May 8, 2007

Muay Thai - The Origins of Muay Thai

Muay Thai (or also known as Thai Boxing) was not founded by a single person, but by generations of the “Thai race”, or Thai people, who had migrated southward from China, into the Mae Kong and Chao-praya regions respectively, to join the other Thai race who already co-existed with several other races of people in that region of the world, such as Khom, Lawa, and Morhn. Conflict between races, or nations gradually brought about the development of fighting system along with the usage of weapons of war. But a written record kept by the Burmese mentioning a prisoner of war who was a Muay Thai master who defeated ten Burmese great fighters in a single tournament. His name was Kanom-tom (many know him as Nai Kanom-tom, the word “Nai” means Mister). The date was March 17, 1770. Now we commemorate Muay Thai on March 17 of every year.

There are many archeological findings, such as stone reliefs, found on the walls of old Buddhist temples that support the theory of Muay Thai being practiced long before medieval time. Muay Thai has been called “the art of nine body parts”, meaning the use of two hands, two elbows, two knees, two feet. The ninth part of the body is the head, both figuratively (one’s intelligence) and practically (head butt). But actually Muay Thai employs every part of one’s body, as still seen in the learning of Muay Boran, the traditional Muay Thai.

Muay Thai of different styles and origins are still being practiced in the tradition way, with all the techniques intact among enthusiasts. The full Muay Thai is not only a stand-up fight as we see in the ring nowadays, but also consists of grappling into submission, throwing, and ground fighting as well. Remnants of such moves are the grappling for inside-knee attack, twisting and throwing in conjunction with inside-knee attacks. One old Muay Thai teacher, or kru, said that in the battle field, a good soldier had to be able to kill an enemy within seven moves exchanged between him and the person with whom he fought with. If he could not do that, then he was not a good soldier, but a dead one.

During peacetime, men would learn Muay Thai from their village teachers, who had returned to enter monk hood after their military career. These young men hoped one day they would be able to display their skill before the selecting judges, or even the king himself. If they did well, they would be selected into the military service, thus, would gain prestige and notoriety. Thai custom, still practiced today, states that a man has to be ordained a monk, and serve in the military to be considered a complete man.

There are records of “fist fighting” competitions held in villages and towns more than 800 years back. Gradually, the art of hand wrap was developed. The hemp hand wraps were designed to protect the boxer’s hands. The open fingers allowed him to grab, lock and throw his opponent onto the ground. The original Muay Thai competitions were complete and well-rounded fights with rules similar to the mixed martial arts of today. This style of hand wrap was used until 1922, when a boxer from Khmer was killed. After that Western boxing gloves were used in order to safeguard the boxers and show the world that the Thai people were not a barbaric race.


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