What is a Nak Muay?

What is a Nak Muay? A Nak Muay is a fighter in the sport of Muay Thai. The more direct translation to English would be “Thai Boxer” as Muay Thai translates to “Thai Boxing.”

Nak Muay is any practitioner who competes in the martial of Muay Thai. Nak Muay is the term used in the Thai language. For a female fighter in Muay Thai, the correct term would be a ‘Muay Ying.’

Nak Muay Muay Thai Day

What is a Nak Muay?

If an athlete is competing in Muay Thai, they would be called a Nak Muay, meaning ‘Thai Boxer.’ However, the term is not exclusive to fighters from Thailand. It can also be applied to non-Thai fighters in Muay Thai.

What about foreigners? Foreigners, non-Thai people who compete in Muay Thai are often called ‘Farangs’ or ‘Nak Muay Farangs.’ This simply translates to ‘Foreign Thai Boxer.’

Muay Thai may be the national sport of Thailand with a deep history in the country, but it is open and welcome to foreign athletes. While the tradition is quite new, women are now permitted to compete and are celebrated in the sport today.

But, what is a Nak Muay and why is it called ‘boxing’? Muay Thai translates directly to ‘Thai Boxing‘ however the sport has little in common with boxing in western nations. It is simply what is used when translated to English.

Muay Thai is ‘The Art of 8 limbs‘ and allows fighters to strike with their fists, knees, kicks, and elbows, plus clinch attacks. While western boxing only allows striking with a person’s fists. Both sports are fought in a ring, have three minutes rounds, and utilize the same gloves.

Basic Muay Thai Terminology

‘What is a Nak Muay’ is a common question due to it being in a foreign language. If one is to learn more in Muay Thai, this person will find several words exclusive to the sport in the Thai Langauge. Below is a list of notable terms that a person interested in Muay Thai will need to learn to be proficient when discussing this combat sport.

Muay Thai:Thai Boxing
Nak Muay:Muay Thai Fighter
Muay Ying:Female Nak Muay
Kru:Muay Thai Master/Instructor
Farang:Foreigner of Western (European/American) Descent
Wai Khru Ram Muay:Traditional Dance
Muay Mat:A fighter who is focused on punch attacks. For example Rodtang Jitmuangnon
Muay Tae:A fighter who is focused on kick attacks. For example Buakaw Banchamek
Muay Khao:A fighter who is focused on knee attacks. For example Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn
Muay Sok:A fighter who is focused on elbow attacks. For example Nathan Corbett
Muay Femur:A fighter who is focused on being a technician, strong overall. For example: Nong-O Gaiyanghadao and Samart Payakaroon.
Mongkon:Traditional headgear worn by Nak Muay
Pra Jiad:Traditional armband worn by Nak Muay.

What is a Nak Muay and where do they compete?

A Nak Muay (Thai Boxer) is a person who competes in the sport of Muay Thai anywhere around the globe. Muay Thai is no longer just fought within the nation of Thailand. It is an international sport, and may be an Olympic sport in the future.

Today, Muay Thai can be fought in any country and the most notable nations who participate in Muay Thai are Thailand, the USA, the UK, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Japan, and Russia, among others.

The most notable places that a Nak Muay could have competed historically would have been Rajadamnern Stadium and Lumpinee Stadium. These two are the oldest venues on earth which practice Muay Thai.

While these two are still prestigious and illustrious, there are multiple other organizations that boast world-class Nak Muays such as ONE Championship, WBC Muay Thai, Omnoi Stadium, and Rangsit Stadium, among others.

What is a Nak Muay and where do they train?

A Thai Boxer or Muay Thai fighter, can train at any number of world renowned gyms around the globe. These gyms are not just relegated to remaining in Thailand. Any person on earth can likely find Muay Thai training at their local academy. It may even be a subject at an MMA or Kickboxing gym.

While local gyms are a great place to start, below is a list of the most notable Muay Thai gyms on earn and where to find them.

  • Jitmuangnon Gym – Thailand
  • Boxing Works – The USA
  • Bad Company – The UK
  • Mike’s Gym – The Netherlands
  • Phuket Top Team – Thailand
  • Banchamek Gym – Thailand
  • Kiatmoo9 Gym – Thailand
  • Fairtex Training Center – Thailand
  • Tiger Muay Thai – Thailand
  • Petchyindee Muay Thai Academy – Thailand
  • Saenchai Muay Thai Gym – Thailand

What is a Nak Muay and Who Are Notable Nak Muays?

