From the motherland of Muay Thai comes the Thai Army Close Combat.
by Marco De Cesaris

The intense quest for contacts at the top level of the Thai Armed Forces, carried out this past year by Khun Channarong, made it possible this past March for 60 impassioned members of the IMBA to be admitted to the Military Academy of Chulachomklao in order to go deeply into the technical program utilized to train the officials of the Thai army in hand-to-hand combat; that program has been developed by an authentic expert in the field, Coronel Nophakao Sriboonruang. Also a member of the AITMA association with the grade of 14th Kan, Coronel Nophakao brings together profound knowledge of the military combat methodologies and a high technical level in the art of traditional Muay Thai. In an exclusive interview for Budo International, the Coronel spoke of how all his experience in the world of Muay Thai has been characterized by a constant use of the theory of evasive movements (based on the traditional footwork denominated Yang Sam Kum), which he went deeply into for years with his father, his first master of life and combat.
The memory of these teachings still accompanies him and has been the basis for the formulation of his method of military combat, which has had a lot of success among the experts in his country.
According to him, for military use, the attacks in traditional Muay Thai are the most efficient because with a minimum number of actions, they allow one to put the adversary (the enemy, in his words) in a condition whereby he can’t do any damage; we strike the adversary forcefully and decidedly on one of the points that he indicates as “sensitive”, we take him to the ground and we finish with violent kicks executed with combat boots that are standard issue in all military departments.
Another one of the fundamental points the Coronel raised as part of his program is the typical approach of the Thai Boxer, which consists of “never show the enemy our emotions” in a moment of threat, aggression, or after having taken a tough hit; this approach confuses the adversary and undermines his sense of security.
From the technical point of view, Thai Close Combat is based especially on a limited number of techniques, derived by a very “harsh” application of the 15 traditional Mae Mai, simplified and executed always in combination and very aggressively.
Here, as a synthesis, the technical characteristics of Coronel Nophakao’s system:
-An extensive use of the attacks carried out with elbows, knees and the head; the most resistant parts of the skeletal structure are utilized with optimum results without necessarily having to undergo long and arduous conditioning, as the Thai Boxers usually do. The training in Close Combat has to be the quickest and most simplified possible for efficient training of the soldier in a relatively short time.
-The fist strikes are done exclusively with the “hammer of the hand” and not with the knuckles, which in general are substituted by open-hand strikes, with the palm or with the outside edge of the hand. A broken or injured hand can end up being a decisive handicap in emergency situations.
-The basic strategy consists of striking hard, taking down and finish the adversary on the ground. In self-defense, the objective is to survive and escape the aggression; in Close Combat, according to Nophakao, one must eliminate the danger constituted by the enemy in a “definitive” way.
-The first movement—if they attack us—is always an evasive movement based on the triangle step. All of the secular experience of the Muay Thai Masters has been condensed in the strategic use of Yang Sam Kum, and that movement has been revealed has the authentic element of conjunction between the Traditional Art and its modern application in hostile contexts.
-We learn to defend ourselves against kicks to the trunk and the head, but when we attack, the leg strikes never go above the height of the waist. The priority is to never lose the upright position; an inaccurate use of the middle-high kicks, though effective, can lead us to losing our balance or even to fall on slippery or unlevel ground, with terrible consequences for our well-being.
-Against attempts at grips we try to attack the adversary at the three basic targets: eyes, throat, and testicles, with strikes or pressure. If possible, we try to avoid the fight phases that are tiring in terms of energy, and dangerous due to possible falls; against impetuous adversaries who try to grab us, we block their action striking, grabbing or applying pressure on the most sensitive soft targets in order to later finish with K.O. strikes.
-Three entering techniques are done behind a careless adversary (stemming from the Sentry Removal military).
-In the case of a “civil” use of the system, Coronel Nophakao—also an expert in Judo—has included a series of ground controls, but not originally from the Thai military system.
We, the members of the Muay Boran Academy, are honored to have received teaching related to this system of Close Combat, in some ways innovative, but that, for the practitioners of Muay Boran, confirm the absolute ductility and efficiency of the ancient Siamese fighting method, useful in very different contexts, such as the ring, the street, or even the battlefield.
For those interested in Coronel Nophakao’s system, we invite you to get in touch with the IMBA through the web-page
Text and photos: Marco De Cesaris
Thanks to the coordinating efforts of the president of the AITMA, Channarong Surongsa, between the world of the Thai Martial Arts and the top-level of the Royal Thai Army, for the first time it has been possible for Western martial artists to enter as protagonists in the exclusive Close Combat of Thai mold; as is known, with this name, the hand-to-hand techniques utilized by the military departments around the world to neutralize the enemy quickly and definitively when a soldier finds him or herself in an emergency without weapons are defined.