A Guide to the History of Muay Thai – Sanabul Skip to content
FREE SHIPPING ON ORDERS $50+★★★★★ 40,000+ FIVE STAR REVIEWS ONLINEEARN POINTS EVERY TIME YOU SHOPTRUSTED BY THE BEST: TEAM SANABUL
A Guide to the History of Muay Thai

A Guide to the History of Muay Thai

Introduction

Muay Thai. Thai Boxing. The Art of 8 Limbs. The National Sport of Thailand. The most complete striking martial art.

 

Known by many names and nicknames, Muay Thai is an ancient martial art. Throughout time, it has maintained a reputation for being one of the most deadly martial arts that a person can learn. 

 

What is Muay Thai?

There’s a reason that Muay Thai has the nickname of “The Art of 8 Limbs.” This is because practitioners of combat sport make the most use out of 8 specific limbs: hands, shins, knees, and elbows on both sides of their body. There are multiple variations of punches (hands), kicks (shins), knee strikes (knees), and elbow strikes (elbows), so anyone who trains can use these parts of their bodies as weapons in an unarmed hand-to-hand conflict.

 

In addition to the devastatingly effective strikes, Muay Thai also includes a grappling aspect. The clinch is when two fighters tie up with one another, at a close range. They can be at any distance, from hip to hip to arms length away. If they are connected to one another for a prolonged period of time (usually anything more than a couple of seconds), they’re generally considered to be in the clinch. 

 

Just like when fighters are at distance trading strikes with each other, there is a complexity to the clinch game. In the clinch, fighters will constantly battle for dominant position through hand fighting, locks, holds, grips, and weight/balance manipulation. When they gain a desired position over their opponent or training partner, they have quite a few options. They can trip, sweep, and/or dump their opponent to the ground (which scores heavily in favor of the dominant fighter on a judge’s scorecard during a fight). Once achieving a desired position, they can also decide to employ strikes upon their “dance” partner if they see openings for them.

 

Development of Fighting Styles/Preferences

With the large number of striking and grappling techniques, ranging from simple to extremely difficult, different fighters develop different styles according to their preferences. Most Muay Thai fighters are usually well rounded and have knowledge/experience in all areas of the art, but choose to specialize in one or a few of the areas that they deem themselves to be better in. 

 

Some fighters prefer to punch, some to kick, while others may like to clinch fight. There are fighters known for being powerful tanks, advancing machines that break opponents with heavy pressure and overwhelming strikes. Many are also known for being fluid, agile counter fighters who are technicians that quickly execute techniques to near perfection. Styles make fights and as with all combat sports, you never know who will win for sure – anything can happen!

 

Whoever is more effective with their style can win on a given day, but that may change from person to person and day to day. There have been names developed for certain types of fighters, based on their styles, which are as follows:

 

Muay Mat (known for heavy punches, low kicks, advancing pressure)

Muay Tae (known for powerful kicks, good movement in all directions)

Muay Sok (known for cutting/slashing/hammering elbows, being effective at close ranges)

Muay Khao (known for relentless pressure, crushing knee strikes, effectiveness in clinch)

Muay Femur (known for graceful techniques, smooth footwork, incredible counter fighting abilities)

Muay Bouk (known for relentless pressure, little/no retreating movement, constant action

 

Effectiveness of Muay Thai (transferable to other combat sports)

The intense quality and quantity of Muay Thai training allows fighters to figure out what works best for them, something that they display when they fight. They learn techniques, adapt it to their own liking, then test it out in training or in the ring. If it works, they’ll keep it and adapt it as they see fit. If it doesn’t they’ll either discard it or revisit it. That’s why Muay Thai is such an effective striking art. The techniques used have been tried, tested, and proven in battle numerous times over many years.

