Literally translated to ‘Thai boxing’, Muay Thai has been called the “Art of 8 limbs”. These eight limbs are in reference to both fists, the elbows, the knees, and the shins.
Muay Thai separates itself from other kickboxing techniques with its focus on strikes and clinching (a type of grappling).
Muay Thai takes influence from Muay Boran which is what ancient Muay Thai is now known as. British boxing also had some influence on Muay Thai with the use of rules and a boxing ring.
A practitioner of Muay Thai is known as Nak Muay. A Western practitioner may be known as Nak Muay Farang which means foregin boxer.
Muay Thai is gaining popularity in the modern day due to its strict conditioning which produces rapid fitness growth, and its benefits in self defense. But what is the history of Muay Thai?
The History Of Muay Thai
The art of Muay Thai can be traced back as far as the 1500s where it was practiced by the soldiers of King Naresuan, one of Thailand’s most revered monarchs. An exhibition was also observed and reported by a French diplomat sent by Louis XIV in 1687.
While most martial arts were used primarily in war, Muay Thai was also used for entertainment purposes like it is today. Muay Thai contests became an integral part of celebrations and festivals.
Under the rule of King Chulalongkorn in 1868, Siam (Thailand’s name prior to 1939) was in a golden age of development and independence. The king had a personal interest in Muay Thai so it progressed in popularity during this time due to him.
The first descriptive use of Muay Thai was at Suan Kulap College in 1913 where it was later taught. The first permanent boxing ring in Thailand was also built here in 1921.
King Rama VII pushed for codified rules for Muay Thai. Rounds of boxing and referees were introduced. Traditional Muay Thai fighting gloves were made out of cotton and tied rope which landed harder punches.
After someone died due to these gloves it was decided to swap to the safer padded boxing gloves.
Muay Thai Organizations
There are a few Muay Thai organizations across the world but the main ones are:
International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) established in 1993 – Their initial focus was on amateru Muay Thai but spread to include professional Muay Thai. The IFMS has 130 member countries.
They are also the only Muay Thai governing body recognised by the International Olympic Committee as of 2021.
World Muaythai Council (WMC) established in 1995 – Incorporated by the Royal Thai Government and sanctioned by the Sports Authority of Thailand. The WMC focuses on the spread of Muay Thai across the world and supporting the youth interest in the sport.
Nai Khanom Tom Day
Also known as ‘Boxers Day’, Nai Khanom Tom Day in celebrated on March 17th
This day celebrates the 18th century hero of the same name, Nai Khanom Tom, who is considered the father of Muay Thai. It is held in the ancient capital Ayutthaya and features demonstrations and competitions dedicated to celebrating Muay Thai.
There is a massive Wai Kru celebration, which is a traditional dance done at the beginning of a Muay Thai match, to pay respects to teachers, family and friends.
The actual tale of Nai Khanom Tom is a folk story spread across Thailand. Legend has it that Nai Khanom Tom was a Siamese prisoner during the Burmese-Siamese war in 1767. The Burmese king decided to hold a celebration tournament for his victory over Siam.
This tournament consisted of Burmese soldiers and Siamese prisoners, Nai Khanom Tom was one of these prisoners. It is believed that Nai Khanom Tom performed a Wai Kru, and then defeated 10 opponents in a row in a swift fashion with the use of Muay Thai.
Impressed by his skills the King remarked, “Every part of the Siamese is blessed with venom. Even with his bare hands, he can fell nine or ten opponents. But his Lord was incompetent and lost the country to the enemy.
If he had been any good, there was no way the City of Ayutthaya would ever have fallen.” and offered him freedom. Nai Khanom Tom would later return to Siam and open his own martial arts school creating Muay Thai.
Philosophy Of Muay Thai
Like many martial arts, Muay Thai has a strong philosophy surrounding it. In order to get strong it is believed that you need not only dedication and perseverance, but also a passion and love for the sport.
It is believed that you cannot truly get strong in a sport if you do not enjoy what you are doing.
Muay Thai is considered one of the more dangerous martial arts. In order to combat serious injury Muay Thai follows certain principles, some of them are:
- A strong defense is just as good as a strong offense. You can be the strongest fighter in the world but it won’t matter if you keep getting hit.
- To take care of your body. This is not just about treating any wounds but also eating healthily and stretching properly.
- A great technique with no stength is better than no technique with great strength. If you don’t have the proper technique in a fight you could end up injuring yourself just as much as your opponent.
As a sport, Muay Thai is known for being physically demanding. Professional Nak Muay can spend 6 days a week training twice a day. People find that because of this Muay Thai is a great stress reliever and can help strengthen your mind.
When you are pushing your body your mind is soon to follow and the only thing you will be able to focus on is your training instead of any other problems.