The History of Muay Thai

Muay Thai online, Muay thai movesMuay Thai is a martial art sport similar to kickboxing. In fact, the word muay (pronounced moo-ai)  actually means boxing. It’s origins are in Thailand and it was initially used to train soldiers in the arts of self defense. Muay Thai utilizes the fists, the feet, the elbows and the knees as weapons against attack.

Though some claim it is one of the most deadly of the martial arts, it has caught on in the West for two reasons. The first is anyone can learn this craft. You do not have to be strong or tall or manly. Women and children can benefit from learning Muay Thai. The second  reason is it exercises so many areas of the body, it is a great cardio and muscle workout.

In sports competition, however, it is traditionally a man’s sport. Women were not allowed in the arena during competitions because it was believed they destroyed the male boxers’ abilities and diminished their skills. In fact, there were amulets worn to guard against the “influence” of women. But things are changing. Now there are separate rings and training camps for women boxers, who are called Nak Muay Ying. It is tradition still, however, that the women cannot jump over the ropes, but must duck and crawl under them.

Originally taught one on one by Kru Muay masters, each student was screened to make sure they had the mind, the clean spirit and the will power to learn. Because of it’s geographical location, Thailand has always been subject to attacks from other countries and kingdoms.  Ancient methods of battle meant close contact with spears and knives. Being able to use the body as a weapon became an important type of defense.

Because the techniques and training in Muay Thai was passed on for master to student orally, it is hard to trace how ancient the sport truly is. Most scholars believe it became popular in the Sukothai region between the mid 13th and 14th centuries. Officers in the army were trained at the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, which is about 50 miles to the north of modern day Bangkok. Similar to the Roman gladiators, it soon became a spectator sport as well. Provinces became known for their particular skills in this type of boxing, each protective of it’ s own unique style techniques and maneuvers.  In the southern part of Thailand, the Surat Thani are still renowned for using their brains to form special strategic moves.

It is documented that in the early days of competition, the fighters were bare fisted and, of course, barefoot. Opponents were paired according to skill instead of weight. There were very little rules, if any, and fighters often used their heads as weapons, too. Hitting below the belt was definitely allowed.  Sea shells and tree bark were used to protect the groin. The competition rings themselves were very crude. They were made of dirt. Officials timed the rounds with coconuts. The coconut was hollowed out and set in a tub of water. When the coconut took on enough water to sink, the round was over.

Later, a new method called Muay Kaad Chuek emerged. The boxer’s hands were wrapped in a hemp rope, then immersed in water to make them shrink, harden and form to the fist. That made the fist stronger and more deadly.  In 1920, when the sport became an official national game, Kaad Chuek was still commonly practiced. But soon after that, a fighter called Jia Kaegkhmen died in Lak Muang Arena at the hands of another boxer named Pae Lieng Prasert, whose fists were bound with hemp. For that reason, the hemp ropes were phased out and boxing gloves introduced. More regulations came into being in 1928. In the 1930′s,  throws to the groin became prohibited. By the 1950′s a full ranking system had developed, involving eight weight levels.

The golden era of Muay Thai was during the 1970′s when Eastern ways, including martial arts, became the “in” thing in the Western USA and European cultures. Though some interest has waned over the last forty years, many training camps continue to thrive. Stadiums are now found not only in Thailand but elsewhere throughout the world, particularly in Germany, Australia, the US and Holland. Competitions continue to draw good crowds.

Google Analytics integration offered by Wordpress Google Analytics Plugin