Sunday, June 10, 2018

Lost Origins of Muay Thai
 How Muay Boran is coming to represent an entire family of Thai martial arts

I began training Muay Thai in 1994. Most Muay Thai gyms, by large, teach the modern kickboxing adaptation of Muay Thai, and I was lucky enough to find a school in the San Francisco Bay Area that offers the older style of the Muay Thai (Muay Chao Cherk /Muay Chao Chur) and modern military version of the style known as Lerd Rit).[1] Since then I’ve witnessed Muay Thai rise out of obscurity to become one of the most sought after fighting styles in use today.  

In 2012, I got the research bug in my head, and kicked off a project to learn what I could about the older Muay Thai styles anda more complete history of the system. It's surprising how few resources are available that touch on where Muay Thai came from. There are plenty of sites that recall the legends of King Naruesan and Nai Khanom Tom. But in the course of my research, I found that many online resources that provide information on Muay Thai’s history contradict each other, or include statements that are not properly validated.

Redundant information on Muay Thai’s history, largely legends of kings and warriors, abound across the Internet. The story is essentially the same, with variations depending on the article you read or website you visit. This is largely because much of the earlier written accounts had been destroyed in multiple sackings of Thailand’s original capital, Ayutthaya.[2] The lack of open sources of historical information on Muay Thai is further compounded by the fact that Thailand is a highly nationalistic society. Thai’s hold close teachings of the older muay Thai systems, teaching foreigners, or ‘farangs’, only the most basic concepts of a rich and complex fighting system.  

Muay Thai's origins are also debated among scholars, which makes validating one theory over another a challenge. On top of that, web sites containing information that actually cite their sources are exceedingly rare. 

 So here I am, hoping to shed a little light on the origins of Muay Thai based on my research, with sources that I have cited.  

Two swords, many branches, one name
My research shows that modern muay thai originally came about from a sword-based combat system called Krabi Krabong, which evolved into other open-hand derivative systems including, Muay Chaiya, Muay Chao Cherk, Lerd Rit, Muay Korat, Muay Lao, Muay Khmer, and Lethwei to name a few. Terms such as Thai muay, Muay Thai, Thai boxing and muay boran (ancient boxing) are umbrella terms that are often mistaken for a specific style of Muay Thai, recently popularized in films by Thai actor, Tony Jaa.

Modern Muay Thai, the national sport of Thailand, is a form of kickboxing in which the contestants use fists, elbows, knees and kicks to subdue their opponent. Westerners were first introduced to Muay Thai in the early 1900’s. The sport has grown in bursts of popularity, beginning with the emergence of kickboxing in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and is now widely popular due to its integration in Mixed Martial Arts, the style used in combat sport leagues including, but not limited to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and K-1 Challenge in Asia. Muay Thai is known for being a ‘hard style’ martial art, in which the strikes are powerful and fighters aim to destroy targets, not just hit targets.  What is not widely known is that Muay Thai is a blanket term for a scaled down fighting sport, borne from a family of regional combat systems forged from over a thousand years of struggle and surprising influences. 

Like many other major martial arts, modern Muay Thai evolved into a safe way for combatants to train and maintain their skill sets during time of peace.  The empty hand style of Muay Thai is rooted in the older combat form of Krabi Krabong, in which warriors fought with a sword in each hand.  In his essay, A Short History of Krabi Krabong, filmmaker Vincent Giordano noted that the origins of the Thai people came from nomadic Ai-Lao tribes that migrated from India and eastern Tibet into the Yunnan Plateau of China sometime after 3000 B.C.E.[3] Generations of local warfare scattered the tribes into three distinct ethnic groups: the Shans; the Ahom; and the Lao-Tai, eventually each settling in Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. In 250 B.C.E many of the tribes fled southern China to escape slavery and migrated into the lower forests of what is now Thailand. Control of this region of Southeast Asia often changed hands between warlords for hundreds of years.  The people of Thailand lived in a state of constant warfare. According to Giordano, a deep knowledge of natural medicine was developed from their time spent living in the forests.  By the twelfth century C.E the Ahom people had settled the lowlands of Thailand which are rich in fish and agricultural resources. 

