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Introduction and a glossary of techniques

Traditional Techniques - Mae Mai Muay, Luk Mai Muay, Yaang Sam Khum

Proper footwork is definitely a heart of Muay Boran and also Muay Thai. Traditional footwork is called Yaang Sam Khum (The Muay Shuffle).  Muay Boran still follows closely the traditional Yaan Sam Khum and it has remained also in modern Muay Thai as an elaborate part of Ram Muay.

Mae Mai Muay are the "mother techniques" of Muay Boran involving fists, feet, knees, and elbows, for attacking and defending.

Originally, such techniques were not standardized as every Kru taught his own style and regional forms varied.

Nowadays some have been disappeared, some have been replaced by more effective ones, some are banned in modern Muay Thai.

Therefore, the actual "standard" Muay techniques are grouped in fifteen Mae Mai Muay, which are learnt first, followed by another fifteen Luk Mai Muay (more advanced ones).

Then the Nak Muay (Muay Thai fighter, Muay Thai practitioner) learn how to combine all techniques in order to implement the powerful combinations of all tricks (Cherng Muay).

All techniques for attacking and counter-attacking are called khon (strategies).

Master tricks - Mae Mai

  1. Salab Fan Pla (Cross-switch movement)
  2. Paksa Wheg Rang (Bird peeping through the nest movement)
  3. Chawa Sad Hok (Java throws spear movement)
  4. Inao Thaenk Krit (Inao stabs his kriss)
  5. Yoh Khao Phra Sumer (Lifting the Sumer Mountain)
  6. Ta Ter Kam Fak (Old man holding the melon) technique
  7. Mon Yan Lak (Mon supports the pillar)
  8. Pak Luk Toi (Impaling the stake)
  9. Jorake Faad Hang (Crocodile sweeps its tail)
  10. Hak Nguang Iyara (Break the elephant's tusk)
  11. Naga Bid Hang (Snake twists its tail)
  12. Virun Hok Klab (Bird somersault) basic muaythai techniques
  13. Dap Chawala (Estinguish the lamp) technique
  14. Khun Yak Jab Ling (The giant catches the monkey)
  15. Hak Kho Erawan (To break the elephant's neck movement)

Complementary Tricks - Luk Mai

  1. Erawan Soei Nga (Elephant thrusting its tusks)
  2. Bata Lup Bpaak (Foot touches face)
  3. Khun Yak Pa Nang (Giant kidnaps the girl)
  4. Pra Ram Nao Sorn (Rama pulls the arrow)
  5. Kraisorn Long Huai (Tigers descend into the steam)
  6. Kwaang Lieow Lang (Deer looks back)
  7. Hiran Muan Pen Din (Mountain overturns earth)
  8. Naga Mood Badan (Snake hides in the ocean)
  9. Hanuman Tawai Wen (Hanuman offers the ring)
  10. Yuan Tod Hae (Vietnamese throws a fishing net)
  11. Tayae Khan Sao (Tayae supports the pillar)
  12. Hong Pik Hak (Swan with broken wing)
  13. Sak Puang Malai (Threading the flower garland)
  14. Ten Kwaat Larn (Novice sweeps the floor)
  15. Fan Luk Buap (Slicing the cucumber)

Cherng Muay (Traditional Basics)

Cherng Muay means methods of the usage of fists, feet, knees and elbows (in Muay Thai art) as the skills of attack defense. Cherng Muay are divided into four methods (4 Cherng):

  1. Cherng Mad Cherng
  2. Cherng Sok Cherng
  3. Cherng Khao Cherng
  4. Cherng Thao Cherng

Glossary of modern Muay Thai techniques


Punching (Chok)

Jab   Mat nueng  
Cross หมัดตรง Mat trong [màt troŋ]
Hook หมัดเหวี่ยงสั้น Mat wiang san [màt wìəŋ sân]
Swing หมัดเหวี่ยงยาว Mat wiang yao [màt wìəŋ jaːw]
Spinning Backfist หมัดเหวี่ยงกลับ Mat wiang klap [màt wìəŋ klàp]
Uppercut หมัดเสย/หมัดสอยดาว Mat soei/Mat soi dao [màt sɤ̌j], [màt sɔ̌j daːw]
Cobra Punch* กระโดดชก Kradot chok [kradòːt tɕʰók]

The punch techniques in Muay Thai were originally quite limited being crosses and a long (or lazy) circular strike made with a straight (but not locked) arm and landing with the heel of the palm. Cross-fertilization with Western boxing and western martial arts means the full range of western boxing punches are now used: lead jab, straight/cross, hook, uppercut, shovel and corkscrew punches and overhands as well as hammer fists and back fists.

