Muaythai History


Man learns the word “Fight” the very moment he is brought to the world. He has to struggle and fight for his survival ever since. His struggle & fight is instinctively exerted in order to survive all kinds of threat existing all around him and sometimes even within him, threats from the nature, diseases and illnesses, or predators. Sometimes men get in a fight with each other for the right over an ownership, the right for freedom, the right to defend themselves, etc. Some fights may require and involve great efforts, physically, mentally, as well as intellectually, aimed to achieve one ultimate goal, survival. Man tried to invent fighting skills to protect himself and to force his adversary to succumb within a shortest time. With weapons in their hands, contenders tend to be tense and the match may take a long time to end. Through generations and series of trials and errors and practices, man continued to invent and try to perfect his fighting skills and techniques, with or without weapons, the only objective of which was to defend and protect himself and to subdue his opponent with the least effort and in the least amount of time. Thus emerged the art of self-defense, later known as Martial Art.

Martial Art adopted in different parts of the globe differs from one geographical region to the other due to differences in climate and environment. For instance, people living in frigid environment cover themselves with heavy clothing, which restricts movement of their arms and legs, thus hampering their dexterity in throwing punches and kicking. The only thing they could do to stop their aggressor is to throw the aggressor off balance, or on the ground, and strangle or suppress him utilizing appropriate parts of the opponent’s heavy garment, e.g. collar, sleeve, etc. These techniques are commonly known and prevalent in the art of Judo, Wrestling, and Ikedo. In warmer climate, clothing becomes lighter and less impeding to the movement of body parts enabling the use of hands, in punching, and feet, in kicking, to their full potential and effectiveness. These techniques are found in such Martial Art like Muay Thai, Boxing, Chinese Siao Lim, Karate, and Taekwondo. Some of the techniques adopted in different branches of self-defense of kick/box category may look similar, but there are no records of who originally invented those techniques, or who took them from whom; because creations of those techniques are believed to have been influenced by the nature. Therefore, similarities of techniques in different branches of Martial Art are well noted and recognized.

Man first learned how to use the only weapons he was born with, hands, feet and other parts of his body, to engage in non-weapon or barehanded combat in order to defend himself and stay alive and safe from all the threats around him. Over times, when life-threatening combat turned competition over prize and reward, rules and regulations were created and enforced to prevent serious injuries. Once a sheer hostile combat, this competition became regulated and recognized as a sporting event called “Muay”.

Our ancestors were extremely talented in creating and implementing the art of applying different parts of human body, namely hands, feet, knees, elbows, and head, in the physical combat against the aggressor as well as in self-defense to protect own soft spots from incoming offensive blow. The Martial Art created and invented by Thai ancestors, which is incomparable to others, has been proudly recognized as the national art of barehanded combat, generally known as “Muay Thai”.

Muay Thai is a Martial Art that can truly apply to real life situation both in self-defense and sport. Thai ancestors had taught and passed on this great legacy of Muay Thai to younger generations through a sacred tradition that captures the heart and soul of all Thais and continues to live on. In the old days young men were instilled with Muay Thai for a clear purpose. Thai warriors developed special and more sophisticated skills by combining skills in using weapons like saber, club, sword, lance, etc. with Muay Thai. Originally, special skills were only taught among individuals of noble status from the top, the king or ruler, down to individuals of high-ranking military status. Later, special skills were passed on to the public or people of common status by individuals who once served honorably in the Royal Army. These great warriors went into retirement, gave up their worldly desire, and entered the monkhood where they spent the rest of their times teaching their students what they knew best. Since Buddhism had long been Thailand’s National Religion and Muay Thai were basically taught by Buddhist monks, a seemingly unbreakable bond between Buddhism and Muay Thai were also developed which can be easily seen or observed, even today, from the pre-match ritual each Muay Thai artist performs. Before the match begins, with sacred cotton band worn around his arm and over his head, each contender solemnly says a prayer and performs a sacred dance routine to commemorate his master who teaches and trains him for the fight.

There are no records or evidences suggesting when or in what era Muay Thai was originated. But as the history unfolds, Muay Thai has been around for a long time, probably as long as the nation has been in existence, because it has long become Thailand’s identity that no other nations could claim or imitate.

It has been known that, in the old days, Muay Thai was usually learned and practiced among soldiers due to frequent conflicts and warfare with neighboring countries. During those days, when firearm was unheard-of, swords and other old-fashioned weapons were used in the battles where combats at close range were normally forced upon both sides handing them an equal chance of being defeated.

Later, within the military circle, new and effective kicking techniques were developed basically to gain an upper hand over the enemies. The new kicking techniques were brought into practice in accommodation to the barehanded fighting techniques. The combined application of hands and feet and other body parts in the art of self-defense worked so effectively and gracefully that when the nation was not at war civilians put out their effort to undergo intensive training in order to show off their talent to the public at festivals across the country. Being new and appealing to the public, the show began to draw bigger crowds and increasingly inspire the public to take up Muay Thai. The number of interested students continued to grow, so did the number of schools. Normally Muay Thai was adopted and taught in combat schools. Reputable schools were usually well established and run by experienced, respectable masters. It could be noted that, in those days, Thais took up Muay Thai for two reasons:

  1. For combat in the battle field
  2. For self-defense

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