Up until the 1600’s Thai weaponry consisted largely of farming tools augmented for battle as well as swords. According to martial arts historians Donn Draeger and Robert Smith, a key milestone in the development of krabi krabong came about in the seventeenth century when Japanese Samurai Yamada Nagasama was conscripted to quell public disturbances following the death of King Song Thom in 1628. [4] Thai soldiers discovered a two-sword fighting system that proved effective against the Japanese single-hand sword fighting style employed by the Samurai.  

A different perspective
However, the late David K. Wyatt, considered by many to be the foremost western expert on Thailand, proposed that much of the techniques in Thai martial arts were founded not through Krabi Krabong, but in Buddhism.  I tend to believe that truth is likely to be found in both theories. Chinese as well as Indian Buddhism have influenced Thai culture. For example, the legend of Rama, and the concept of kingship in Thailand came directly from the Indian epic of the Ramayana.[5] Concurrently, much of the nation’s history is spent at war with surrounding states and fending off Western colonial empires.  

Your enemies will influence the way you fight
Thai’s have proven over the course of history that benefit can come from absorbing ‘what works’ from other cultures.  Thai rulers have been successful at recognizing strengths in other cultures and integrating them in order to improve national stability without greatly diluting their own cultural identity.  Some scholars argue that this ability to observe and adapt is partly why Siam (Thailand’s official name prior to 1939) was never colonized by European empires, since the rise of Western powers.[6] For example, during the seventeenth century, the Thai government leveraged relationships with surrounding countries and trading partners to counter trade competition from the Dutch and English. 

Instead of going to war against these competitors, Siam embraced potential opponents, enlisting Indians, Malays, Portuguese and Japanese soldiers to guard palaces. They leveraged Chinese and Persian experience as merchants to serve in an official capacity in the trade ministry. If you think about it, their ability involve third party states into the mix made it trickier for world powers at the time to colonize them. The Thai government also outsourced ship building and engineering to Dutch, French and Italian experts.[7]

Given that Thai’s have proven their proficiency in evolution through adaptation, one could also argue that Krabi Krabong was influenced, to an extent, by multiple martial arts including the Chinese, Japanese, Malay, and the perhaps even the ancient Indian fighting system, Kalaripayat. 

Economic destruction
What is unique to Krabi Krabong, Muay Thai, and the Thai/Loa/Khmer/Burmese variants of the Thai combat styles, as well as other styles indigenous to Southeast Asia, is the inherent aggressive nature in which the combatants engage. Southeast Asian martial arts systems tend to focus on destruction and incapacitation, whereas Eastern martial arts focus more on self-defense. Ajarn Jason Webster describes this offensive mindset, when he explained a core philosophy behind Krabi Krabong: “This apparent simplicity, on the surface of the art, reflects the underlying emotion inherent in it. That is the quick, economical destruction of the opponent.” Webster continued, “Therefore, at the core of the Thai martial arts exists the belief that if fighting must take place, the wholesale destruction of the opponent is warranted – and in the quickest, most powerful fashion.”[8]
In battle, when soldiers lost a sword they did not have time to stop and pick up another sword.  Soldiers used their fists, elbows and kicks in lieu of swords to continue the fight until another weapon could be won or obtained. This adaptation of using the body to mimic weapon strikes enabled soldiers to survive battle empty handed. A natural result is the confidence in the reliability, power and efficiency of their own skills, which evolved into an open hand combat system. 

From Krabi Krabong sprung a myriad of ancient open hand variant styles of Muay Thai that eventually devolved back into a single system in modern sport Muay Thai where boxing gloves have replaced hemp or cotton wraps, and a large portion of the techniques have been banned to improve fighter safety. This, along with the mass commercialization of the sport and its absorption into hybrid martial arts (MMA) is, in my opinion, watering down what is perhaps the most powerful martial art in existence. 

How could such a culturally vital aspect of a nation’s history all but disappear, out side of anecdotal and mythical evidence? The absence of a documented history of Krabi Krabong, and how it influenced many variant-fighting systems is a lesson for this and future generations. Whereas, for example, the Shoalin system of Kung Fu has been preserved via an institutionalized religious order, a number of local styles of Muay Thai went extinct with the death of last masters.  

