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All about Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport

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All about Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport | Thaiger
Stock photo via Wikimedia Commons

Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is Thailand’s cultural martial art and national sport. The origins of Muay Thai date back hundreds of years ago as modern-day Thai people needed a strong form of close-combat that used the entire body as a weapon to fight off those in neighbouring countries who were constantly trying to invade Siam, the former name of present day Thailand. Although there is much debate among modern scholars as to when Muay Thai was born, there are historical signs that point to as early as the 14th century when Myanmar invaded Thailand’s old capital of Ayudhaya.

Through training and military exercises, Muay Thai techniques were honed, with the goal of each strike to deliver a debilitating blow to the opponent. This hand-to-hand form of combat evolved by being an integral part of the survival of the fittest. Formal muay Thai techniques are divided into two groups: mae mai, or ‘major techniques’, and luk mai, or ‘minor techniques’. Muay Thai is often a fighting art of attrition, where opponents exchange blows with one another.

Muay Thai as a martial art, is referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs,” as it uses 8 points of contact on the body that take the place of war weapons. For example, the shins and forearms are hardened in training to block against blows, while the hands replaced the sword and dagger. The elbow, which is considered the most dangerous form of attack in the sport as it operates as a hammer. The knees and legs take the place of an axe and staff. The knees and elbows are constantly looking for an opening in the opponent’s body to strike, while trying to knock the enemy on the ground for final blow.

Muay Thai fighters usually start at a young age, as the shelf-life of a fighter is rather short, due to the intensity of each fight. Between 6-8 years of age, they may start training many hours a day, taking on their first real fight between 8 and 10 years of age. Such daily training includes many rounds of about 3-5 periods broken up by a short rest of about 1-2 minutes. The average fighter is said to compete in as many as 120-150 fights during their career, which is about 3 times as many as a boxer. However, after their twenties, many fighters retire and move on to teaching the sport as a way to pass down cultural knowledge and still earn a living wage.

Before formal rules were developed, Muay Thai fighters had no limits as to how many rounds they would fight. The old method of timing a round was to fill a coconut with water, poke a hole in it, and let it sink, signifying the end to a round.

The first formal rules of Muay Thai came after World War II ended. Fights were then divided into 5 rounds with a time limit on each round. A clock instead of a coconut was implemented to time the rounds. And, recently, the sport finally gained the recognition it deserved by becoming officially accepted as an Olympic sport.

The technique of Muay Thai is divided by the type of blows one can deliver. The punching techniques in Muay Thai are used noticeably less than other combat sports in an effort to avoid exposing the attacker’s head to opposing strikes from knees or elbows, as they are the strongest bone in the human body.

Elbows can be used in different directions known as: horizontally, diagonal-upwards, uppercut, downward, backward-spinning, diagonal-downwards and flying. Such terms of delivering attacks by elbows are named: Elbow slash, horizontal elbow, upper cut, elbow forward, reverse horizontal, elbow thrust, spinning elbow, mid-air elbow strike or jump elbow chop, double elbow chop and horizontal elbow.

Elbows are commonly used to deflect a strike from the opponent such as spring knees, side body knees, and body punches or kicks. When used offensively, the elbow strike can be the most dangerous blow to the opponent, causing serious damage or even a full knockout.

Punching, known as Chok in Thai, jabbing, cross, hooks, overhand, back fist, uppercuts and Superman punches are all ways of delivering blows to the opponent by way of hand. Kicking, or Te, in Thai, involves many different techniques. The straight kick, roundhouse kick, diagonal kick, half-knee kick, reverse roundhouse kick, half-shin, kick axe heel kick, jump kick, down roundhouse kick, and step-up kick are all different ways in which to use your legs, shins, and knees to strike the opponent.

The 2 most common kicks are known as the thip in Thai or literally translated as a foot jab. The te chiang in Thai or literally translated to be kicking upwards in a triangular pattern, or roundhouse kick. This type of kick uses a rotational movement, as the name in English describes, and is used by other combat sports. If a roundhouse kick is used by the opponent, a Thai boxer will block the kick with the outside of his lower leg or shin.

