Most People have heard of Muay Thai or Thai Boxing but not many have ever heard of Muay Boran – or realize that Muay Thai actually originates from Muay Boran.
Translated, Muay Boran actually means "ancient boxing".
Muay Boran originated as a practical fighting skill, using parts of the body itself – the head, fists, forearms, elbows, knees and feet - with or without additional weaponry such as swords, pikes and staffs. It was used for battlefield combat (at a time when hand to hand combat was the norm) as well as to protect the community against marauders.
The differences between Muay Boran and Muay Thai are simple. Muay Boran has no rules regulations, boundaries or limitations. There are no rules on the battlefield; only codes of conduct in war such as the taking of prisoners and the harming of the innocent. The techniques that could be used are limitless as the end result is the same: to kill, maim or incapacitate your opponent using whatever weapons available.
Muay Boran techniques are very focused on efficiency and creating the maximum amount of damage to the opponent with each blow. The aim being to quickly neutralize your enemy as quickly as possible because of the likelihood that there is likely to be another nearby ready to strike.
Most notably, Muay Boran emphasizes the use of extremely powerful elbow, knee, punching and kicking techniques (and combinations thereof) - always thrown at full force and speed. These techniques are executed either standing up or on the floor in grappling mode. Muay Boran has many techniques that could be added to any MMA fighter to increase his repertoire.
Muay Boran has many distinct regional styles that have evolved over time.
Muay Thasao (North Thailand) – emphasis on speed, especially swift kicks. This variation of Muay Boran was dubbed "Ling Lom" or windy monkey.
Muay Korat (East Thailand) – focus on power. A technique unique to this style is the "throwing buffalo punch" named because it is supposed to take out a buffalo in one blow.
Muay Lopburi (Central Thailand) – stresses the use of crafty, technical movements. This variation favours straight punches and hooks.
Muay Chaiya (South Thailand) – emphasises the use of good posture and defence. This style favours elbow and knee strikes.
Since each style had its own strengths, a complete fighter was said to: "Punch Korat, Wit Lopburi, Posture Chaiya, Kick Thasao".
Muay Boran is a much more effective martial art than Muay Thai. Muay Thai only came into existence and became a sport because rules were applied to Muay Boran competitions due to the serious injuries that resulted.
Instruction in Muay Boran emphasises and stresses traditional aspects and methods, with the student not progressing from one technique to another until he or she fully comprehends all it entails, not least the aesthetic and ritual elements.
Muay Boran for its devotees is a much purer and more traditional form of martial art training. It is a very long and involved process to learn Muay Boran. Muay Thai, generally speaking teaches rudimentary techniques, with a focus on knocking one's opponent out or scoring points within a ring-environment where there are clear rules and regulations. In contrast, as already mentioned Muay Boran if for application in real life-or-death situations where the over-riding rule is survival with minimal injury to oneself.
The Ancient Art of Muay Boran remains a very beautiful, entertaining (to watch) and highly ritualised form of martial art - yet devastatingly effective.
Increasingly, Thai masters such as Grandmaster Sken are working to introduce Muay Boran to the modern world as both an art to augment Muay Thai (competition) techniques and for self defence.