As the sport of Muay Thai dates back so deeply in the nation of Thailand, there are decades worth of highly notable fighters who are worth knowing. Who are the most notable Nak Muays?

Golden Era Nak Muays

The most notable Muay Thai golden era fighters that fans should know are Sagat Petchyindee, Pud Pad Noy Worawoot, Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn, Chamuekpet Harpalang, Apidej Sit-Hirun, Somrak Khamsing, and Samart Payakaroon. These fighters are all-time greats in Muay Thai and are masters of advanced techniques.

2000’s Era Nak Muays

After the golden era of Muay Thai, there was still a series of incredibly talented fighters who become very notable or important fighters. Modern era athletes who worth knowing are: Thongchai tor Silachai, Buakaw Banchamek, Nathan Corbett, Yodsanklai Fairtex, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky, Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Saenchai, Petchboonchu FA Group, John Wayne Parr, and Sam-A Gaiyanghadao.

Modern Era Nak Muays

There are several current and active fighters in Muay Thai who are worth knowing. Such as Rotang Jitmuangnon, Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, Superlek Kiatmoo9, Tawanchai PK.Saenchai, Prajanchai PK.Saenchai, Superball Tded99, and Ferrari Fairtex, among others.

Female Nak Muay, Muay Ying

What is a Muay Thai athlete called when they are a female? The correct term would be ‘Muay Ying.’ There are several notable Muay Ying athletes that are worth knowing such as Stamp Fairtex, Tanawan Thongduang, Nirawan Tangjew, Lara Fernandez, Smilla Sundell, Jackie Buntan, Anissa Meksen, Sylvie von Dugglas-Ittu, Sawsing Sor Sopit, Wondergirl & Supergirl Jaroonsak, Aida Looksaikongdin, and Phayahong Ayothayafightgym.

One of the first female fighters to compete in Rajadamnern Stadium, Aida Looksaikongdin, discussed the monumental moment in an interview with Coconuts. She said:

“I feel so proud and honored. I’ve been at this stadium so many times to see men fight. But I never imagined that I would be boxing myself here today … I’ve heard that Rajadamnern was so strict no women could go in and fight. That is changing today, and I still can’t believe it.”

Legendary Nak Muays

There are several notable people who have earned a status as legends in Muay Thai. These Muay Thai legends are mythical figures who could be kings, soldiers, freedom fighters, Buddhist monks, or something else.

Legendary Muay Thai people to know are worth knowing are Nai Khanom Tom the Father of Muay Thai, Phraya Phichai the Broken Sword, King Naresuan, King Phra Chao Sua ‘The Tiger King’, Sukatanta, Khet Sriyapai, and Poh Than Ma.

A student of Khet Sriyapai, Grand Master Chaisawat Tienviboon, discussed the philosophical differences between modern Muay Thai and Muay Thai of old, called Muay Boran. In an interview, he explained:

“Old generation of Muay Boran practitioners learnt the Art for real fighting. Muay Boran fighting was “all-out combat”. There was no rule. In learning Muay Boran a modern student must try to learn every detail of each technique he is taught and must try to study all aspects of each maneuver in depth. In fact, he needs to trace back the original roots of all Mai Muay he practices, all the time.”

Nak Muay Muay Thai day 2023

What is a Nak Muay and what advice do they have?

The Muay Thai legend and all-time great Buakaw Banchamek recently imparted some advice to aspiring Nak Muays. For people who want to become a Nak Muay, Buakaw said:

“I tell them to mind their parents and elders. It’s important to me that the kids are able to take care of themselves. I want them to understand Muay Thai is a way out of poverty, but there are other ways too, like being a good person and using your brain, your talent.”

The ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion ‘The Iron Man’ Rodtang Jitmuangnon discussed the life that being a Nak Muay has afforded him. In an interview with ONE Championship, Rodtang said that life as a Nak Muay has been hard but rewarding. He explained:

“My parents raised me to fend for myself. I realized through Muay Thai, I could not only provide for myself, but for my family also … I’m proud of myself for being able to take care of my family at such a young age. Whatever my mom wants to eat, I make sure she has it … Even though our life used to be hard, I’m grateful every day for my parents. I will never forget what they went through for us.”

What is a Nak Muay? In summary, it is any person who competes in the martial art of Muay Thai. The term extends to both active and inactive fighters, Thai-born and foreign athletes, and even historic figures.