In several previous articles I talked about the distinctive features of Muay Boran: origins, goals, styles, quality of movement, myths to dispel, etc. Watch the video
However, many still do not know the substantial difference between Traditional Martial Arts and Combat Sports.
In this case, it is all about the peculiarities that make up the gap between Muay Boran & Muay Thai.
Now let’s see how to understand their main differences through 3 simple steps.
Muay Boran & Muay Thai: The Purpose
The original purpose of Muay was to eliminate the enemy as quickly as possible. Mindset had to be succinct and essential. Read “The Origins of Muay”
In fact, the fighter was limited solely to the movements that were needed to achieve the aforementioned objective. Once an opponent was finished, they moved on to the next and so on: ugly to say, but this was the reality on the battlefields.
As my teachers used to say:
“There is nothing funny. If we feel pleasure in certain things, we are dealing with mental illnesses.”
During history, Muay changed along with war tactics. In fact, it became a great tool that could pursue Psychophysical Education and Personal Safety.
As time went on, habits changed too and Muay became a source of entertainment, giving life to real popular shows. The best fighters could also be rewarded and, just like what happened to Rome’s gladiators, many began to do that to escape hunger, poverty and slavery.
After various transition periods, transformations and regulations, the sportif version of Muay, known as Muay Thai, came to life.
However, although the sporting aims could also contribute to the development of certain qualities, the rules of the competition, together with the continuous research for performance, clearly changed the attitudes of the practitioner. Above all, they outlined a very different set of psychomotor patterns to bring home the “winning score”.
From all this we deduce how much, in terms of form and contents, they are quite distant practices; both appreciable in the respective contexts.
Muay Boran & Muay Thai: The Technique
Once understood the goals of both disciplines, it is clear that the technique has undergone profound influences according to the final target.
Muay Thai is well known for the extraordinary kicks power, the ability to close the distance with punches/elbows / knees, as well as the excellent management of some grappling phases, such as the clinch.
Even if Muay Thai has a real devastating potential in a ring fight (it is among the best ever for what concerns the striking), it is a bit far from the original technique.
Muay Boran is aimed at a “total” fight.
This means that it deals with everything that is forbidden by a sports regulation: warheads, strangulations, breakages, etc.
A large part of the work is aimed at the use of the upper limbs to hit on several fronts and, clearly, to learn to manage multiple situations of grappling and take down.
So, we don’t focus too much and only on the clinch that, instead, is renowned in Muay Thai and that is precisely specialized for obvious sector needs.
For safety and functionality reasons, in Muay Boran you train to easily maintain a lower center of gravity.
Its few kicks almost never exceed the height of the hips (with some exceptions for ribs / stomach / solar plexus) and, in proportion, they represent only a support to the cause and not a must as in the sporting version.
The style of Muay Boran still alive that provides more training solutions in this regard is Muay Chaiya.
Muay Boran & Muay Thai: Training
In both disciplines training plays a very decisive role.
The human being is in fact a whole of physical, psychological and behavioral components.
Each of these parts should be trained in order to achieve and maintain the balance necessary to lead a present and conscious life, developing good discernment skills.
Once this is established, training responds directly to the purpose. Muay Thai is (more or less) totally aimed at competition. Consequently, you train according to the match protocol. You refine all the requirements allowed by its various rules.
Nobody says that it cannot be used also for other needs, but this is certainly its predominant position.
In Muay Boran, on the other hand, training still adheres to its technical, philosophical and spiritual roots. The same ones that, especially in the West, are too often confused with the indispensable concreteness in a real fight.
The Traditional Martial Art foresees a serious training that takes care of both body and mind, and presides over the complete development of the student, in all the existential aspects. This is one of the main priorities of Muay Boran.
Anyway, a good martial artist, following his individual predispositions, is always a very good candidate to become an excellent athlete to hit the ring. Not surprisingly, many champions in combat sports come from traditional paths.
That said, unlike common thinking, the bogeyman of imbalance exists in both disciplines. Indeed, the manic speculation of the “one-way”, regardless of the operational environment , can give rise to neuroses and trends that are inconsistent in comparison with the original purposes.
For this reason, the teacher should realize a serene and balanced dimension for himself first.
The subject obviously presents various perspectives and possibilities to analyze; at the same time, in broad terms, it helps us to clarify the various directions of the practice, where one does not exclude the other.