What is the invincible strength of Muay Thai

Muay Thai History

Overview – What is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai, which, in a literal sense, means “Thai Boxing”, is the national sport of Thailand. It is a stand-up fighting sport that comprises various techniques, including clinches and sparring. To some extent, it is much similar to Indochinese martial arts. Derived from Muay Boran, which is an umbrella of various martial arts, Muay Thai is a mixture of several fighting styles such as tomoi from Malaysia, Pradal Serey from Cambodia, Lao from Laos, and lethwei from Myanmar.

The word Muay Thai refers to the “Science of Eight Limbs” or “Art of Eight Limbs.” Muay Thai is given this slogan because, in Thai boxing style, punches, elbows, kicks, and knees are used to strike the opponent that collectively makes eight points of contact. It also consists of head-butts and standing grappling that is quite effective to knock out the opponent. It is different from the two contact points combat (fists) or four contact points fighting in which the striking set of hands and feet is used.

The training of Thai Boxing or Muay Thai is made of various methods that develop exceptional and mortal qualities like devastating power, splendid cardio-vascular durability, speed, and most importantly, a fighting spirit. Due to pad training, such a lethal sport can be practised and learned without harm. Muay Thai’s effectiveness can be seen as incorporated in self-defence, military, law enforcement and sporting activities.

In 1968, Ajam Surachai Surusute founded an organization for Muay Thai called The World Thai Boxing Association (WTBA), the largest and oldest Thai boxing organization. This organization was made to serve and achieve its goals of spreading Muay Thai outside Thailand to make people familiar with Thai boxing in its true spirit.


Muay Thai fighters


Origins – The Birth of Thai Boxing

Muay Thai was nourished and succeeded to a greater extent during the successive years of battle between the two dynasties, The Burmese Konbaung and The Thai Ayutthaya. Amidst the conflicted period, Muay Thai was developed and became a distinctive fighting art. However, when the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was being looted but the Burmese forces, many writings of Muay Thai were lost. This results in creating a gap that always occurs whenever the exact origin of Muay Thai is found.

With the passage of time, Muay Thai became a ladder of progress and a symbol of nobility. Healthy and physically fit people started learning Muay Thai to become skilled practitioners of fighting art. Later on, these skilful fighters are invited for many matches in which the public was called. The victors and the most experienced Muay Thai fighter was also appointed as a personal security guard for royal personalities such as king, queen, or prince. Also, during the era of Ayutthaya, a separate muay force was created to protect the king and the country.


Birth of Thai boxing


The Legend of Nai Khanom Tom – A Living History

The history of Muay Thai is incomplete without mentioning a great role model that stood firm throughout his life for the perseverance of Muay Thai. Nai Khanom was the man who remained steadfast and emerged so strongly that he has become associated with Muay Thai. Now let’s take a look at the incident that played a crucial role in Muay Thai history.

In 1767, the capital of Ayutthaya was crumbling as the rulers had become weak, and the economic condition of the city was the worst. At this time of fall, the Burmese army invaded Ayutthaya’s capital, looted the city and rounded up a number of Thai residents as prisoners. Among a large number of Thai prisoners, several Thai boxers were held in the city of Ungwa under the command of a Burmese ruler Suki Phra Nai Kong.

The king of the Burmese kingdom, Lord Mangra, in 1774, decided to organize a celebration of seven days, and he ordered a Thai boxing match between Burmese and Thai fighters. On the first day of the celebrations, a match was made between a high-rank Burmese fighter and a Thai boxing prisoner. When the match started, Nai Khanom Tom was introduced. He was a famous fighter of Ayutthaya, and when he entered the ring, Thai captives, who were also present there, cheered and supported him.


Nai Khanom Tom Legend


As the match started, Nai Khanom rushed towards his Burmese opponent and started delivering a non-stop cycle of Thai Boxing strikes. Nai Khanom’s act amazed the spectators, and they were perplexed. Nai Khanom punched and elbowed his opponent so effectively that the Burmese fighter collapsed ultimately. As the day proceeded, Nai Khanom fought and defeated nine other Burmese fighters. By giving an exemplary performance in the ring, Nai Khanom upholds the dignity and reputation of Muay Thai. The King of Burma then rewarded Nai Khanom for showing such unparalleled fighting spirit.

