Muay Thai In Thailand (The Art Of Eight Limbs)
It’s perhaps strange that a sport such as Muay Thai could come from a country such as Thailand, which if anything, has a reputation for peaceful happy people – as equally (or perhaps more so) enamoured by the Buddha as their national sport. However, things aren’t always so simple – Muay Thai didn’t simply ﬁll a need for violence, rather it emerged as a localised form of self defence and personal advancement and over the course of many centuries through times of warn and peace, it became the source of immense national pride, tightly interwoven with the history of the Thai people.
Muay Thai Technique & Style
Known, rather beautifully as Muay Thai The Art Of Eight Limbs, Muay Thai is strikingly different from other martial arts because of the distinct use of the entire body as a weapon. Rather than simply focusing on the hands such as in boxing, or on shin kicks like in kick boxing, Muay Thai utilises to great affect, the hands, legs, elbows and knees resulting in a highly visual, visceral art form that can be used, not just for self defence, but for self discipline and physical exercise – an immensely effective way to build up endurance and stamina.
Though it was originally less organised, Muay Thai has evolved into a formal sport with recognised rules and regulations and is included in many tournaments around the world – including the Olympic Games. This can be attributed to King Rama VII (1925-1935) who helped to introduce many of the early rules and regulations including round times and the introduction of a referee. In the early days of competitive Muay Thai ﬁghting, rules were a little more no-holds-barred – with ﬁghters using their heads and opting for slightly below the belt techniques when the mood took them. These days however, formal Muay Thai has more rules and regulations – including rules on what must be worn during ﬁghts and rules for disqualiﬁcation (everything from interfering seconds to fouls and drug use). Much like boxing, Muay Thai has a full range of pre-deﬁned techniques and these more formal techniques are divided into two groups: mae mai (major techniques) and luk mai (minor techniques), and almost all techniques in Muay Thai make use of the entire body – which has led to comparisons to Chinese martial arts and the conclusion that Muay Thai has its roots in these styles (though some suggest it could just as easily have been derived from Cambodian Khmer styles of ﬁghting – or even a mixture of the two).
Another interesting feature of every Muay Thai ﬁght is the addition of a traditional Wai Kru – in which the ﬁghters each visit the corners of the rings claiming it as their own, and a Ram Muay – a traditional pre-ﬁght dance in which the ﬁghter pays their respects to their opponent, teachers, families and of course the Buddha. The head and arm bands, though aesthetically decorative are meant as good luck charms for the ﬁghts.
A Little History Of Muay Thai In Thailand
Historians haven’t had the easiest of times trying to pin point with any certainty exactly when Muay Thai emerged in the Kingdom of Siam – however it’s generally accepted that Muay Thai as both a form of self defence and entertainment was around during the Ayutthaya Kingdom and can be traced all the way back to the Sukothai era (1238-1377) when it was heavily used throughout the kingdom for self defence by both civilians and the army. However, it’s not until the end of the Ayutthaya Kingdoms era – when the Siamese capital fell to the Burmese in 1767 – that we ﬁnd one of Thailand’s most enduring tales of Muay Thai:
Legend has it that when the Siamese capital fell, the Burmese King – Hsinbyushin – instructed his troops to take 1000’s of Siamese as prisoners to Burma – they were taken, many of whom were practitioners of Muay Thai ((or rather Muay Boran – the more traditional ﬁghting style from which evolved Muay Thai)), to the Burmese city of Ava. Years later, in 1774 the King would organise a week long religious festival in honour of the Buddha – which included amongst things such as sword ﬁghting and likay (a type of costumed play) – a comparison of Muay Thai and Burmese boxing (Lethwei). A Thai ﬁghter by the name of Nai Khanomtom was selected to ﬁght the Burmese champion and he did so defeating him with ease. However, because the Thai ﬁghter performed the traditional ram Muay pre-ﬁght dance, the Burmese people suspected him of a kind of black magic. He was challenged further – to ﬁght nine more opponents in succession, including a respected kick boxing teacher and he again defeated all who stood before him. The King then granted Nai Khanomtom his freedom and he returned to Siam a hero.
Each year this story and the sport of Muay Thai/Muay Boran is celebrated on the 17th of March throughout Thailand.
If you’re interested in learning a little more about Muay Thai then you’ll be pleased to know that we offer Muay Thai as part of our programme here at our Fresh Start bootcamp holidays.
If you are looking for a kick start to your health and fitness goals and you want a healthy holiday then Fresh Start can help you get back on track.