What is Muay Thai or Thai Boxing?
Muay Thai or Thai boxing is the cultural martial art of Thailand. The origin of Muay Thai dates back several hundred years, and was, essentially, developed as a form of close-combat that used the entire body as a weapon. However, much of the written history of Muay Thai was lost in the 14th century, when the Burmese sacked Ayudhaya, the capital city of Siam (Thailand). The Burmese looted the temples and depositories of knowledge held in the capital, meaning most written history was lost in this period. What volumes were saved are preserved and protected as national treasures for Thai culture and heritage.
Muay Thai uses the body to mimic the weapons of war. The hands became the sword and dagger, while the shins and forearms were hardened in training to act as armor against blows. The elbows were used like a heavy mace or hammer, cutting and slicing, while the legs and knees became the axe and staff. The body operated 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 for the kill.
Muay Thai or Thai Boxing origins and heros
Thai history recounts the legend of King Naruesan. In 1560, during one of the many wars with the Burmese, the King was captured. Known for his prowess and skills as a fighter, King Naruesan was offered a chance at freedom if he could defeat some of the best Burmese warriors. King Naruesan defeated all the Burmese warriors that challenged him, and was granted his freedom, returning home a hero and a legend of Muay Thai.
Nai Khanom Tom -“The Father of Muay Thai”
Another popular Thai legend is that of Nai Khanom Tom. In 1767, the Burmese army sacked the Thai capital city of Ayudhaya (120 kilometers from Bangkok). The Burmese King (Lord Mangra) and his army pillaged the city and its magnificent temples, treasure and wealth. Returning quickly to Burma before reinforcements arrived to save the capital, the Burmese army took prisoners for the long march back home to carry their stolen goods and treasures. Among those prisoners was a Muay Thai fighter named Nai Khanom Tom.To celebrate his victory over the Thai, the King of Burma held a festival and celebration. During this festival the slaves from Thailand were ordered to fight the best Burmese fighters for entertainment.
When Nai Khanom Tom entered the courtyard to fight, he asked for a moment to prepare. Nai Khanom Tom then began a slow ritualistic dance around the courtyard, waving his hands and arms. The Burmese fighter looked on in fear, as he thought Nai Khanom Tom was trying to curse him with evil spirits before they fought. When asked what he was doing, Nai Khanom Tom explained he was giving respect to his Muay Thai teacher, his sport, and his country by performing his short dance. Many believe this may have been the origins of the Wai Kroo,which is still performed by all Thai fighters before they fight an opponent.
When the fight began, Nai Khanom Tom easily dispatched the Burmese fighter with a series of hard kicks and elbows. The Burmese fighter pleaded that he had lost because he was cursed by the Thai. However, Nai Khanom Tom went on to defeat 10 more Burmese rivals with combinations of debilitating kicks and elbows, fast punches, and by throwing his opponents to the ground. The Burmese King was impressed with Nai Khanom Tom’s ability and skill in the face of danger. When Nai Khanom Tom defeated his last rival, the Burmese King granted Nai Khanom Tom his freedom and rewarded him with several Burmese women to be his wives and concubines. Nai Khanom Tom returned to Thailand as a hero, and lived out his life teaching Muay Thai. Because the legend of Nai Khanom Tom is so well-known, he is called the “father of Muay Thai”, and Muay Thai day is celebrated on March 16 every year in his honor.