Mae Mai – Look Mai

The ancestral principles of Siamese unarmed combat are built upon the traditional basic techniques of Muay called Mae Mai Muay Thai (or Mai Khru) and the complementary or advanced techniques called Look Mai Muay Thai (or Mai Kred). In the ancient past, every Khru Muay (Muay Thai Master) had his own teaching style; however, in every style, once the basic elements had been assimilated, all students started to learn the real fighting strategies, that is to say Mae Mai and Look Mai Muay Thai techniques.
Mae Mai or fundamental techniques, represent the founding principles of Thai fighting style and they can also be defined as Mai Khru or Master techniques. Look Mai or Mai Kred (detailed techniques) contain more advanced and sophisticated combat rationales and traditionally were revealed to students who were already so advanced in their learning process that could be trusted by their Khru Muay. Mai Khru techniques, (that must be learned before undertaking the study of Mai Kred) far from being merely offensive and defensive maneuvers, relatively simple in appearance, are actually the “quintessence” of a complete and sophisticated fighting system created in ancient Siam. Each single technique has been developed over the centuries by Siamese warriors and teachers and is based upon no-nonsense combat principles, tested on the battle field in times of war and in the course of countless sports contests in times of peace (in an authentic scientific process that ended with an accurate assessment of cause and effect). Analysing Mae Mai Muay Thai more thoroughly, we can say that each one of these techniques represents a complete vision of combat and a complete fighting strategy by itself. The real value, the beauty inherent in such maneuvers, is that every Mae Mai hides universal combat principles that, if properly interpreted, can be developed through the existing variants resulting in many extremely effective martial applications. The Siamese Masters of the past that have codified these sequences of techniques possessed such a mastery of close combat, through personal experience, that managed to condense into 15, easy to reply maneuvers, a huge quantity of combat principles. In the different fighting styles developed over the centuries in Thailand, practically all the Khru Muay recognize the 15 Mae Mai principles as fundamental. This not being the same thing for the Look Mai. Mae Mai and Look Mai Muay Thai, with all their many variants, make up the foundation of IMBA (International Muay Boran Academy) Technical Syllabus and are mainly based on the research carried out by Prof. Phosawath Saengsawan along the years. The 30 Mae Mai and Look Mai forms that IMBA members practice on a regular basis are at present accepted by most Thai Masters. The 15 Look Mai, as an ideal complement of the 15 basic techniques are generally approved by exponents of all styles. However, this does not exclude the inclusion in the context of Mai Kred of other techniques considered by some Masters of such importance to be worthy of being part of that group. Muay Korat students, for example, are taught 11 Look Mai, 21 Mae Mai Boran, 5 Basic Strategies (Mae Mai) that, together with the 5 Basic Standing Attacks and 5 Fundamental Maneuvers make up the so-called 47 Technical Portals.

Some Muay Boran scholars claim there Muay Uttardit incorporated 535 fundamental techniques, comprehensive of Chern Muay, Kon Muay, Mae Mai and Look Mai.
On the other hand, Muay Lopburi is based on 5 Mae Mai and 5 Look Mai as the technical pillars upon which the combat skills of a Lopburi boxer are founded.
Muay Chaiya masters of the past stated that there is only one Mae Mai (the Chaiya guard position or Jot Muay) and that Look Mai strategies are generated by the correct application of that fundamental element, just like a good fruit comes from a healthy tree. If Mae Mai are the starting blocks for all Muay Boran students, Look Mai are the true “secret techniques” that every Bramajarn (Grand Master) of the past jealously guarded, revealing them only to his most adept and trustworthy students. If Mae Mai are for everyone Look Mai are reserved for the elect. If Mae Mai, by definition, can be learned by all trainees Look Mai are beyond the reach of the average practitioner. Achieving mastery of Look Mai is possible but only true champions can reach the heart of those high combat principles. If Mae Mai strategies are both effective and easy to understand, the language of Look Mai is cryptic and few can decode the real meaning of each maneuver without the help of an expert Master. The study of Look Mai can only be initiated after learning all basic concepts included in Mae Mai techniques. This is the commandment of old Masters passed down through the ages and which we still respect today. Only when we have mastered the secrets and the fundamental methods of attack and defence, will it be possible to engage the long hard path towards learning advanced principles hidden in Mai Kred that are by their very nature both complex and hard to learn.

The following titles are highly recommended to those students who are truly interested in learning more about the building blocks of traditional Muay.
Mae Mai Muay Thai – The traditional Fighting System of Thailand (book)
This book is an in-depth study of the crucial elements of the original Siamese fighting system of unarmed combat. From this book you can have a clear understanding of the mother principles of traditional Muay. Many training methods and martial applications of every Mae Mai are shown in detail.
The comprehension of this book will be enhanced by the following videos:
Muay Boran – Mae Mai 1 (video)
Muay Boran – Mae Mai 2 (video)
These 2 dvds follow the same scheme of the book and can give the student a clearer idea of each action by seeing its application in motion.
The martial art of Kings – Muay Thai Boran (book)
Though the title of this book does not appear related to the advanced strategies of Muay (Look Mai Muay Thai) this book does contain a complete analysis of the complementary principles of thai fighting. Many martial applications are illustrated together with the theoretic premises of original Siamese unarmed combat.
Also this book has an accompanying video:
Combat Mai Kred– Techniques and Applications (video)

This video shows the basic elements of Mai Kred techniques and by watching it after reading the book, students will get a better understanding of the dynamics involved in each application.
I hope these books and videos will lead students to a better understanding of the real essence of Mai Muay Boran. Without a good knowledge of these basic technical and strategical elements it is difficult to develop adequate skills to promote the Art of Muay to its highest level.

Marco De Cesaris

Fan Look Buab – look mai #15 – video and photos