 

Since it is such a complete striking art, many Muay Thai fighters and champions have competed in other sports and achieved great degrees of success. The combat sports they transfer over well into are usually kickboxing and boxing, while fewer choose mma. Some Nak Muays of note who have made successful transitions over to different striking sports are as follows –

 

Somrak/Somluck Kamsing

Muay Thai; was ranked #1 across major stadiums in Thailand, but never got title opportunities due to politics, trained Saenchai → 

Boxing; won Olympic Gold in the 1996 Summer Olympics when he beat Serafim Todorov (who was the last person to beat Floyd Mayweather in boxing)

 

Samart Payakaroon 

Muay Thai; multiple time Lumpinee Stadium Champion and Fighter of the Year (Sports Writers Association of Thailand) → 

Boxing; WBC Champion (1986)

 

Buakaw

Muay Thai; Omnoi Stadium Champion, WMC Muay Thai Champion, WBC Muay Thai Champion, Thai Fight Champion, Toyota Marathon winner

Kickboxing; multiple time K-1 Champion

 

Sittichai Sitsongpeenong

Muay Thai; Lumpinee Stadium Champion, 

Kickboxing; Glory Kickboxing Champion /Tournament winner/Fighter of the Year, Kunlun Fight Tournament Champion

 

Superbon

Muay Thai; WBC Muay Thai Champion, 

Kickboxing; Kunlun Fight Tournament winner, ONE Championship Kickboxing Champion 

 

Valentina Shevchenko

Muay Thai; WMC Muay Thai Champion, IFMA World Champion (8x), World Combat Games Muay Thai Gold Medalist (2x)

Kickboxing; K-1 Champion, Kunlun World Champion/Tournament winner

MMA; UFC Champion holding numerous UFC performance records

 

Rafael Fiziev

Muay Thai; WMF Muay Thai Champion

MMA: Top 10 UFC contender

 

It is worth mentioning that very few kickboxers and boxers have made such successful transitions from their own sports to Muay Thai, a testament to how difficult Muay Thai is.

 

The History of Muay Thai

Muay Thai has been recorded in historical documents, dating back to as early as the 7th century. Its history is rich and essential to understand, if you want to know about the evolution of this combat sport.

 

In the 13th century, an army was formed to defend the kingdom of Siam (now known as Thailand) from neighboring tribes and kingdoms. At the time, warfare between these nations included the use of weapons such as (but not limited to) swords, axes, and hammers. The Thai Army soon realized that they needed a self-defense system to use in combat if they were to ever be disarmed or lose their weapon – otherwise, they would be defenseless against their armed attackers.

 

Muay Boran

Enter Muay Boran: a devastating, yet simple combat system used for self-defense and war fighting. Employed by the Thais against Burmese and Cambodian invaders, Muay Boran covered all of the bases when it came to fighting. On the battlefield, there were no referees and a loss wasn’t a number on a career record - fighting and a victory or loss meant life or death. Therefore, Muay Boran included effective stand-up striking and ground-fighting grappling techniques, a number of which are not allowed in modern Muay Thai competitions (headbutts, groin strikes, joint manipulation and locks, takedowns, certain sweeps, throws, ground strikes). 

 

Essentially, Muay Boran was Muay Thai without rules. When organized competition started increasing and rules/regulations were put in place (something we will also cover later on), the Muay Thai name was given to the martial art to differentiate Thai Boxing from Western (English) Boxing. 

 

Both were called boxing, but each culture had a different view of what boxing was. Western (English) boxing involved punches to the head and body. Thai boxing also involved punches, but more weapons such as kicks, knees, elbows, and the grappling aspect of the clinch were also allowed. Therefore, the term “boxing” needed a separating factor between the two very different styles of combat.

 

Originally called “Muay” (which directly translates to “boxing” in Thai), the word “Thai” was later added for this specific reason. For this article’s purposes and in an attempt to avoid further confusion, we will refer to this martial art ONLY as Muay Thai for the remainder of the article, unless otherwise specified. 

 

Muay Thai’s Role in Battles and Wars

Battle tested and proven techniques from Muay Thai gave it a reputation for being deadly on the battlefield of war. The Thais were able to hold their own and defend their home from enemy invaders for many, many years. Muay Thai played an incredibly important role in the defense of Thailand and many credit the martial art being one of the main reasons why Thailand is one of the only countries to never have been colonized.

 

King Naresuan and the Development of Muay Thai Outside of Armed Conflict

Siam King Naresuan (ruled from 1590 - 1605) was a practitioner of both unarmed and weapon-wielding martial arts. Known for his military presence and general intelligence, he is credited with freeing Siam from Myanmar (Burmese) and further preventing the Taungoo Empire from expanding their empire, while simultaneously preventing Cambodian invasions. During his rule in the 16th century, he demonstrated his appreciation for combat during a time of standing peace and organized Muay Thai competitions. 

