Timing attacks in Muay Boran
by Marco De Cesaris

Muay Boran is based on combat principles thousands of years old, refined through the centuries thanks to innumerable tests done during wartime in the battle fields of the Siamese warriors and in times of peace by the Thai athletes in the competition rings around the world.
The two combat sectors that have always constituted the base of the teaching of Thai Kru Muay are traditionally:
1. The art of the Attack.
2. The art of Defense.
In this article, we focus on the first point, the art of executing offensive actions utilizing the natural weapons of the human body: elbows, fists, legs, knees, and head.
We speak about an “Art” because in studying an offensive strategy, the Masters of Muay Thai must consider not only technical elements relative to the execution of the strikes, but also strategic elements (for the management of the fight), psychological elements (for the management of the adversary’s characteristics), and tactical elements (for the management of every offensive action).
In the traditions of the various ancestral styles of Muay, our studies, done in various parts of Thailand, have shown a common element in so far as the focus of the attack is concerned.
The element in question relates to the so-called “execution timing of the attacks”. The concept of execution timing is tightly connected to three elements:
- The choice of timing
- The sense of distance
- The rhythm of the action
Now we are going to see the principle technical focuses related to the timing of attacks just as they were commonly transmitted in the mother country of Muay Thai.

Mai Rook Nung Chawa: one beat attack
All of the body’s weight is projected in the attack; a hard part of the body is used with great power in order to end the fight in a single strike.
This strategy is used by many fighters who get into the Muay Thai rings. The innate risk in that strategy is that of getting tied up in the manoeuvres of a skilful defensive fighter, who, thanks to movements and dodges combined with immediate counter-attacks, is almost always capable of eluding the striker’s attacks.
Some Oriental Martial Arts have for centuries focused their strategies on the single and definitive strike; in Thailand, according to some, this focus was typical of the Muay Lopburi fighters, who came from the central region of the country.

Mai Rook Son Chawa: two beats attack
The first attack is executed intentionally in a controlled and rapid manner or is a simulation, and the second is the one that carries the real force and decisiveness.
That focus is clearly shown in the classic Boxing combination called the one-two punch; the first strike, a fast direct left, has the role of being bothersome and paves the way for the direct right, a more powerful hit and designed to get the sought result, that is, to put the adversary out of combat.
In Muay Thai, the two attacks can be executed:
1. With the same weapon (for example, fist-fist or kick-kick).
2. With different weapons (for example, fist-elbow or kick-knee).
One can attack reducing the distance of the adversary, for example, first with a kick (at long distance) and later with a knee (at middle distance) or increasing the distance, for example, with a fist (at middle distance) followed by a kick after the adversary has moved back.
The real Fi Meu, or stylist of the art, often utilizes this strategy in order to make his attacks unpredictable.

Mai Rook Saam Chawa: three beats attack
Version number 1: the first attack is light or is a simulation, the second and the third are powerful and loaded with the weight of the body.
A classic example of this first version is the combination: fast punch, powerful punch to the head, kick to the legs. Apart from the confusion created by the first fist attack, the two powerful strikes that follow are carried out on targets situated at different heights, making defence more difficult.
Version number 2: the first and the second attack are light and tend to confuse the adversary in order to prepare the third, more powerful and more decisive attack.
Taking the previous example, in this second case, the two first punches are both done fast and loosely (for example, a direct right and a left hook) against a high target with the objective of preparing in the best possible way the third and definitive attack (a low circular kick) against an unprotected target (the leg).

Mai Rook Si Chawa: four beats attack
The first and the second attack are light and fast, the third and the fourth are completely loaded with the body’s weight.
This is a limited case, as much in sports fighting as in martial application: in Muay Thai one tends to have a limit of three attacks executed in combination, leaving this offensive focus for special cases of athletes who are particularly gifted in technique and who have a lot of experience.
To conclude, we remind you that for the acquisition of the technical-tactical principles up to now presented, it is necessary to train combat situations repeatedly with a trainer who, using the Pao (Thai pads), will simulate the reality of combat in the best way possible. The final phase will be the application with a partner in free and conditioned sparring sessions to make the traditional principles of the Thai art of attack automatic.