Knee, or Ti Khao in Thai, involves a myriad of different techniques just like the rest of the others. Such techniques include: diagonal knee strike, curving knee strike, flying knee strike, or khao loi, in Thai, straight knee strike, or khao thon in Thai, horizontal knee strike, knee bomb, step-up knee strike, and the jumping knee strike.

The foot-thrust, or foot jab, is mainly used as a defensive technique to control distance or block attacks. Foot-thrusts are to be thrown quickly but with enough force to knock an opponent off balance. The straight foot-thrust, reverse foot-thrust, jumping foot-thrust, and slapping foot-thrust are all types of ways to strike an opponent.

There are 6 defensive techniques that help a fighter get out of a bind. Disruption, evasion, avoidance, parries, blocking and anticipation are all types of defenses that are learned when training for the martial art. The idea of a “wall of defense” is used when attempting to block a blow. Shoulders, legs, and arms are used to shield the body from an attack. More advanced Muay Thai blocks are usually in the form of counter-strikes, using the opponent’s weight to intensify the damage upon delivery.

If a fighter is in a clinch, or chap kho, in Thai, the elbows and knees are commonly used as they are, indeed, the body parts that deliver the harshest results. A common way to get out of a clinch is by pushing the opponent’s head backward or elbow them. Muay Thai has other ways to use a clinch including: arm clinch, side clinch, low clinch, and swan-neck. When using a clinch offensively, the fighter’s forearms should press against the opponent’s collar bone while the hands are around the opponent’s head.

So may ask how dangerous is Muay Thai? The answer is that it is considered in the top 10 most dangerous forms of martial arts, according to multiple online rankings, but it is not the most dangerous. Although it emphasizes using the strongest bones in the body, due to the accepted practices of leaving out the head in a fight, amongst other style rules, it doesn’t rank officially as the most dangerous. However, it can be used in a street fight, like all other martial arts, where the dangers can be quite serious.

Beginners looking to learn a martial art can take up Muay Thai at ease, as training focuses on kicking and punching, like most other combat sports. And, like all type of fighting, it depends on the goal of why you are fighting. Self-defense or a knockout blow could make the sport dangerous at different levels. Most of all, many practitioners of Muay Thai insist it is one sport that must be learned in order to be a well-rounded martial artist.

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1 Comment

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  1. Avatar

    toby andrews

    Sunday, March 28, 2021 at 11:22 am

    I would have seen more, but as a ferang has to pay four times what a Thai pays, I did not.
    There used to be boxing matches in bars. Thai greed killed that.
    Every ten minutes after obvious fake matches, with boxers wearing pillows on their fists, and shouting a lot, they came round with a bucket of B100 bills.
    They wanted B100 every ten minutes in these bars.
    Another example of Thai greed killing what was once entertainment available in bars.
    Thai greed kills everything that is good in Thailand.

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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Thailand. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

Thai Life

“Mommy, there’s a snake!” – Expat in Phuket shares her story

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“Mommy, there’s a snake!” – Expat in Phuket shares her story | Thaiger
Pope's pit viper / Stock photo by Thai National Parks via Flickr

The following story was written by Amy Sukwan, an American who has been living in Thailand for 7 years.

To share a story with The Thaiger, click HERE.

“Mommy, there’s a snake!” my 8 year old daughter Eliza said, waking me up in the middle of the night.

I came out of our modest bungalow in Phuket at some unholy hour in the middle of the night, to see what my daughter’s whole “snake” thing was about. In the light of our front porch light, about 3 metres from our front door, 3 of our cats were surrounding something that looked at first to me to be a stack of rotting bananas.

“Eliza it’s nothing.” I tried to assure my daughter. Right at that moment the rotting bananas rose up into an aggressive posture as 3 cats circled it, hissing viciously. It was a surreal sight in the porch light.

“Mommy can you kill it!” My daughter begged me, as the thing, about four feet or over a meter long, lashed at one of our cats, who was quick enough to jump away. The snake had a big head that I could see in the porch light. It was distinctively mallet shaped, in what I was pretty sure was the viper class.

As much as I wanted to go back to sleep and pretend that this was all a bad nightmare, I now had a crying, frantic daughter who was terrified for her cats and a situation that I was quickly recognizing was pretty bad. Mai dee.

I needed to call in backup – my Thai husband. Eliza was already screaming his name. “Ka! Loon Ka!” My 8 year old screamed.


