanuman Hak Daan, where a knee and elbow strike are delivered simultaneously.
Luk Mai Muay Thai consists of about thirty traditional moves which were originally not taught to foreigners because they were considered warfare secrets. These are very dangerous techniques, such as Maiya Lab Lak Pra (ducking a high round kick and pulling the opponent's supporting leg out from under them) and Gorn Ling Preel (ducking a high round kick, then delivering a flying knee strike to opponent's upper spine), which can cause serious injury to the opponent.
I hope that was enough information. If you're interested, you can check out
World Muay Thai Council (wwwDOTwmtcDOTnu/): up-to-date information on the sport and good articles about conditioning and skills
'Muay Thai: The Essential Guide to Mastering the Art': Good photographs of techniques, and also contains very detailed description of Luk Mai Muay Thai and Mai Mae Muay Thai movements.
'Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior': A terrible movie in terms of plot, but contains fantastic fight scenes, in particular at the end when Tony Jaa faces off against a Burmese Bando boxer.
Alexandra was certainly thorough on her explanation. Thanks again! Muay Thai sounds pretty tough, but rewarding. A lot of times, southeast Asian styles like Muay Thai are overlooked. That's why I'm trying to cover them relatively early on. This is the kind of style that a devoted character might have. There's a lot of ritual and training required, so people who train in it likely have a lot of devotion to it.