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Muay Thai or Thai boxing History

Man learns the word "Fight" the very moment he is brought to the world. He has to struggle and fight for his survival ever since. His struggle & fight is instinctively exerted in order to survive all kinds of threat existing all around him and sometimes even within him, threats from the nature, diseases and illnesses, or predators. Sometimes men get in a fight with each other for the right over an ownership, the right for freedom, the right to defend themselves, etc. Some fights may require and involve great efforts, physically, mentally, as well as intellectually, aimed to achieve one ultimate goal, survival. Man tried to invent fighting skills to protect himself and to force his adversary to succumb within a shortest time. With weapons in their hands, contenders tend to be tense and the match may take a long time to end. Through generations and series of trials and errors and practices, man continued to invent and try to perfect his fighting skills and techniques, with or without weapons, the only objective of which was to defend and protect himself and to subdue his opponent with the least effort and in the least amount of time. Thus emerged the art of self-defense, later known as Martial Art.

Martial Art adopted in different parts of the globe differs from one geographical region to the other due to differences in climate and environment. For instance, people living in frigid environment cover themselves with heavy clothing, which restricts movement of their arms and legs, thus hampering their dexterity in throwing punches and kicking. The only thing they could do to stop their aggressor is to throw the aggressor off balance, or on the ground, and strangle or suppress him utilizing appropriate parts of the opponent's heavy garment, e.g. collar, sleeve, etc. These techniques are commonly known and prevalent in the art of Judo, Wrestling, and Ikedo. In warmer climate, clothing becomes lighter and less impeding to the movement of body parts enabling the use of hands, in punching, and feet, in kicking, to their full potential and effectiveness. These techniques are found in such Martial Art like Muay Thai, Boxing, Chinese Siao Lim, Karate, and Taekwondo. Some of the techniques adopted in different branches of self-defense of kick/box category may look similar, but there are no records of who originally invented those techniques, or who took them from whom; because creations of those techniques are believed to have been influenced by the nature. Therefore, similarities of techniques in different branches of Martial Art are well noted and recognized.

Man first learned how to use the only weapons he was born with, hands, feet and other parts of his body, to engage in non-weapon or barehanded combat in order to defend himself and stay alive and safe from all the threats around him. Over times, when life-threatening combat turned competition over prize and reward, rules and regulations were created and enforced to prevent serious injuries. Once a sheer hostile combat, this competition became regulated and recognized as a sporting event called "Muay."

Our ancestors were extremely talented in creating and implementing the art of applying different parts of human body, namely hands, feet, knees, elbows, and head, in the physical combat against the aggressor as well as in self-defense to protect own soft spots from incoming offensive blow. The Martial Art created and invented by Thai ancestors, which is incomparable to others, has been proudly recognized as the national art of barehanded combat, generally known as "Muay Thai."

Muay Thai is a Martial Art that can truly apply to real life situation both in self-defense and sport. Thai ancestors had taught and passed on this great legacy of Muay Thai to younger generations through a sacred tradition that captures the heart and soul of all Thais and continues to live on. In the old days young men were instilled with Muay Thai for a clear purpose. Thai warriors developed special and more sophisticated skills by combining skills in using weapons like saber, club, sword, lance, etc. with Muay Thai. Originally, special skills were only taught among individuals of noble status from the top, the king or ruler, down to individuals of high-ranking military status. Later, special skills were passed on to the public or people of common status by individuals who once served honorably in the Royal Army. These great warriors went into retirement, gave up their worldly desire, and entered the monkhood where they spent the rest of their times teaching their students what they knew best. Since Buddhism had long been Thailand's National Religion and Muay Thai were basically taught by Buddhist monks, a seemingly unbreakable bond between Buddhism and Muay Thai were also developed which can be easily seen or observed, even today, from the pre-match ritual each Muay Thai artist performs. Before the match begins, with sacred cotton band worn around his arm and over his head, each contender solemnly says a prayer and performs a sacred dance routine to commemorate his master who teaches and trains him for the fight.

There are no records or evidences suggesting when or in what era Muay Thai was originated. But as the history unfolds, Muay Thai has been around for a long time, probably as long as the nation has been in existence, because it has long become Thailand's identity that no other nations could claim or imitate.

