Kon Kae

The elusive Art of counter fighting: Kon Muay Kae style

Kon, กล trick; scheme; stratagem.
Kae, แก้ to correct; to counteract; to solve a problem.

Muay Thai teachers of the past used to divide the skills of fighting in different styles: the most advanced skills were classified as Kon Kae, the tricks used to solve the problems of fighting. In other words, Kon Kae means the skills of counterattack it represents the greatest Art in Muay Thai, the Art of true champions.
Nowadays, most Muay Boran teachers follow the Kon Muay Kae classification made by Master Yod Ruengsa in his Muay Thai textbook titled Tamrap Phra Chao Sua published in 1971.
The title is an obvious reference to Ayutthaya re di Ayutthaya Phra Chao Sua (aka Tiger King) and to the combat style used by his elite soldiers, the Krom Nak Muay. In fact, this Regiment of Muay fighters consisted of highly trained military personnel with a long history of Muay Thai practice. Those extremely skilled soldiers were employed to guarantee the safety of the king and the royal family. The fighting style of those elite troops was called Muay Luang or royal Muay and, according to most sources, it was the originator of the Kon Muay Kae style we still practice today.
The core of Kon Kae fighting style is learning to cope with any kind of attack the opponent may use and countering accordingly. The attacks are listed following the classic “cycle of body weapons”, i.e., Mahd (punches), Thao (kicks), Kao (knee strikes), Sok (elbow strikes). The defender shall use every kind of body weapon to defend and counter the opponent’s offensive actions. Grappling maneuvers (locks and throws) are also employed as counter techniques to subdue the opponent with a quick and decisive action.
Counter fighting is generally considered a “defensive style”, especially if we compare this strategic approach with the more attack-oriented Chern Muay style. In reality, the true Kon Muay Kae expert is skilled in using the opponent’s offense as a mean to successfully complete his own attack. At the highest level, a Kon Kae fighter is able to “make the opponent attack when and where he wants him to do it”. He plans his moves and uses all the defensive tools of Muay (feinting, drawing, sidestepping, guarding, parrying, slipping, ducking, blocking) to put the opponent in a position of weakness where he can easily apply his counter.
It is clear that a good counter fighter needs to develop a keen sense of timing in order to retaliate with fast, hard blows at the right time, before the opponent has any chance to recover from his missed attacks.
Not all Muay Thai boxers possess the qualities to become expert counter fighters: even if some technical attributes can be developed through proper training an innate sense of timing is needed to really excel in this elusive style.
However, all Nak Muay (Muay fighters) can benefit from a regular practise of Kon Kae techniques: this style offers a compendium of so many defences and counterattacks that every student can find the ones that better suit his individual technical tool box.

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