Muay Thai is a martial art that was developed in Thailand. It dates back thousands of years when the Thai ancestors trained the younger generation Muay Thai to help protect the nation against invaders. Muay Thai employs different parts of the human body as natural weapons such as fists, feet, elbows and knees. It can be used effectively in close or long range situations.
Brief History of Muay Thai
In ancient Thailand Muay Thai was used for stability of the nation and the retention of the throne by the King. In these times no weapons were allowed to be inside the Royal Palace. To ensure his safety the Thai King would employ Thai boxers to become his personal guard. The boxers were used to become personal guards, palace guards, palace police and also personal trainers for the King’s family and high ranking officials.
There were many ancient tales of brave Thai Kings who were excellent Muay Thai practitioners. Legend says that one King named Somdet Prasanpetch loved the sport so much that he disguised himself as a Thai boxer so he could compete with other boxers. The legends say that he defeated three boxers in a row, one after the other in one tournament he secretly entered.
Another legend of Muay Thai was born in 1767 A.D. when the city of Ayutthaya was destroyed by the invading Burmese (Myanmar) army. A Thai boxer by the name of Nai Khanom Tom was taken as a prisoner of war and matched against Burmese boxers in a competition held in front of the King of Burma. Legend says that he won his first match and was fed fresh opponents until he finally defeated 10 fighters one after the other. Having seen such a feat the King of Burma acknowledged the skill of Nai Khanom Tom and awarded him with praise for his ability. After this Nai become known as the Father of Muay Thai.
Original Muay Thai competitions would see Thai boxers wrap their hands in cotton instead of wearing boxing gloves that are currently being used today. The matches would also take place on the ground and a circle of rope would be used to indicate the boundaries instead of a ring. These traditions would help shape the way the current Muay Thai regulations are designed today.
Muay Thai is considered by many in Thailand as an identity and art form that represents true Thai culture. The martial art evolved from something that was used only for self-defense and protection of the country to become one of the most popular sports in Thailand. By creating a sport the identity of Muay Thai has been preserved and has been passed down from hundreds of generations. Many of the Thai holidays have Muay Thai competitions to showcase the importance of Muay Thai on Thai culture in today’s modern Thailand.
Currently Muay Thai has developed into a popular sport around the world that has been popularized by such films like Ong Bak and Kickboxer ft. Jean-Claude Van Damme. Muay Thai competitions are held in almost every country practiced as a martial art, as a sport and for general fitness. Muay Thai is considered to be the most effective striking style for stand up strikers. Given the effective properties of Muay Thai it is not surprising that its popularity its increasingly growing around the world.
In the past 20 years Muay Thai has been one of the fastest growing sports because of its effectiveness and beauty. The traditional that lies behind every weapon of Muay Thai should not be lost among the fighters who use the techniques.
Muay Thai Today
Today, the top stadiums in Thailand are Lumpinee, Rajadamnern and Channel 7. These promotions showcase the best fighters in all of Thailand. You will notice that all of the best fighters are under 65 kg (145 lbs). The reason why skilled fighters fight at a lower weight class is because Thais are natural smaller in size.
Big foreigners fighting in heavier weight categories will often dominate their competition because their opponent’s are often Thai fighters who are overweight. If a Thai fighter doesn’t have a six pack, they aren’t in their prime and are probably fighting after retirement.
Currently, there have been a number of other promotions that have started incorporating 3 round fights. The rules are also different in these promotions. They value aggression and do not allow much clinching in the fights. Thai fighters fighting in these organizations are not the best, but are often given the most exposure because they fight foreigners on TV.
These promotions are good at drawing in the casual fan, but they change in rule makes it a different game. Now that the High-Sos (High Society=Rich) Thais have seen the worldwide popularity of Muay Thai from foreigners, they have started to invest heavily in the sport. This is why these 3 round promotions have started to become popular.
Traditionally, High-Sos considered Muay Thai to be a barbaric sport and do not watch it. Muay Thai has always been known as the sport of the poor. Taxi drivers, Tuk Tuk drivers, farmers and villagers are much more interested in the sport than the urban city Thais working office jobs.
Another important fact to point out is that Muay Thai is the only sport that allows legalized gambling in Thailand This means that a lot of gambling addicts are drawn to Muay Thai. This is one of the reasons why some of the decisions in the big stadiums are swayed by the big gamblers who can control decisions.
Gambling is illegal in any other part of Thailand except for Muay Thai. The gambling attracts more fans, but also puts more pressure on fighters and can create negative consequences for fighters who lose a big fight. Some people bet their entire life savings on fights, and when they lose they lose everything. This is one aspect of Muay Thai that makes it unsavory to a lot of the well established Thais.
Muay Thai has rapidly spread across the world as more people have been exposed to how effective it is. There are now hundreds of gyms that have opened up across Thailand that attract tens of thousands of foreign visitors every year. Muay Thai tourism has now blown up into a multi-million dollar industry that is very lucrative for the successful gyms.