Being a very practical and conservative fighter myself, I have always been skeptical of anything that looked too much like ballet, favoring instead the simple and brutal efficiency of schools like Jiu-Jitsu.
But after closer observation of Muay Thai techniques in no holds barred fights like the UFC and a couple of sparring sessions with good Muay Thai fighters I had to re-evaluate my take on this increasingly popular sport and fighting style.
Each Muay Thai match begins with a Wai Khru ceremony. This is an important cultural aspect of the Thai boxing. Thai culture abhors violence, but is not unrealistic about the need for combative skill and the important place fighting and war play in personal and natural defense and safety. The Wai Khru dance is beautiful, almost effeminate, performed with a special headdress and wrist bands that have been blessed by monks and in honor of the fighter’s school and teacher. The flowers, music, dance, and spiritual ceremony of the Wai Khru are a way of cutting the violence of the coming fight with a little softness and beauty, yin and yang if you will.
An important part of the amazing footwork of Muay Thai is first visible in this dance. The Yang Sam Khum, or three steps walk, is the foundation from which all of the ferocious techniques will be launched. It is a way of circling the opponent, without telegraphing your movements, while maintaining perfect balance. In its specific and fully developed style this sort of thing is almost certainly unique to Muay Thai. Footwork is important to fighters of any style, but there are no schools I know of outside of Muay Thai that put so much emphasis on it that the way you circle your opponent can actually serve as a deception technique. I’ve always feinted with a hand or thrown my head or eyes to misdirect an opponent’s attention. Yang Sam Khum is to Muay Thai what break falls are to Jiu-Jitsu, they are the first thing a new student learns and something without which the rest of the techniques are likely to be useless or even worse dangerous to the person trying to use them.
On the strong foundation laid down by the Yang Sam Khum, Muay Thai can launch a barrage of very unique strikes with fists, feet, knees and elbows. Muay Thai’s strikes are unique in the angles and ways in which they are delivered.
By striking up and down, across the body, backwards and into the body Muay Thai fighters have a much, much broader range of attack than say a traditional western boxer who is pretty much limited to jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. Which means the Muay Thai fighter is harder to predict and can use many different angles and openings to attack, making him very hard to predict. And try keeping tabs on 8 points and effectively blocking all of them!
A good school like Peak Performance Martial Arts in Keller, Texas, can take you fighting to the next level with authentic, certified Muay Thai instruction.