 The possible loss of tribal knowledge to the ages, in conjunction with conflicting histories and legends end up becoming the default sources of history. It makes studying the subject of Muay Thai somewhat challenging.  It also explains why there are so many conflicting descriptions around the history of Muay Thai. 

Enter Muay Boran, a new history for Muay Thai
However, it appears that a new history is being forged on the subject: A history of modern Muay Thai, which, from what I can derive, is vastly different from the ancient combat systems. This new history will be the source of knowledge for future generations who may never know anything about Krabi Krabong; or Muay Chao Cherk; Muay Chaiya; Muay Korat, Muay ThaSao, Muay Lao and others, beyond what we see in choreographed demonstrations at tourist attractions and fight scenes in films. 

In a world where we gain our knowledge from YouTube, Wikipedia, and UFC where the media is the message – that are highly influential and very subjective –  it’s important to remember that one side of a story is not necessarily the definitive truth.  The resurgence of traditional Muay Thai styles (predominantly Muay Chaiya) through popular films such as Ong Bak, The Protector, and Chocolate have popularized the term ‘Muay Boran”, which translates into "ancient boxing".  Popular culture, kickboxing gyms, martial arts enthusiasts have lumped the unorthodox or unfamiliar techniques similar to Muay Thai into a single category: Muay Boran. Much like Kung Fu, this general term covers a spectrum of traditional and regional related fighting systems.

Preserving Muay Thai, hopefully
Thai’s are largely hesitant to teach outsiders local styles. Add to that the commercial and cultural influence that ring style Muay Thai has had on modern Thai culture and economy. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), there are between 20,000 and 30,000 gyms that train or instruct Muay Thai worldwide.  TAT recognizes the latent opportunity in the growing ‘Muay Thai tourist’ market, where even luxury resorts including The Siam and Peninsula hotels have integrated Muay Thai into their guest wellness programs. 
What concerns me about Muay Thai's explosive growth over the past two decades is that a new,  lexicon will be created around the subject of Muay Thai in which future generations will not have access to a clear delineation between modern sport Muay Thai, Muay Thai used in MMA and the ancient styles. Today, it's Muay Thai and Muay Boran. What happens to Muay Korat or Lerdrit? Techniques in those systems will eventually become cross-pollinated and lumped into a generic Muay Boran program/style.

 I fear a worst-case scenario – which may already be playing out in North America and Europe – in which retail martial arts gym owners and instructors independently construct training curriculum by reverse engineering techniques that they find online, or take short course ‘Muay Boran’ seminars in order to meet a growing student demand for knowledge in this subject.  I understand the business requirements of brick & mortar gyms to stay relevant in a saturated martial arts market, but the risk of further diluting an already diluted system whose history is foggy at best, is a recipe for disaster.

 What can we do?
Training and fighting does not necessarily make one a subject matter expert. Muay Thai instructors, especially those with an interest in the older and indigenous sub-styles of Muay Thai, must do the research required to educate yourself on the subject. As a kru myself, it is my responsibility to understand the differences among various styles, the history of Thai combat systems and its evolution into a modern sport, and most importantly, to provide my students with the most accurate information possible. 

We can't let Muay Boran become a category for all techniques not allowed in ring style Muay Thai competition. Nor does it mean forms.  It's also the responsibility of the informed instructor, or Kru, to understand the difference between Muay Thai for competition, Muay Thai for cultural & historical preservation, and Muay Thai for combat. 

As Muay Thai continues to grow as a part of popular culture, it’s critical that we a don’t further confuse the history of Muay Thai due to either a lack of due diligence or out of complacency.

My personal journey with Muay Thai is twenty four years in the making and has profoundly affected the way I think about how I could preserve my own culture’s customs and traditions ,espeically since I'm American and popular culture is always shifting. At the current rate, future generations may never know anything but a grotesque permeation of Muay Thai as we know it today unless we work together to record and validate what we can find on the subject, and share the many different styles that came about from Thailand's history. 

