Kensington Thai Boxing  

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Kensington Thaiboxing Copyright  ® 2009  Shelley Safari  All rights reserved 

Muay Thai is part of the cultural heritage of the Thai people

Their histories are intertwined. But their historical development is difficult to discern clearly.

When the Burmese sacked the Thai capital of Ayutthaya, the archives of Thai history were, for the

most part, lost. Along with them were lost the historical accounts of the development of Muay Thai.

What little we do know comes primarily from the writings of Burmese, Cambodian, and early European

visitors to Thailand, as well as chronicles from the LannaKingdom in Chiang Mai. All these sources

agree that Muay Thai originated to be used on the battlefield in person to person combat. As to the

specific origins, however, these sources are unclear and often contradict each other.

 

There are two accepted well known main theories

The first suggests the art of Muay Thai developed as the Thai people migrated from China to what is now Thailand. It would have been an essential tool in the migrants struggle for land. The second

theory contends that the Thai people were already settled in Thailand and developed Muay Thai as a means of self defense against invasion. Whichever account is correct, what is indisputable is that

Muay Thai was an essential part of Thai culture from its very beginnings.

 

Real interest in Muay Thai has historical beginnings

The first great upsurge of interest in Muay Thai as a sport and not just a military skill occurred in the Ayutthaya period during the rule of King Naresuan in 1584 CE. At that time, every soldier as well as the King himself, trained in Muay Thai. Muay Thai slowly evolved from its roots in the Chupasart ,

(a warfare manual), and new techniques were developed. This development continued under the reign of King Prachao Sua, the Tiger King, who so loved Muay Thai that he often fought incognito in village contests. Thailand was at peace during his reign, so soldiers were ordered to train in Muay Thai. Interest in the sport subsequently took off. Muay Thai became the favorite pastime and sport of the Thai people, who flocked from all walks of life to Muay Thai training camps. Every village staged prize fights and had its own champion.

 

Muay Thai has always been popular

There have been times when Muay Thai has been especially popular. The reign of King Rama V was one such golden age for the sport. Many boxing camps were set up and talent scouts, under royal command, recruited fighters from around the country to fight for the King. Match makers arranged grand bouts, which were fought for large prizes and honor.

Any available space was the center of Muay Thai boxing fights. For instance a courtyard or village clearing would be used. It was not until the reign of King Rama VI that the standard ring surrounded by ropes came into use. Time keeping by the clock was also added. Before that period, time keeping was done by floating a pierced coconut shell in a tank of water. When the shell sank, a drum signaled the end of the round.

Thai Kings, of course, have been powerful forces in the development of the sport.

One such instrumental mover was King Prachao Sua, or the Tiger King. He not only influenced fighting styles, but also the equipment that was used. At the beginning of his reign, the hands and forearms of fighters were bound with strips of horse hair. This both protected the fighter and inflicted more damage on the opponent. Horse hair strips were later replaced by hemp ropes or starched strips of cotton. For particular challenging matches, and with the fighters’ consent, ground glass was mixed with glue and spread on the strips. This as you can imagine created greater wounds and surely more intense fighting matches.

 

Changes in the sport since that time have primarily been to Muay Thai equipment.

Rather than radical changes to style the need for suitable equipment was the focus. One such example is the groin guard. While Thai fighters have always worn groin guards to protect against kicks or knees to the groin, (which were legal moves until the 1930s). These guards have evolved from tree bark or sea shells held in place with a piece of cloth to triangular shaped pillows tied in place. Subsequently these types of protective gear have been replaced by the modern groin protector, which was brought back from Malaysia by a Thai boxer who traveled there.

 

Thai Kings, of course, have been powerful forces in the development of the sport.

One such instrumental mover was King Prachao Sua, or the Tiger King. He not only influenced fighting styles, but also the equipment that was used. At the beginning of his reign, the hands and forearms of fighters were bound with strips of horse hair. This both protected the fighter and inflicted more damage on the opponent. Horse hair strips were later replaced by hemp ropes or starched strips of cotton. For particular challenging matches, and with the fighters’ consent, ground glass was mixed with glue and spread on the strips. This as you can imagine created greater wounds and surely more intense fighting matches.

 

Changes in the sport since that time have primarily been to Muay Thai equipment.

Rather than radical changes to style the need for suitable equipment was the focus. One such example is the groin guard. While Thai fighters have always worn groin guards to protect against kicks or knees to the groin, (which were legal moves until the 1930s). These guards have evolved from tree bark or sea shells held in place with a piece of cloth to triangular shaped pillows tied in place. Subsequently these types of protective gear have been replaced by the modern groin protector, which was brought back from Malaysia by a Thai boxer who traveled there.

 

Muay Thai truly has evolved from a battlefield skill into a popular sport.

Recently it has been accepted as an official sport in Asian Games competition.  There is pressure to have it accepted as an official Olympic sport. It is becoming increasingly popular outside of Thailand. Enthusiasts and practitioners include the Americas, Australia, Africa, Japan, and Europe. The fighting tradition continues to be passed on and is spreading wide and far. The illustrious history of Muay Thai is continuing on the path to greater recognition and international popularity

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