No sports - The differences between MUAI and Muay Thai

No sports – The differences between MUAI and Muay Thai

We are often asked what the differences between MUAI and the Thai national sport Muay Thai (aka Thaiboxing or Muay Veti) are. Here are some facts:


In order to survive in times of peace, Pahuyuth free warriors held improvisation fights with punches, kicks, elbows and knees from about 900 A.D. onwards. This resulted in a new fighting method called MUAI from which the Thai national sport Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and other Southeast Asian fighting styles (e.g. Bokator, Pradal Serey, Lethwei or Muay Lao) emerged.

MUAI was reintegrated into Pahuyuth by the free warriors of that time and has been passed on unadulterated over generations. Unlike Muay Boran, which was developed in the 1990s (AD), it still has the full technical spectrum and a uniform teaching system with a clear conceptual core.

Since 1975 MUAI has been taught in the Pahuyuth School (at that time still Muai-Thai Studio). It was the first school in Germany to publicize “Thai Fighting”, which was still unknown in the West at that time, and is regarded as an important pioneer for the development of Thai martial arts in Europe, as well as a benchmark setting pioneer and authority for traditional Thai martial arts.

No sports

The origin of MUAI dates back to a time when there were no sports associations, clubs or fighting rules. Accordingly, MUAI is not a sport or sport martial art in the conventional sense. That means, it is not subject to any sports rules and pretty much everything that is possible in “unsportsmanlike behavior” and “unfair tricks” is allowed here.

Further information on this topic can be found in the adjacent video.

Bare Knuckle

MUAI fights with fists, feet, elbows and knees. However, this is usually done without mouthguards, headgear, chest protectors or shin guards. The same applies to boxing gloves and hand wraps, which do not occur on the street or in self-defence situations.

Only MUAI beginners are therefore granted light gloves (8oz.). Advanced students (white belt and beyond) usually train bare-knuckle (with bare fists).

This form of training requires greater caution than it would be the case with gloves and protective equipment, but smaller gaps and narrower angles can be used. Hiding behind large boxing gloves or holding out in high guard is rather difficult without gloves.

Technical difference gloves and bare-knuckle

Bare-knuckle – without gloves other technical variations are possible.

Ground fighting and grappling

Advanced students (white belt and above) also train using grappling techniques and ground fighting elements from LING LOM.

Experienced MUAI practitioners switch seam- and effortlessly from stand-up fighting to ground fighting and back. All this, of course, without mats or Tatamis and, if necessary, even on urban concrete. Foot sweeps, cutting kicks and throwing techniques are well known in MUAI. However, here they have far less effect than with pure stand-up combat systems. Falling and rolling techniques are part of the basic training in Pahuyuth (and therefore also in MUAI).

The lack of gloves and bandages allows MUAI practitioners to grab their opponents and use grappling techniques. However, long-term clinching, submission grapplings or ground-and-pound-attacks, as they are often used in MMA (mixed-martial-arts), are deliberately avoided. One of the reasons for this is the orientation of MUAI towards combat situations with multiple opponents.

Muai Muay Thai Boran Head Kick technique

No shin guards, no headgear, no dental guards, …

In MUAI ancient techniques have been preserved.

Bare-Knuckle – MUAI fights without gloves and hand wraps

Penalty kick – head stomping is part of everyday life at MUAI.

MUAI continues to fight on the ground – there is no referee.

Fighting against multiple opponents

Right from the start, MUAI students learn to defend themselves against multiple opponents, which is probably one of the clearest differences to most martial arts.

While in a fair competition you can usually expect a 1-on-1 situation, Pahuyuth warriors on the battlefield were always confronted with a multitude of opponents from all directions. While most MUAI practitioners today will no longer have to fight on battlefields, for modern self-defense purposes, it is almost essential to master this facet of combat as well.

In order to achieve this, MUAI students learn about 188 basic techniques already in the beginner level (green belt), which are further varied, refined, specialized and developed in subsequent learning levels. If the 45 basic techniques of the yellow belt level are added, this results in at least 233 techniques that provide a suitable answer for just about any situation.

MUAI practitioners also know no difference between orthodox stance and southpaw. All MUAI students are always trained to become switch-hitters, which takes much longer but has many advantages for the field of application (street).

Pack boxing drill
Pack boxing drill

Pack Boxing – Fighting against several opponents has always been part of the MUAI training program.

Armed combat

MUAI does not include armed combat. However, it belongs to Pahuyuth, where five out of seven disciplines (>70%) deal with armed combat.

