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Xestaro

Muay Thai Similarities to Other Martial Arts - Kali, etc.

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Kali (Pekiti Tirsia to be more specific) is the only other martial art I have practiced for a significant time (about 8 years or so). It's a Filipino art that is not very "sportified" and is based on the use of blades and impact weapons (empty hands training is done, too though but its based on the same patterns and concepts as the blades).

I found it really interesting how similarities between different arts pop up, especially with the more traditional styles.

There is so much that sounded very much familiar to me in the Muay Lertrit sessions. Things that are either very much the same as I learned in Kali or at least follow the same principle.

There is this thing about "let them try to strike you but make them pay every time" that we also did a lot. Directly counterattacking instead of blocking is a central concept there. Stuff like parrying a punch with a move that, if done well, is supposed to strike the opponent in the same move as it parries their punch. Or making someone who uses a leg kick on you pay by not only blocking with your own shin but dropping your knee on their ankle while doing so, very similarly to what the general demonstrates in that one session.

 

Also I've watched the session with Gen Hongthonglek a few times and only the last time it suddenly occurred to me that the way he uses fakes, delayed timing and counters is actually very similar to how I used to do sparring with the stick in Kali when I was more experienced. I'd typically move back to keep range (I'm a very tall guy with long arms) and would constantly weave my stick in front of me or throw my opponent off with some weird position kind of like Gen does with his feet before he lands his big kicks.

 

This kinda stuff is really fascinating to me. Sure there are differences between arts but often there are also overlaps or concepts that can be applied to other arts as well.

Did you have similar experiences?

 

PS: Of course there are differences, too: For example Kali teaches you to give not getting hit (at all if possible) top priority because an opponent could always carry a weapon even if you don't see it right away so every hit might be very dangerous. Thats something I have to practice to overcome a bit in Muay Thai where the opponent is guaranteed to not have a weapon and getting hit is not actually a mistake in principle.

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I believe one thing we lose sight of is, all martial arts were borne of the need for either war or self defense, so it kind of makes sense that similarities in concepts and physical applications would be apparent across the spectrum of styles. 

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Some of the sessions referenced in the OP:

#54 The Late Sirimongkol and Lertrit Master General Tunwakom (81 min) watch it here 

#36 General Tunwakom - Lertrit Military Muay (46 min) watch it here 

#40  Gen Hongthonglek - Muay Femeu Tactics & Mindset (70 min) watch it here 

clip of General Tunwakom:

 

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18 hours ago, Xestaro said:

There is so much that sounded very much familiar to me in the Muay Lertrit sessions. Things that are either very much the same as I learned in Kali or at least follow the same principle.

Muay Lertrit is a very interesting example, it's like no other branch of Muay Thai or Muay Boran because it actually has root influences from other traditional martial arts. As the General explained, it's inventor was a Navy man who traveled regularly, and very likely picked up aspects of traditional martial arts along the way, and wove them into the Muay Khorat style he was raised in. Add in that it was developed as a martial (meaning warefare) Art, and you get a very unique expression of Muay Thai in it.

วิสิทธิ์_เลิศฤทธิ์ Ajarn Wisit Lertrit.JPG

วิสิทธิ์_เลิศฤทธิ์ Ajarn Wisit Lertrit

This is not very different than the kinds of inventive cross-sections between martial arts that were happening in the 1920-1950s. East and South East Asia seemed to be experiencing unique cross-pollination (Karate itself only coming to Japan in 1922). There is a story that all traditional martial art fighting systems flowed from Shaolin, in some form or others. But there is another sense in which many of them were in contact with each other in the early 20th century. There is no "pure" form. Arjan Wisit may have even come in contact with Filipino martial arts.

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18 hours ago, Xestaro said:

There is this thing about "let them try to strike you but make them pay every time" that we also did a lot. Directly counterattacking instead of blocking is a central concept there. Stuff like parrying a punch with a move that, if done well, is supposed to strike the opponent in the same move as it parries their punch. Or making someone who uses a leg kick on you pay by not only blocking with your own shin but dropping your knee on their ankle while doing so, very similarly to what the general demonstrates in that one session.

