September 4, 2022

Muay Thai vs Muay Boran: How do they Differ?

Talk about Thailand, and one of the things that come to our minds is Muay Thai. This fighting technique has been followed for centuries, but the world came to know about it in the last few decades. Some traditional stories say that Muay Thai originated from an older technique known as Muay Boran.

Muay means to combat or fight, so the better-known version is called Muay Thai (since it originated in Thailand). Boran means ancient, so Muay Boran loosely means an ancient fighting technique. However, Muay Boran is more of an umbrella term for the ancient unarmed fighting techniques prior to evolving as a combat sport.

Although there are traditional and spiritual-centric similarities, both forms of martial art are quite distinct. So, let’s help you understand more about both.


In Muay Boran, attacks to the joints are considered fair. But, some of these attacks are forbidden in Muay Thai. Using them leads to the player getting penalized.

Muay Thai is more about striking relentlessly. Punches, jabs, kicks – everything is allowed. But, players are limited to fighting in a standing position. But, in forms of Muay Boran, takedowns are allowed. Ground fights and transitions are important skills in the latter’s fighting technique.

The stance is visibly different in either form. In Muay Boran, it is often wider and lower. But, in Muay Thai, the posture is pretty uptight (varies by fighters).

Another notable difference is that in Muay Thai competitions, fighters may be asked to wear gloves. However, in Muay Boran, hemp rope is used in lieu of gloves. It might come as a shocker, but in Muay Boran, fighters use flying knees and flying elbows. But, in Muay Thai, these techniques are rarely used as they open the attacker’s mid-air vulnerabilities. Here are some cool facts about Muay Boran.

muay boran training

Self Defense

Muay Thai is more about competition, Muay Boran is about survival. In Muay Thai, punches and kicks are thrown with the intent to knock out the opponent or make a point. But, Muay Boran is used for self-defense.

The guarding stance varies a lot from that of Muay Thai’s. The defense stance is aimed at protecting oneself from attacks on the centerline or the vertical axis of the body. For instance, the front fist will be in front of the eyes, while the rear fist will be leveled with the chin. This posture makes it easier to defend attacks while quickly allowing the fighter to grip and lock the opponent.

As we mentioned above, in Muay Boran ground fighting and low-hits are allowed. This is because the goal of this martial art form was to render the opponent harmless, and low attacks have deadly effects on the opponent’s mobility.

Muay Thai has evolved to become a combat sport where winning competitions and titles matter. Thus, the rules of the game have changed, and certain moves aren’t allowed.


Muay Thai uses the eight-weapons technique. 8 parts of your body act as the weapon and the shield. These are your fists, elbows, legs, and knees. But, Muay Boran has 9 weapons. The head is also considered as a weapon while fighting (head bumps for instance). In Muay Thai, fighters can’t head-butt each other (which is good, head-butts at such close range can be fatal).

Which is more powerful, Muay Thai or Muay Boran?

It is very difficult to derive which form of martial art is more powerful as both have different techniques and goals. While Muay Thai is combat sport, Muay Boran is more about self-defense. But, the fact that Muay Thai evolved from Muay Boran does point out that the latter has more techniques than the former.

Eugene Hardy

Eugene is a professional Muay Thai fighter, with several years of experience. Also, a black belt holder. He actively participates in tournaments and provides training to his students. Eugene started this blog to share his experiences with Martial Arts.

View all posts by Eugene Hardy →

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