Muay Thai’s origin in Thailand can be traced back to its ancestor Muay Boran (“ancient boxing”), an unarmed combat used by Siamese soldiers in conjunction with Krabi Krabong, the weapon-based style. Eventually Muay Boran was divided to:

Muay Korat (Northeast) emphasized strength. A technique like “Throwing Buffalo punch” was used. It could supposedly defeat a buffalo in one blow.
Muay Lopburi (Center region) emphasized movements. Its strong points were straight and counter punches.

Muay Chaiya (South) emphasized posture and defence, as well as elbows and knees.
Muay Pra Nakorn (North) emphasized speed, particularly in kicking. Because of its faster speed, it was also known as “Ling Lom” (windy monkey or Loris).
There is a phrase about Muay Boran that states:
“Punch Korat, Wit Lopburi, Posture Chaiya and Faster Thasao.”หมดหนกโคราช ฉลาดลพบร ทาดไชยา ไวกวาท

As well as continuing to function as a practical fighting technique for use in actual
warfare, Muay Thai became a sport in which the opponents fought in front of
spectators who went to watch for entertainment. This kind of Muay contests gradually became an integral part of local festivals and celebrations, especially those held at temples. It was even used as entertainment to kings.

Eventually, the previously bare-fisted fighters started wearing lengths of rope
wrapped around their hands and forearms. This type of match was called:
Muay kaad chuek
In its original form, Muay Thai consisted of an arsenal of nine weapons – the head, fists, elbows, knees and feet – known collectively as na-wa arwud. However in modern Muay Thai, both amateur and professional, head-butting an opponent is no longer allowed.
Formal Muay Thai techniques are divided into two groups:
Mae Mai or major
techniques and
Luk Mai or minor techniques.
(Also referred to as Master and Complimentary Techniques of Muay Thai)

The Mae Mai are the “mother techniques” of Muay Thai involving fists, feet, knees, and elbows, for attacking and defending. Originally such techniques were not standardized as every Kru taught their own style. Nowadays some have disappeared, some have been replaced by more effective ones and some are banned.

Therefore, the actual “standard” Muay Thai techniques are grouped in fifteen Mae Mai, which are learnt first, followed by another fifteen Luk Mai (more advanced
ones). Then the Nak Muay learns how to combine all techniques in order to
implement powerful combinations of all tricks (Cherng Muay). All techniques for
attacking and counter-attacking are called Khon (strategies).These represent every Muay Thai movement, using fists, feet, Knees and elbows in a wide variety of combinations.

The major, or Mae Mai moves consist of 15 selected techniques which are essential
for the complete mastery of Muay Thai.

1. Salab Fun Pla (cross stitch)
Used for keeping out of range, step to outside of opponents strike and counter with
elbows to the body.
2. Paksa Waeg Rang (Bird peeping through nest)
Keeping arms close together to block strikes and peering through gap to deliver
counter (elbow)
3. Hak Kor Mahingsa
Side step to avoid punch, grab neck and deliver knee strike.
4. Hanuman Tawaiwaen (Hanuman the Monkey King Presents the ring)
Step Through opponents guard to deliver double uppercut.
5. Java (Chawa) Sad Hok (Chawa throws spear)
Avoid straight left to face, sway the body to right (about 30 degrees) with weight on
right leg, elbow strike with left arm to opponents ribs.
6. Praram Yieb Luangka
Attack by jumping onto thigh and shoulder of opponent and delivering elbow to top
of head.
7. Tad Mala
Attack by stepping forward with uppercut elbow.
8. Pak Taitoy
Counter by stepping to the outside and forward of opponents attack while delivering
a reverse elbow to the back of the head.
9. Hak Nguang Iyara (Break the elephants tusks)
after grabbing the opponents leg, attack the top of the thigh with a downward elbow.
10. Mon Yan Lak (Mon Supports the Pillow)
Front teep counter to punch or kick.
11. Hanuman Wern Weha
Attack by jumping on to opponents lead leg and delivering knee strike.
12. Pranarai Kahmsamut
Attack by jumping on to opponents lead leg and delivering round kick to neck.
13. Jorake Fadhang (Crocodile Sweeps its tail)
Spinning back kick to opponent’s neck.
14. Hakor Erawan (Break the Elephants neck)
Block punch, then grab opponent’s neck and deliver knee strike.
15. Naka Bidhang (Serpent twists its tail)
When the opponent throws a kick to the ribs, grab the leg (two hands), twist and
simultaneously deliver a knee strike to the inner thigh.

Researched, compiled & written by: Kru Shaun Boland