Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and a way of life for many people. It is also considered by many to be an art form representing true Thai culture.

Muay Thai’s definitive origins are debated by modern scholars, as much its formal history was lost when the Burmese ransacked our capital Ayudhaya, during the 14th century.

Despite this, the martial art has evolved from its initial role as self-defence and protection of the country to become one of the most popular sports in Thailand. By establishing Muay Thai as a sport after World War II, the identity and practice of Muay Thai has been preserved and passed down for hundreds of generations.

Muay Thai has always been a sport for the people as well as a military fighting skill. In 1238 (Buddhist years), the first Thai army was created in the northern of Sukothai. The recorded history shows that a need to defend the capital city was spawned by many wars being fought with neighbouring tribes and kingdoms, leading the soldiers to train in hand-to-hand combat, which eventually evolved into Muay Thai.

 

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Learning the military arts or “Muay Thai” became engrained in the culture of the early Siamese people. With the constant threat of war, training centres slowly began to appear throughout the kingdom, and young men practiced the art form for various reasons: self-defense, exercise, discipline.

As Muay Thai became popular with the poor and common people, it also became a required staple for the high-class and royalty. Legends tell stories of brave Thai kings who were excellent Muay Thai practitioners, who would disguise themselves as Thai boxers so that they could compete in the ring with other boxers.

King Naresuan the Great (1590-1605), one of the most celebrated warrior heroes, is believed to have been an excellent boxer himself, and it was he who made Muay Thai a required part of military training. He would eventually become a Muay Thai legend, calling upon the men who had been beaten by the Burmese warriors to become scouts and jungle warfare soldiers that would eventually liberate Thailand from its Burmese occupants around 1600.

 

Muay Thai has progressed significantly over the past 100 years. Due to the noticeable national popularity, it began to garner international recognition and exposure. In World War II, after formally being introduced to Muay Thai, foreigners began to learn the fundamentals and traditions from the Thai soldiers.

As it became more popular internationally, the rules began to change so it could be better organised and governed like established sports such as boxing. In the 1920s, rings were introduced to replace open courtyards, which ultimately planted the roots of modern Muay Thai.