Picture yourself being threatened by an army of formidable soldiers. It’s the 13th century and guns don’t exist, weapons are hard to come by, and unlucky you – your enemies have an abundant supply. What do you do but turn your body into a weapon. Muay Thai was born in the battlefield and proved to be more deadly than the weapons it replaced.
Father of Muay Thai
Thailand, although rich in history has lost its historical archives around 1767. Burma invaded and destroyed Thailand, then known as Siam. The true origins of Muay Thai will forever be a mystery, but like much of history, legends and stories have been passed down through the generations. One such story is of the ‘father’ of Muay Thai. Every year on March 17th his story is celebrated as National Muay Thai Day. His name was Nai Khanom Tom – and he will never be forgotten.
Nai Khanom Tom, was amongst a group of Thai people, many Thai being boxers, which were taken by force back to Burma as one of thousands of prisoners. Little did Burma know that there was a legend in their midst. The King of Burma, Lord Mangra held numerous celebrations throughout his reign, one such celebration, lasting seven nights, was seven years after Nai Khanom Tom’s imprisonment. The king ordered a presentation for boxing matches between Thai and Burmese fighters.
The first day of celebration marked the first day of the fights. And the first time the Burmese saw a display of Muay Thai. Before the match began, Nai Khanom Tom started to dance around his Burmese opponent. The crowd thought this Thai tradition, Wai Kru, was black magic. When the signal to fight was given, Nai Khanom Tom knocked out his opponent with a flurry of elbows, knees, kicks, and punches. The referee thought the black magic ritual was why the match was won so easily and claimed the win as invalid.
The king wanted more action and sent another nine Burmese opponents to fight. Each opponent was sent in one by one with no time breaks between the fights. Of course, they all suffered the same fate as the first Burmese fighter. Lord Mangra was so impressed by this display, he granted Nai Khanom Tom and all the Thais freedom on that day of March 17, 1774. Nai Khanom Tom will always be remembered as Thailand’s hero, a savior through Thai Boxing. It doesn’t seem so difficult to understand why the Thai people are very much into Muay Thai. Muay Thai is the country’s rock, its foundation.
Muay Thai has undergone many eras of change. Over the past 100 years the once field-combat martial art has become an established sport. In the 1920’s boxing gloves were introduced to replace hemp rope bindings (Kaad Chuek), boxing stadiums were built, one of which is the ‘mecca’ of Muay Thai – Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok, and popularity began to grow worldwide.
Today Muay Thai has grown significantly, it has evolved from combat to sport and now for fitness, you can see it in Hollywood, in the UFC, even on your block at the local Muay Thai gym!