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Muay Thai, also called the "Art of 8 Limbs", is famous for being one of the most complete combat sports ever. While it looks similar to boxing, Muay Thai is totally different because it's not only about punching hard; it also includes kicks, knees, elbows, and clinching.
Besides a fighter’s skills and techniques, one thing that determines the outcome of a fight is the fighter’s style. Muay Thai has a lot of different fighting styles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Some fighters prefer to use their kicks, while others use their knees and elbows. Although there are many styles of Muay Thai, here are the top six of the most popular fighting styles you will see:
1. Muay Femeu – The Skilled Fighter
Muay Femeu is embodied by fighters who prefer brains over sheer power in competition. This is a largely overused term, more like a world champion.
The fighters using this fighting style are considered the masters of almost all techniques. The top three all-time greatest Muay Thai fighters—Saenchai, Somrak, and Samart—are all Muay Femeu fighters.
While all fighters want to be Muay Femeu fighters, only the most experienced and skilled fighters have the set of skills to excel in this style. These fighters follow a calculated fighting approach; they pick their shots sensibly and never put themselves in danger just to land.
2. Muay Khao – The Knee Fighter
Muay Khao fighters depend on their knees to do most of the damage. While not all Muay Khao fighters have full control over their middles or elbows, all are knee specialists. A good Muay Khao fighter uses his knees not only to attack but to counter as well.
Yodwicha is a perfect example of a high-level Muay Khao fighter who was good at grinding his rivals with his knees. Some of the most entertaining fights happen when Muay Khao fighters are faced by Muay Mat. This is because punchers love to catch knee fighters with their hands down.
3. Muay Sok – The Head Hunter
This is a more aggressive style of Muay Thai fighting. These fighters usually use techniques that put elbows in the spotlight. While this is a rare style among all others, these fighters are also considered the most dangerous.
These fighters are also called head-hunters and have a mysterious ability to land elbow strikes at close range. This provides them with a psychological advantage over their opponents.
4. Muay Tae – The Kicker
Next are the Muay Tae fighters, who are comparatively comfortable with their legs and are masters of low, middle, or high-end front kicks. It also has a lot of score points in Thai counts and is comparatively much less risky.
Diesellek is one perfect example of Muay Tae fighters who have the most explosive kicks you will see in Muay Thai. These fighters usually land powerful kicks that are accurate and fast.
5. Muay Mat – The Aggressive Fighter
This is one of the most popular fighting styles in Muay Thai. These fighters are aggressive fighters who rely on power punches and low kicks to crush their opponents. They are famous for their knockout abilities. This aggression sometimes gives them a psychological advantage over their opponents, who are afraid of their knockout skills.
A Muay Mat fighter never backs down and always presses forward against his or her opponent. Famous Muay Mat fighters like Kulabdam and Saeksan are famous for their aggression and persistent pressure in the ring.
6. Muay Plum – The Clincher
Muay Plum is the most commonly used style of clothing in Thailand. This style of fighter is for those who master clinching and are tremendously skilled at manoeuvring and dumping their opponents the moment they enter the clinch.
Although their fighting style resembles Muay Khao, I think Muay Plum fighters are technically more proficient in the clinch with sweeps and off-balancing moves. In this style, zero visibility blows come from top to bottom, from right to left, and they all try to project on the others as well.
While Muay Thai is a very complex sport, every fighter has their own unique fighting style. If you attach yourself to that style, you will know the strengths and weaknesses of that particular style. As a beginner, you might not be able to identify any particular fighting style until you gain experience.