Muay Thai or Thai kickboxing is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand and is probably one of the most well-known traditional sport in the country. The origin of Muay Thai dates back several hundred years and was essentially developed as a form of close-combat that utilised the entire body as a weapon. While its origins can be traced by to the 19th century, the modern sport as we know it was first established only in the late 1920s by the then king, Rama VII.
Today, Muay Thai has gained international acclaim, becoming an important part of MMA (mixed martial arts) and even has a professional governing league, the World Muay Thai Council.
It is believed that during the Ayutthaya period, Muay Thai was a mandatory training as part of the Thai military where they defined and refined the skills, tactics, and techniques with the wars against the Burmese, Cambodians, and other invaders. This traditional Thai martial art became widespread internationally in the 20th century when practitioners defeated notable practitioners of other martial arts.
This unique form of martial arts uses the body to mimic the weapons of war. This physical and mental discipline is known as “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterised by the combined use of one’s fists, elbows, knees, shins, and feet. The hands become the sword and dagger, the shins and forearms act as armour against blows, and the elbow to fell opponents like a heavy mace or hammer, whereas the legs and knees became the axe and staff.
In Muay Thai, the body operates as one unit. The knees and elbows constantly searching and testing for an opening while grappling and trying to spin an enemy to the ground to gain an advantage. Older soldiers and fathers taught their students and sons the offensive and defensive tactics and techniques, proper posture and position, and skills to enhance awareness. These students and sons went on to teach their children, and this is how the roots and permanent structure of an “effective fighting-style” began to strengthen.
Proper technique and power strikes were a vital element in war that requires hand-to-hand skills. Each strike and movement is meant to deliver a debilitating and crushing blow, and enable the fighter to move on to the next opponent quickly without leaving himself exposed to an attack.
Today, with a history that dates back centuries, Muay Thai is recognised worldwide. In recent years Muay Thai, both amateur and professional levels, has swept across the world like wildfire and has been developed into a premier ring sport. This art was also recently accepted as an Olympic sport and is becoming quite popular in many countries around the world. When in Thailand, do go for a Muay Thai match and soak up the fast-paced thrill of the sport.
While watching a Muay Thai show will be a must-do of any Thailand experience, here are a few tips and tricks that will help you pretend to be a Muay Thai pro…
Make sure to complete your day of local Thai experiences with a plate of Thailand’s most famous dish - Pad Thai.
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