[2] Giordino, Vincent, Wat Buddhai Sawan.
[3] United States Muay Thai Association,
[4] Draeger, Donn F., Smith, Robert W., Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. 1980, Kodansha International, Tokyo, Japan.
[5] Poolthupya, Srisurang, The Influence of the Ramayana on Thai Culture: Kingship, Literature, Fine Arts and Performing Arts. The Journal of the Royal Institute of Thailand. Vol. 31 No.1, January-March 2006.
[6] Loos, Tamara; Subject Siam: Family, Law, and Colonial Modernity in Thailand. 2006, Cornell University Press.
[7] Baker, Chris; Phongpaichit, Pasuk, A Hitsory of Thailand, Second Edition. 2010, Cambridge University Press.
[8] United States Muay Thai Association,

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

UFC fighters vs Marine Corps martial arts experts, guess how it plays out

You train how you fight and you fight how you train.

I ran across this video in an article on Business Insider's website today (which is a reprint of the original article on We Are the Mighty that shows 3 UFC fighters, and Dana White, spending a day at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Center of Excellence (MACE), in Quantico, VA. UFC veterans, Forrest Griffin, Marcus Davis, and Rashad Evans went through a training lane where they'd have to fight their way past marines in a 'no rules' scenario of combat survival. Watch the video to see how they pan out. Spoiler alert, not well for the UFC guys.

What can we take away from this video? Combat sports and military/high risk operator skill sets serve two very different purposes.
Military and high risk operators train to achieve a completely different goal from what MMA and tournament & civilian martial arts train for. And that becomes very apparent at the 5:18 mark of the video. UFC fighter, Gabriel Gonzaga approaches two enemy marines.  Right away, he makes two critical tactical mistakes: 1. he puts himself between both opponents, exposing his back to one of them, and 2. he focuses his attack on one opponent. And he immediately paid for it.

In fact, each of the MMA fighters made the same mistake when fighting multiple opponents. They all focused their fight on one enemy while ignoring the other active opponent, and that's why they were each killed in the exercise.

Fighting in the cage/ring/mat against a single opponent is very different from what happens in a combat situation. But what's more relevant to us civilians, is that what happens in a combat situation is more aligned to what happens on the street. Odds are that the guy you get in a fight with has friends, who are not going to wait their turn for you to beat them up.  Environmental conditions will not be ideal (see how everyone was slipping around in the snow on the video), weapons can be pulled and used, and there is no referee or coach to enforce rules or call the fight.

Training MMA is training for sport, against a single opponent in a fairly safe environment. If you do train MMA or any other combat sport (muay thai included), it's very important to remember that the objectives of your style aren't the same as the objectives of an armed assailant or a crew that picks fights for fun. The dynamics change outside of the gym.

Here are just a few tips to keep in mind:
1. If you do end up in a situation outside the gym, assume that there's more than one bad guy.
2. In the street, never, ever take the fight to the ground, that's the quickest way to get your head stomped.
3. If/when you find yourself going to the ground, get up, fight your way back to your feet.
4. Keep moving, don't focus on one single individual opponent. Tunnel vision kills.
5. If this is a real concern for you, seek out a local school that trains reality-based self defense where multiple/armed opponent tactics & group psychology principles are applied. Check out one of the following:
  •  Krav Maga - not my first choice, but given the Krav franchise, its the most widely available option. 
  • If you're near a Senshido school, go there. 
  • Better yet, if you can train directly with Richard Dimitri, take advantage of that. 
  • If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out the Muay Thai Academy International (shameless plug, it's where I teach, and this stuff is what we cover).
Either way, check out the video. It's entertaining, and the exercises the UFC fighters went through looks like a lot of fun.

This video was originally posted on You Tube in 2011. Video credit, HarryBank99

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Oldest Muay Thai Gym in North America Celebrates 25 Years of Service

If you're in or near San Jose (the San Francisco Bay Area), you're more than welcome to join us. I don't think the press release mentions that we're bringing in a taco truck :)  Donnie-

Santa Clara, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 06/25/2014 -- – Muay Thai Academy International

WHAT: Muay Thai Academy International celebrates 25 years of service since first opening in 1990 with an open house and principal senior instructors’ recognition. The celebration is open to the general public. There is no cost for admission.

