The Rich and Fascinating History of Muay Thai
The Art of Eight Limbs, Muay Thai, is rooted in mystery and is highly debated among scholars to this day. While Muay Thai flourishes as the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand, and has reached massive global popularity, the art's past is a subject of intrigue.
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Why is Muay Thai called the Art of Eight Limbs? Because the body acts as eight weapons of war: The hands are the sword and dagger, shins and forearms are armor. The elbow is used to deliver massive strikes to the opponent. The legs and knees are the axe and staff. In this way, the body is in harmony and becomes an effective weapon.
It is well-known by martial arts experts that Muay Thai has at least originated centuries ago. What is known about Muay Thai is that it seems to have a military origin. In 1238 (Buddhist years) the growing need to defend the Thai capital city, Siam, was dire. The miliary techniques developed during this period would eventually evolve into Muay Thai and also Krabi Krabong.
These military methods of defense became a defining part of Siamese culture. With the constant need to defend the land, Muay Thai camps were born. Not only was Muay Thai for the military, it also made its way to Buddhist temples, where monks began training in its methods. The popularity of Muay Thai managed to stay on a steady incline from the people to the upper-class and royalty.
With war surrounding Thailand, there was necessity to create large armiesto ensure the perpetuation of the Thai kingdom.Training centers arose throughout the land, instructing young males in hand-to-hand combat, sword technique, and staff and stick, also called Krabi Krabong. As the need for an education in combat grew, so did the training centers which were considered to be like college, the Phudaisawan Center becoming the most noted among them.
As time passed Muay Thai grew to become the national sport of Thailand, and with it came rich traditions still known today. The headband is called the Mongkong, and armband is the pa-pra-jiat. The first Muay Thai ring was constructed by laying rope on the ground to create either a square or circle shape, representing the boundaries of the fighting area.
Muay Thai's Golden Age
From the late 1880s to the turn of the century, King Rama V played an integral part of promoting the sport, tournaments, and he appointed boxing centers
During World War I Muay Thay was finally introduced to Europe and the world. When Thai soldiers were stationed in France, Muay Thai bouts began, where French boxers would often compete against Thai fighters. From there Muay Thai began its worldwide popularity up to World War II, to what is now known as Modern Muay Thai.
Modern Day Muay Thai
As international popularity began to grow, so did the rules of the sport. In the 1920s rings began to replace the open-courtyard style of bouting. Modern gloves began replacing the hemp rope, horsehide, leather bindings. A groin-protector was added to the new changes.
Fights were organized to have 5 rounds, with a time limit. Many Thai stadiums were constructed in large cities in Thailand, in which the 'holy ground' of them is considered Bankok's Lumpini Stadium.
Though Muay Thai fighters generally begin training at ages 6 - 8, many hours a day, but usually do not make as much money as boxers in the West. They have to love the sport, and what it can do. Muay Thai fighters are specifically known for their tough skin and abilitiy to ignore injuries.
New gyms and are opening around the world, as professional martial artists see the great value and necessity of learning Muay Thai to become a rounded fighter.
Muay Thai is also now an Olympic sport.