In the battlefields of Ayutthaya, in 15th and 16th centuries, the Burmese and Thai armies faced each other. Accounts from the Burmese of the period give reports of ferocious unarmed Thai soldiers who were trained to fight with their feet.
In Thailand today, Muay Thai or Thai Kick Boxing is a highly organised and popular sport.Each bout begins with a period of Ram Muay (boxing dance) in which the boxer pays tribute to his teacher and invokes the good will of the spirit of the ring.
The boxers wear a woven headband, which is removed during the fight, armbands containing tiny Buddha images, tape round the ankles and feet and regulation boxing gloves and shorts.
The atmosphere at a Thai boxing event is full of noise and enthusiasm. An orchestra of Thai oboe and percussion instruments plays continuously, with the tempo rising and falling in time with the action
When the Burmese faced the Thais there were no 'rules of combat' but modern Muay Thai is organised under a set of well established regulations.
Any part of the body may be used to strike an opponant, except the head.
Although the boxers today wear gloves, punching is considered the weakest of all blows. It is the head kicks, and knee and elbow strikes which are decisive in most matches.
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Muay Thai a system of unarmed combat, Muay Thai (or Thai Boxing) originated in what is now Thailand over two thousand years ago. Its precise beginnings are shrouded in legend, but early records show that monks trained novices to become bodyguards for the royal family. Exhibition fights were frequently staged for the royal court, and they could be brutal. Fighters had their hands wrapped with rope, which was coated with a sticky resin and then dipped into crushed glass. The bouts often ended in death. Thankfully, Muay Thai has evolved over the centuries. Competitors now wear protective equipment as they try to score with punches, elbows, knees, and kicks. Rugged and spectacular, Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand. It is also enjoying a surge of international popularity with practitioners is countries such as in England, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Australia, Brazil, the United States, and Canada. Muay Thai differs from Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Kung Fu in several respects; Kicks and punches are delivered with full power and without holding back. Even today, boxers fight barefoot, wearing only cotton anklets on their feet and boxing gloves on their hands. Patterns, or so-called "Katas", do not exist in Thai Boxing. Focus, power, timing, and reflexes are developed by constant sparring practice, hitting the kicking and punching bags and pads, and participating in matches. Muay Thai is primarily a pugilist (boxing) system, which uses basic, but powerful kicks, punches, knee and elbow strikes. Practitioners of other martial disciplines because of its devastating effect revere the Thai swing kick (roundhouse). When aimed at an opponents lower region (rib cage, thigh, or knee) the target area often becomes numb which may cause the recipient to drop to the ground immediately due to the pain. Along with that, add punishing elbow and knee strikes that are commonplace in the Muay Thai arsenal and this system becomes an almost unstoppable weapon for the stand up fighter in the ring or in the street.
Thailand has a proud fighting
heritage. All year round, the stadium throughout the Kingdom are
packed with fans who gather to cheer on their boxing heroes. The
Thai boxer uses his fists, elbow, knees and feet as the weapons of
attack. Muay Thai is fought over five frantic three-minute rounds
with two minute breaks. While knockouts do occur, most bouts go
the distance. For these, two judges and the referee award points
for effective strikes. Before each fight begins, both boxers
perform a graceful pre-fight dance of deep spiritual significance known
as the Ram Muay.
wai kru begins with the boxer kneeling in the centre of the ring facing
towards his training comp. Gloves are brought together in a
traditional manner clasped at face height. The boxer then wais
(bows) three times. Each wai pays homage at several levels-as with
all pre-fight rituals. The fighter bows in respect to the Buddha (
a man, not a god, who attained enlightenment through the complete
understanding of the human mind nature), the Sangha (the order of
monks who are seeking enlightenment) and the Dharma (the Buddha's
teachings). At the same time he also pay homage to his teacher,
training camp and his fighting ancestors. It is for the fighters
an intense moment of focus, a form of meditation that sends him inward
to the clam well of the fight fury. The Ram Muay dance follows.
It is a beautiful, graceful slow dance which moves in each of the four
directions, seeking protection from each.
Muay Thai traditions date back to the days when the skills in hand to
hand combat were a survival necessity. Thailand has a culture
linked to the battlefield and these combative skills can seen with the
rituals and fighting fury in the Muay Thai ring. The rules of Muay
Thai have changed over the years. A century ago Muay Thai was fought
until only one of the fighters remained standing. Each combatant
had his hands wrapped in a covering cloth and in old times, the glued
Hitting an opponent who is down or rising after being down or after the
end of a round.
The use of foul blows results in a penalty of one point. The
winner is declared from a decision on points, knockout, technical
knockout, an opponent surrenders, or a fighter is dismissed from the
ring due to a serious foul. The referee also has the power to
declare a no contest if he considers the fighters to be not genuine in
their endeavors. This way the referee can stop any sham contest.
It's the weapons that make the difference and in Muay Thai the
combatants are free to use the body's most powerful weapons to their
best advantage. A Thai fighter refers to the two feet, two fists,
two elbows and two knees as the eight weapons. When combined
together, these eight weapons are a dangerous combination. The
feet are used for long distance body contact, the knees and fists for
medium range attacks, while the elbow is used exclusively as a short
rage weapons. An experienced Thai fighter has sound defensive
techniques for protection against the eight weapons. One effective
measure often used as a counter manoeuvre in ring combat, is know as
"the wall of defence", whereby the fighter protects himself by
rising a knee to make contact with a lowered elbow to form a protective
shell. This human shell has the strength to absorb the attacking
thrusts emanating from any of the eight weapons. Whether they be
short, medium or long range, any of the eight weapons, if executed
correctly, can strike an opponent with lightning speed and precision
When it comes to strength in the ring, grappling is the big test. Unlike western boxing where the clinch is illegal, Muay Thai allows the fighters to grapple for position and ascendancy. When two boxers cling to each other in combat they use their knees, fists and elbow to attack their opponent. Grappling is strenuous work and requires a great deal of conditioning to hang onto an opponent who has defensive techniques that can keep an opponents clinch without making any attacking moves, the referee will separate the two combatants as grappling without action is not permitted in a Muay Thai contest.
Muay Thai is a close combat sport; skillful grappling and knee
techniques are required. A tough close-quarters fighter can be
extremely effective in taking the wind and the will to fight, out of an
opponent. A knockout move is almost certain when an opponent's
head is brought down to an upward-driving knee.
big difference between international western boxing and Muay Thai, is
that the judges will award the decision to fighter consider to have
proven himself the "ringmaster" after five rounds. Point
are not determined by the number of strikes but rather by the number of
effective blows. Of prime importance is the effectiveness of the
strike, its strength, the target and, most importantly, how the much
disadvantage it causes the opponent. Among other, lesser aspects
which impress the judges -and they are definitely taken into consider
action during scoring - are the defensive abilities of the two
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