Muay Thai Kickboxing is sometimes known as “The Martial Art of Eight Limbs”. This is because a Muay Thai practitioner uses eight points of contact of the body mimicking weapons of war in ancient time. That is why Muay Thai is considered as the warrior’s martial art.
Not only the Muay Thai Kickboxing practioner must not only be the epitome of physical fitness, his limbs are trained to maim and kill.
The Muay Thai practitioner’s hands thus become his sword and dagger, his shins and forearms act as protective shields against enemy’s blows, the elbow is used to fall opponents like a heavy sledgehammer and his knees and legs become the axe and staff.
The knees and elbows are constantly searching and testing for an opening gaps in the adversary’s defence while grappling and trying to throw his enemy to the ground for the final fatal kill. Some even called Muay Thai the art of nine body parts, where in this case, the head is also used as a weapon.
Muay Thai is also known as Thai Boxing or Thai Kickboxing because the martial art is made very popular in Thailand and is the country’s national sport.
Unlike many forms of martial arts, Muay Thai was not founded by a single master, but was by the evolution of generations of the Thai people and Muay Thai warriors. Ancient wars and conflict between the countries, kingdoms and ethnic races in South East Asia gradually brought about the development of this devastating form of martial art.There are basically four styles of Muay Thai named after the regions they originated from, namely Ta-sao, Koraj, Lob-buree, and Chaiya. The Koraj style is what we see in boxing rings in Thailand today. There are also smaller groups of enthusiasts who practice their local styles various parts of Thailand.The earliest written record about Muay Thai was thought to be kept by a Burmese who mentioned about a prisoner of war who was a Muay Thai master. This master defeated ten Burmese fighters all at once in 1770 March 17 which is the date that the Thais today commemorate Muay Thai Day annually.
There are also many archeological artifacts to support the origin and history of this fighting art form, such as stone carvings found on the walls of old Buddhist temples.
Muay Thai of different styles and origins are still being practiced in the traditional way with all the Muay Thai techniques intact. For example, full Muay Thai is not only a fighting style as we see in the ring these days, but the style also include grappling, throwing, and ground fighting. Remnants of such moves are the grappling for inside knee attack, twisting and throwing in conjunction with inside knee attacks.
It is often said in Thailand that in the battle field, a good soldier has to be able to kill an enemy within seven moves exchanged between him and his enemy. If he could not do that, then he is a dead soldier. Young Thai men would also learn Muay Thai from their village kru or Muay Thai master. These young men hoped they would be able to display their fighting skills before the selecting judges or even to their much revered kings someday, so that they could be selected for military service along with prestige and honor the career bestow.
Records of fist fighting competitions in the villages date back to at least 800 years. Later, the art of hand wrap was developed to protect the boxer’s hands. The open fingers allowed him to grab, lock and throw his opponent onto the ground. This style of hand wrap was used until 1922, when a kickboxer from Burma was killed. After that Western boxing gloves were introduced for safety reasons.
Before the introduction of western style boxing gloves, every Muay Thai fighter had to be educated in herbal medicine. They had to know what type and what part of certain herbal medicinal plants were to be boiled, chewed, or to extract juice from to apply to the body. This is done to help the fighters toughen up their skin, to stop bleeding fast and to cure injuries sustained in battles.
There is a myth that existed to this day that the hand wrap of the fighters of the past were soaked in warm starchy water so that when dried later, the hand wrap would be as hard as plaster cast to inflict heavy injuries on their opponents. Another myth was that grounded glass would be applied on to the wet hand wrap to give the fists a razor like effect to cut open opponents in order to make them bleed profusely.
In a competition, Muay Thai fighters perform a pre-fight ceremony and ritual which look like a slow dance incorporating Muay Thai moves. The pre-fight ceremony is an old tradition for a noble warrior to pay homage to his king, his faith in Buddhism, his parents and his teachers.
Before the contest, both boxers would kneel down facing the throne where the king was seated or in the direction of the royal palace. The fighters would then perform the first part of the ritual called the Ta Wai Bung Kom, paying homage to the king. Then he would turn around and perform the Wai kru to the other 3 directions, each of which symbolized the religion, parents and teachers. The reflection of this belief is the Mongkol, tied around the fighter’s head, and Pra-jied around the boxer’s arms.
The Ram muay is the second set of ritual that a fighter would perform and each clan or school has its own movement rituals. It was said that if both fighters performed the same movement of Wai-kru and Ram-muay, they would abandon the contest since they came from the same school or teacher, making them brothers.
The headband Mongkol as well as the Pra-jied are sacred objects usually hand made by the teacher and blessed by a holy man. Once placed upon his head, the boxer would not allow anything else to go over his head. This is why we see Muay Thai kickboxers entering into the ring by climbing over the top rope and not in between. These days, the Mongkol is removed before the fight, but in days of old, it must be worn throughout the bout.
During the ceremony and even during the fight, traditional music is played to give the fighters rhythm and timing, as well as heighten the atmosphere of the ceremony and excitement of the fight. The music for the pre fight ceremony is different from the music when the bout begins as the fight music has a more strident tempo to keep up the excitement.
Now that you know what Muay Thai Kickboxing is all about, you may want to learn this sport as a means of self defence and physical fitness as the training is very gruelling.
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