 

These tournament bouts were sanctioned with the intent to entertain, boost the morale, and sharpen the skills of his soldiers. Starting out, there were no rules. No rounds, time limits, no referees – fights lasted until one man was left standing.

 

This soon changed and the first rules and regulations of Muay Thai were introduced. Fighters would wear cotton/linen rope-like bandages around their hands. Kard Chuek, as it was known, enhanced the impact of hand strikes, while providing some protection for the fighters. At a later time, the Western influence of boxing made its way into Muay Thai and fighters started wearing thicker bandages underneath bigger, more protective boxing gloves. Referees were also introduced, as these fights were not to the death as prior fights on the battlefield were.

 

In the early 1700s, with its increasing number of fights, Muay Thai became a sport outside of its use in armed forces. In times of peace, soldiers would continue to train the martial art system they used in the military and put their skills to the test in the ring.

 

While we said earlier that Thailand was never colonized, they did experience losses on the battlefield. 

 

Burmese Invasion of Siam (Thailand)

In 1767, the Siamese capital of Ayutthaya was invaded and ransacked by the Burmese. They captured and imprisoned many Thais, who were to be auctioned off as slaves. 

 

In 1774, the Burmese King Hsinbyushin (aka King Mangra) organized a week’s long 7 day 7 night religious festival to celebrate this victory over Thailand. Among the festivities such as games, theater, and other sports, the king ordered another form of entertainment: hand to hand combat.

 

King Hsinbyushin wanted to see if Muay Thai fighters could contend with Burmese boxers. A boxing ring was set up in front of his throne to see how the Art of 8 Limbs (which used all parts of the body) compared to the Burmese martial art Parma (where fists were the primary weapons) and which art was the superior fighting discipline. He chose the best from Thailand to face his best warriors.

 

Naï Khanom Tom

Having a reputation to be a skilled fighter with great abilities and a never-quit mindset, Nai Khanom Tom was chosen to fight the Burmese champion. After performing a ritualistic dance to show his respects to his teacher(s), the art of Muay Thai, and his country of Thailand – a dance known as a Wai Kru – he fought the Burmese warrior. With a controlled ferocity, Nai Khanom Tom KO’d the Burmese Warrior. The King sent out another warrior, who met the same fate. And then another. And then another. One after the other, warriors were sent to face Nai Khanom Tom, who defeated a total of 10 warriors in one-on-one combat, without any breaks between fights (sources vary on if he defeated 9 fighters after his first victory or if it was a total of 9 fighters that he defeated - either way this was an incredible feat). Burmese King Hsinbyushin was impressed and had the following to say after witnessing such a spectacle: “Every part of the Thai is blessed with venom; even with his bare hands he can fell ten opponents!” After such an impactful performance, Nai Khanom Tom earned his freedom and the freedom for all of the other Thai POWs. Returning home to Thailand, he was given a hero’s welcome for his accomplishments – a great boost of morale that the Thai people needed after their defeat in Ayutthaya.

 

Not only did Nai Khanom Tom cement his own legacy, but he proved that Muay Thai was as (or even more) effective and deadly as it was spoken of. A national hero of Thailand and considered the protector of Thai civilization due to his actions, Nai Khanom Tom is known by many in Thailand as the “Father of Muay Thai,” earning the respect and honor of everyone who hears his name.

 

Every March 17, we celebrate Nai Khanom Tom and his courageous actions.  This day is known as Nai Khanom Tom Day. In Thailand, fights are held in their famous boxing stadiums to pay respects and to honor Nai Khanom Tom.

 

Return to Thailand and the Rise of Muay Thai

After the Thais returned to Thailand, the art of Muay Thai continued to be trained. After hearing about what happened, there was a greater emphasis and interest in training Muay Thai. Now having a hero to look up to in Nai Khanom Tom, many people were inspired and took action to train. 

 

Beyond competitive fighting, the Thais quickly realized that training had other beneficial purposes for those who did Muay Thai:

- Self-defense

- Moral values (discipline, hard work, respect, control)

- Fitness / recreation

- Endurance

- Improved skills with a desire to improve in other areas of life

- Help in eliminating any desire to partake in unhealthy things (drugs)

- Principles and life lessons (ex. willingness to experience hardship will make you a better person)

 

As a result, Muay Thai rapidly began to grow outside of its use in the army. More and more people started their Muay Thai training and fighting careers.