It has been known that, in the old days, Muay Thai was usually learned and practiced among soldiers due to frequent conflicts and warfare with neighboring countries. During those days, when firearm was unheard-of, swords and other old-fashioned weapons were used in the battles where combats at close range were normally forced upon both sides handing them an equal chance of being defeated.

Later, within the military circle, new and effective kicking techniques were developed basically to gain an upper hand over the enemies. The new kicking techniques were brought into practice in accommodation to the barehanded fighting techniques. The combined application of hands and feet and other body parts in the art of self-defense worked so effectively and gracefully that when the nation was not at war civilians put out their effort to undergo intensive training in order to show off their talent to the public at festivals across the country. Being new and appealing to the public, the show began to draw bigger crowds and increasingly inspire the public to take up Muay Thai. The number of interested students continued to grow, so did the number of schools. Normally Muay Thai was adopted and taught in combat schools. Reputable schools were usually well established and run by experienced, respectable masters. It could be noted that, in those days, Thais took up Muay Thai for two reasons:

For combat in the battle field
For self-defense

Nan Chao Era 748 - 1238
King P. Laouko build his empire called Nan Chao, which was under the ruling of tough kings. Thai was at war with China sometimes as friend or as enemy. During this period, the practice of weaponry was used in the combat, for example, swords and pikes. In Ranna period, the fighting technique used was similar to Cheung (Chinese fighting technique). Most combat in this period used weapons more than hand-to-hand because it's the fight for freedom and the land.

Sukhothai Era 1238 - 1378

In this era, the hand-to-hand combat was still used in the battlefield, however, the weaponry were used more. The institutions which taught muay can be separated into 3 categories.
1. The temple (wat) whom the teacher was the monks with exceptional fighting skills.
2. At home where the knowledge was pass from one generation to the next.
3.The Royal Institute where the skills taught were utilizing the weapons on the back of horses, elephants, bulls, and buffaloes. Other activities were local festivals, native dances, hunting, and kite flying.

Ayuthaya Era 1350 - 1767

In this era, the knowledge of Muay Thai was handed down from Sukothai Era continually, for example, hunting, native dance, and socializing activities. The temple was stilled the place to learn and practice muay.

1358-1631 Flying kites was very popular among the people in this period. Its popularity caused an order of the law which stated that flying kites were not allowed close to the palace.

1632-1690 In this period of Majesty Pra Narai Maharak, the sport was at its peak, for example, boxing and boat racing.

In the period of Somdet Prachao Suer or Kungluang Sorrasak, he was highly interested in the art of muay. At one time, he went to look upon the local along with his guards, dressing like commoners. He went to the local festival and entered in Muay Thai contest. When the local know that he's a fighter from Ayuthaya, they match him up against the best fighters they have. Prajao Suer won all the three fights in the row. He also passed down his skills in boxing and sword playing to his sons, Jaofah Petch and Jaofah Porn.

During this period, whoever was skillful in swords and thrust-fight must also be good in muay. The reason being is that the skill of muay is required in battlefield. Therefore, the main purpose of practicing muay in this period was so that the individual can serve in the military. When the war was over, Muay Thai was fight for enjoyment. There would be fighters from different villages competing and betting against each other in local festivals. Muay Thai at that time would fight with bare-hand.

In 1767, after the broken up of Ayuthaya, many Thais were taken as prisoners to Myanmar. General Suki chosen Nai Khanom Tom to represent Muay Thai fighter and went to fight in Myanmar. He used his skill in muay to fight against 10 Myanmar's soldiers, and he had beaten them all. King Kung Angwatas of Myanmar complimented on how dangerous Muay Thai can be even to use only 2 bare-hand to fight. King Kung Angwatas rewarded Nai Khanom Tom with money and two wives. Nai Khanom Tom is like a father in Muay Thai because he helped make the art of Muay Thai known to other countries. Even until today, his name is stilled popular among the Thais. In the early period of Ayuthaya, muay was changed from fighting with bare-hand to using rope to wrap around the hands, this kind of fighting is known as Muay Kad Cherk. The fighters could fight to death because the rope used can have fragment of glasses causing Muay Kad Cherk to be filled with danger.
Kung Thonburi Era

In 1771, Myanmar invaded the town of Chiangmai and the town of Pichai. Praya Pichai (Tongdee Funkao) brought the army to fight against Myanmar, he fought until his two swords were broken and able to protected to town. Praya Pichai was skillful in muay, sword, and battlefield-fight, which led him to the rank of Praya given by King Thonburi (King Taksin). In this period, the popular sports were boxing, sword playing, flying kites, boat racing, takor, and chest.