There are many venomous snakes in Thailand. Most people know about cobras but the viper class is the most deadly in the world, as vipers are both unpredictable and very difficult to charm. I was looking at a pit viper of some sort, I was pretty sure.

Snakes normally don’t bother you if you don’t bother them. But interactions are most common late in the dry season in Thailand, as it is now, in late March, as the snakes slither around houses in search of water. Thais don’t want them around for obvious reasons. You don’t want venomous snakes to breed and make babies close to your homestead.

If you are not sure if a snake is venomous or not, a good rule of thumb is to look at its head size in proportion to its body size. If the snake head is close to the same size as the rest of its body, and the snake is generally more wormlike in appearance, it is probably not venomous. If the head is large, say two or more times the diameter of the body, it might be poisonous. This does not constitute medical advice. If you get bitten by a snake, you should go to the hospital.


My husband woke up as Eliza was screaming for him. He came out groggily but as soon as my daughter pointed at the snake he saw the problem. “No good! I kill!” Ka said as he grabbed a machete from our kitchen rack. He wasted no time in coming to this decision.

So after being bathed in the surreal sight of three cats circling a hissing, striking, and very likely deadly serpent under our porch light, I got to be treated to an even weirder view. Ka went full Steve Irwin on the snake as he danced around with the machete. The viper sideswiped and tried to strike him. Then, it suddenly backlashed and made contact with his knee. Both me and Eliza cried out from the sidelines.

“She bit me!” Ka said as he macheted the viper’s mid body, and then its neck. Among my many shortcomings is a complete inability to gender snakes. So I will remain with my husband’s classification of the viper as female.

The snake stilled over the course of several minutes as my eight year old screamed in terror. It still seemed to be wiggling even five minutes later, though its body slowly stilled. Ka helped me put it in a plastic bag.

“You go hospital now!” I screamed at him.

“No worries. She don’t bite me with poison.” Ka seemed sure of this. He’d grown up on a 50 rai spread of backwoods in Phuket and was something of a designated snake killer.

My husband had tracked and killed a 5 foot long snake months before, which he had assured me had no poison, but which he had not wanted around the house. I was able to identify that one through Google images and a snake discussion group as an Indochinese Rat snake, which was indeed not venomous.

There was only one bite mark on his knee the viper had come in from an unusual angle and only one fang had punctured through. But I could see from closer inspection of the now dead snake what I had already known. It looked like a dark green Pit Viper. She was about 4 feet long, or maybe 130 centimetres. The poor girl had probably been looking for water.

Symptoms of a poisonous snake bite include pain at the site, swelling, and changes in heart rate or breathing. Needless to say Ka is still alive and well, and probably had enough experiences of snakes to know that this was a dry bite, or one without venom, as about 50% of snake bites are. I wouldn’t have taken my chances on this, though.

The reason that poisonous baby snakes are thought to be more deadly is not because they have more venom, but because they always release venom when they do bite. I prayed in Buddhist style for the snake to have a better life next time, as she had made merit by not killing either our cats or my husband. But for the amateurs out there, I wouldn’t advise going to Steve Irwin about these things. Normally snakes bite you because you bother them.


It turns out that sometimes you chase the story. And sometimes the story chases you.

I’d seen a recent post on The Thaiger asking for guest bloggers to share their stories regarding Thailand. I think I laughed out loud on reading it. After 7 years in the “Land of Smiles,” with 2 Thai husbands and after giving birth to 2 children here, I’d like to think I’ve seen it all. I probably have 10,000 stories.

But what do I want to write about? Should I mention my early days as a farang in Thailand, during the time when I was working as an OPC for a timeshare? Do I want to give advice on making visas, as an American staying in Thailand or for a Thai going to America? Should I talk about going to Thai hospitals? Or maybe I should write something about Thai Buddhist funeral proceedings? I’ve put my first husband and both my mother and father in law in the ground at Wat Prathong. Should I talk about ASQ and travelling during Covid madness? Or should I mention the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan? I’ve been to five of those, personally.

