Muay Thai & Krabi Krabong

I can comment in a limited fashion between MT matches from the 60's compared to now. I have seen many tapes of older fights.

There appears to be two main differences between the older fights (50's and 60's) and todays fights.

#1- BOXING. The ring sport of Muay Thai was originally modeled after Western Boxing in 1929-1930, when the "ring rules" were instituted to make the sport more safe. But Western Boxing's influence can really be seen a lot more clearly in the last decade or so. Muay Thai fighters boxing skills have improved drastically, and you can also see the influence of Boxing on Muay Thai's footwork.

#2- CLINCHWORK. The Muay Thai clinch used to be a very simple affair: Grab you opponents head/neck and start firing away with straight knees. In all the old tapes that I have seen, that pretty much describes clinchwork. It was VERY basic. Nowadays, Muay Thai clinchwork has gotten much, much more complex. It is no longer a straightforward "grab n' knee" exchange. Clinchwork has gotten so complex with intricate subtleties that there are many fighters that specialize in the clinch, and not much else. Though I have only seen one of Diesel Noi's matches (an exhibition vs. Samart) I understand that he fell into this category. I have also seen many other fighters who are average at best with kicks and punches, but once they close to clinch, it's all over!

On a further note on the subject, I can tell you about my instructor, Master K. He retired from the ring in the 60's (before I was even born!) and the way he teaches Muay Thai vs. what I see from modern Muay Thai fighters is different. Again, going back to the above 2 categories.

Master K's footwork has a lot more "spring" to it, for lack of a better descriptive turn. The fighter is constantly bouncing around on his toes, dancing around his opponent. The footwork in modern Muay Thai is a lot more akin to modern boxing. The footwork is much more subtle, working the angles of attack more efficiently (IMHO).

Though Master K teaches the basics of clinchwork, he has admitted to me that as a fighter, he didn't like clinching and therefore avoided it when he could. This is probably why he became so adept at elbows! Most efficient way to avoid a clinch is to end the fight with a quick elbow. Though Master K taught only the bare bones basics, I was able to build upon that so that now I sort of specialize in the clinch. Plus, I was fortunate to get the opportunity to train with a few other Thai boxers who helped my clinchwork get up to snuff...

Khun Kao

The clinch is actually a fairly recent innovation from what I understand, since until fairly recently they wore rough hemp ropes as wraps. Obviously you wouldn't clinch too much when blades are involved.

Krabi Krabong also covers long and short stick, tonfa-like weapons, sword and sheild, etc.

Memaimuay, at what I've seen, is more akin to Krabi in terms of technique than modern muay thai, which , as you rightly point out, is VERY different from what it was even fifteen or twenty years ago. One of the great thing s about Muay Thai is that, like BJJ, the arts' originator's fight, and constantly evolve new techniques and idea to imporve thier art.

I am not trying to start a fight, but in the thread re: MT on the Streets, King of Terror states:

"Muay Thai is the empty hand stand-up techniques of Krabi Krabong, a thai battlefield art used by thai soldiers against their neighbors for over a thousand years. yes the name changed to 'muay thai' from 'muay siam' when the country changed its name from Siam to Thailand. If you look into it the techniques have remained fairly constant with the exception of the introduction of western boxing methods after WWII."

I've brought this up before, and people have strongly disagreed with me on this, but I believe that the above statement is false. Maybe "false" is a strong word to use in this matter, maybe I should say that I don't believe that the statement is entirely true.

Please hear me out before flaming me.

I have heard over the years that Muay Thai is merely empty-hand Krabi Krabong. Even though Krabi Krabong's empty handed strikes are almost identical to Muay Thai, I think that the statement REALLY OVERSIMPLIFIES what the real truth is.

Now, I have not done in-depth study or research on the subject, but I have read up on the subject more than most. From what I have read, Muay Thai has developed as its own art over the last few centuries.

Yes, Krabi Krabong and Muay Thai share the exact same roots. As well as Lerdrit and Muay Chao Cherk. I'm sure that there are other Thai Martial Arts that I've never even heard of that all share the same common roots which are the medieval Thai soldier fighting arts.

However, from everything that I've read, the art that became Muay Thai was being developed seperately from other incarnations of the Thai arts. As I have mentioned before, what eventually became Muay Thai used to essentially be a form of NHB/MMA fighting. There were punches, knees, kicks, elbows, throws, and grappling. This form of fighting has been going on for a very long time, and was often showcased at the many Thai festivals held throughout the year.


In all the reading that I have done, it has never been referred to as simply an empty-handed fighting system that is a subset of, derivative of, or part of Krabi Krabong.

To me, saying that Muay Thai is merely empty-handed Krabi Krabong is like saying that Ju-Jitsu, Judo, and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu are all the same art. This statement is false also. All three of these modern arts share the common roots and their techniques are VERY similar to each other, but they have all developed independantly of the others for many, many years.

This is true also for Krabi Krabong and Muay Thai. They share the same common roots, but the two arts have been developing independantly of one another for centuries.

Consider what Krabi Krabong is. It is a martial arts based on the use of weapons. Krabi Krabong translates to Sword & Stick. Muay Thai is entirely unarmed combat. Sure, many of the techniques are identical, but identical moves does not make the arts themselves identical.

Besides, to the best of my knowledge, not all the techniques in Muay Thai are part of Krabi Krabong. Though I am not a Krabi Krabong stylist, I have never seen the intricate clinchwork that is one of Muay Thai's trademarks in Krabi Krabong repetoire (sp?). Krabi Krabong only has the basics because the art is designed for use with weapons. I highly doubt that you'll see a Krabi Krabong player using clinching curve knees...

Think about it... Fighters don't join a Krabi Krabong camp to learn Muay Thai. How many Krabi Krabong schools have trained Lumphini and Radjadamnern champions? Though I'm quite sure that many Krabi Krabong players are quite good at Muay Thai, I have never heard of Buddhasawan Krabi Krabong school fielding successful Muay Thai fighters.

Anyway, this is simply an opinion of mine, though it is based upon my own limited research on the subject. I recognize that I may, in fact, be dead wrong. I look forward to hearing what everyone else has to say on the subject, especially Pahuyuth.

I can't help it, that statement about Muay Thai merely being empty-handed Krabi Krabong has always bugged the shit out of me.

Khun Kao Charuad; SuriyaSak/SitSuriya Muay Thai

I would have to agree with your opinion on this matter Khun kao. I am not an expert on Thai history but from
what I do know and from what I know about the development of MA's in other countries, Empty hand styles tended to develop more in the lower non military classes. Civilians either could not aford to buy swords and other weapons or they were not allowed to carry them, so they concentrated on empty hand systems more than weapon systems of fighting.

Muay Thai maybe based on the techniques and principles of Krabi krabong but it likely seperated from Krabi at an early stage in its development.

Are there any well known MT gyms these days that have instructors or fighters learning/ training old style MT, krabi krabong, etc?

Can you guys comment on how MT say back in the 60s differ to MT today?

I think we use to have a guy that studied (and taught) some Krabi Kabrong...other than that, the gym I train at teaches Old Style and Military Muay Thai. The Muay Thai site is pretty outdated (though in the process of being redone...slow process) Check it out here: MTAI and IIPEP, in San Jose