 

International Influence on Muay Thai

As the world advanced, cultural influence spread. The sport of Muay Thai soon adopted elements of Western boxing and integrated them into the sport.

 

In the early 1930s, more rules and regulations were put into place due to a large increase in the number of fights taking place. Huge improvements and additions regarding protective gear were made. introduced. Larger English-style boxing gloves replaced the Kard Chuek ropes. Groin protection (although somewhat minimal compared to today’s standard) became more common. Bouts now included time limits and referees, replacing the previous “last-man standing” concept. Eventually, official rings and stadiums were built for one purpose and one purpose only: holding Muay Thai fights.

 

Muay Thai Stadiums of Thailand

Some of the most famous and well-respected stadiums were constructed to house Thai boxing events. Rajadamnern Stadium, the oldest boxing stadium in Thailand, was built in 1945. To keep up with modern times and in an attempt to attract more of the younger audience to the sport, Rajadamnern Stadium underwent drastic changes in 2022 (renovation, logo rebranding, rule modification). Just over a decade later in 1956, another powerhouse stadium was constructed and opened to the public: Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. In 2014, the original Lumpinee Boxing Stadium was closed and New Lumpinee Boxing Stadium was built in an attempt to expand and modernize the Muay Thai space. The modernization and changes made to both stadiums have been both widely criticized and praised by Muay Thai enthusiasts. Some see it as destruction of Muay Thai history and the legacy that the original stadiums held, while others see it as beneficial in attracting a wider audience to the sport of Muay Thai. But that’s a discussion for another time.

 

Lumpinee and Rajadamnern were two stadiums of the utmost prestige and honor for fighters to compete at. Fighting in these arenas meant you belonged at the top of the elite stadium circuits that all of Thailand had to offer. Not only did they possess some of the most valuable championships for Nak Muays to win at the time, but they were also pillars of the Golden Era of Muay Thai (spanning from the early 1980s to the mid/late 1990s). 

 

The Golden Era of Muay Thai (1980s - mid/late 1990s)

During the period known as the Golden Era, not just anyone could fight in these stadiums. You had to be a fighter of extraordinary quality. You needed prior experience (and A LOT of it). You needed a high fight IQ and sharp ring awareness/intelligence. You needed incredible reflexes. You needed precision, power, and ferocity, while balancing the more intense characteristics with gracefulness, timing, and control. You had to be among the best of the best to compete in these stadiums.

 

Prestige of (Thai) Boxing Stadiums

Packed to the brink with fans, gamblers, and Thai culture, both Lumpinee and Rajadamnern allowed the sport of Muay Thai to thrive during the Golden Era. At these events, you got to see skilled veterans on their way out of the sport school some of the up and coming contenders. You were able to witness legendary fighters being built fight after fight. Legacies expanded, fans entertained, and future fighters and champions inspired – lightning in a bottle.

 

Today, we have venues like Madison Square Garden (MSG) in New York and the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas where fights are commonly held. But when it comes to combat sports and Muay Thai, they don’t exactly compare. Stadiums built ONLY to hold hand-to-hand combat contests vs arenas that may hold a fight event one day, but then a music concert the next? This is why these stadiums were so special and why the country of Thailand took (and still takes) so much pride in the sport, to have these stadiums always at crowd-capacity.

 

A Way of Life – training daily, fighting young, escaping poverty

For many in Thailand, Muay Thai is not just a sport or a martial art – it is truly a way of life for the Thai people. Deeply ingrained in Thai culture and identity, fighting offers opportunity. 

 

Many families will send their children to a Muay Thai gym at a young age to start training. Here, the gym will “invest” in the child’s future and fighting career. The gym will provide food, water, shelter, mentorship, and training, in exchange for the child to represent the gym in the ring. As a sign of respect and appreciation, fighters will usually adopt the gym name as part of their fight name. 

