Muay Thai which is also known as Thai Boxing is the national sport of Thailand. Muay Thai was developed several hundreds of years ago as a training method for the first army of Siam, as Thailand was called at that time. It is sometimes called “The Art of Eight Limbs” because it uses eight points of contact of the body as weapons.
The hand are the sword and dagger, the shins and forearms act as armour for protection, the elbows fell opponents like a mace or hammer, and the legs and knees become like an axe or staff. In the art and practice of Muay Thai, the body operates as one unit.
1. History of Muay Thai
After being developed for military use, Muay Thai also became popular with all classes of society from the high-ranked and royalty to the very poor. It was practiced for self-defense, exercise and discipline and was even taught in Buddhist temples where the monks passed down knowledge and history from one generation to another. Many Thai kings became patrons of this practice and helped to create it as a national sport as well as a training method.
In the sport of Muay Thai, the fighters used hemp ropes and threads as hand coverings which they wrapped around the hands and forearms. Muay Thai fights became major spectacles that drew large crowds and continued until there was a winner.
2. Modern Muay Thai
Muay Thai was introduced to Europe and the rest of the world during World War One by Thai soldiers were who were stationed in France. After the war, the first permanent stadium for Muay Thai was built and fighters by then were fighting with cotton and hemp wrapped around their hands. The style that became the one we know today travelled a long route to get here.
Many experts trace it from the Siamese through China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Cambodia. Over that time the Thai Boxing style was refined, and techniques became precise and specific. They sought to make each strike and movement capable of delivering a debilitating blow that would overpower an opponent.
3. Origins in Thailand
In Thailand, the sport continued to develop and so too did the rise of “Kroo Muay”, the instructors and teachers of the art. This allowed local areas and districts to develop their own champions and over time these local heroes would fight the champions from other districts.
After the Second World War, it became more popular around the world, first as Siam boxing and later as Thai boxing. This led to the rules of the sport changing to allow it to be better organized and governed like established sports such as boxing. Gloves were introduced and there was also protection offered for the groin area as well. Fights were limited to 5 rounds and weight-classes, absolute rules and championships became part of the new sport’s traditions.
4. Muay Thai Training
You can start to learn Muay Thai very early in life. Some Thai’s start as young as six to eight years of age. They often have their first fights before they are 10. Those who want to become experts or professionals train many hours every day and become known for their tough skin and ability to ignore pain and injuries. Muay Thai was recently accepted as an Olympic sport and there are fighters in this martial arts regime from all over the world.
In the old days, they would train by kicking banana trees but now Muay Thai training often involves Thai heavy bags, agility balls, long banana bags and other equipment. But many still prefer the old style of training which includes climbing coconut trees or hanging a coconut or lime from a string or vine and punch, kick, elbow and knee the moving target.