The History of Thai Boxing
Muay Thai, or Thai boxing in its most commonly seen sports form is a full-contact ring fighting art often called ‘the science of eight limbs’; hands, elbows, feet, and knees. Thai Boxing can be seen throughout Thailand in hundreds of stadiums and is now gathering popularity throughout the world. Thai Boxers are considered the kings of the ring due to their incredible ring record. The Thai international full-contact competitors win over 80% of the time and most of those who defeat them do so with methods similar to Thai Boxing. Currently, Thai Boxing is gaining popularity in many countries due to its simple yet extremely effective approach to training and combat.
It is believed Thai Boxing started in 1650 when King Naresuan of Siam was captured by the Burmese and offered freedom if he could defeat the Burmese champions. He successfully defeated 12 of the finest Burmese boxers to become a national hero, making Thai Boxing a national pastime. Its actual origins may date back even further, the history of the art obscured by book burning during and after the Burmese-Siamese War of the eighteenth century. In its modern form, Thai Boxing is practiced by over 300,000 men, women, and children.
Thai Boxing is an adaptation of the Thai military arts. In peacetime, the weapons of the battlefield were laid down and the soldiers would fight empty-hand to keep their edge. At that time there were few rules, no rounds, and no weight classes. Boxers fought barefooted, their fists and forearms wrapped in hemp rope, and combat was extremely brutal. Training methods were vast and varied. Banana trees were kicked, kneed and elbowed, softening the tree until it could be wrapped on the trainers’ arms for kicking. This is where the unique creation of the Thai pad began.
Thai Boxing also finds much of its roots in Buddhism. People who see Thai Boxing for the first time often wonder about the pre-fight ritual that takes place before every authentic Thai fight. This ceremony, called the Ram Muay, is a spiritual ceremony which seals off the ring from outside influences and pays homage to gods, parents, teachers, loved ones, king, and country. A great deal of significance is placed on the Ram Muay since it displays the spirit and heart of the fighter. Both the Ram Muay and the fight itself are accompanied by music from a four piece ensemble. The pace of the fight is often dictated by the music played on the side of the ring.
Because the Thais quickly adapt to anything which may give them an edge, Thai Boxing has evolved towards greater efficiency for centuries. Most recently they have adapted various Western Boxing techniques, training methods, and strategies to their already formidable tools. In the past 50 years, Thai Boxing has enjoyed even greater popularity. Modern western-style gloves, weight classes, and three minute rounds have been adopted. Because of the rigorous nature of its testing ground and the directness of its techniques, Thai Boxing and Thai Boxers are some of the most highly respected martial artists throughout the world.