 

Notable fighters that have done this include:

Saenchai Sor.Khamsing (of Kamsing Gym, owned/operated by Muay Thai legend Somrak/Somluck Kamsing)

Buakaw Banchamek (of Banchamek Gym)

Petchboonchu FA Group (of FA Group)

Yodsanklai Fairtex (of Fairtex Gym)

Sagat Petchyindee and Petchmorakot Petchyindee (of Petchyindee Academy)

Superlek Kiatmuu9 (of Kiatmuu9 Gym)

Tawanchai PK Saenchaimuaythaigym (of PK Saenchai)

Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Panpayak Jitmuangnon (of Jitmuangnon Gym)

 

If successful, the young child can help their family to escape poverty because in some cases, the winnings that they bring in from fighting could be as much or more than a regular job in Thailand. Early success in the ring can help to set them up for later success in life and in their fighting career.

 

This is why many Thai fighters start at a very young age. With some children starting their training as early as 5 (some even consider training past double digit ages to be late), there may be questions about why they start so early. So why do they start so early and isn’t this dangerous for them?

 

When it comes to training and fighting, there is ALWAYS a risk for everyone who participates. To them, the risk may be worth the potential reward. The reason that they start so young is to gain as much experience as possible. Gaining a large amount of experience as a youth is extremely valuable and can greatly benefit their career when they are fighting in their teens or as adults. This is why it is not uncommon to see an 18-20 year old fighter with over 100 or 200 fights on their record. 

 

Compared to professional mma fighters who fight once every few months (and this is considered active by mma standards), some Muay Thai fighters fight every week, every couple of weeks, or every couple of months. This build-up in quantity and quality of experience in training and fighting forges these fighters into battle hardened warriors from a young age.

 

It is worth noting that fighting regularly since childhood and training even more frequently (one training session lasts a few hours; professional fighters do multiple training sessions per day) has proven to be a double edged sword for many famous Thai fighters. While this allows them to collect a lot of experience, their bodies take a beating. Bruises, broken bones, lacerations (cuts), joint pain, muscle/ligament tears, soreness, and chronic pain are some of the many things that build up over the course of their time training. Unfortunately, a lot of Thais retire from fighting before their 30s and live with the previously mentioned conditions, due to the brutality and demands of the sport’s training/fighting combo. However…

 

Importance of Muay Thai

The early preparation is not without purpose. To achieve things like honor, glory, and a better life for themselves and their loved ones, winning is important. After spending their childhood and teenage years consistently training and fighting hard, they may have earned a great reputation and/or record. This will help them enter Thailand’s elite stadium circuit and fight at more prestigious arenas (like Lumpinee or Rajadamnern, as discussed earlier). Here, they can earn opportunities to fight for highly respected championship titles and for higher earnings.

 

Muay Thai is a prime example of how fighting can be an equalizer. Someone can come from any background (rich, poor, middle class), from any family setting (parents, siblings, neither, or a different combination), from any living situation (mansion, house, hut, or gym)... the circumstances leading up to the fight are all irrelevant when you step into the ring, across from your opponent. At that time, one thing matters and one thing only - fighting the best you can.

 

The external, uncontrollable factors don’t play as much of a role as do the ones that are in someone’s control: the hard work they put in, the effort they give, the hours of focus they devote to training. In this sense, the playing field is made equal and the degree of success one can reach may depend on the person (NOT their situation or any other outside factors). 

 

There have been numerous examples of Muay Thai fighters growing up in poverty, finding a passion for Muay Thai, then changing their lives for the better through fighting. Some high profile examples from the Golden Era include Samart Payakaroon, Sagat Petchyindee, Yodkhunpon Sittraiphum. More detailed articles on Nong-O Gaiyanghadao, Rodtang Jitmuanong, Superlek Kiatmuu9, and Panpayak Jitmuanong have been attached.

 

An early start in Muay Thai training, along with a goal to provide a better life for their families is a common combination in Thailand. It has produced many top-caliber Muay Thai fighters that rank on the all time greats lists. While the ability and opportunities to earn money has improved since the early days of Muay Thai, many in Thailand still struggle.



For the fighters, fighting is their main (or only) source of income and the best way for them to help their families out of poverty and improve their quality of living. So the more they fight, the more they can earn. This means they have to stay as healthy and injury-free as possible – something that has remained constant since the beginning of Muay Thai as a career because if you’re injured, you can’t fight. If you can’t fight, you can’t earn money.

