What is Muay Thai?
Muay Thai is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. This physical and mental discipline which includes combat on shins is known as “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterised by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins, being associated with a good physical preparation that makes a full-contact fighter very efficient. Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the twentieth century, when practitioners defeated notable practitioners of other martial arts.
“Muay” (มวย) in Thai meaning “To bind into rounded form”. The act of binding a person’s hair into rounded form is “Muay Phom”(มวยผม). As Siamese boxers wraped their hands with hemp rope and hold their fists into rounded shapes when strikes, Siamese(Thai) called this act as “Toi Muay”, “ToiMoi” or “Tee Muay” (ต่อยมวย or ตีมวย) and finally shorten it to just the word “Muay”(มวย)
There’s a record In the book “Du Royaume de Siam”, by the French envoy who visited Ayuttaya during the 1600s named “Simon De La Loubere” described the Siamese boxing as ” boxers whom punched with fists and elbows with their hands wraped with hemp rope which never to be seen in other neighboring kingdom.” Reference: Du royaume de Siam, Volume 1. Voorkant. Simon de La Loubère.
The history of Muay Thai can also be traced to the middle of the 16th century. During the battles between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam, the famous fighter, Nai Khanomtom, was captured in the year 1767. The Burmese knew of his expertise in hand-to-hand combat and gave him an opportunity to fight for his freedom. Soon after winning the match, he was freed by his captors and allowed to return to Siam. He was acknowledged as a hero, and his fighting style became known as Siamese-Style boxing, later to be known as Muay Thai. This fighting style was soon to be recognised as a national sport.
Muay boran, and therefore Muay Thai, was originally called by more generic names such as Toi muay or simply muay. As well as being a practical fighting technique for use in actual warfare, muay became a sport in which the opponents fought in front of spectators who went to watch for entertainment. These muay contests gradually became an integral part of local festivals and celebrations, especially those held at temples. Eventually, the previously bare-fisted fighters started wearing lengths of hemp rope around their hands and forearms. This type of match was called muay khat chueak (มวยคาดเชือก). Kickboxing was also a component of military training and gained prominence during the reign of King Naresuan in 1560 CE.
Muay Thai is referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science of Eight Limbs”, because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”, as opposed to “two points” (fists) in boxing and “four points” (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, such as kickboxing and savate. A practitioner of muay Thai is known as a nak muay. Western practitioners are sometimes called Nak Muay Farang, meaning “foreign boxer.”
Muay Thai is also used as a form of close-combat using your entire body as a weapon. For example, The hands become the sword or the dagger; the shins and forearms are trained to be like armor so you can defend yourself against heavy blows and the elbow is related to a heavy mace or hammer; the legs and knees are the axe or a staff.
The ascension of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to the throne in 1868 ushered in a golden age not only for muay but for the whole country of Thailand. Muay progressed greatly during the reign of Rama V as a direct result of the king’s personal interest in the sport. The country was at peace and muay functioned as a means of physical exercise, self-defense, attacking, recreation, and personal advancement.
Masters of the handcraft started education Muay in instruction bivouacs wherever scholars were presented with nourishment and cover. Trainees ought to be handled like one kin, and it was usual for scholars to take on the camp’s designation like their personal last name. Scouts ought to be dispatched by the regal kin to arrange equals amid dissimilar bivouacs.
1909-1910: King Chulankorn formalizes Muay (Boran) by awarding (in 1910) 3 muen to victors at the funeral fights for his son (in 1909). The region style: Lopburi, Khorat and Chaiya.
1913: British boxing introduced into the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College. The 1st descriptive use of the term “Muay Thai”
1919: British boxing and Muay taught as one sport in the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College. Judo also offered.
1921: 1st permanent ring in Siam at Suan Kulap College. Used for both Muay and British Boxing.
1923: Suan Sanuk Stadium. First international style 3-rope ring with red and blue padded corners, near Lumpinee Park. Muay and British Boxing.
King Rama VII (r. 1925–35) pushed for codified rules for muay, and they were put into place. Thailand’s first boxing ring was built in 1921 at Suan Kularp. Referees were introduced and rounds were now timed by kick. Fighters at the Lumpinee Kickboxing Stadium began wearing modern gloves, as well as hard groin protectors, during training and in boxing matches against foreigners. Traditional rope-binding (Kaad Chuek) made the hands a hardened, dangerous striking tool. The use of knots in the rope over the knuckles made the strikes more abrasive and damaging for the opponent while protecting the hands of the fighter. This rope-binding was still used in fights between Thais but after the occurrence of a death in the ring, it was decided that fighters should wear gloves and cotton coverlets over the feet and ankles. It was also around this time that the term muay Thai became commonly used while the older form of the style came to be known as muay boran, which is now performed primarily as an exhibition art form.
In 1993, the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur, or IFMA was inaugurated. It became the governing body of amateur Muay Thai consisting of 128 member countries worldwide and is recognised by Olympic Council of Asia.
In 1995, World Muaythai Council, the oldest and largest professional sanctioning organisations of Muay Thai was set up by the Royal Thai Government and sanctioned by the Sports Authority of Thailand.
In 1995, the World Muay Thai Federation was founded via the merger of two existing organisations, and established in Bangkok as of August 2012, it had over 70 member countries. Its President is elected at the World Muay Thai Congress.
In 2006, Muay Thai was included in SportAccord with IFMA becoming the member federation governing international Muay Thai under the SportAccord umbrella. One of the requirements of SportAccord was that no sport can have a name of a country in its name, as a result, an amendment was made in the IFMA constitution to change the name of the sport from ‘Muay Thai’ to ‘Muaythai’ – written in one word in order accordance to Olympic requirements.
In 2014 Muay Thai was included in the International World Games Association (IWGA) and will be represented in the official programme of The World Games 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland.
In January 2015, Muay Thai was granted the Patronage of the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and on March the 16th to the 23rd, 2015 the first University World Muaythai Cup will be held in Bangkok.
Today, there are thousands of gyms spread out across the globe. The clothing which competitors typically wear is bright and flamboyant. Recently such designs have become quite popular globally and many companies around the now have contributed to the popularisation of the style throughout the world. It is expected that this style will become more and more mainstream as a cult style much like surfwear did in the late 90s.