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Unlocking Muay Boran IMBA’s 7 doors. Offensive strategy.

by Marco De Cesaris

Siamese Martial Arts (Sillapha Kan Tosu Kon Thai) have a long and rich history. Along the years, Thai Masters and warriors developed a great number of combat strategies, tactics and techniques that allowed them to survive on the battlefield. In 1929 the “old style” of Muay started to progressively change, being finally transformed into a sport. In modern times, we chose to call Muay Boran the ensemble of the old styles of Muay. After many decades of oblivion a selected group of Thai masters started to reconstruct the ancient Siamese martial principles giving birth to a renaissance that is still in process, nowadays. A pillar of this rebirth, since the beginning of the ’90 has been the International Muay Boran Academy (IMBA). What we call today Muay Boran IMBA is a combination of the combat strategies, tactics and techniques of several ancient styles, blended in a systematic way, in line with modern pedagogical criteria. Another modern-traditional style that share some technical principles with Muay Boran IMBA is the fruit of Grand Master Chaisawat Tienviboon’ work, the martial style he called Muay Chaisawat. More information about Muay Chaisawat will be given in future articles.

As any traditional style, Muay Boran IMBA is based on general concepts that make up the bedrock of this fighting system. Once the founding concepts have been clearly understood and thoroughly analysed, the student will possess a sound knowledge that allows him to delve into the advanced technical elements with greater ease. The 7 doors that lead to a proper comprehension of Muay Boran IMBA fighting system should be unlocked by the Nak Muay (student of Muay) with the help of an expert Khru Muay (teacher of Muay). In order to know more about the keys to unlock the 7 doorsof Muay Boran IMBA, the interested readers can refer to the PDF book: Muay Boran IMBA – Arjarn Marco De Cesaris’ philosophy of fighting. (free download).


The door number 5 refers to the strategic approach to fighting: basically, a Muay Boran stylist must learn how to properly attack (Mai Rook), defend (Mai Rab) and counterattack (Mai Kae) in order to implement his/her own body weapons in the best possible way. Doing this could sound rather easy but in this case, as it often happens in combat-related matters, it is hard to put theory into practice. In fact, the true skill level of a fighter is based on his ability to correctly apply these 3 fundamental strategic approaches in countless variations and combinations. Only when he attains this level of skill a Nak Muay can consider himself an expert. Let’s start our analysis by examining the offensive strategy of Muay Boran IMBA.

Sillapha Kan Rook or the Art of Attack is one of the most intriguing elements of the whole Muay Boran technical background. A seemingly elementary brick in the wall of fighting tactics that all ancient Muay stylists learn to apply in combat. In reality, the Offensive Strategy of most traditional styles of Muay is complex and rich in details. Muay Boran IMBA syllabus combines the offensive principles of several ancient styles of Siamese unarmed combat. The result is an articulated ensemble of offensive patterns that can boost the fighting efficiency of its practitioners in a relatively short time.

The first training step consists in learning to use the main body weapons or Gayawoot in classic Thai style. The basic exercises are executed on the spot, Ta Yu Kap Ti in Muay jargon. The basic ways of using punches, kicks, knees and elbows to attack are first trained in a two-point position shoulder width with parallel feet, in order to get the feeling of the turning of one’s hips and shoulders in every strike. The next step consists in switching to a three-point position: the same attacks are executed from a different base and the difference between lead and rear leg and arm is introduced. Many hours should be spent rehearsing all the basic attacks while standing in these two static positions before progressing to stepping mode.


Once the 4 basic footwork patterns have been introduced and sufficiently absorbed by the trainee, the combinations of steps and strikes should be trained. Stepping forward, backward and sideward, the Nak Muay should throw punches, kicks, knee and elbow strikes according to the various traditional types of timing. This advanced training is called Ta Kleun Ti in Muay Boran jargon.

After a sufficient time, the Khru Muay should introduce the advanced attack patterns into his students’ daily training. Every teacher of Muay holds the secret to the ancient offensive strategies of his style. In Muay Boran IMBA five elements are considered fundamental for developing a student’s offensive efficiency. These elements are as follows.

