Muay Thai Technique: An Expression of Self

The Artistry of Sweet Science

Recently I tried to explain to my students that ultimately, our goal is to learn the techniques so that we can express ourselves through them.

I saw a lot of glazed over looks and nodding heads with empty eyes.

Then come sparring time, I saw a lot of mechanical movements, like notes to a melody being pounded out, without a single shred of feeling.

What does this mean? Expressing oneself through technique. I tried to explain that a fight is like a conversation without words.

Techniques communicate something immutable, intangible. In Thai Boxing, a Teep to the face, like Western Boxing’s Lead Straight Right is a way of insulting your opponent.

You are taking one of the dirtiest parts of your body and wiping it all over someone’s face. In essence using it as a door mat. Or in the case of the Straight Right, you’re taking your most powerful tool, from the furthest point away from your opponent and putting it right on his snot box without need of a set up or diversion. That expresses something.

The Rhythm of Expression

There is a rhythm to fighting, a cadence and timing.

The best fighters, the ones we love to watch always have an intimate understanding of this, a way of phrasing with their combinations, the tactful use of a dramatic pause.

Take for instance the difference in how these Instructors from the Thai Boxing Association express the same types of technique.

Take for instance, Ajarn Greg Nelson’s relentless and physical style.

And contrast that to the paced approach of Ajarn Bryan Popejoy shown here in the red.

And then look at how the techniques and their judicious placement and timing during the fight communicate something that cannot be said in Khuen Khru Brian Dobler’s highlight.

All are decorated, and very deeply respected icons in the Thai Boxing Association Muay Thai Camp. But each expresses the same types of movement in their own unique and beautiful way. There is an artistry to their approach.

The slight lowering of the gloves after delivering a telling blow. Giving the fans, the judges and the opponent ample time to absorb the message.

There is much more at play here than simply flailing limbs. There is a conversation being played out. A wonderful debate that those of us lucky enough to witness can learn from and enjoy.

Beyond the Science of 8 Limbs

This goes beyond Muay Thai and extends in to all combat sport. Boxing, Kick Boxing, Jiu-jitsu, Catch Wrestling, MMA, et al. So the next time you lace up those gloves and slicker up that mouth piece. Take a moment and remember, that that greats, not only deliver a heaping dose of punishment, but a sound and undeniable message…

an expression of the self.