Rattanakosin Era 1782 - to the present

In the beginning of RamaI to RamaV, the kings favored sports tremendously. King RamaIV would have his kin practiced swords which is a popular sport among the people. KingV appointed skillful official to led each sport. The king would give them rank, for example, Muenmuay Maen Mud and Muen Cha-ngad Choeng Shok. These officials would operated in various sports and these sports were promoted as followed.
1. Flying kites - the athlete would compete for King's cup. KingV appointed Somdet Kom Praya Damrungrachanuparp to draft the rules and sealed it as Rule of Flying Kites Sanamluang.
2. Sword playing - KingV was very knowledgeable about swords. He supported the practice and competing in this sport widely.
3. Muay Thai - KingV was skillful in muay so he organized fighting events in both the city and countryside.
4. Track and field - KingV first organized competing events on January 11, 1897 at Sanamluang. The Ministry of Education was responsible for this competition.

In the late Ayutthaya period Muay Thai was practiced in various institutions and its has spread widely until the present. The boxer would compete in muay arenas and stadiums, for example, Suan Jao Ched Arena and Suan Gularb Arena. In this period, Muay Kaad Chuek (Ancient Muay) was stilled practice until the Rattanakosin period where the use of gloves was used. However, the technique of fighting was still the same with the use of hands, feet, elbows and knees.

There is a lack of documentation in the standard of competition from the early on up to the period of RamaV. Starting from RamaVI, some facts and figures could be gathered about muay. Its popularity can be separated into 5 different periods as followed:

1. The period of Suan Gularb Arena - the people favored muay and muay contests were arranged to meet its popularity. The fighting technique of Kaad Chuek was stilled in use, the number of rounds was fixed and the referee was appointed.

2. The period of Tar Charng Arena - the transition period between Kaad Chuek and gloves. The used of gloves started in this period (2087). The famous referees were Tim Atihaemanon and Niyom Tongchit.

3. The period of Suan Sanuk Arena - the owner of the arena organized many fighting contests over the number of years, causing the birth of many popular fighters, for example, Saman Dilgavulas and Sompong Waetchasit. The famous referees were Luang Pipat Konlakai, Suthorn Taveesit and Niyom Tongchit.

4. The period of Lak Muang Arena and Suan Jao Ched Arena - muay contests became more firm because the military took a step in Muay Thai. Part of the income helped maintain the military according to the purpose of the government. Muay Thai's committee and boxer worked together to help reach the goal. Many famous fighters were borne, such as, Pon Prapadaeng, Perk Singwanlop, Tawas Wongtaveat, Prasert S.S. and Tongbai Yontakrit. The fighting contest continued for many years until the W.W.II, when it was ceased. The famous referees were Sangwean Hiranyaleaka, Jer Juknurak and Wong Hiranyaleaka.

5. In the present, the contests are held at Ratchadamnern Stadium and Lumpinee Stadium. Sometimes there would be temporarily arenas, such as, Royal Thai Air Force Arena, Royal Thai Navy Arena and arenas in various provinces. The contest consisted of Muay Thai and International Boxing. Thai fighters also went to other countries to compete and vice versa.

Muay Thai is the oldest sport in Thailand. Its popularity spread among all levels of the population. In the beginning, there was no written document in the rules of muay, the stadium's manager must stated the rules orally. When the rules were used often, it became the standard principle in Muay Thai contest.

In 1912, Royal Highness Viboon Sawatwang Sawatkun whom completed his study from England brought the technique of Western boxing to Thailand. He taught this technique to other boxing professors and outlines the rules in Western boxing. Soon after, the Western boxing spreaded through the nation.