1.Number of strokes

2.Power of strokes

3.Category of body weapon

4.Leading weapon

5.Special attacks

1.The first element deals with the concept of combination of attacks or Phasom Muay. There are 4 basic types of offensive combinations in Muay as far as the number of strokes is concerned. In fact, a boxer can strike with one, two, three or four blows with good results, if he knows how to properly combine the strikes with correct timing and good footwork. In traditional Muay, all teachers divide the rhythm of attacks into these 4 categories:

-Mai Rook Neung Chawa (offensive techniques based on a single strike)

-Mai Rook Song Chawa (offensive techniques based on a combination of two strikes)

 1-Song -Chawa

Song -Chawa- (2)

-Mai Rook Saam Chawa (offensive techniques based on a combination of three strikes)

-Mai Rook Si Chawa (offensive techniques based on a combination of four strikes).

Generally speaking, even if series of five, six or even more strikes are theoretically possible, most thai boxers tend to attack with combinations of no more than four blows in order to be effective while keeping safe from a possible counter attack.

2.Once the four schemes of offensive combinations are fully understood, the element of striking power should be included in the equation. In fact, every good thai boxer knows that not all attacks are meant to hurt. On the contrary, in a series of 3 blows, for example, the “real” attack could be only the last one while the first two strikes play the role of a camouflage. In order to work as a camouflage a strike should be executed with great speed and little power. In other words, the boxer’s body mass should not come into play and the attacking limb should hit and come back in the shortest possible time. These light and quick blows are meant to tease and distract, opening gaps into the opponent’s defense. The final attack should instead be executed with all the boxer’s body mass behind the blow, aiming at inflicting maximum damage.

3.The third element pertains to the use of the various body weapons to attack according to the first two schemes analysed above. Series of one to four strikes can be executed with the hands, feet, shins, knees, elbows and head. Obviously, the right weapon should be used at the right distance. For example, kicking at long range then closing the gap to punch at middle range and finally throwing an elbow at short range is a correct way to combine one’s body weapons. On the contrary, using a body weapon at the wrong distance can easily lead to defeat. A common example of this misbehaviour is trying to attack with the weapon that most beginners consider the deadliest of all, the elbow, from a long distance. This behaviour usually doesn’t bring any noteworthy results and potentially exposes the boxer to a hard counterattack.


4.The fourth element of Muay Boran IMBA’s Art of Attack deals with the choice of the best lead weapon for a given fighting situation. Choosing the best body weapon to start an offensive combination seems obvious but nonetheless is a skill that must be thoroughly understood and properly trained. Most of the times the strike that is used to start a combination is the most important of the series. In fact, it can help us to get to the desired distance from the opponent, put a stopper in his footwork, open gaps in his defence and pave the way to the following attacks. All this, without leaving ourselves open to possible stop-hits. The Jab (Mahd Trong Nam)

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and the lead Front Kick (Tiip Trong Nam)

Punto -4 -(2)-7-doors

are considered the best lead weapons in Muay Boran IMBA. In other modern-traditional styles such as Muay Chaisawat, the vertical swing kick (Poed Tawan), the straight knee (Gratung Kampang) and the upward elbow (Soil Ga Sa) are also considered excellent lead weapons.

5.The fifth category refers to the so-called “special attacks”. In ancient times, Siamese warriors trained for hand to hand combat, no holds barred. Together with the use of swords, spears, axes and knifes the soldiers had to be trained in unarmed fighting techniques that could save their lives, once deprived of their weapons. Training for combat on the battlefield included strikes with the various body parts and close range tactics aimed at dislocating the enemy’s joints or taking them to the ground to finish them with kicks or knee drops.

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The grappling techniques used by those ancient warriors are still considered as a brutal yet extremely effective way to attack an opponent and are included in Muay Boran IMBA’s five offensive strategies. Tum (throw), Tap (overlay), Chap (seize), Hak (break) are the four special systems of attack of traditional Siamese Martial Arts that should be included in every Muay Boran syllabus and carefully studied by all serious practitioners of this fascinating Martial Art.

Punto- 5- (2)-7-doors

For more information about Muay Boran IMBA:

IMBA Official website:
• Europe: Dani Warnicki (IMBA Finland)
• South America: Juan Carlos Duran (IMBA Colombia)
• Oceania: Maria Quaglia (IMBA Australia)
• General Secretary: Marika Vallone (IMBA Italia)