What is Muay Thai?
It is a national sport and cultural material art of Thailand is now well-known worldwide as Thai Boxing. Muay Thai has developed several hundreds of years ago as a form of close-combat that utilizes the entire body as a weapon. Most of written Muay Thai history lost when the Burmese looted the temples and depositories of knowledge held in Ayutthaya.
This kind of, material art has eight points of the body to use as weapons. The hands become the sword and dagger; the shins and forearms were hardened in training to act as armor against blows, and the elbow to fell opponents like heavy mace or hammer; the legs and knees became the axe and staff. The body operated as one unit. The knees and elbows constantly searching and testing for an opening while trying to spin an enemy to the ground for the kill.
The Sukhothai Era
in 1238 (Buddhist years) the first Thai army was created in Sukhothai, Siam being its capital. The Siamese army was created to protect the government and its inhabitants within the city and surrounding villages. Soldiers were taught hand-to-hand combat and how to use weapons, as well as how to use the entire body as a weapon. Their training is what eventually evolved into Muay Thai and Krabi Krabong.
During this era Muay Thai became a national sport, developing the fundamental traditions that would remain the same for the next 400 years. The Mongkong (headband) and pha-pra-jiat (armband) were both introduced and the first “ring” was made by laying a rope on the ground in a square or circle as a designated fighting area.
The Golden Age of Muay Thai
King Rama V realized the value of Muay Thai and did much to promote the sport from the late 1880’s to the turn of the century. He promoted tournaments and “Muay Luang”, also called Royally appointed Boxing Centers throughout the kingdom, which often served as a way for him to find personal guards or Royal officers when a fighter was victorious.
World War I
Muay Thai was introduced to Europe and the rest of the world during the first great war. Thai soldiers were stationed in France, and the commander would organize Muay Thai bouts for to boost the morale of the servicemen. French boxers would often participate and compete against the Thai fighters. The Thais were constantly on guard anticipating attacks from neighboring countries like Burma and Cambodia. The Burmese and Thai had fought each other in many wars over the centuries, causing much destruction in both countries. The wars against the Burmese, Cambodians and other invaders helped refine the art of Muay Thai, teaching the Thai combatants much about engaging in combat.
The Wai Kroo is a ritualistic dance carried out before fighters engage in the ring. The tradition dates back several centuries and is meant to show honor to the fighter’s teacher, the sport of Muay Thai and his country. The Ram Muay is a dance unique to each master instructor and taught to his students. The student will dance in each direction of the ring, touching each corner post with a prayer, showing his respect to his opponent and the spirits.
Today Muay Thai is becoming very popular on a global scale. It was recently accepted as an Olympic sport, finally gaining its deserved recognition. Professional martial artists from all sides of the fighting spectrum agree Muay Thai is essential to becoming an all-around multifaceted fighter. As new training camps and gyms open around the world, Muay Thai will continue to grow in popularity.