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Muaythai is an intricate and complex chess game but it comes with dire consequences; some win, some lose, everyone gets hit, and everyone learns. This is our sport, and there are many ways to play this complex game.
Each individual practitioner differs in his or her own style, execution, and vision of Muaythai. None of the following styles are set in stone, nor should they be adhered to in all circumstances – the true martial artist is able to adapt their personal strengths to match the strengths of their opponent, regardless of how they “want” the fight to go.
The three styles highlighted below are a good introduction to some of the general tactics displayed in many Muaythai bouts. A well-rounded fighter ideally uses this information to help read their opponent’s tactics, adjust their own to match or counter them, and to identify their own natural tendencies.
Heatrick Strength and Conditioning have a cool little video breakdown of what they call “the different modes” in a Muaythai fighter’s game, whether they are Aggressive, Tricky, etc. When paired with the different fighting ranges (long to clinch), we can see how each of the 3 styles outlined below use a distinct combination of modes and ranges to execute their styles.
Fighting Modes in Muaythai
Aggressive – Forward Pressure Fighters, strong with good endurance.
Counter – Waits and strikes when the opponent comes forward or opens up.
Elusive – Quick movement, footwork, and is hard to hit.
Tricky – Uses Fakes and creative attacks to confuse and trick the opponent.
What are your natural preferences? Do you like to fight in close, or keep your opponent away with long Teeps and Kicks? Do you like to evade shots and wait for your opponent to strike, or do you like to be the first one to throw a strike?
Muay Khao – Knee Fighter
The Muay Khao is a strong, tough, and aggressive fighter who likes to fight in close range and in the clinch. Their preferred weapons are Knees and Elbows, using constant grinding forward pressure to push their opponents into the ropes and into the clinch.
A good Muay Khao fighter will use strong blocks to stand their ground and press forward against their opponents attacks, then, once they have closed the distance, they will unleash devastating close range weapons. Dieslenoi is a legendary Thai fighter who displays this style.
Muay Mat – Heavy Hitter
The Muay Mat fighter is all about power – hard, heavy shots at all costs. They will tend to be strong and tough, able to take many shots in favour of landing a single knock-out shot of their own. They are very agressive yet also patient, waiting for their opponent to make a mistake in order for them to land their perfect shot.
Muay Femeu – Technical Fighter
A Muay Femeu fighter is very exciting to watch – they are extremely technical and evasive, making their opponent frustrated and confused. The Muay Femeu has excellent fight IQ, meaning that they are able to recognise their opponents patterns and tendencies and then capitalise on them. They love creative attacks, fakes, and will trade power and aggression for flashy and exciting any day. Samart and Saenchai are good examples of excellent Muay Femeu styles.