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Muay Boran styles. Part 3
Muay Lert Rit

By Marco De Cesaris

IMBA Lert Rit is a modern-traditional style considered by many experts as the most effective interpretation of the core fighting principles of Muay. Its basic skills represent a modern version of the ancestral style of unarmed combat employed by the Siamese Nak Su (warriors, in Thai language). In fact, as it is easily understood, all warriors needed to be ready to attack and defend themselves once deprived of their weapons on the battlefield. As a matter of fact, the only weapons always available were their Natural Body Weapons, a fact well known to the Siamese Army’s elite troops.
Muay Lert Rit is a straight to the point fighting system, employed in the past by those who actually applied martial techniques on the battlefield like the renowned Jaturankabat. These special troops were trained to protect the legs of war elephants, an arduous task they had to accomplish at all costs. Armed with two swords (Daab Song Mue in Thai language) or barehanded, they were responsible for the safety of the weakest part of the pachyderms’ anatomy when they were employed in battle like “ante litteram” tanks.

As the story goes the Jaturankabat were chosen among the strongest and bravest members of the Thai Army and trained until they became equally skilled with or without weapons. When they were deprived of their swords and spear, they employed vicious bare handed techniques to eliminate enemies before they could inflict any damage to the elephant they were protecting. At the time of King Naresuan (circa 1600 CE) this elite group was so renowned that their fighting style was called Muay Jaturankabat.
Similarly, another group of specialized soldiers are considered the forerunners of modern Muay Lert Rit stylists, the Krom Nak Muay’s elite warriors. The Regiment of Thai Boxers (this is the literal translation of the thai words Krom Nak Muay) was formed by fearsome fighters, all experts in the intricacies of Muay Boran. They were charged with protecting the Royal family and the members of Siamese aristocracy. Contrary to the Jaturankabat these elite soldiers were specialized in close range hand to hand combat since their “battlefield” was actually the Royal Palace. In fact, it is reported that nobody was allowed to bring weapons inside the palace: as a result the members of the Krom Nak Muay had to be extremely skilled in close combat techniques aimed at quickly subduing attackers who (barehanded or armed with concealed weapons) may represent a serious danger for the Royals.

The modern version of those ancient warriors’ skill is condensed in the IMBA Lert Rit Curriculum, the technical guide all members of the International Academy follow since several years now (
This detailed program has been structured along the years: this is the result of a throughout analysis of ancient thai textbooks and of the careful examination of a Siamese fighting manual, the oldest original document in existence that illustrates close range combat techniques with bare hands. The contents of this manual show a form of fighting that closely relates to a military approach to combat, very far from both the sporting and artistic versions of Muay.

The consequence of this research uncovers a missing link within the very structure of the highly attractive martial art called Muay: this specific element has been defined by some as the “military version of Muay Boran”. However, this sophisticated combat Art represents a complete fighting system in its own right. This style, extremely realistic and very flexible in its essence, can bring the application of Muay Thai skills to a unique level of effectiveness and universality.
Both women and men clad in street clothes or in comfortable martial arts uniforms, can all be trained in this form of aggressive self-defense, with great results in a relatively short time. The techniques surpass all boundaries and can be applied by students of all genders, operating at every latitude and under any climatic conditions.
Whoever chooses to study this martial discipline will find, within its theoretical foundation, a profound insight into a deep cultural heritage. The ancient Kingdom of Siam was a fascinating place of ancestral martial traditions, whose mysteries reveal themselves to the inquisitive student. IMBA Lert Rit Curriculum is based upon 4 basic Fighting Strategies, 7 Technical Pillars and, above all, 8 Energy Principles.
In order to fully understand the importance of the 8 Energy Principles, one must go back to the origin of this Martial Art.

In fact, as we’ve seen, before becoming a combat sport, Muay Thai was a valuable element in the technical background of Siamese soldiers and especially of Elite Troops who used barehanded techniques in combination with bladed weapons: swords, spears, axes or knives. Obviously, all-out fighting on the battlefield was radically different from present day combat sports: although hand and leg strikes as a mean to attack were frequently employed, they had to be executed mostly at a very close range and were combined with grabs, throws, locks and joint breaking maneuvers. Each attack was designed to injure or kill, by hitting vital points or causing the rupture of the cervical vertebrae. Being IMBA Lert Rit an updated, modern reinterpretation of the ancient battlefield Muay, its training system aims at developing the ability to fight (in civilian contexts) at close range using hard blows to the body’s sensitive areas of the enemy, as a first line of offence. These strikes employ specific hard bony parts like “weapons”:
the hands (knuckles, heel and edge of the hand) and the arms (outer forearm bone), the legs (forefoot, heel, shin), the knees, the elbows, the head.

Since striking from a close range is very different from hitting at medium or long range, one needs to develop a specific type of explosive power by applying the 8 Energy Principles of IMBA Muay Lert Rit: all parts of the body must come into play in full unison, perfectly coordinated in the execution of each attack and the entire body mass must be explosively projected onto the opponent, even if the combatants are separated by a very small space.
The energy that is absorbed from the ground by the feet is transmitted to the hips and then it is addressed to the limbs (arms and legs) from where it is “shot” towards the enemy’s weak points. Such explosive energy must be entirely transferred to the opponent at the instant of contact between the natural weapon and the target. The application of this type of specialized destructive strikes usually results in a hard knockout or at least, a stunned opponent, ready for a finishing technique.
The various advanced systems of application of the Energy Principles are represented by the 31 operational strategies called Look Mai Muay Lert Rit.

A sound knowledge of basic and advanced Muay Thai Boran techniques (IMBA Lert Rit’s “mother Art”) is needed as a starting point upon which a real understanding of Lert Rit can be built .
From a general point of view, the basic curriculum is based upon the use of the following body weapons employed to unleash devastating close range strikes:
-Low kicks: roundhouse or straight kicks always aimed below the belt line.
-Elbow blows: both slashing and piercing aiming at crushing the bones, breaking the joints, causing concussions or damaging the t-zone (face) of the opponent.
-Knee strikes: executed both with and without a grab.
-Head-butts : similarly executed both with and without a grab.
-Hand strikes: mostly open hand strikes, (heel of the hand, thumb or fingers, outside edge of the hand used as a knife or as a hammer) and a vast array of forearm strikes. Punches are encouraged only after the trainee has undergone an intensive Muay Sakon (Bare Knuckle Boxing) training.
Extensive training in thai grappling is needed since the very beginning stage of training. Any IMBA Lert Rit trainee must be at ease at very close range and every technique must be applied in close combat.

Close range is where a Lert Rit expert is more at ease. Real fights usually happen at a very close range; therefore, most Lert Rit fighting strategies specialize in close combat situations.
In summary, a Lert Rit practitioner must be able to strike with maximum power from a close distance using his elbows, knees, head, forearms and hands. He must be an expert at controlling his opponent with a vast array of specialized grappling holds. Moreover he must learn to apply, if the situation requires, a series of basic snappy arm or neck locks.

The basic Muay Thai Chap Ko (the fundamental neck tie) is trained extensively to become second nature and if properly applied, it is enough to render the opponent unconscious by combining the strenght of the hold with a quick barrage of knee, head and elbow strikes. Moreover, a properly applied Chap Ko hold is the starting point to break the opponent’s balance and to take him down. Hard throws and finishing techniques (Tum Tap, in Muay jargon) complete the mix, adding a finishing touch to the tool box of any experienced Lert Rit fighter.