Similar to Boxers, in Muay Thai fighters are defined by different Muay Thai fighting styles. It’s natural for fighters to adapt to a specific style, that is based around their strengths and preferred techniques.
Styles make fights. Some of the most exciting Muay Thai fights in recent years have been a fight between two opposite styles. Gameplans are developed around fighting styles, and the winner is determined by who can implement their style the most effectively. Watching a Muay Femeu try and counter and evade an aggressive Muay Kao makes for intense watching.
Several things can affect the development of your Muay Thai fighting style including your trainer and body type.
In this article, we break down the main Muay Thai fighting styles and our favourite fighters within them.
Do you need to pick a fighting style?
Your Muay Thai fighting style should develop organically throughout your career. As fighters get more experience sparing, it’s natural for them to develop a Muay Thai style that plays to their strengths.
What leads to a Muay Thai style?
Whilst your Muay Thai fighting style should develop organically over time. Several factors contribute towards its development.
Your Muay Thai trainers style will affect how you develop as a fighter. It’s only natural for them to prefer to teach techniques they know well and are good at.
An example of this would be FA group Muay Thai in Bangkok. FA group fighters often follow similar gameplans, dominating their opponents in the clinch with knees and elbows.
Fight styles can be determined by a fighters body type and physical attributes. A short stocky fighter would be more suited closing the distance, using punches and clinch work. Alternatively, a fighter with long limbs can keep their opponent at range using teeps and kicks.
An injury can cause you to adapt your Muay Thai fighting style. If you’ve had several hand fractures, it would be smart to adapt your style to use the other limbs.
Some Muay Thai styles involve taking more damage than others. Fighters who are looking for a long and sustainable career should adapt their style accordingly. Aggressive fighters who look to land knees will usually take more damage than counter fighters.
Fighters look up to their favourite martial artists. Newer Muay Thai fighters aspire to imitate their favourite fighters style. It’s possible to mould yourself into a muay Thai fighting style, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
Muay Tae style refers to a Muay Thai fighter that is known for their Kicking game. The kick is one of the most beautiful weapons in Muay Thai. Landing clean Muay Thai kicks score highly in the eyes of the judges.
The roundhouse kick is the most brutal weapon in a Muay Tae’s arsenal. Fighters aim kicks and their opponents head and body looking for a knockout.
Leg kicks also play a pivotal role in Muay Thai fights. Attacking your opponents legs will leave them unable to move. It’s not uncommon for Muay Thai fights to be called off due to leg kicks.
Muay Tae fighters are typically tall and have long limbs. They prefer to be in the medium to long-range distance, and are happy to score with kicks whilst taking as little damage as possible.
Our favourite Muay Tae fighter is Buakaw Banchamek. Baukwaw has a huge international following after winning the K1 World Max championship twice. Although he never won a major stadium belt in Thailand, Baukaws brutal kicks make him a perfect example of a Muay Tae.
Muay Sok is one of the more specialised and less common Muay Thai fighting styles. A Muay Sok fighter uses elbows to cut their opponents.
Cuts over the eyes can impair a fighter’s vision or bleed excessively. This will cause the fight to be called off.
Muay Sok fighters need to be able to close distance to be in range to land brutal elbows. Pay special attention to Muay Sok fighters at the entry and exit of the clinch, as this is an area where they are dangerous.
Muay Sok fighters need to be able to control the distance of a fight. They often have an aggressive style and will take a shot to land the perfect elbow.
Our favourite Muay Sok fighter is Sudsakorn. Sudsakorn Sor Klinmee is known for his brutal elbows. He knocked out or sliced open dozens of his opponents using this technique.
Muay Mat are some of the most exciting fighters in Muay Thai. They are known for their heavy punches and brutal low kicks. Muay Mat’s are not afraid to take a shot to give two back. Fans in Thai stadiums love watching Muay Mat fighters.
Offence is a Muay Mats form of defence. They are known for their aggressive style and like to close the distance to release their power shots. Muay Mats will often chop the legs of opponents, following up with heavy punches to finish the fight.
Our favourite Muay Mat fighter is Ramon Deckers. Deckers was an eight-time Muay Thai world champion. He was a fan favourite due to his aggressive Muay Thai style. Deckers looked to knock out his opponents to avoid the fight being left to the Thai judges decision.
Muay Femeu is the most popular Muay Thai fighting style. They are fighters who have fully mastered the art of Muay Thai. They are the most technical fighters, who pick apart their opponents with clean Muay Thai technique.
Muay Femur’s traditionally have a strong fight IQ, and use skill and technique to outsmart their opponents. They don’t specialise in one technique, but can use all eight limbs to adapt their game plan.
Over the years many of the Muay Thai greats have had a Muay Femeu style. Our favourite Muay Femeu fighters include Smarart, Saenchai, Sam-A and Somrak.
Saenchai in particular is a global superstar. He travels and regularly fights around the globe, often giving away a weight advantage.
Muay Khao translates to knee boxer. They look to land devastating knees to the torso and the face of their opponents.
Muay Khao fighters are relentless. They are always moving forward, looking to land knees and smoother you in the clinch.
Muay Khao fighters want to be in the short to medium range distance. They will use various knee techniques and utilize different guards to confuse their opposition.
Defending against a Muay Khao is tiring. You are constantly evading their knee attacks and need to counter on the back foot to avoid the clinch.
FA Group gym has a stable of strong Muay Khao fighters. Petchboonchu FA Group is one of the most decorated Thai fighters in history. He won multiple world titles including both the Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadium belts.
Remember, Styles make fights!
The development of your Muay Thai fighting style is a continuous process. When beginning Muay Thai, you should learn fundamental techniques and spar & clinch as much as possible. Your style will develop over time, as you become more experienced.
The beauty of Muay Thai is that no two fighters are the same. Due to the fact you can use all 8 limbs, every successful fighter has a technique they excel at.
Remember, your Muay Thai style is a constant evolution that will develop alongside your Muay Thai technique, physical strength and fitness level.