WHO: Dr. Nirmalya Bhowmick, Founder & Owner of Schola Training Group, Muay Thai Academy International

WHEN: 4:00- 8:00 p.m. PDT, Saturday, June 28, 2014

WHERE: Muay Thai Academy International, 320 Martin Avenue Suite D, Santa Clara, CA 95050

Since January 1990, Muay Thai Academy International has provided semi-private instruction of the older styles of Muay Thai and effective and applicable street centric self-defense to civilians, and close quarter combat tactics to law enforcement and members of the armed services. As fitness trends come and go, Muay Thai Academy International has been able to stay true to it’s own training platform while intentionally maintaining a small student base. The Academy operates with a non-profit mentality. Instructors donate their time and are not compensated. Dr. Nirmalya Bhowmick, founder stated, “We’ve been able to keep our curriculum undiluted in response to fads like Crossfit and MMA because we are not in this space for the money. Each of our instructors have careers, we keep the school open and teach because we love the combat martial arts.” Dr. Bhowmick continued, “What we teach is a matter of life or death for some of our students as we do train quite a few local and visiting students that are from various National Security programs. We cannot afford to dilute the quality of our close quarter combat platform.”

This relatively unknown school started out as a small “hole in the wall” Muay Thai gym in Palo Alto in January of 1990. Muay Thai Academy Int’l is recognized as an old style and military style Muay Thai school by a number of international bodies, including the United States Muay Thai Association, the World Muay Thai Council, and numerous professionals from various Dept of Defense and federal government agencies.

Click to Tweet:June 28: America's oldest muay thai gym celebrates 25 years.

The 25 year anniversary open house is open to current and former students, their families, member of the press, and anyone interested in attending. The event will also recognize five Principal instructors with a commendation diploma for their contributions to the Academy and to the muay thai community for the last two decades and will award an official instructors certification to two Senior Instructors.

For more information about the event, visit the Academy’s page on Facebook. If you’d like more information on the Muay Thai Academy, please visit our website at

SOURCE: SBWire news service, 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Muay Thai Legend, Ramon Dekkers Dead at 43

One of the greatest modern muay thai fighters died from a heart attack at age 43. According to Dutch news outlet, Bomroep Brabant, Dekkers collapsed earlier Wednesday while cycling in his home town of Breda. First responder attempts to resuscitate Dekkers were unsuccessful.

Here are but a few accomplishments in Ramon Dekkers' 20 year career, and a strong case that he was the best Western muay thai fighter to have ever stepped into the squared circle.

  • Career  record of 186 wins (95 by way of KO), 33 losses, 2 draws
  • Held 7 international muay thai championship titles
  • First foreigner to win "Fighter of the Year" award in Thailand
  • During his prime in Thailand, he would fight under Thai rules, often twice a week


Saturday, November 24, 2012

2012 holiday gift giude for the muay thai entusiast

So, you want to get a gift for someone in your life who either trains muay thai, or perhaps MMA, but what the hell is muay thai, and where do you start looking? Perhaps you train, and you want to give your family some ideas of what you want for Christmas. 

Well, here's the top recommended gifts that will be sure to make the muay thai fan happy this holiday season.

Custom Muay Thai Art
 My school has commissioned this artist to do a number of works for us, and I have a print on my living room wall. Each piece is unique, and this is something that anyone who likes Muay Thai would love to own. Prints are available on eBay.

You can also find this art on T-shirts. It's definitely a unique gift that's one of a kind. Seriously, the stuff looks great on a wall or on a shirt. This one, on the shirt is the same one I have hanging on my wall.

 A Good Quality Gym Bag
Here's the skinny: Anyone who's serious about their training will never want to give up their gym bag regardless of how stinky, torn up and beat up it may be. There's an emotional connection between a fighter and his/her equipment. 

There are ton of different types of bag out there. I recommend either a compartmentalized bag, or a mesh gym bag -both found on Amazon.