As a tactic, body punching is used less in muay Thai than most other striking combat sports to avoid exposing the attacker's head to counter strikes from knees or elbows. To utilize the range of targeting points, in keeping with the center line theory, the fighter can use either the Western or Thai stance which allows for either long range or short range attacks to be undertaken effectively without compromising the guard.

Elbow (Ti sok)

The elbow can be used in several ways as a striking weapon: horizontal, diagonal upwards, diagonal downwards, uppercut, downward, backward spinning and flying. From the side it can be used as either a finishing move or as a way to cut the opponent's eyebrow so that blood might block his vision. The diagonal elbows are faster than the other forms, but are less powerful.

Elbow Slash ศอกตี Sok ti [sɔ̀ːk tiː]
Horizontal Elbow ศอกตัด Sok tat [sɔ̀ːk tàt]
Uppercut Elbow ศอกงัด Sok ngat [sɔ̀ːk ŋát]
Forward Elbow Thrust ศอกพุ่ง Sok phung [sɔ̀ːk pʰûŋ]
Reverse Horizontal Elbow ศอกเหวี่ยงกลับ Sok wiang klap [sɔ̀ːk wìəŋ klàp]
Spinning Elbow ศอกกลับ Sok klap [sɔ̀ːk klàp]
Elbow Chop ศอกสับ Sok sap [sɔ̀ːk sàp]
Double Elbow Chop ศอกกลับคู่ Sok klap khu [sɔ̀ːk klàp kʰûː]
Mid-Air Elbow Strike กระโดดศอก Kradot sok [kradòːt sɔ̀ːk]

There is also a distinct difference between a single elbow and a follow-up elbow. The single elbow is an elbow move independent of any other move, whereas a follow-up elbow is the second strike from the same arm, being a hook or straight punch first with an elbow follow-up. Such elbows, and most other elbow strikes, are used when the distance between fighters becomes too small and there is too little space to throw a hook at the opponent's head. Elbows can also be utilized to great effect as blocks or defenses against, for example, spring knees, side body knees, body kicks or punches.

Kicking (Te)

Straight Kick เตะตรง Te trong [tèʔ troŋ]
Roundhouse Kick เตะตัด Te tat [tèʔ tàt]
Diagonal Kick เตะเฉียง Te chiang [tèʔ tɕʰǐəŋ]
Half-Shin, Half-Knee Kick เตะ ครึ่งแข้ง ครึ่งขา Te khrueng khaeng khrueng khao [tèʔ kʰrɯ̂ŋ kʰɛ̂ŋ kʰrɯ̂ŋ kʰàw]
Spinning Heel Kick เตะกลับหลัง Te klap lang [tèʔ klàp lǎŋ]
Down Roundhouse Kick เตะกด Te kot [tèʔ kòt]
Axe Heel Kick เตะเข่า Te khao [tèʔ kʰàw]
Jump Kick กระโดดเตะ Kradot te [kradòːt tèʔ]
Step-Up Kick เขยิบเตะ Khayoep te [kʰa.jɤ̀p tèʔ]

The two most common kicks in Muay Thai are known as the thip (literally "foot jab") and the te chiang (kicking upwards in the shape of a triangle cutting under the arm and ribs) or roundhouse kick. The Thai roundhouse kick uses a rotational movement of the entire body and has been widely adopted by the practitioners of other combat sports.

Knee (Ti khao)

Straight Knee Strike เข่าตรง Khao trong [kʰàw troŋ]
Diagonal Knee Strike เข่าเฉียง Khao chiang [kʰàw tɕʰǐəŋ]
Curving Knee Strike เข่าโค้ง Khao khong [kʰàw kʰóːŋ]
Horizontal Knee Strike เข่าตัด Khao tat [kʰàw tàt]
Knee Slap เข่าตบ Khao top [kʰàw tòp]
Knee Bomb เข่ายาว Khao yao [kʰàw jaːw]
Flying Knee เข่าลอย Khao loi [kʰàw lɔːj]
Step-Up Knee Strike เข่าเหยียบ Khao yiap [kʰàw jìəp]
  • Khao dot [kʰàw dòːt] (Jumping knee strike) – the boxer jumps up on one leg and strikes with that leg's knee.
  • Khao loi (Flying knee strike) – the boxer takes a step(s), jumps forward and off one leg and strikes with that leg's knee.
  • Khao thon [kʰàw tʰoːn] (Straight knee strike) – the boxer simply thrusts it forward but not upwards, unless he is holding an opponents head down in a clinch and intend to knee upwards into the face. According to one written source, this technique is somewhat more recent than khao dot or khao loi.Supposedly, when the Thai boxers fought with rope-bound hands rather than the modern boxing gloves, this particular technique was subject to potentially vicious cutting, slicing and sawing by an alert opponent who would block it or deflect it with the sharp "rope-glove" edges which are sometimes dipped in water to make the rope much stronger. This explanation also holds true for some of the following knee strikes below as well.

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