 

How the Thais Train Muay Thai 

The extremely frequent fighting schedule heavily influences the way that the Thais train. They will consistently run, jump rope, bounce on tires, hit pads, do bagwork, clinch, and spar. However, it is the way that they do these things that differentiates them from other types of stand-up fighters. Their training routines are designed with the intent of fighting consistently, so they have to do their best to limit injuries in order to have the ability to fight at their best.

 

Intensity of Training may vary

When they run, they do light paced long runs and fast faced sprints. This covers some endurance work for both short-bursts (imitating exchanges during the fight) and longer-endurance/active recovery. Fighters may vary on the intensity that they hit pads and do bagwork at, but the intensity they do both with is usually high (80-100%) although they may bring it down if they want to focus more on proper technique and mechanics. 

 

Sparring / Clinching – Light / Flow

When it comes to clinching and sparring, the Thais are notorious for their playful, light sparring. They will connect with strikes, but it will be nowhere near full power as it would be in a fight. When they throw strikes, they throw them at a high speed. Right before they are about to land with forceful impact, they pull the strike at the last moment, so that no serious damage is done to their training partner (they have enough control over their body and discipline to be able to do so). 

 

Let’s compare this to the way most kickboxers spar (like Dutch kickboxing and Japanese kickboxing). Kickboxers spar like they fight: 90-100% in every strike they throw to legs, body, and head. Most of them do not fight as frequently as the Thais do, which may be why they spar this way. While the Thais spar comparatively lighter, they rack up experience in the ring from a young age. As an unofficial/unspoken way to even the playing field, kickboxers will endure many rounds of this powerful, fast paced sparring on a consistent basis.

 

General intensity range of a Muay Thai style of sparring

Strikes to the head - light

Strikes to the body - light/moderate/hard 

Strikes to the legs - light/moderate/hard 

Pace - slow/medium/fast

 

General intensity range of a Kickboxing (Dutch, Japanese) style of sparring

Strikes to the head - moderate/hard

Strikes to the body - moderate/hard

Strikes to the legs - moderate/hard

Pace - medium/fast

 

It’s unclear which method is better for longevity, since different factors like time in the sport and consistency/intensity varies between each fighter. Many fighters have done both types and decided which works best for them and their style of training/fighting (usually opting for a combination of both) 

 

Another aspect they include in their flow sparring is body manipulation. If they want to train strikes where it could be harder to pull them and still know if they land effectively, they may opt to connect with a closer (but safer) region of their body. For example, knees and elbows are the main strikes used in the clinch, due to the range being so close. However, these are some of the most dangerous weapons a Muay Thai fighter has, since the blunt force impact of the knee and elbow are the bones themselves. Unlike what gloves do with punches, impact from these strikes are not padded. They can easily break bones and open cuts for whoever is on the receiving end. In training, you don’t want to do this with your training partner and you don’t want it being done to you. So besides pulling their power, how do they manipulate their bodies to still train these strikes but lessen the impact?

 

They will throw knees to the body and elbows to the head, but instead of landing with the knee/upper shin and the point of the elbow bone, they may choose to land with the inner part of their thigh/quad and the meat (not bone) of their forearm, respectively. They could easily land with the harder parts, but choose to save their partner from unnecessary damage (broken ribs from knees, cuts from slicing elbows). Since they land with an area close to the actual part they intend to use in a fight, their technique won’t be much different when transferring from the gym to the ring and they still get to practice these tools for their fight. In the gym, they connect with a softer, lower-risk part of their body; in a fight, since the mechanics are similar up until the very last point of landing, they will land with the stronger points of their body.

 

Thais are also well-known for allowing their training partners to work. Sitjaopho is a gym known for their technical, light sparring (look up “Sitjaopho twins” for great examples of what light sparring looks like). Each person allows their partner to land strikes, while they focus on proper defensive techniques and effective counter strikes, throwing in the occasional rhythm disrupting strikes to force their partner to maintain alertness. Priorities of this type of flow sparring include (but are definitely not limited to) technique, timing, and precision for both offense and defense

 

Risk/Injury Mitigation

When it comes to injury prevention, this is one of the best risk-for-reward methods of improving, as there is a lower risk of injury when going light. The playful, light impact sparring session at a quick pace allows both people to condition both their endurance and their muscles to be able to absorb strikes without taking actual severe damage. 