In 1919, Ministry of Education organized the contest in Western boxing among the student for the first time. The outline of Western boxing that was written by Royal Highness Viboon Sawatwang Sawatkun was changed slightly. The Commission of Physical Education printed the rules in Western boxing in 1927

In 1927, Ministry of Interior wanted to make a law in allowing gambling in boxing, according to the Act of Gambling 1927. The lawmaker asked the Department of Physical Education to adjust the rules in boxing, to make it better organized. The officials in the Department of Physical Education presented new rules on March 10, 1934. These rules were put to use on April 1, 1937 and were first printed in 1939. In 1934, Ministry of Interior placed temporarily rules on the contest of Muay Thai and Western boxing.

Ratchadamnern Co. Ltd. placed rules and regulations on professional fighters. These rules have similarity to the rules of professional fighter in Philippines. Ratchadamnern followed these rules because these are the rules of the Boxing Federation of East Asia that Thai was alliance with. Ratchadamnern Stadium started to follow these rules in June 1955 until the present. To explain and give information of Muay Thai contest, we will tell you a brief story from the book "From Suan Gularb Arena to Ratchadamnern" by Saming Kalong that wrote about the evolution of muay as followed.

The precise origins of Muay Thai are hazy and imprecise. Very little written documentation exists that provides an accurate picture and factual of how and in what ways it developed down the centuries. The details of the development of muay can be told starting from the period of Suan Gualarb to Ratchadamnern from the memory of Saming Kalong. He also stated that there could be some faults in his story, however, he had tried his best to tell it like how it happened.

Back in the day, the "ring" was nothing more than an area of bare earth with the use of ropes to make out an area for fighting. The length of each round was determined by placing a coconut shell with a hole bored in the bottom into the water. When the water level inside the shell risen to the top and the coconut submerged under water, the round ended. The system in Muay Thai started earnestly when Suan Gularb Arena was build. The ring was raised above the ground, marked out by two parallel ropes, with mats on the floor. The rounds were time by minute and the referee was used in the fight. At first, there were two referees, one to block the red-corner and another to block the blue- corner. The two most famous referees were Praya Nonsean and Praya Narainracha whom were excepted in muay's community.

As for the fight, the matches were alternated; for example, when the first round of the first match is over, the second match would take place so that the time will not be wasted for the spectators. And when the first round of second match is over, the first match will fight for the second round. These matches would take turn until one side is willing to give up because the number of rounds are unlimited. The fighters back then must have full self-knowledge in the art of muay because no foul can be make. The rules in Muay Thai were improved in the regulations, ethics, manners and safety to meet the international's standard.

The art of self-defense in muay can be used in sports and in real fight to protect self. The art of muay is passed down from one generation to the next for the purpose of self-protection and to defend the community. Most of the young men would practice muay as a part of their daily routine. The soldiers and warriors would definitely have to be skillful in muay. The reason being is that when the art of muay combine with the use of weapons such as swords, pikes and staffs, the fighting technique in the battlefield will be at most danger. Especially in the case of close body contact fight, parts of the body can be very helpful, for example, knees, feet and elbows. When Muay Thai was first practiced, it was taught only to the nobility, high-ranking officials and educated men. As muay became more known to the public, it was taught to anyone who is willing to learn. Moreover, the teachers were those of the high-ranking officials and warriors. The knowledge of muay is still being passed on today.

The art of Muay Thai in fighting and in self-defense is differing from International boxing in many ways. In Muay Thai, not only punches can be use but feet, knees and elbows can be use as well. In International boxing, only straight-punch, combination-punch and uppercut are allow. Differently, in Muay Thai all these punch plus spinning back fist, hook and swing can be utilize. The wrist, knuckles and the back of the hand can be use to hit the opponent. In Muay Thai, other parts of the body can also be put to use such as: using the feet for high kick, low kick, straight kick, round kick and foot-thrust; using lead foot, rear foot and heel. Muay Thai fighters usually specialize in the use of feet for kicking and foot-thrusts. Another important body part that is use is the knee. The knee-kick can be put to use effectively, for example, flying knee-kick and to grasp on the opponent's neck and use the knee to hit the target. The last body part that will be mentioned is one of the most dangerous one, which is the elbow that can be use in various ways. For example, the elbow slash which is bringing the elbow diagonally downwards against the target, horizontal elbow which is swinging it parallel to the ground, uppercut elbow which is thrusting the elbow diagonally upwards, forward elbow thrust which is stabbing the elbow forwardly, reverse horizontal elbow which is to moved the elbow horizontally in reverse and many more.