The Raid: Redemption
In a nutshell, this film out of Southeast Asia is one continuous fight scene. As one Amazon review states, " a movie that pulls no punches. Or maybe that's all it pulls. It's been a long while since I've seen a film so relentless, so brutal, and so unapologetically violent." It's available on DVD or Blue Ray

Namman Thai Liniment - 120cc bottl
 Namman Thai Boxing Liniment

A tried and true stapleThai boxing liniment is a great stocking stuffer, and is the fastest way into a muay thai practitioner's heart.  Be careful from who you buy Thai liniment as it is largely overpriced, considering a 120cc bottle sells in Thailand for less than 2 dollars, however online merchants will mark up the price to as much as $15 for the same product that may be past it's expiration date. eBay and Amazon have some sellers that offer it at a fair price.

 Competitive Ace is the official North American dealer for Namman.  This liniment is about as fresh as you can get it, however, the prices are little higher than other resources, so you'll have to weigh the benefits for yourself.

Muay Thai: The Most Distinguished Art of Fighting

It was on last year's list, and will most likely be on next year's list. If you ever get one book on the subject of muay thai, this one is it. The hardcover book is viewed by many as the textbook on muay thai. Transcribed from the bedside of aging Master Ket Sriyapai in 1978, this book is humble in layout.  This book is filled with incredibly useful information, tips on training for a fight, techniques, and serves as an enlightening history of the transformation of the modern sport muay thai in the twentieth century.  You can find it on

Boxing Bag Gloves
Last year, Twins Special 16oz gloves were on my list of recommended gifts.  This year, I resommend bag gloves. Great for training on heavy bags, focus mitts and thai pads. You can find a wide selection of brands at, but I recommend Twins, or if you can find an older pair of Everlast bag gloves - those things last forever.

Thai Boxing Hand Wraps
The optimal length for a pair of hand wraps is 180 inches. The optimal price for a pair of hand wraps is NOT $39.00. You can find a pair of cotton hand wraps at the right leghth for about $10 at Amazon.

When in doubt, you can always default to for any all things muay thai, but I highly recommend you spend time going though the sale section. It'll save you a lot of money. WARNING: All items from this site ship from Thailand, so expect a minimum 2 week delivery time.

Regardless of where you shop online, shop safe. Know the indicators that you're submitting your payment info over a secure connection (https, padlock in the browser bar, green bar). Learn more to stay safe online.

If you find something that should have been on this list, let me know. Make a post on Facebook at

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Top 3 Muay Thai Shin Conditioning Myths Debunked

Man, there is so much outright false anecdotal information out there on Muay Thai. Where to begin?

I'm going to tackle shin conditioning, which is a topic that seems to be a source ripe with serious misinformation. Today, I'm going to debunk the top 3 shin conditioning myths on the Internet that are inaccurate at best, and hopefully help put things straight because shin conditioning is something you certainly don't want to get wrong... see image below.
Note the kicker's point of contact compared to the blocker's. This is why I promote striking with the upper part of the shin.

Myth # 1. Shin Conditioning Kills Nerves
No, no and no. This is not true no matter how bad ass we may imagine it would be to walk around with no active nerve endings, feeling no pain of any kind.

Reality check: The repetitive action of striking heavy bags and pads will, over time desensitize your shins to the impact of striking, but no nerve endings were killed in the making of your toughness. The truth is, you simply get used to it, you become accustomed to the force of the strike. On a physiological level, your legs are still sending pain signals to your brain, but your brain has become conditioned to ignore the signals (to a certain point).

Myth # 2. I Can condition My Shins Faster by Kicking Trees
The fastest way to break your tibia, or if you're lucky, to ensure you can't touch a heavy bag for 2 months is to go out and kick a tree. You also run the risk of looking like a douche. Yes, we've all seen the clip where Buakaw kicks down a banana tree. And yes, the history of Thai's kicking down trees is engrained into our collective Muay Thai conscious, but that was before Thai pads were invented.

Quick history lesson, Thai pads actually came about from downed banana trees. Banana trees are a very soft wood, thus the tree of choice for ancient Thai's to kick. Over time, the tree wood bend and fold over, collapsing very much like it did in Buakaw's video. Someone got the idea to take the remnants of a fallen tree, (the bark and pulpy trunk) and wrap it around their forearms, allowing the fighter to train kicking on moving target. The concept evolved and now we have the modern Thai pad.