From the text mentioned above, it is clear to know that Nai Khanom Tom is and will be considered a permanent watermark on Thai boxing. His attributes regarding Muay Thai helped Thailand to promote and portray its image beyond its borders. On every 17th of March, Nai Khanom’s day is celebrated as Boxer’s Day in Thailand.

600 Years of Thai Boxing History

14th Century: The Ancient Thai Combatants

It is believed that Ancient Thai warriors were the first people who used Muay Thai as a fighting technique. However, there is ambiguity in the originality as it is also stated that it was the Siamese Army who used it first. As per history, it is supposed that the Siamese Army incorporated Muay Thai to protect their land and people from the invading neighbours.

Similarly, soldiers were taught to train themselves by considering their whole body as a weapon against the enemy, especially in a hand-to-hand fight. The doctrine of “whole body as a weapon” is the fundamental component of Muay Thai. As the danger of attack from the neighbouring tribes increased, these training camps started popping out all over the country, where ordinary men were trained alongside the soldiers.

Though it was only restricted to the army men at the start, it gained the attention and attraction of the sons of the Siam Dynasty. These two sons get themselves enrolled in the Samakom training centre.

15th – 16th Century: Muay Thai Descended to Next Generation

As time went on, the Muay Thai continued to flourish and nourish. Nevertheless, the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another was never so easy. As the sport of Muay Thai was fatal by nature, many fighters died during training or combat. With all the knowledge preserved in their hearts, one cannot learn or take the shortest way to become skilled in Muay Thai.


Muay Thai


17th Century: A Lethal Weapon Becomes a Sport

Muay Thai was given the rank of sport in the era of King Prachao Sua, who reigned from 1697 to 1709. It was declared to practice the traditional Thai fighting style in terms of sports. In Sua’s era, Muay Thai received greater affection as the King himself was very zealous about Thai boxing, and he also contested in various combat matches.

When there was peace in the country, King Prachao Sua used to occupy his army by imposing Muay Thai as the elementary training for their profession. Matches were held, and the winner was crowned based on the last man standing.

18th Century: The Predecessor of Muay Thai

In 1767, after the ransacking of the Thai capital Ayutthaya the Burmese captivated several Thai prisoners. Many people were Thai boxers among those prisoners, and the most successive Thai boxer was Nai Khanom Tom.

As the Burmese army returned to their land with the Thai captives, the Burmese King, to celebrate his triumph in Thailand, decided to organize a week-long festival. He also ordered a boxing match between the Thai boxers and the Burmese fighters.

A match was held in which Nai Khanom Tom participated first from the Thai captives. Before the match, he requested the King to grant him some time for preparation. As the King granted, Nai Khanom began to dance around his opponent, which left Burmese spectators in a state of confusion. In reality, that dance was “Wai Kru”, and Nai Khanom performed to pay tribute to his trainer. Muay fighters still perform this dance before the beginning of a Thai boxing match.

Famously known as Ram Muay, Nai Khanom nailed his fight and successfully maintained a winning streak that impressed the Burmese King. In the reward, the King rewarded Nai Khanoum with two Burmese noblewomen, and Nai Khanom returned to Thailand to remain as a hero forever.


Nai Khanom Tom Statue


19th Century: Muay Thai’s Golden Century

This glorious time of Muay Thai starts nearly 1880 when Rama V was the King of Thailand. King Rama was much passionate and knew the worth of Muay Thai. That is why he served a major portion of his time promoting the Muay Thai sport across the country. After the First World War, Muay Thai began to globalize. In European countries, skilled Muay Thai combatants were sent to meet other boxers and lift morale.

20th Century: The Modern Period

By the twentieth century, Muay Thai became so popular that people from the west started coming to Thai Boxing training centres to master themselves in Muay Thai. With the change of time, the rules and regulations of Muay Thai also evolved. Now, more attention is paid towards the safety measures of the boxers to prevent serious injuries.

Similarly, stadiums for Muay Thai have been built in the main cities where a huge number of spectators could come in and witness the pure and real action of Muay Thai.


Thai Boxing


Traditional Wear:

Before the match begins, when fighters or Thai boxers enter the ring, they often wear a headband (mongkhon or mongkol) and armbands (pra jiad). This tradition originated when there was a constant state of war in Siam. Young men used to wear such pieces of their loved one’s clothing as a sign of good luck while going into the battlefield to pave off harmful spirits. In present times, before a match starts, the headband is given to the fighter by a Thai boxing trainer as the symbol for luck and then is taken off from the fighter at the end of the match.