Muay Thai Chaiya

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2009 at 6:45 pm


It’s nothing like Muay Thai

By Antonio Graceffo


I recently discovered Muay Thai Chaiya, which I train with Kru Lek. It is an ancient form of Muay Thai, a codified martial arts fighting system, which students learn step-by-step from the ground up.




Muay Thai Chaiya has almost no similarity to modern, sport Muay Thai. In fact, it is so different, that nothing I have done in the past, not my boxing, not my kick boxing or Muay Thai can help me in the ring with a Muay Thai Chaiya fighter. The body mechanics and the movements are so different than any other martial art that they have to be learned from scratch.


Normally we think a fight is a battle of opponents, not arts, but in the case of Chaiya, it is the art that wins.


I was so taken by the art, that I have done the unimaginable; at the age of 42, and after having studied countless martial arts, around the world, with various teachers, I have submitted myself to a master, Kru Lek, and begun training, as a beginner in a fighting art. It pains my ego to be in a class of children and women and people with not even a tenth of my martial background, and to see that ALL of them are better at Chaiya than I am.


Most will learn Chaiya for the art and for exercise and culture, but the ones who fight, fight extremely well. Chaiya fighters aren’t trying to develop muscles, physical strength or even toughness. Instead, they are practicing their drills and movements over, and over again until they are automatic, perfect. As a rule, the best Muay Chaiya fighter will be the one who logged the most hours practicing Muay Chaiya. It is pretty straight forward, cross training won’t help at all. You learn Chaiya by practicing Chaiya.


Interestingly, you don’t learn kicking and punching by kicking and punching. You learn the steps and movements. You do them a million times, and then start to slowly learn kicking and punching. After about a month of training, I was finally allowed to kick the bag, but it was obvious that I wasn’t ready. So, I went back to doing the steps and exercises.


With the exception of having to harden your shins, they don’t require toughness because they just don’t get hit very much.


All of their movements are based on a rocking horse. Their torso pivots they strike in one direction which sets them up for a strike in the other direction. They don’t leap like Tony Jaa and Muay Boran, but they hop. At first, I thought the hopping was part of showboating and I wasn’t interested in learning it. Now I understand that hopping is a way of changing balance and direction instantly, with no loss of motion. Hopping makes the fighter unbelievably fast. Kick with the left foot, hop and at the same time kick with the right foot, hop, spin and kick backwards. All of the while, the torso is rocking, taking the face and body out of the range of the opponent’s strikes.


When you strike a Muay Chaiya fighter, the only targets in range are his shins and elbows, which you really don’t want to strike.


When I first arrived at the Muay Thai Chaiya school at Baan Chang Thai, with Kru Lek, I thought the regimented series of excerises tthey did every session were simply to build strength, stamina, and balance. After a month of sparring, I realized that every exercise has a practical application. In fighting the Muay Chaiya guys, I see the exercises. In each of their movements in both offense and defense, I can see the specific exercises we practiced in class.


I did two “Martial Arts Odyssey” episodes about Muay Chaiya. Then I worked with Robert Clyne, of “The Art of Fighting,” to do an episode on the art. Afterwards, we realized we hadn’t done the art justice. Now that I have been training with Kru Lek, I realize the depth of the art. We are currently working on a much deeper, longer documentary to attempt to explain what is so special about Muay Thai Chaiya.


Here are links to my show, Robert’s show, and to trailers for the movie “Muay Thai Chaiya” which feaures Kru Lek’s leading student, Prawit Kittichanthira (Tae), who also appears in Martial Arts Odyssey.



Muay Thai Chaiya All links


The Art of Fighting: Muay Chaiya Fundamentals


Martial Arts Odyssey: Muay Chaiya Part 1


Martial Arts Odyssey: Muay Chaiya Part 2



Muay Chaiya movie trailer: featuring my friend Prawit Kittichanthira (Tae) who I fight in my Chaiya videos


Another trailer for the Muay Chaiya movie


Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the book, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.


See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.


His books are available on

Contact him:


His website is





  1. Antonio,

    I used to learn Chaiya with Kru Lek when I lived in Thailand(Five or six years ago). He was a splendid teacher, always gracious and supportive even at my crap efforts. Nice to see that Tae has made something of himself, he used to punish me rotten.
    Thanks so much for the video as it brought it all back.


    Jason Michel

  2. Hi Antonio,
    my name is Christina and I need your advice on something. I’m from New York and I had been training Muay Thai there (if you can call it that in the states :-/ ), when I was diagnosed with liver cancer last December. It happened 3 days after a fight . Apparently I had a grapefruit size tumor in my liver that had ruptured.
    Anyway, my doctors don’t understand why I’m still alive. It’s the end stage they say and I’m pretty much a living miracle. So I want to continue my Muay Thai training without sparring or fighting of course.
    I’ve been in Thailand for the past month, I had to get out of nasty NY. And you know how it is here, they’re not afraid of anything. Certainly not death, let alone pain. So the couple if times I trained at a camp and tried to explain that I couldn’t take any shots to my liver or abdominal area, they looked at like I was an alien. Then the padwork started and they kicked me there anyway.
    Am I being high maintenance? Can I find a place that will be a bit more understanding and work with my condition?
    Tell me if I’m dreaming.
    And thank you for sharing your life and all it’s adventures. I’m glad you quit your day job 🙂

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