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Muay Thai fighting styles explained

If you watch a lot of Muay Thai fights, you will notice that some fighters always clinch, knee and elbow if they have the chance, and some prefer to avoid the clinch and strike at range using their speed and deception. Some are powerful punchers, and some hardly ever throw a punch preferring to dominate using their kicks. The fact is that there are many different strategies in Muay Thai, and over the decades these have been grouped and classified into 5 distinct styles.

1. MUAY KHAO (knee fighter)

Muay Khao is a perhaps the most feared of the fighting styles. They specialize in applying overbearing and relentless pressure, constantly closing the distance, never allowing a moment's rest, and then dominating the clinch where they use brutal knees, elbows and their superb conditioning to drain the strength of their opponents. When used effectively it is a very difficult style to counter, even for the most talented strikers. A great example is the fight between Muay Khao specialist Petchboonchu vs Saenchai in 2014.

2. MUAY FEMUR (technician)

Muay Femur (skilled fighter) is widely agreed to be the most beautiful of the Muay Thai styles. Known for their perfect technique and high fight "IQ", Muay Femur fighters mostly like to stay on the outside using speed, evasion and superior movement to either outpoint their opponents or frustrate them into making mistakes which they then can exploit. The Sitjaopho twins from Hua Hin are famous for having perfected this highly technical style, as demonstrated by this pad-work session.

3. MUAY MAT (puncher)

Muay Mat fighters are defined by their heavy punching, aggressive style and fearlessness. This style is all about getting stuck in, landing as many hard shots as possible and constantly seeking a big knock-out. If Mike Tyson had been a Muay Thai fighter, he would have been classified as Muay Mat. Their fights tend to be quick and explosive, using brute force to overwhelm their opponents. One of the most famous Muay Mat fighters was Anuwat Kaewsamrit.

4. MUAY TAE (kicker)

This is a fighter who favors kicks. The roundhouse kick is one of the most devastating weapons in the Muay Thai arsenal and many fighters have built their fighting style around it. Muay Tae kickers can be either body, leg or head specialists, or all three. They have great timing, fantastic shin conditioning and are able to generate immense kicking power. A great example is Singham O Aukritt.

5. MUAY SOK (elbow specialist)

Muay Sok fighters are known for their brutal elbows. These fighters like to capitalize on being on the inside and are always looking for opportunities to land powerful elbows on their opponent. They often look for their chance between their opponent’s punches to find space to slide in a quick elbow. One of the most famous was Yodkhunpon Sittraiphum.

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