Muay Thai is considered by some to be a
derivation of a general indigenous martial art style native to Southeast
Asia. Muay Thai was the first of these styles to be popularized outside
of Southeast Asia.
Muay Thai began as Krabi Krabong, the Siamese weapon-based style [].
When disarmed, Krabi Krabong practitioners resort to unarmed fighting
techniques centred on kicks and judo-like throws. Developing through
time and natural evolution of the art, it gave birth to Muay Boran,
ancient style Muay Thai. As the basis of battlefield warfare evolved
technologically, hand-to-hand combat was no longer required within the
military. Muay Boran was divided to Muay ThaSao (North), Muay Thai Korat
(Esarn or Northeast), Muay Thai Lobburee (Center region) and Muay Thai
There is a phrase about Muay Thai Boran that states, "Punch Korat, Wit
Lobburee, Posture Chaiya, Faster Thasao. (หมัดหนักโคราช ฉลาดลพบุรี
Muay Korat emphasizes strength. There is one technique called "Throwing
Buffalo Punch", called this because it can supposedly defeat a buffalo
in one blow. Muay Lobburee emphasizes clever movements. Its strong
points are the straight and turned punches. Muay Chaiya emphasizes
posture and defense, as well as elbows and knees. Muay Thasao emphasizes
in speed, particularly in kicking. Because of their faster speed, this
Muay Boran was called "Ling Lom" (windy monkey or Loris).
Muay Thai became a sporting martial art, kept alive in Thailand as a
competitive sport, and for many, a way of life.
Traditionally in the past, Muay Thai was used as entertainment to kings.
It is thought by some sources that the gloves were made out of wrapped
twine, tar, and broken pieces of glass to ensure a bloody event, however
it is still a subject of debate. Some argue that the notion of
incorporating broken glass into the gloves of a Muay Thai fighter could
have been taken from a
Jean Claude Van
Damme movie. Others suggest it was abrasives such as ground
glass and sand that covered the gloves, rather than actual pieces of
Nai Khanomtom was a famous practitioner of Muay Thai who figures in a
story common in Muay Thai circles. Around 1774, he was captured along
with other Thai prisoners, either in a skirmish or at the fall of the
ancient capital of Siam (Thailand's name at that time) of Ayutthaya. He
was brought to Rangoon in Burma, where the Burmese king Mangra was
holding a religious festival in honor of Buddha's relics. The
festivities included many forms of entertainment. King Mangra was
reported to be curious to see how the various fighting styles of Burma
and other countries would compare. At one point, he wanted to see how
Muay Thai (or Muay Boran) would compare to the Burmese art (Bama Lethwei).
Nai Khanomtom was selected to fight against the Burmese champion. Nai
Khanomtom did a Wai Kru (wai khru ram muay) pre-fight dance which
puzzled all of the Burmese. When the fight began, he charged out and
using punches, kicks, elbows, and knees, quickly pummeled the Burmese.
The referee was reported to have stated that the Burmese opponent was
distracted by the Wai Kru, so the knockout was invalid. The King then
asked if Nai Khanomtom would fight nine other Burmese champions to prove
himself. He agreed and fought them all, one after the other. The last
Burmese was reputed to be a great boxing teacher. Nai Khanomtom defeated
them all in a superior fashion. King Mangra was so impressed that he
remarked, "Every part of the Thai is blessed with venom. Even with his
bare hands, he can fell nine or ten opponents. As his lord master was
incompetent, the country was lost to the enemy. If his lord had been any
good, there was no way the City of Ayutthaya would ever have fallen." He
granted Nai Khanomtom freedom along with either riches or two beautiful
Burmese wives. Nai Khanomtom chose the wives as he said that money was
easier to find. He then departed with his wives for Siam (Thailand).
Other variations of this story had him also winning the release of his
fellow Thai prisoners. His feat is celebrated every March 17 as "Boxer's
Day" or "National Muay Thai Day" in his honor and that of Muay Thai's.