What is Muay Thai?
Simply put, at its core, Muay Thai is a highly-effective self defense martial art form originating in Thailand. Contrary to the popular belief, Muay Thai is not the same as kickboxing. The two are often mistaken for one another, which is a common misconception. Although there are significant similarities between them, the key difference is that Muay Thai allows the use of elbows. Almost all Muay Thai movements involve rotating your hip with each kick, kicks below the waist are allowed, as well as grabbing your opponent’s leg mid-kick. Compared to regular boxing, which uses two contact points (two fists) or kickboxing (four points of contact), Muay Thai fighting style uses eight points of contact, utilizing every part of the body in both attack and defense mode.
People say that Muay Thai is a sport of contradictions. On one hand, it is simplistic and beautiful; on the other, brutal and effective. Muay Thai is said to have a certain grace to it – the exchange of blows resembling almost a dance with one’s opponent.
History of Muay Thai
The discipline of Muay Thai dates back hundreds of years. We can only speculate on the origins of this ancient martial art, since most of the written documents were lost during the battles between the Burmese and Siam. One version of the story tells us that Muay Thai was first employed by Thai warriors on the battlefield. It was around that time that “Chupasart”, the warfare manual that details the varying forms of Muay Thai maneuvers, was written. “Chupasart” focused on not only physical prowess, but also the oneness of body, mind and soul. It is believed that modern-day Muay Thai evolved from this very book.
Muay Thai’s first emergence as a “sport”, away from the battlefield, was during the reign of King Prachao Sua. The king had a particular fondness for the combat art. He was known to travel all over the country to watch and take part in Muay Thai matches. By ordering his soldiers to practice Muay Thai, he made a name for “the Art of Eight Limbs” and popularized it throughout the country. Muay Thai slowly started to become an entertainment for many people from all walks of life. The Thai martial art was first introduced to the West during the World War II, when Thai soldiers were stationed in France. This is when soldiers from overseas took a great interest in this oriental sport, and soon, they started practicing Muay Thai themselves. In the 1930’s, King Prajadhipok ordered for codification of Muay Thai. At that time, new rules were introduced, and Muay Thai was no longer an extremely dangerous practice. Muay Thai is divided into two groups. The mae mai, which focuses on the major technique and luk mai which is the minor technique. Traditionally, Muay Thai fights call for exchanging blow for blow. However, this is no longer favorable. Since the introduction of “the Art of the Eight Limbs” to the rest of the world, the rules began to change. Western boxing had its influence on Muay Thai, and the new range of boxing punches are now being used.
Nowadays, Muay Thai is one of the most popular ring sports and has fans from all over the world. Men and women of all ages practice Muay Thai as a form of exercise and train for competitions. Muay Thai gyms and training camps can be found all around the globe, but the most popular ones are in the land of its origin. The Muay Thai community is known to be especially welcoming to outsiders and beginners. In Thailand, the Muay Thai culture is present everywhere. Watching or partaking in it is a part of every person’s life, from a very young age. Countless advertisements for training camps and matches can be found all throughout the country.