- Martial Arts Series -
The Father of Muaythai
Muaythai, originally known as Muay Boran (more brutal form of the art), goes back as far back as the 16th century, but didn't become widespread until the 20th century. It is a striking art mixed with clinching techniques to control and finish opponents in devastating fashion. It is known as "The Art of 8 Limbs" because it uses both fists, both elbows, both knees, and both feet. The most devastating of the eight limbs is the elbow!
An Invasion Brings Muaythai to life
In the 16th century (assuming this is true), the Burmese King, King Mangra, invaded Siam, capturing many prisoners and transporting them back to Burma (now Myanmar in Asia). King Burma held a 7-day festival to honor Buddha. This festival included all kinds of dances and combat.
The Legend Appears
King Mangra challenged the Siamese prisoners to demonstrate how well Muaythai (then, Muay Boran) would compare to Burmese Boxing, a.k.a. Lethwei. The future hero and legend, Nai Khanomtom (NK), was chosen "as fate would have it" to battle in hand-to-hand combat against the Burmese Boxing Champion.
Before entering battle, tradition has it that muaythai practitioners, known as Nak Muay, performed Wai Kru, a pre-fight dance. This dance is designed to pay tribute to the instructors and ancestors of the art. NK proceeded to perform Wai Kru, which was interpreted as magic to the Burmese people.
A Fight for Freedom!
The fight did not last long, as NK proceeded to finish the Burmese Boxing Champion quickly and in devastating fashion - as the art was designed to do. Raging in a fury, King Mangra ordered NK to fight more Burmese opponents, but that posed no problem for NK, as he made quick work of all of them. Amazed at his skills, King Mangra released Nai Khanomtom, granting him his freedom.
Boxer's Day / National Muay Boran Day
So, have you ever looked at your calendar and wondered what Boxer's Day is? Well, today is your lucky day. Boxer's day (March 17th) was created and still celebrated in honor of Nai Khanomtom's victory, as well as to honor the power of Muay Boran (now known as Muaythai).
Start of an Evolution
As with all martial arts, Muay Boran evolved from a survival art for freedom, to a combat sport for entertainment. During the early 1900s, Thailand was at peace, so Muay Boran was used as training for physical conditioning and self-defense (later discussed)
Muay Boran becomes Muaythai
Muay Boran was the original form of the art known today as Muaythai. Due to the devastation that Muay Boran produced (bare fists), there was a call for a change in rules. This change came in 1913, as Muay Boran was renamed as Muaythai.
Becoming a Sport
The first international 3-rope ring was designed and utilized in 1923. King Rama VII was the driving force behind the change in rules due to his heavy interest in the "sport." And, just like that, Muaythai became a sport like any other, with referees, a ring, a set of rules, and protective equipment.
Now, this protective equipment was not so protective. Practitioners had their fists wrapped in rope knots (known as Kaad Chuek) to provide maximum damage to the opponent and limited damage to the user. After the death of an opponent, this rule led to the quick change from Kaad Chuek to gloves and feet protection.
What's with the decorations on their arms and head?
As stated earlier, there is a pre-fight dance that occurs, but what I didn't mention yet is the decorations that these fighters wear around their arms and their head.
The headband (Mongkol) is a modern addition to the pre-fight dance designed to pay tribute to the dojo the fighter fights out of. The Mongkol is typically presented by the teacher to the student as a symbol of battle-readiness.
The armbands (Pra Jiad) were pieces of clothing torn from their family members clothing and worn to bring good luck to the fighter during times of war. In modern times, the armbands are worn as symbols of that tradition.
Uses of Muaythai
While Muaythai was originally created as a way of survival, and now a sport, we can also train Muaythai as a way of conditioning the body. Ever since I first saw this art on TV, I have been amazed by it and fully interested in learning.
My personal goals include getting in tremendous physical condition, while also learning the art to defend myself and my family. Muaythai provides me with the training to stay physically fit and ending a fight quickly.
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Editor-in-Chief & Publisher of Warriors Magazine