Thailand is one of the most unique places in the world, and unlike most other nations in SE-Asia, was never colonized by the Western nations that controlled massive parts of the world in the latter part of the last millennium, which has meant that Thailand has retained lots of its old ways and traditions. One of their oldest traditions is Muay Thai Boxing, which has not only become one of the most revered and respected martial arts in the world, but has been around for several hundreds of years.
Origins of Muay Thai
Although we turn on the TV and watch live Muay Thai boxing matches or see today’s biggest MMA fighters integrating Muay Thai into their repertoire, the roots of this martial art run deep. Nobody is quite sure how old it is or the exact origins of Muay Thai because much of its history was lost when the Burmese ransacked the then capital City, Ayutthaya, in the 14th century, and destroyed or looted the city’s main temples. The records that survived the plunder are protected today as national treasures.
Muay Thai’s roots are believed to have derived from migrant tribes that moved south from China through Vietnam, Laos, Burma and Cambodia, and was developed as a fighting style by one of the major tribes of that time, the (Tai) Siamese. As they moved southward, the Siamese encountered smaller tribes in what is now the North of Thailand, Central Thailand and even as far south of what is known as Malaysia today.
Muay Thai uses the body to mimic weapons of war. The philosophy shows that the hands are the sword and dagger; with the shins and forearms hardened and used as armor against blows. The elbows are a hammer or mace, and the legs and knees as the axe and staff. Used together, Muay Thai has developed into a formidable fighting style that has survived hundreds of years.
The style was honed through the ages, through military tactics, loss of life and hand-to-hand combat until it evolved into something refined and deadly. The older soldiers in the tribe would pass down the techniques to their sons, who went on to teach their children. Focusing on tactics, technique, positioning and posture, the style became very effective, used to deliver crushing blows that would debilitate enemies.
It wasn’t long before Muay Thai became not only a fighting style to be used in open combat, but was starting to become a sport. Young Thai men who returned from military duty began to fight for sport in local villages and towns, with each province and region becoming extremely proud of their best fighters, who were seen as heroes in some quarters of the public. Over the next 500 years, Thailand developed a deep and meaningful love of Muay Thai as a Sport.
Modern Day Muay Thai
Over the past 100 years, Muay Thai has come a long way. During the Second World War, many foreign soldiers got to see Muay Thai at first hand, and named it as ‘Siam Boxing’. In the 1920s, the martial art become an official sport with the implementation of rings, gloves and rules. This changed Muay Thai forever.
Whenever foreign visitors come to Thailand today on holiday, one of the main things they want to see or get involved with is Muay Thai. In the combat sporting world, Thai Boxing has become a much-desired technique with thousands of fighters coming to Thailand to specifically train with the locals and partake in bouts.
Who would have thought 600 years ago that this effective style of fighting would evolve from something that was used for survival, to the multi-million dollar sport we see and love today that has become an intricate part of Thai culture and history!