History Of Muay Thai
Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) is a martial art native to Thailand that utilizes stand-up striking, along with various clinching and sweeping techniques. It is widely known as “The Art of Eight Limbs” because it requires proficiency with elbows, knees, kicks, and punches. Muay Thai was originally developed for use on the battlefield. Because of primitive war strategies, battles often occurred at close quarters, which forced soldiers to become skilled at hand-to-hand combat. Since their hands were occupied with weapons, the Muay Thai techniques of the push kick, the round kick, knees, and elbows became an important part of a Thai soldier’s arsenal. After knocking an enemy off balance with one of these methods, the solider would then follow up with a weapon attack. If the Thai soldier were to lose his weapon in battle, his body would then become the eight-pointed weapon. In ancient times, the Thai people lived under the constant threat of enemy invasion, and, therefore, it became customary for all males to train in the art of Muay Thai. Despite being arguably the most brutal of all martial arts, the intent of Muay Thai was to help the Thai people maintain peace in their homeland against foreign invaders who wished to cause suffering. Because of this sincere intention for peace, Buddhist monks often taught Muay Thai at local village temples. In honor of these spiritual roots, Muay Thai is steeped in Thai Buddhist tradition and true practitioners of Muay Thai, called Nak Muay, are widely considered the most humble and respectful of all martial artists.
In the 18th century, Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand (then known as Siam) fell to the powerful invading Burmese army. The Burmese soldiers rounded up thousands of Thais and took them as prisoners. Shortly thereafter, the Burmese king organized a seven-day celebration and ordered a royal presentation of boxing matches between the Thai prisoners and his Burmese fighters, whom he considered the greatest in the world. During the first day of the celebration, a high-ranking Burmese nobleman led a humble Thai prisoner to pay his respects to the Burmese king. The king ordered one of his finest Burmese boxers to display his skill against that of the selected Thai boxer. The name of this Nak Muay was Nai Khanom Tom.
Before the fight began, Nai Khanom Tom beautifully danced around his opponent. Unknown to the confused Burmese spectators, this dance was the traditional Wai Kru, during which the Thai boxer pays his respect (Wai) to his teacher (Kru). When the referee gave the signal for the match to begin, Nai Khanom Tom exploded forward, pummeling his opponent until the challenger quickly collapsed. The Burmese referee, however, judged that the knockout was not to be considered a victory for the Thai boxer, since his Burmese opponent had been distracted by the Wai Kru. The perplexed king ordered Nai Khanom Tom to battle nine additional Burmese boxers and, if he was victorious, was promised that he and his countrymen would be awarded their freedom. Tom agreed to this seemingly insurmountable challenge, which the Burmese king considered an amusing death-sentence. Nai Khanom Tom decisively defeated each opponent, leaving the king with no other option than to order that the Thai fighter battle one of Burma’s most famous boxing teachers in his final match. The skilled Burmese teacher was so brutally beaten by Tom’s kicks that no one dared to challenge him any further. The Burmese king, awestruck by what he had just witnessed, declared, “every part of the Thai is blessed with venom.” As promised, Nai Khanom Tom and his countrymen were given their freedom. To this day, Nai Khanom Tom is considered a hero in Thailand and his memory and achievements are celebrated every March 17th on National Muay Thai Day.