Muay Thai is synonymous with Thailand especially Bangkok where stadiums and training camps abound.
Thai Boxing or Muay Thai is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. It has developed over several hundreds of years as a form of close combat that utilises the entire body as a weapon.
Muay Thai is referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs” as using eight points of contact, the body mimics weapons of war. The hands are the sword and dagger, the shins and forearms are hardened through training to act as armour against blows, and the elbows used to fell opponents similar to a heavy mace or hammer, the legs and knees reflected the axe and staff. The body operates as one unit, the knees and elbows are constantly searching and testing for an opening while grappling to spin an enemy to the ground for the kill.
The distinctive style that is Muay Thai is thought to have developed over time as the major tribes of that era migrated through China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma.
Muay Thai has progressed significantly over the past 100 years. Due to national popularity, it began to garner international recognition and exposure. In World War II, after formally being introduced to Muay Thai, foreigners named it “Siam Boxing”, As it became more popular internationally, the rules began to change so it could be better organized and governed like established sports. In the 1920’s, rings were introduced to replace open courtyards, which ultimately planted the roots of modern Muay Thai. Gloves similar to those used in boxing matches replaced the old horsehide, hemp rope or leather bindings and a hard-cover groin protector was added as extra protection from brutal kicks and knees.
The first formal rules were introduced to the sport of Muay Thai after WW II ended. Fights were divided into 5 rounds with a time limit on each; a clock was used to determine the length of each round instead of a coconut shell with holes sinking in a barrel of water, and major Muay Thai stadiums were erected in large cities Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium is now almost considered the “holy ground” to the masses of Muay Thai fighters, local and foreign. An integrated system of weight-classes, absolute rules and championships was brought to life in the years ahead as the organization of the sport began to resemble boxing.
Unlike boxing, Muay Thai fighters make very little money fighting. Many will take fights every 3-4 weeks, earning 4000-6000 baht ($100), which is barely enough to support themselves, let alone a family if they have one. Muay Thai fighters train many hours a day and often begin when they are 6-8 years of age. They typically take their first fight when they are 8-10 years old. Due to how physically demanding the sport is, and how early the average Thai begins fighting, Muay Thai fighters generally do not have long careers. Muay Thai fighters are known for their tough skin and ability to ignore pain and injuries, which are quite common. The fighters deal with everything from cuts and lacerations to the face and head to broken bones and severe sprains throughout their careers.
Today Muay Thai is becoming very popular on a global scale. It was recently accepted as an Olympic sport, finally gaining it’s 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.