The Nine Body Weapons.

Muay Thai, and the Siamese Martial Art of the nine natural weapons, Nawarthawuth: hands, elbows, legs, knees and head are trained and prepared in order to be used as offensive weapons equal to axes, daggers, spears and clubs. These same body parts are also ably used as protective shields to neutralize offences from opponents in an efficient, and often decisive way in the face of a real attack.

A. Mahd

In Siamese tradition, similarly to what happens in many eastern fighting arts, the first element to be studied as a tool for attacks, is the hand. The foundation of blows of this kind is represented by the clenched fist (the fist in Thai language is called Mahd). The clenched fist is used in many ways, hitting with the knuckles, the back of the hand, the hammer (little finger side) and with the palm side (foreknuckles).
To correctly clench the fist and avoid injuries whilst using it (especially when fighting bare-knuckles), it’s important to take some precautions. The fingers must be tightened together at the moment of impact with the target and the wrist must kept rigid and in line with the forearm, carefully avoiding any bending, which could cause serious injuries and possibly end of the fight.
The trajectories of punches are many and diverse, but usually attacks are listed according to two main classes: straight blows (Mahd Trong) and round blows. Round blows can be subdivided into: uppercuts (Mahd Suhy), horizontal round punches (Mahd Wiang), overhead strikes (Mahd Kohk), and pivot blows (Mahd Glab). All punches can also be carried out with a jump (Gradot Chok).
We shall therefore distinguish the following techniques:
Mahd Trong
a. in the vertical fist version typical of the Korat style,
b. horizontal fist, in use most notably in Chaiya style,
c. corkscrew, carried out in order to lacerate the skin of the face,
d. fist turned upwards, aimed at the face,
e. Fist turned downwards, aimed at the body
Mahd Suhy, is a short or long uppercut , aimed at the face or the body, executed as a single or double strike, typical of Lopburi style.
Mahd Wiang San or Mahd Kwang is a short hook hitting with the knuckles, executed with the hand held horizontally or twisted (fingernails towards the opponent), or even striking with the inside part of the fist, like in the Wanorn or Monkey Punch).
Mahd Wiang Jiao or Mahd Wiang Kwai in Muay Korat (wide hook or swing, hitting with the back of the fist, with the knuckles, with the inner forearm edge),
Mahd Wiang Glab or Mahd Glab Lang (backfist, straight or spinning, executed hitting with the knuckles, the outside edge of the hand, the forearm)
Mahd Kohk (downwards hook, performed along a short or long path, striking with the big knuckles or with the fore knuckles).
Gradot Chok (any punch carried out whilst jumping).

B. Tao

The meaning of the Thai word Thao, is feet. However, in Muay the word is employed in a broader sense, actually referring to the lower legs. The legs are naturally more powerful than the arms and traditionally the use of the legs as a means for offense and defence has always been very common for thai people.
In Muay Thai, in general, two areas can be singled out for legs attacks, the feet and the shins. The feet are used mainly in straight kicks (called Tiip) striking with the toes, the forefoot, the sole, or the heel. However, even in the execution of some special round kicks, certain parts of the foot, such as the back of the foot and the ankle (as well as the heel, the outside edge of the foot and the sole) can be used as impact zones with excellent results.
The other primary zone of impact for kicks, the shin, can be employed in the majority of roundhouse kicks (the famous Tae Wiang, typical of Siamese tradition which were inspired, as belief would have it, by the powerful but relaxed movements of an elephant’s trunk) and for defensive actions. The shin is one of the most resistant bones, working on the premise that it has been suitably prepared. Otherwise, the sensitivity of the shin could prove to be a hindering factor to the person carrying out the attack. With regards to the trajectories of these blows, whilst carrying out straight kicks, according to the position of the hips we can distinguish three types of strikes, frontal, lateral or backwards, which can also be performed whilst jumping. In Muay Thai these techniques are defined in the following ways:
Tiip Trong (front straight),
Tiip Khang (side straight),
Tiip Glab Lang (spinning back straight),
Gradot Tiip (jumping straight kick).

