About Muay Thai

Muay Thai - freely translated as Thai Style Boxing - is pronounced, "moo ee tie". Known in Europe as Thai Boxing, it originated in Thailand over 2000 years ago. Muay Thai is the traditional Martial Art of Thailand, an exciting combat sport and an excellent self-defence method. Muay Thai training differs from other martial arts in

several respects; patterns do not exist in Muay Thai, kicks, knees, elbows and punches are delivered with full force and without holding back. Focus, power, timing and reflexes are developed by regular sparring practice, hitting and kicking the punch bags and training pads and participating in matches. In order to avoid unnecessary injuries participants wear protective equipment during sparring and at the novice stage of competition.

Muay Thai rules in Europe are slightly more restricted than those in Thailand. The use of the elbows and knees to the head are not allowed in training or competition, and refereeing is stricter. With these modifications (known as the "European Rules") the sport has an excellent safety record.

Muay Thai Development

The Thais as a race have deserved sympathy for a long time. They were constantly harassed and their peaceful existence disturbed until about 250 B.C. when they left the rich and fertile land called Thai Mung or Thai Muang.

In order to avoid enslavement, the Thais emigrated and dispersed in all directions, but eventually and under great difficulties, moved southwards. They encountered many hardships and had to cope with starvation, injury, disease and death; but at the same time became experts in what is today called traditional medicine. Fending off wild animals and all-too-frequent battles with savage warlords, who never missed a chance to attack, only strengthened their fighting spirit. Their love of freedom overcame all difficulties.

When the refugees had settled in an area where there was "fish in the water and rice in the fields", elders of the different clans attempted to build up the courage and skill of the young men by promoting athletic games such as wrestling, running, swimming, boat races and acrobatics. For reasons of security and to ensure their future freedom, a system of self-defence was devised which after generations of changes and improvements resulted in what is today known as Muay Thai.

When the clans were finally unified into a nation, a manual of warfare, the "Chupasart", was drawn up. It dealt mainly with the use of weaponry such as knives, swords, spears, battle-axes, halberts, throwing knives and poisoned arrows. During times of peace the young Thais trained under the guidance of experienced warriors; learning the different fighting techniques based on the manual, but often substituting the "arm" for the real weapon, in other words practising unarmed combat, or what is commonly known to Thais as "Dee Muay" or boxing.

The Best known and most celebrated of the early fighting greats was Nai Khanom Dtom who, having been captured by the Burmese, regained his freedom by defeating twelve of the enemy's best fighters in an unarmed contest witnessed by the Burmese King.

Muay Thai reached the height of its popularity during the reign of Pra Chao Sua, the "Tiger King" (1703-1709). Siam was at peace with her neighbours and the army was idle. Muay Thai became the favourite pastime of the population. The King himself was a skilful fighter and it is reported he visited village arenas incognito to challenge and defeat the local champions. Some of the techniques used today are based on Pra Chao Sua's style of fighting.

By the beginning of the 19th Century Muay Thai was being taught in all schools throughout Thailand. In the 1930s Muay Thai underwent a major transformation; rules and regulations from international boxing were adopted, boxing gloves were introduced and weight divisions were established. According to some "old-timers" it meant the death of Muay Thai and the birth of a new sport.

Traditional Customs

In the old days, once a new student was accepted the "WAI KHRUU" or KHUEN KRUH" ceremony (a very important entrance ritual) was performed. Even today, in Thailand, most modern physical education colleges insist on this practice for those students taking a Muay Thai course. The most important part of the "KHUEN KRUH", which is held in front of a Buddha Shrine, is the vow of loyalty. After the students have made their offerings of flowers, a piece of white cloth, joss sticks, candles and perhaps a few coins or small presents, they pray together and recite their pledge.

An important part of Muay Thai is the pre-fight ritual dance "RAM MUAY", a slow motion, ballet-like set of steps and motions performed to traditional Thai music. The RAM MUAY can be performed in many different ways, each camp having its own style. The RAM MUAY also serves as pre-fight warm-up exercise and it can last up to five minutes. During the pre-fight ritual fighters also wear the "MONGKON" or crown, a cord about a finger thick and worn around the head. The MONGKON belongs to the Instructor and it is considered sacred. After the completion of the RAM MUAY and before the first round starts, the instructor and fighter come together and bow while saying a short prayer; the Instructor lifts the MONGKON off the fighters' head blowing on his hair for good luck.

We can also often see fighters wearing a string or piece of cloth around one or both biceps. This is called the "KRUANG RANG" and may be worn throughout the fight. The KRUANG RANG contains protective charms, a small picture of Buddha or a saint, or an herb, which is said to have magic powers.

There are a number of further traditions to which the fighting community adheres, though they are not necessary particular to Muay Thai but rather part of the Thai's life-style and the Buddhist religion.


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