You see this in Muay Boran styles like Muay Chaiya, at least as it is taught in Bangkok by Kru Lek. You get a real sense of "defense first", but defense itself has an offensive structure, or the difference between offense and defense is really blurred. This always struck me as the sign of a style's proximity to actual warfare. The very first rule of warfare fighting would be "Do not get killed", and then "Do not become disabled". When you see styles that are founded on rock solid defense (and in my book "evasion" is not rock solid because you can evade, evade, evade, and once you fail, you are dead - or, when a second attacker arrived) it just feels like it's the warfare logic. Those Chaiya, Lertrit styles, where defense becomes wounding, and you are always only a move or two from finishing the fight. That feels very realistic to battlefield demands.

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8 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

I believe one thing we lose sight of is, all martial arts were borne of the need for either war or self defense, so it kind of makes sense that similarities in concepts and physical applications would be apparent across the spectrum of styles. 

100 percent this. Ive seen a lot of cross over in the different styles Ive trained in. Just training in greco roman wrestling you see some cross over to Thai clinching. I think the shared origins, the whys of an art starting, makes it so we will definitely have so.e cross over some where. I also think this is where innovation to you style can come from. Bjj is a relatively new art in comparison, but its evolution in the short time its been around is incredible and its all because no one limits themselves in how they create with it. I see a lot of that ability to evolve quickly available for muay Thai, especially clinch fighting. Just in the different ways of fighting muay Thai you see how imaginations evolved. 

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7 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

You see this in Muay Boran styles like Muay Chaiya, at least as it is taught in Bangkok by Kru Lek. You get a real sense of "defense first", but defense itself has an offensive structure, or the difference between offense and defense is really blurred. This always struck me as the sign of a style's proximity to actual warfare. The very first rule of warfare fighting would be "Do not get killed", and then "Do not become disabled". When you see styles that are founded on rock solid defense (and in my book "evasion" is not rock solid because you can evade, evade, evade, and once you fail, you are dead - or, when a second attacker arrived) it just feels like it's the warfare logic. Those Chaiya, Lertrit styles, where defense becomes wounding, and you are always only a move or two from finishing the fight. That feels very realistic to battlefield demands.

Excellent point. The thing I notice about fighters that have really great defense but stay with it too long is either it eventually fails and they get tagged or the fight drags on because the person is too focused on defense and has no offense to speak of. That would be catastrophic in a battlefield or street situation where new opponents and weapons come in to play. So many traditional styles I think suffered from a lack of defense when they got challenged by sport fighting, and I think it was because of this. They are so focused on offense as defense and doing it immediately that they had no sense of defensive timing, things that give you time to size up your opponent and find the holes in their game, something youd never want to do in the battlefield or street. One self defense instructor I love teaches a style that works in all situations amd youll see a cross over to clinching too: Tony Blauer and his spear system (basically a defense that doubles as an entry to a clinch style close fighting system that doesnt give the opponent much time to do anything). If ypu watch some of his stuff youll see cross over mainly because he uses what works from other styles and combines them in a way he feels works best together. It becomes an unweaving and reweaving of styles which I believe is where evolution happens. 

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18 hours ago, Coach James Poidog said:

100 percent this. Ive seen a lot of cross over in the different styles Ive trained in. Just training in greco roman wrestling you see some cross over to Thai clinching. I think the shared origins, the whys of an art starting, makes it so we will definitely have so.e cross over some where. I also think this is where innovation to you style can come from. Bjj is a relatively new art in comparison, but its evolution in the short time its been around is incredible and its all because no one limits themselves in how they create with it. I see a lot of that ability to evolve quickly available for muay Thai, especially clinch fighting. Just in the different ways of fighting muay Thai you see how imaginations evolved. 

Evolution is what it's about, in my opinion. There's so much freedom in muay thai. To me, you can express yourself better in muay thai language than other martial art languages. You can take what you're given and truly make it your own. Your  own dialect of a particular language so to speak. It's so adaptable and enjoyable and flows so freely between things.