Round kicks are listed according to the angle they form with the ground, during their execution. The main trajectories are vertical round, diagonal round, horizontal round, cutting downwards, spinning around. Moreover, all those kicks can be employed with a jump. The most commonly used round kicks, in thai language, are as follows:
Tae Trong (vertical),
Tae Chieng (diagonal),
Tae Dtad (horizontal),
Tae Dtawad (cutting downwards),
Tae Glab Lang (spinning back),
Gradot Tae (jumping round).

C. Kao

The knees (Kao) were without any doubt the natural weapon most thoroughly examined during the centuries by Thai Kru Muay of the past; in no other martial art have knee strikes been more developed than in Muay Thai. As far as the best position for the legs, in order to carry out knee strikes (Ti Kao in Thai), we can generally say that the knee should be kept close to the thigh in order to allow the harder frontal part to push outwards, creating a compact surface capable of causing notable damage to any part of the opponent’s body. As well as the frontal part of the knee, the inner knee can be used in certain types of circular blows. The main trajectories of use for knee blows (even if not the only ones) are: vertical upwards, diagonal forward, horizontal, pushing forward, circular ‘slamming door’ style, low straight, and jumping. If they are combined with specific grapples, these blows can easily reach all sensitive parts of the opponent’s body, from the legs to the head.
Kao Trong (straight),
Kao Chieng (diagonal),
Kao Dtad (horizontal circular)
Kao Laa, (pushing forward using the knee and shin) This movement can also be considered as a short round kick, in which case it can be called Tae Kren Kaeng Kren Kao (“half shin- half knee” kick)
Kao Dti or Kao Kown (roundhouse, short or wide)
Kao Noi or Kao Kratai (to the legs, inner or outer thigh, or to the crotch)
Kao Loy ( jumping)

D. Sok

The elbow (Sok) is considered one of the hardest parts of the body and, if correctly positioned and used with skill, it can represent the ultimate weapon for any expert Thai Boxer.
Trajectories of elbow strikes are many and diverse, allowing 360 degree rotation of the shoulder joint to take place with relative ease. According to Siamese traditions we can distinguish up to 9 basic paths for elbow strikes, which are in turn subdivided into 3 to 5 levels of height, all of which can be carried out from the right or the left. You can execute elbow blows from above, from below, diagonally, horizontally, spinning and whilst jumping. These terrible blows can reach virtually every part of the opponent’s body, from a variety of angles, causing serious damage to any target.
It’s also important to consider that, apart from the more obvious movements of the shoulders, the body and the legs contribute in an effective way to the efficient execution of elbow blows. The most commonly used trajectories are the following:
Sok Dti (diagonal downwards)
Sok Dtad (horizontal),
Sok Gnad (vertical upwards),
Sok Pung (piercing forward) ,
Sok Gratung (backwards and diagonally upwards),
Sok Glab (reverse horizontal),
Sok Glab Lang (spinning back)
Sok Sahb (vertical downwards),
Sok Koo (double elbow)
Sok Chieng (diagonal upwards)
Gradot Sok (all jumping elbow strikes)

E. Hua

The ninth weapon is the head (Hua or Sisa) , often intended as a clear mind which functions as a command centre to best coordinate the use of the eight basic weapons at of the Nak Muay . In reality even the anatomical part (the skull) is of great importance in the arsenal of Muay Thai, above all during the hard phases of close combat, justly considered the most challenging phases in which one can find oneself. The front and the back of the head can be used with skill to unleash hard blows, often combining the head-butts with holds, in order to impact violently against the face or body of the opponent.

The Cycle of the Natural Weapons.

The order in which we have presented the various natural weapons is not casual. In fact, traditionally this order reflects the so-called ‘Cycle of Weapons”, a system in which each element (Mahd, Thao, Kao and Sok) is likely to overwhelm the following one but is equally prone to defeat by the one preceding it. In other words to get the better of an experienced kicker (expert in Thao techniques) it is necessary to employ hard punches, executed while cutting the distance between you and the “kicker” overwhelming him with hand strikes (Mahd techniques). In the same way an expert in boxing techniques should fear the so-called ‘spoiler’, one specialised in the use of elbow blows and hand trapping (Sok techniques); and so on for the other categories of fighters.