History of Muay Thai

Muay Thai – or Thai boxing – is a traditional martial art, used for many centuries by the armies of the Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand).

Soldiers would learn this combat sport with their bare hands – Muay – or fight with weapons called KRABI KRABONG (meaning sword and stick). The martial discipline, which was appreciated and popularized by the monarchy, became a part of the whole society to finally turn out to be a national sport, inseperable part of the Thai culture and history.

Muay Boran

Muay Boran is the ancient form of what we call nowadays Muay Thai.

The martial art called Muay – hand-to-hand combat – is a set of defensive and offensive techniques used on battlefields to quickly and efficiently neutralize the enemy. Over time, Muay became the defense symbol of the country and is associated to numerous legendary figures, starting by the kings themselves.

The discipline became very popular among Thai people and many fights were organized during festivals or religious ceremonies. (fairs temple). Passed from generation to generation, it was taught by masters, former soldiers or buddhist monks in camp sites built within the kingdom.

Combat styles, positons, stances, kick techniques …) are different from one region to another. For example, in the East, Muay Korat is inspired by the power of the buffalo or in the South, by the liveliness of the tiger.

Muay Boran is called the art of the 9 weapons because it involves using the head in additon to the arms, knees, elbows and legs.

The fights were practised in open courtyards, without judge, weight divisions or formal rules. Time-keeping was used with the help of a pierced coconut shell placed in a water container. When the coconut shell was full of water the round was over.

In the 20th century, the world starts to discover the discipline, which codifies, based on the model of English boxing (formal rules, rings, boxing gloves) and the different combat styles tend to homogenise. This new sport then begins to be called “Muay Thai” and Muay Boran is now used to name the ancient practise of the art.  .

Muay Thai origins

The absence of reliable sources, destroyed by the lootings of the ancient capital Ayutaya by the Burmese armies, doesn’t enable us to precisely know the origins and the emergence of Muay Thai.

It is likely that Muay Thai developped during ancient times, when different tribes coming from China migrated and settled in the South East Asia peninsula. One of these tribes are the Siamese (Tai), who went as far as the South of the peninsula in the actual Thailand.

The attacks, invasions and conflicts were frequent between the different tribes who had to fight to survive.

Thus, different martial arts style are alike :

Muay Boran becoming Muay Thai in Thailand

Lethwei or Burmese boxing in Burma

Pradal Serey or Kun Khmer in Cambodia

Muay lao in Laos

Malay tomoi in Malaysia

At war since forever with their Burmese or Cambodian (Khmers) neighbors, Thai people were always preparing themselves against attacks or invasions.

Soldiers would train to use weapons with Krabi Krabong. However, the Siamese fighters were excellent at using their body as a weapon..

Close combat techniques, developped over years and taught with discipline and respect of the traditons and ancestors are at the root of the actual Muay Thai. .