Edited by Jeremy Stewart
Change of wording
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7 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

Evolution is what it's about, in my opinion. There's so much freedom in muay thai. To me, you can express yourself better in muay thai language than other martial art languages. You can take what you're given and truly make it your own. Your  own dialect of a particular language so to speak. It's so adaptable and enjoyable and flows so freely between things.

Totally agree

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At one point I was working on a deep dive study into South East Asian martial arts, or Indochinese kickboxing. I was looking at Muay Thai, Muay Laos, Pradal Serey, Lethwei and noticing that they are quite literally the same martial art. There are differences in scoring like Pradal Serey favouring elbows, and Lethwei allowing for headbutts, but in terms of form, this is one martial art that has been spread around a long way. 

My initial hypothesis was that Bokator, the father art of Pradal Serey was likely to be the progenitor of all of these martial arts. However the more research I did, the more it pushed me to eventually scrap the article altogether. While the Japanese are very good at recording their martial arts history, South East Asia generally is not. It also didn't help that the Khmer Rogue destroyed so much of Cambodia's martial arts culture. 

While Eskrima/Kali definitely isn't close enough to be considered the same martial art, General Tunwakom's style looks very much like Eskrima. I think that's partly because of the influence that martial art appears to have had on his style, but also because the two martial arts share a lot of ideas to begin with.

There's a distinct difference between Muay Thai, Lethwei, Eskrima etc. and Kung Fu/Shuai Jiao rooted martial arts like Karate, Taekwondo and Judo. The emphasis on knees and elbows, and unchambered kicks, give all of those martial arts a slower, more brawly aesthetic to them, when compared to KF/SJ rooted martial arts that have more fluidity and emphasis on iron body conditioning.

If I had to really hazard a guess, and this is a stab in the dark, I think that Muay Thai and similar martial arts probably trace their ancestory back to India. I'd be surprised if there wasn't a degree of Kung Fu influence to it, but you're absolutely right. Muay Thai has a lot of similarities to other martial arts, sentiment in Cambodia is that Thailand stole Muay Thai from them. I was speaking to a martial arts historian who's fairly well known in these circles who said to me 'Cambodia says Pradal Serey is older than Muay Thai, and it probably is, but there's no real way of knowing'. 

The records are just non-existent. 

If you take a look at this demonstration though, this should seem awfully familiar to people from a lot of different styles.

 

Edited by AndyMaBobs
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23 hours ago, AndyMaBobs said:

My initial hypothesis was that Bokator, the father art of Pradal Serey was likely to be the progenitor of all of these martial arts. However the more research I did, the more it pushed me to eventually scrap the article altogether. While the Japanese are very good at recording their martial arts history, South East Asia generally is not. It also didn't help that the Khmer Rogue destroyed so much of Cambodia's martial arts culture. 

It reminds me of cultures that had an architectural history in wood. Almost all lost. Cultures that built in stone, highly favored in the invented histories of the world.

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On 6/28/2019 at 3:14 PM, AndyMaBobs said:

If you take a look at this demonstration though, this should seem awfully familiar to people from a lot of different styles.

We also have to, I would STRONGLY suggest, accept the possibility that an almost decimated art would then become cross-influenced by the dominant art of the day. It may very well be it looks like Muay Thai because in attempting to assemble the art into a style, it draws on what it sees as well. This for instance is what supposedly happened when TKD arose in Korea, but almost exclusively as a derivative of Japanese Karate. In fact, it pretty much WAS Japanese Karate. After the war it become imperative for TKD to not be Japanese at all, and so began the long path of creating a supposedly "original" Korean martial art that TKD was derived from. And they found the thinnest little trace of one (nearly extinct at the time of Karate's arrival in Korea). So, the story building began, and that art, apparently called t'aekkyon, came to be claimed as the origin of TKD, something that a study of early TKD martial art manuals suggest isn't the case at all. t'aekkyon then itself gradually began a reconstruction, retroactively, with people claiming to know and teach it. The connective tissue between it and modern TKD came to be grandfathered in. And this had strong ideological motivations. Make TKD Korean in origin, not Japanese. My gut feeling is that something like this is happening in some cases of fragmented SEA martial arts that claim to be older than Muay Thai (an ideological claim). These arts can be reconstructed, from the present, into the past, and give the illusion to be origins. 

