Muay Thai fighting style is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques and is one of the forms of martial arts. This physical and mental discipline which includes combat on shins is known as “the art of eight limbs” because it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, shins, being associated with a good physical preparation that makes a full-contact fighter very efficient. Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the twentieth century, when practitioners defeated notable practitioners of other martial arts.
Muay Thai is referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs”. Muay thai drills use eight points of contact that the body mimics as weapons of war. The hands become the sword and dagger; the shins and forearms were hardened in training to act as armor against blows, and the elbow to fell opponents like a heavy mace or hammer; 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 has been a part of Thai history and heritage for hundreds of years, as with most traditions from ancient times. Many different versions of the history of Muay thai exist, but all sources agree that Muay thai was the primary and most effective method of self defence used by Thai warriors on the battlefields of conflicts and wars that occurred countless times throughout the history of the nation now known as Thailand. During this time, a warfare manual named “Chupasart” was written. This manual emphasized the martial uses of each body part. The underlying philosophy of this manual implied that fighting was more than the use of weapons, but most importantly, should engage total commitment from mind, body and soul.
Wai Kroo/Ram Muay
The Wai Kroo is a ritualistic dance carried out before fighters engage in the ring. The tradition dates back several centuries and is meant to show honor to the fighter’s teacher, the sport of Muay Thai and his country. The Ram Muay is a dance unique to each master instructor and taught to his students. The student will dance in each direction of the ring, touching each corner post with a prayer, showing his respect to his opponent and the spirits.
Modern Muay Thai
Muay Thai has progressed significantly over the past 100 years. Due to the noticeable national popularity, it began to garner international recognition and exposure. In World War II, after formally being introduced to Muay Thai, foreigners named it “Siam Boxing”, as Thailand was formerly Siam. The French labeled it as “Le Sport Orient” or the fighting style of the orient. Soldiers from Europe and America would watch attentively as the Thai soldiers practiced Muay Thai amongst themselves. They were so impressed with the style of fighting that they asked the Thai soldiers to teach them the fundamentals and traditions of Muay Thai. As it became more popular internationally, the rules began to change so it could be better organized and governed like established sports such as boxing. In the 1920’s, rings were introduced to replace open courtyards, which ultimately planted the roots of modern Muay Thai.
Gloves similar to those used in boxing matches replaced the old horsehide, hemp rope or leather bindings and a hard-cover groin protector was added as extra protection from brutal kicks and knees.
The first formal rules were introduced to the sport of Muay Thai after WW II ended. Fights were divided into 5 rounds with a time limit on each; a clock was used to determine the length of each round instead of a coconut shell with holes sinking in a barrel of water, and major Muay Thai stadiums were erected in large cities throughout the country (namely Bangkok, Sukothai and Chiang Mai). Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium is now almost considered the “holy ground” to the masses of Muay Thai fighters, local and foreign. An integrated system of weight-classes, absolute rules and championships was brought to life in the years ahead as the organization of the sport began to resemble boxing.