Reality check: In order to condition your shins (cause micro-fractures and calcification of the tibia) you need to remember that it takes time: months and months and months of time. you have to strike something softer than you shin bone - something like a heavy bag stuffed with cloth remnants and Thai pads. If you do want to go the route of hitting your shins with a stick or a rolling pin, tap very lightly up and down the shin, and keep it to a max of about 30 taps at a time. This video is a key example of what NOT to do for shin conditioning. Pause the clip at 1:28. See the welts in the inside of his shin, that's not the key point of impact for a strike. Just promise me you won't try that at home.

Contrary to what I see in MMA threads and on Bullshido, small training bags filled with sand are good for conditioning, if you're smart about how to use them. Key tip: start VERY LIGHT, and aim towards the top of the bag (it's softer at the top due to gravity). We employ a strict regimen around supplementing shin conditioning with the sand bag where I teach - and consider sand bags purely as supplemental, not the core of your shin conditioning program.

Myth # 3. Thai Liniment Makes Your Bones Stronger
Nope. It's a topical product that works to increase blood flow, reduce local pain & inflammation where applied. That's it. However, it does smell quite awesome, and anyone who trains muay thai will swear by this stuff, myself included.

Reality Check: According to the U.S. National Institute of Health's, National Library of Medicine, the key active ingredients in Namman Muay is menthol and methyl salicylate, neither of which promote bone growth. Methyl salicylate blocks the production and release of chemicals that cause pain and inflammation, according to Menthol, however, works in 3 ways:
  1. it serves as an analgesic (pain relief), which explains the slight numbing sensation when applied.    
  2. According to an article in,  menthol aids sore muscles through a process called vasodilation in which blood vessels expand and increase blood flow to the effected area, bringing in nutrients and removing waste. 
  3. This one is really cool (oh god, no pun intended). The MDJunction article explains that menthol causes "stimulating thermoreceptors in the skin cells which help your body recognize temperature changes. Your skin doesn’t actually change temperature. Instead, menthol causes a signal to be sent which your brain interprets as cold, relieving the uncomfortable heat of inflammation." 
None of the other ingredients in Namman Muay work to promote bone growth or repair either, sorry. The reason Namman Muay works so well as a topical rub before, during and after training is because - when compared to Western products like Ben-Gay and Icy Hot - Namman Muay contains an active 31% (331ml in 1mL) of methyl salicylate, whereas the other brands mentioned only contain menthol. Fun Fact: you can blame it's orange color on the beta carotene content. 

Namman is pretty pricy when you get it direct from distributors or at your local gym. I buy my liniment from vendors on Amazon. If you want to buy direct, I suggest Competitive Ace. They claim that it's fresher and more effective when you buy direct, and the stuff sold on eBay is God knows how old. I'm still on the fence with regards to that argument.

Repetitive impact on heavy bags and Thai pads will cause microscopic fractures at the surface of the tibia bone, similar to how lifting weights causes micro-tears to the muscle. As a part of your body's repair process, known to some as modeling, calcium deposits will be brought to the site of the micro fractures and will build up through a process called ossification, often confused with calcification (I am a culprit of this one).  Essentially, bone tissue is built up on top of the 'damaged' bone tissue, which results in a more dense bone (see Wolff's Law of Bone Adaptation).

When you see, hear, or read something about training for muay thai or products that make your bones harder, or a training program that will help you achieve a goal quickly, do some research first. Now let's get out there and plant some banana trees!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

OSMT Update - Easier Access to Our Muay Thai Videos

Scroll up and you'll see a list of links directly below the Beyond the Ring header banner. That's a new feature on the blog - Page Navigation. Yeah, I'm about 15 years late to the HTML design party (I blame it on limitations in Blogger's template management console)

We've created new pages to house our old style muay thai  and bare knuckle boxing videos on the site (sort of). Now that the videos are sorted by category so you can find a video on the topic you're looking for faster without having to go to You Tube to search.

I'm always looking for constructive feedback, so feel free to let me know what you think - and share your ideas to make Beyond the Ring the best source for information on the older systems of muay thai.

Thanks for being a part of this tight knit community of muay thai enthusiasts!