This actually is a problem with many of the Muay Boran claims in Thailand as well. We don't really know if any of these are actual lineages, or how much of them are reconstructions. Arjan Surat, who had a Boran teacher who is up on the wall of his gym, shook his head when talking about Muay Boran masters of today. "If he didn't know (pointing to the photo on the wall), how do they know?". That is one of the special, and indeed remarkable thing about General Tunwakom's Muay Lertrit. It is handed straight down from its creator, who himself was fusing Muay Khorat with other influences (apparently).

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On 6/29/2019 at 9:19 AM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

We also have to, I would STRONGLY suggest, accept the possibility that an almost decimated art would then become cross-influenced by the dominant art of the day. It may very well be it looks like Muay Thai because in attempting to assemble the art into a style, it draws on what it sees as well. This for instance is what supposedly happened when TKD arose in Korean, but almost exclusively as a derivative of Japanese Karate. In fact, it pretty much WAS Japanese Karate. After the war it become imperative for TKD to not be Japanese at all, and so began the long path of creating a supposedly "original" Korean martial art that TKD was derived from, and they found the thinnest little trace of one (nearly extinct at the time of Karate's arrival in Korean). So, the story building began, and that art, apparently called t'aekkyon, something that a study of early TKD martial art manuals suggest isn't the case at all. t'aekkyon then itself gradually began a reconstruction, retractively, with people claiming to know and teach it. The connective tissue between it and modern TKD came to be grandfathered in. And this had strong ideological motivations. Make TKD Korean in orgiin, not Japanese. My gut feeling is that something like this is happening in some cases of fragmented SEA martial arts that claim to be older than Muay Thai (an ideological claim). These arts can be reconstructed, from the present, into the past, and give the illusion to be origins. 

This actually is a problem with many of the Muay Boran claims in Thailand as well. We don't really know if any of these are actual lineages, or how much of them are reconstructions. Arjan Surat, who had a Boran teacher who is up on the wall of his gym, shook his head when talking about Muay Boran masters of today. "If he didn't know (pointing to the photo on the wall), how do they know?". That is one of the special, and indeed remarkable thing about General Tunwakom's Muay Lertrit. It is handed straight down from its creator, who himself was fusing Muay Khorat with other influences (apparently).

Definitely agree here. Taekwondo is fundamentally identical to sport karate, they've just added some extra rotations in the spins. 😛

Ajarn Surat is definitely right. There is a similar thing involved in the absolute nonsense that is Ninjitsu, which is not a real martial art and never was. There are people who very much thing that some high profile Japanese instructors MUST have this lineage - as though being Japanese prevents the ability to lie about such a thing. I imagine the same is true of Muay Boran, we just don't know! A lot likely is reconstruction, but I can see why instructors wouldn't want to admit to it essentially being HEMA. 

Even in Shaolin, there is a sense that what Shaolin we are seeing from 34th generation disciples, who are passing on knowledge today is removed from what it originally was - and that is within the framework of a martial art and country that rigorously documents. Researching Boran, Bokator etc. really did open my eyes to how much Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar etc. really is the wild west when it comes to martial arts.

Edited by AndyMaBobs
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Generally it's of course logical that, especially older, martial arts will look similar to a degree. They were mostly developed to do the same thing under similar conditions and the human body can only move in so many ways when you try to find efficient ways of doing damage to other humans while staying relatively save in the process.

 

Broken lines of heritage are of course a big problem when trying to find/learn "original" arts.

Here in Germany (and probably Europe as a whole) there is a similar problem right now where people try to revive the original European medieval martial arts. We know there was a big history of things like longsword fencing for example but as technology in warfare had improved a lot people stopped practicing such things and today... Well, there are some documents that detail the art (like Talhofer's writings. At least this seems like a first hand thing since Talhofer was himself a successful fencer) but noone who can actually trace a line of teachers back to that time. Only people who try to recreate it as true as possible based on medieval writings (who are sometimes difficult to understand) and drawings (that sometimes look weird for someone with a modern understanding of martial arts). The result is basically something that draws on those sources as much as possible while being influenced by the prior training of the people trying to figure it out.

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