Muay Thai Styles: A Tale of Two Technical fighters
There is a saying in boxing “styles make fights.” This holds true for Muay Thai as well.
The recent boxing match of the century between Mayweather vs. Pacquiao was one of the most predictably boring fights of the century, when it comes down to it their styles just didn’t make for an exciting fight, technical fighter vs. brawler is rarely exciting if the technical fighter has anything to say about it.
In the Golden Era of Muay Thai back in the 80’s and 90’s when there was an abundance of top-level fighters they use to match up styles to take out the best.
In this article I will be talking about Muay “Feemue” which is the technical fighter. Two examples of great technical fighters of past and present are Samart Payakaroon (my all time favorite fighter) and this era’s technical genius Saenchai.
What does it mean to be a “technical” fighter?
A technical fighter as the name states is a fighter that relies on their technique in addition to their intellect and strong basic skills foundation. Technical fighters are also known to have good defense thus taking a lot less damage than punchers and kneers therefore, their careers as fighters tend to last longer.
Another thing quite common with technical fighters, although not always true, is that they tend to fight from a distance using angles rather than in the pocket where they’re more susceptible to knees and elbows. To further explain this I will break down each of the two technical masters that I’ve named…
First, the legend Mr. Samart Payakaroon fought back in the 80’s considered the golden era of Muay Thai. He is believed by many to be one of the best Muay Thai fighters of all time; Samart also won the junior welterweight WBC world boxing title in 1986.
Mr. Payakaroon’s like many Thai fighters is ambidextrous, he was known to constantly switch stance during his fights. His most well known weapon in his arsenal was his teep or front push kick. The way most fighters are taught to use their teep is similar to the jab in boxing. You use it to measure and keep your opponents at a distance from you.
Samart’s teep was so strong that he was known to knock out his opponents with his teep something rarely seen. It is believed that the reason why Mr. Payakaroon developed his teep so much is because he was considered to be a quite handsome boxer and he wanted to keep opponents away from his face so he wouldn’t get cuts and scars.
Another thing that Samart was known for was his great vision. His vision allowed him slip punches and lean back from kicks. His great vision is what allowed him to easily make the transition to western boxing. Never known for being a hard puncher he was able to use his incredible vision and accuracy to become a superb boxer.
These two aspects combined with his incredible boxing IQ allowed Samart to fight his way to legendary status back in the 80’s and today is still considered a prominent figure in Muay Thai society.
Next is Mr. Saenchai who is currently still an active fighter and already a legend in the Muay Thai world. Saenchai is a technical genius with an incredible Muay Thai IQ and tremendous agility.
He’s been dominating Muay Thai for the last decade and although he’s at the tail end of his career, he is still quite amazing to watch.
Saenchai’s greatest attributes are his footwork and agility. Anyone who’s seen him fight or has seen tapes of him can see that his incredible footwork puts him on another level.
Being the genius that he is Saenchai likes to use level changes in his fighting, he uses a combination of weapons attacking the legs and body to set up his signature cartwheel head kick, which has since become illegal in professional fights.
To show you what a Muay Thai genius Saenchai is he invented the cartwheel kick based off of a move from takraw which is a south east Asian sport with rules similar to volleyball but players use their feet instead of their hands to kick a bamboo ball over a net.
Another gift that Saenchai possesses is incredible agility and flexibility. This can be seen in one of his most famous moves the matrixeque lean back dodge that he uses during his fights.
I have to admit this is a move that I’ve often tried to imitate, but I lack the appropriate agility to execute it in such the smooth manner that Mr. Saenchai is able to.
Saenchai has always been at a disadvantage in height and weight and he often gives up both height and weight to his opponents. But what he lacks in both he makes up for with pure talent and IQ.
Saenchai has also been known to never back down from a challenge. During the prime of his career he once fought 2 fighters at once, dividing up the 5 rounds amongst the 2 fighters Saketdao and Petboonchu (2 great fighters in their own right) and he still won.
In conclusion, what all technical fighters have in common is their intellect. Muay Thais is like a chess match and these technical fighters are master level players. Hope this short breakdown was able to give you a better understanding of what a technical Muay Thai fighter is. My kru always told me that your style picks you not the other way around.
Are you a technical fighter? What type of fighter would you consider yourself? Leave your answer in the comment section below!
- Saks' interest in Muay Thai and Martial Arts started at a young age. His childhood was split up between U.S. and Thailand where he was first introduced to Muay Thai. He now spends his time between New York and Bangkok, where he still consistently trains Muay Thai. He can often be found roaming around Rajadamnern stadium taking photos during fights. He is also does fight commentary for Thai fight and other Muay Thai promotions.