In fact, the techniques of the MUAI (and thus also the Muay Thai) are originally based on weapon fighting techniques. Fist techniques, for example, originate from sword fighting or knife fighting (DAAB, MEED), while many kicks and knee techniques are attributed to staff fighters (GRABONG). This connection is most clearly recognizable in shield fighting (MAI SAWK), where fist and elbow techniques can be performed with and without weapons.

Unlike for example Krabi Krabong, all Pahuyuth weapon fighting disciplines always include a full set of techniques for unarmed combat. This offers a higher spectrum of possibilities (e.g. a combination of sword strikes and fist punches). It also ensures that Pahuyuth warriors can continue fighting seamlessly if they lose their weapons. As said before, there is no referee and no one is saved by the bell.

The teacher-student relationship

Another important cultural difference is the teacher-student relationship.

In Thai culture, a teacher (Kru) is greatly respected and revered, both publicly and privately. In many cases this results in a form of worship and glorification which results in a form of hierarchy in social life.

In the culture of the Pahuyuth free warriors all people are equal. From this it follows that a MUAI teacher (Kru) is always an experienced warrior and respected knowledge mediator, but never a ruler or master.

For this reason, the traditional Wai Kru (teacher’s greeting) is never performed to honor a living teacher. Further information on this topic is summarized in a separate blog article.

Pahuyuth Wai Kru / Wai Khru Ritual

Wai Kru Ram Muai

The ritual dances known in Muay Veti (Muay Thai), which are performed before every fight, originate from the customs of Pahuyuth free warriors.

Until 2018 (A.D.) there were still several Ram Muai choreographies handed down in the official curriculum of the discipline MUAI.

Why we will not continue this tradition and what this decision means for future MUAI students, we explain in a separate blog article.

No competitions, no preparation for competitions

Every MUAI practitioner is free to take part in sports competitions or not. Within Pahuyuth, however, there is no competition-oriented training and therefore no sporting competition promotion.

The establishment of sports federations or the participation in such, would always lead to a restriction by sports and social rules. This does not correspond to the culture of the Pahuyuth free warriors, which is based on rebellion against oppression and slavery and striving for peace and freedom.

Therefore, while the modern Muay Veti (Muay Thai) has been influenced by decades of industrial development, specialization and selection for sports competitions as well as the latest findings in sports and nutrition science, the traditional MUAI training has always aimed at the broadest possible spectrum of applications and the greatest possible individual freedom.

If there is something that MUAI can’t do or can’t do well and doesn’t want to do as a rule, then it is to fight within the rules of Muay Veti (Muay Thai). For this there are specialists who master this special kind of fighting much better and therefore can offer a much better training in this particular sport.

MUAI elbow technique

Elbow thrust against the larynx – MUAI can do a lot, but sport is usually not part of it.

Muay Veti (Muay Thai)

In contrast to MUAI, the Muay Veti (aka. Muay Thai or Thaiboxing) is exclusively designed for a sporting competition between two standing opponents, whereby the scope of the permitted techniques in the course of the evolution and industrialization of Muay Thai has continued to shrink.

Betting has always been an essential part of Southeast Asian culture. Therefore, it is not surprising that bets were and are placed on the outcome of fights between human opponents.

The modern Muay Veti (Muay Thai) originated around 1910 (A.D.) when a Thai businessman began to import boxing gloves from the United Kingdom (UK), where the so-called Muay Sagon (western boxing or Queensberry boxing) was already widespread.

What started out as a fairground attraction (similar to the motion picture arts) or carnival boxing soon developed into a fully-fledged sports industry.

With the industrialization of Muay Veti, the rules changed and so did the technical repertoire. While in the early days of this sport bets were placed on the successful execution of certain techniques and tricks (gon), in later times it was almost all about the outcome of the fight.

As in any other industry, demand determines supply. The trend was therefore towards more hardness, strength and speed. At the same time, more and more rules and restrictions were introduced to help reduce particularly serious injuries and the associated loss of sales and earnings.

Many of the old techniques have fallen victim to this development, but Muay Veti is still one of the most fascinating martial arts in the world. Especially since this martial art has always remained true to itself and has never pretended to be something it was not.

Fighters of Muay Veti (Muay Thai) are highly specialized martial artists.

Kings in the ring – he who has to fight to survive does a hard but honest job.

PAHUYUTH | Traditional Martial Arts and Self Defense | | #Pahuyuth