Thailand’s fighting art form

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Date: November 22nd 2017
Traveller: Carla Rijnders
It seems like Muay Thai, Thailand’s fighting art form has been around forever. And that’s almost right. In the Buddhist year 1238, the first Thai army was created. This army needed to defend the capital city, its inhabitants within the city and in the surrounding villages. The soldiers were taught hand-to-hand combat, how to use weapons, as well as how to use their entire body as a weapon. This form of art eventually evolved into Muay Thai and became the national sport of Thailand, of which the Thais are immensely proud of!

The difference between Muay Thai and other boxing is that with Muay Thai you are allowed to use your fists AND your elbows, legs, shins and feet. Therefore it’s also called the “Art of Eight Limbs”, as fighters always have eight different techniques of striking. For instance, they used their knees as sharp daggers and used their forearms and shins as armour to block hits. As weapons became more popular in wars, and hand-to-hand fighting skills less important, Muay Thai moved from the battlefield to the ring.

Over the years Muay Thai became more and more popular with the poor and common people, and slowly with the high class and royalty too. The first King of Sukhothai sent his two sons to learn the art of Muay Thai, as it was thought that good warriors made brave leaders, and great leaders are good for a country. And then there was also King Prachao Sua, or the “Tiger King” as he was known. He was known for entering tournaments in small cities and villages disguised as a commoner so that he could compete and fight against prominent fighters.

Nowadays everyone and anyone can join in Muay Thai classes. There are plenty of schools that offer weekly and monthly training sessions for locals and tourist alike. But if you’re not up to competing in a fight itself, then it's of course always possible to just be a spectator!

An evening of Muay Thai is exciting to see, not just because of the fights, but also the Wai Kroo – this is a traditional dance carried out before Muay Thai fighters start their match in the ring, to honour their fighting teacher, the sport and the country –, the music, the people who are surrounding the match and the entire atmosphere.
If you’re interested to see a fight, then you’re in luck, as there are always some matches going on.

Here are some places around Thailand where you could go to:
  • Kawila Boxing Stadium in Chiang Mai: Here you find the more ‘authentic’ Thai kickboxing fights with fighters who try to become nationally known.
  • Lumpinee Stadium, Bangkok: this is the sacred heart of Muay Thai, and a dream come true to fight here for any professional fighter!
  • Patong Boxing Stadium: on Sai Namyen Road you will find the real deal!
For more interesting things to do in Thailand, take a look at our Thailand page

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