 

The less the damage they take, the fresher they will be for the fight. The fresher their bodies are, the better they may be able to perform and the less obstacles (most notable ones being injuries) they will head into competition with. When you train multiple times a day, almost everyday, and fight every few weeks/months, this type of training can be crucial for longevity.

 

Another reason why the Thais have sparred this way (basically since the start of regular competition), was because they used to not be able to have (or afford) protective gear. Things that we take for granted today – gloves, shin guards, heavy bags, pads – were luxuries that fighters did not have back in the day. For equipment like bags, gyms would fill up sacks with sand, hang them, and fighters would train on those. They didn’t have the modern synthetic leather bags, neatly stuffed to the brink. Without protective gear, they were forced to spar light or risk injury. They couldn’t throw and block hard kicks, because they would be landing with their bare shin. No shin guard to protect their shin from impact and their training partner from the force of their kicks. They had to be extremely careful with their power and as a result, they soon mastered control of their balance, power, and precision. They adapted to the situation they were in and used what was available to them.

 

Effects of Technological/Industrial Advancements on Muay Thai

Thanks to industrialization and the modernization of the sport, protective measures have improved with time and better equipment is more readily available. While the sport’s equipment changed, the Thai style of training stayed fairly similar. They still hit pads, do bag work, and run sprints at a very high intensity. They still pull strikes during their light sparing and clinching sessions, while running long distances at a lighter intensity for longer durations. With the addition of better equipment, they will add in some harder sparring sessions because they can hit harder with less worries of dishing out strikes that will injure.

 

Modern Muay Thai fighters have also added more science-based strength and conditioning exercises (ex. deadlifts, plyometrics, etc) and conventional weight lifting exercises. While they use this to supplement their training, they still use the “old-school” S&C methods that were done when they didn’t have this type of training equipment: sport-based skill training like technical sparring, clinching, bagwork, and running. The training they did without some of the modern S&C equipment has proven to be effective and makes it great for those who may not have access to facilities with this equipment. After all, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

 

In the past, when the Thais didn’t have as many resources as other wealthier countries did (ex. Money to invest in sport science research, gear, etc), Thailand made up for it in other ways. For example, there are many more Muay Thai gyms, instructors, and training partners in Thailand (in both quality and quantity) than there are in other places like the Western countries.

 

Career Change: From Fighter to Coach 

The modernization of the sport has led to development in other areas for Muay Thai fighters. With more knowledge being readily available, fighters could adapt their training and fight styles, to be able to fight well into their 30s and even 40s. For those that didn’t want to or couldn’t keep fighting, they could follow the path that many former fighters took after they were finished.

 

Since most of the past fighters retired from competition at early ages (mid 20s), they no longer could provide for their loved ones through fighting. Once again, they adapted to the situation they were in. Muay Thai has been their life since they were little, so it is all most of them know. With a large number of young men no longer able to put their bodies through the rigorous demands that fighting required, gyms seized the opportunity and hired them to be coaches. 

 

This was a win for everyone! The fighters could be compensated and make a living off of all of the experience they’ve accumulated training and fighting, sharing them and teaching up-and-coming fighters; the younger generation got to learn tried-and-tested techniques and proven successful by their experiences; and gyms would improve their reputation by bringing in reputable fighters as coaches, which eventually led to success in the ring for their own fighters.

 

Closing Words

From one of the biggest peaks of Muay Thai from the 1980s to the mid/late 1990s (The Golden Era) up until today, Muay Thai continues to grow. Thanks to social media platforms like instagram and youtube, more and more people are discovering what the sport is, becoming interested, and taking the chance to learn it and experience something incredible.

 

The history of Muay Thai, its effect on the culture of Thailand, and the honor/pride that this martial arts discipline brings are all spectacular.



Thank you for reading - we hope this article was informative and helpful in spreading the history of Muay Thai!

 

Related to Muay Thai

If interested, we‘ve attached some related links:

Sanabul Muay Thai Collection

 

Learn Muay Thai from legends and stadium champions

Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu - website (https://8limbsus.com/), 

Muay Thai Library (Sylvie’s documentary project on patreon) 

Sylive’s youtube channel - 8limbsUs


0 Comments

There are no comments for this article. Be the first one to leave a message!

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published