This weekend I was harvesting cashew fruit with a Thai friend of ours in Phuket who has a large spread of family land. We burnt the cashew nuts, and I thought that this would make a great story, as many farang ask me about growing and harvesting practices in my little outback area. Unfortunately a quick Google search revealed that cashew nuts are dangerous, even to people without allergies, as they contain a chemical close to poison ivy. Only professional processors should deal with cashew nuts, in short. I’ve been eating the fruit and burning the nuts for years. But I gathered that life is too dangerous. So much for that story.

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Food Scene

Thai Airways food landing in 7-Eleven next month

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Thai Airways food landing in 7-Eleven next month | Thaiger
PHOTO: Yum yum, it's airline food 'on the go'

Warning. Some low-altitude turbulence is coming to a 7-Eleven near you. Thai Airways has cooked up a new money-making scheme during Covid-19 to sell its airline food in 7-Eleven. Set to take off on April 15, the mostly grounded and indebted airline will attempt to offset its losses during the pandemic by selling food in the ubiquitous convenience store and other supermarkets throughout Thailand.

It’s a clever strategy for a struggling company, but will customers take the bite? Surely a few crispy pork and rice dishes will knock the edge of that 300 billion baht debt!

Claiming that their busy flight schedule has always previously stood in the way of the airline’s foray into the fast food market, Thai Airways now has the supply (and time) with most flights grounded by the pandemic’s decimation of the travel industry and less hungry mouths to feed in the sky.

The first meals schedule to arrive on the shelves of 7-Eleven just after the Songkran holiday are Thai Airways’ halal chicken biryani dish, and the traditional Thai dish nam phrik long ruea, crispy and fluffy fish and sweet pork served in a fermented shrimp chilli paste. The primary push into the food industry will be more unusual meals to stand out in 7-Eleven’s selection.

The question remains whether the food selection will fly off the shelves, but the airline’s hopes are high after their airline launched pop-up restaurants in September and the public ate it up. It seems that, contrary to a million stand-up comedy jokes about how terrible airline food is, people have really missed it with so much cancelled travel due to border closures and restrictions.

Thai Airways hopes this creative departure from their main business will help bolster the struggling airline, who were previously denied a government bailout after declaring bankruptcy last year. They have tried everything from the pop-up restaurants to jumbo yard sales to renting out flight simulators. Even with the sharp reduction of flights due to the pandemic, flying will still be the company’s main mealticket, but they hope meal sales will make up for low ticket sales until the travel industry recovers.

So stow your tray table and fasten your seat belt as we see if the 7-Eleven offerings of Thai Airways’ food takes off.

(The Thaiger has a better solution. Let 7-Eleven lease Thai Airway’s grounded planes and run the whole business instead)

SOURCE: Coconuts Bangkok

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Chon Buri

Banquet for ghosts held in Chon Buri cemetery – some food left over

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Banquet for ghosts held in Chon Buri cemetery – some food left over | Thaiger
PHOTO: flickr.com - a Thai Graveyard

To fulfill a woman’s dying wish, townspeople in the Panthong district of Chon Buri hosted an elaborate banquet for ghosts in a local cemetery this week. The 36-table extravaganza was set up 43 year old Tanawan Choti. His mother had asked him to give a free banquet for all the ghosts of her friends and family that had died before her… a welcome party to the afterlife.

Tanawan honoured his mother’s request earlier this week before she passed away, with a no-expense-spared feast featuring food and drinks, luxury dishes and silverware, and entertainment for the ghosts of honour. Living speech-makers imparted their best wishes to the Chon Buri ghosts. The locals set up the 36 tables for a Chinese-style banquet and entertained the guests for about an hour.

A local event food service worker said that, despite years in the industry, this was the first ghost dinner he’d catered for. He said he found it “abnormal to serve the paranormal and was left with a ghastly feeling working in the cemetery”. (We figure there was quite a lot of food left over as well.)

While graveyards are not common in Thailand, since Buddhists cremate their dead, burials still occur amongst descendants of Chinese-Thai people. Regardless of religion or heritage, belief in ghosts or other paranormal phenomenon is common throughout Thailand. Spirit houses are frequently built outside local homes for ghosts to live in, and serviced every day with fresh offerings.

While the otherworldly banquet may be viewed by some with confusion or scepticism, the feast did have a real-world happy ending, Eakkaluck explained…

“After finishing the banquet ceremony, the food was given to poor people in the area as unfortunately, it appeared the ghosts could not actually consume earthly substances.”

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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