In the ancient time, Muay Thai was more fearful and exciting than the present. In the past, the fighters would bind their fists for extra attacking strength and to protect their fingers and wrists from sprains and other injuries. This fist binding known as Kaad Chuek, was composed of skeins of unrefined hemp thread twisted together into a soft cord of thickness of the little finger. The rough coils of the same thread were inserted under the kaad chuek on the back of the knuckles to form protuberances known as gan hoi. Kaad Chuek provides both offensive advantages and protection against injury.

Muay Thai rules in the past were not very strict and clear like the present. The fighters on both sides must fight very carefully because not only hands, elbows, knees and feet can be used but the head can be used as well. In the present day, it's a requirement that the fighter must wear at least 6 ounces gloves and dress in muay outfit. The outfit is consist of boxing shorts, groin-protector, amulets and ankle supporters if desire. In the contest, there is one referee on the stage, three referees outside the stage to give score, one timekeeper and one stadium doctor. There are 5 rounds in Muay Thai; each round has three minutes with two minutes intervals. The contest is separated into weight-parity system same as International boxing. The referee on the stage has the powers to intervene according to Muay Thai's rules. The legal body parts that can be used are hands, feet, elbows and knees which can be use for punching, kicking, foot-thrusting, hitting and etc. on any part of the body.

Before the actual fight start, the fighters must perform Wai Khru (Paying Respect to Teachers) and the Ritual Dance of Homage. Wai Khru is a tradition in which fighters pay respect to their parents, teachers and things they hold sacred contemplating upon everything with which they have been blessed by prostrating and put hands together in salute 3 times. They also pray for safety and victory. The fighters would perform the ritual according to what he has been taught by his teacher. Every fighter must worn mongkon until the completion of the Wai Khru ritual and then removed before the actual contest. Mongkon is make out of many threads woven together and wrapped with fabric to make a circular shape to be worn on the head. It's a tradition that mongkon must be worn before the actual fight because it's a sacred and highly respected item given by his teacher. In Muay Thai, rhythmic music accompanies the Wai Khru rituals as well as the actual contests themselves. The musical instruments use are pee chawaa, glong kaek (Thai drums played by 2 musicians) and ching. When the mongkon is removed, the referee will briefly stated the rules and have the two fighters shake hand for sportsmanship. When the actual fight start, the tempo is quick and becomes more frenetic toward the end of the round. The music increases the atmosphere of the event and helps urge the fighters to feel ferocious. The music that accompanies Muay Thai is not only an art but it's also a tradition that can't be lost.

In the present, the contest of muay becomes a professional sport especially in Bangkok where there the contest is held every day and someday more than one contest is held. The rules of professional boxer are determined by the Ministry of Interior. Muay Thai is not only taught in Muay Thai camps but it's also taught in the Institution of Physical Education. Muay Thai is an art and a sport that represent Thailand. Its popularity has spread across the globe. One of the main attractions for the visitors to Thailand is Muay Thai. Muay is known to be one of the most dangerous self-defense in the world, its technique draws a tremendous interest from the foreigners. Muay Thai fighters have traveled to many countries to show the art of muay. Other international martial arts such as Judo, Karate, Taekaewndo, Wrestling and Western boxing have tried to compete against Muay Thai and the results have proven that it's very difficult to beat Muay Thai. This lead to a large number of foreigners wanting to learn Muay Thai which led to the opening up of Muay Thai schools in various countries. Moreover, the teachers in these schools are mostly the popular fighters or teachers from Thailand. The contest between Thai's fighters against other nationalities is often organized in various countries, for example, England, United States, Canada, Netherlands, Japan and etc. These contests help make Muay Thai more appealing and more interesting to the foreigners. Likewise, the foreigners will now have more chance to learn and understand Muay Thai.



Muay Thai Camp & Boxing Training in Phuket, Thailand
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