Muay Boran

The Martial Art From The Battlefields

Muay Boran

With the rise in popularity of Mixed Martial Arts Tournaments, It’s no surprise that Muay Thai has become a well-known combat art. With the additional use of the Knees and Elbows, the MMA fights have become all the more entertaining! However, what does come as a surprise is the gaining popularity of Muay Boran, not just in Thailand, but in various corners of the rest of the world too!

If you, too, have heard of Muay Boran and are curious to learn more about this ancient martial art, then you’re in the right place! This article will throw light on what Muay Boran is, its origin, and its link to Muay Thai.


Before the 1930s, there existed many variations of the Thai combat style. All of these different variations were collectively known as Muay Boran. After the 1930s, over time, the different combat styles began to be regulated as a combat sport. This later formed into the Muay Thai that we know of today. Muay Thai translates to Thai Boxing, whereas Muay Boran translates to Ancient Boxing!

Muay Boran or Muay Thai Boran was no sport. It was an unarmed combat style to be used on the battlefield and not in the ring with a referee. There are no fighting rules on a battlefield that exists in the ring, and pretty much anything goes. For this reason, you will find many deadly Muay Boran moves that are, for obvious reasons, not allowed in a ring match!

Muay Thai, on the other hand, although quite deadly, is still the watered-down version of the original combat style of the battlefields! In Muay Thai, you won’t find the many forbidden styles of Muay Boran whose purpose was to kill the enemy.

Many moves, such as going for the groin or striking the throat, which is considered dirty moves in Muay Thai, are permitted in Muay Boran. There are no dirty moves in battle, remember? To get a better picture of MUay Boran, let us take a look at its origins.


The origins of Muay Boran can be traced back to the Ayuthaya Kingdom, which is now known as Thailand. During the war of the 18th century, The Burmese army invaded and captured the capital. Among those captured were many Thai boxers.

King Mangra of Burma held a week-long festival to celebrate their victory over Thailand and honour the Buddha. As part of the festival, the Burmese decided to hold fighting matches. They were, of course, riding high on confidence with their recent victory!

However, there was something the Burmese did not take into consideration. And that was losing the fighting match to an opponent from the losing Thai side. And that is where the legendary hero of the Thai people – Nai Khanomtom enters the picture. The legendary Thai fighter started with a Wai Kru performance which was a traditional dance done pre-fight. This itself is said to have captivated the Burmese audience.

As the legend goes, much to the disappointment of the Burmese, Nai Khanomtom defeated Ten Burmese fighters one after the other, including their champion. Watching this magnificent performance by the Thai fighter, the Burmese king was very impressed and decided to grant the Nai Khanomtom and his fellow captives their freedom.

The fighting style used by Nai Khanomtom was Muay Boran. Or that is how the legend goes, and the full-truth, as is in such cases, remains a mystery. However, since the modern-day fighting style is said to have been evolved from this Ancient Boxing art, let’s take a look at what’s common between them and what sets them apart.



There are good reasons to assume why the latter evolved from the former. Both combat styles use the eight pairs of limbs: Fists, Feet, Knees & Elbows. You also find many similarities in the core fundamentals of the two styles. Here are some of the similarities:

  • Performing Wai-Kru, a traditional pre-fight dance ritual
  • The fighters of both styles wrap their knuckles using twisted hemp rope known as “chuak. “
  • Many combo-moves utilising the various punches like uppercuts, jabs, crosses etc
  • Heavy usage of the various kicks such as the roundhouse kick, Diagonal Kick, Axe Kick, Push Kick and Front Kick
  • Using the knee for close rand attacks with techniques like Straight, Diagonal or Horizontal Knee strike, Knee Bomb etc
  • Using the Clinch to execute strikes and locks
  • Targetting the joints and pressure points


Although we said earlier that both these combat styles use eight pairs of limbs, Muay Boran also uses the head as a weapon. Since Muay Boran was initially meant for the battlefield and not the ring, one could think of it as the modern-day Muay Thai, with much fewer rules!

Like mentioned before, there are no cheap shots in Muay Boran. You can headbutt, attack the groin, throat and even the back of the head. However, apart from these, there are also fundamental differences in the fighting styles of Muay Boran & Muay Thai. These include:

  • Muay Thai fighters use a lesser compact stance with their fists on either side of the head’s centerline. On the other hand, Muay Boran has a much more compact stance, with their fists aligned with the head’s centerline.
  • This compact style of Muay Boran helps the fighters to deflect strikes from the opponent much more quickly. The close stance also helps to turn defence into a grappling move while protecting their own vitals.
  • Compared to Muay Thai, the Muay Boran style also takes a lower and much wider stance. This low stance helps to protect vulnerable areas like the groin.
  • Since there are no cheap shots in Muay Boran, the fighters must be prepared to defend themselves against such attacks. Their lower and wider stance also helps with such defence.
  • Unlike Muay Thai, Muay Boran emphasises attacking opponents’ limbs to render them immobile – a fatal move for the opponent in battle!
  • Muay Boran promotes flashy attacks such as flying elbows and flying knees meant to take down an opponent. Such attacks often use a wider swing which packs a lot more power in it.
  • Although such attacks also leave them open in a few vulnerable spots, the aim is to take down the opponent as quickly as possible. Thus, unlike Muay Thai, where you study the opponent in the initial rounds, you go for the kill right from the start. Because in battle, you cannot take your own sweet time on a single enemy!

Those were some of the similarities and differences between the Muay Thai and Muay Boran. However, since Muay Boran was a collective of Thai Boxing practised in different regions all over Thailand, there are many variations to this style. Here are some of them.


  • MUAY THASAO: Thasao translates to “monkey feet”. It is called so because of its fluid movements.
  • MUAY LOPBURI: This is the Thai Boxing style used in central Thailand and focuses on the efficient use of punches and kicks.
  • MUAY KORAT: This combat style from East Thailand prefers heavy attacks like the Buffalo Punch.
  • MUAY CHAIYA: The Thai Boxing style from South Thailand. It also utilises a weapon system called Krabi Krabong and uses many hard elbow and knee strikes.


Now you should have a good idea of what is Muay Boran and its link to the much more popular Muay Thai. Of course, since Muay Boran was meant for the battlefield, it is still evolving to fit in with the present-day ideals. The World Muay Boran Federation (WMBF) helps to spread awareness of the history and culture of this traditional Thai combat art.

If you came upon Muay Boran as part of your research on Muay Thai, then hopefully, this article has been helpful. You can also check out this article on the Benefits Of Muay Thai to see how learning this combat sport can also help improve your physical and mental fitness. And if you still have any doubts, drop in at Sinbi Muay Thai, and we’ll be glad to help you out!

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