Muay Thai History

Muay Thai (มวยไทย) is known by many names, Thai Boxing being the most common. It is also known as The Art of Eight Limbs. Some people also refer to it as kickboxing, although this is incorrect.

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand. Developed over a thousand years ago, its roots are still largely unknown. This ancient yet practical system is without a doubt one of the most effective, basic and brutal of all stand-up fighting styles known today.

Muay Thai is a popular ring-sport, utilizing a four-sided, roped ring, similar to that used in western boxing. A typical Muay Thai fight lasts for 5 x 3 minute rounds, with a 2 minute rest break between rounds. Fighters are allowed to use any part of their legs or arms to strike each other and may grapple while standing, using a wide range of wrestling techniques and throws to over-power each other. This practice of upright wrestling is called Plam.

Head-butting, biting and striking to the groin are not allowed.

Today, Muay Thai techniques and training systems have been incorporated into many other styles and competitions, including the hugely popular Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Pride and K1.

Muay Thai first came to universal recognition in the late 70’s and early 80’s, with the explosion in popularity of martial arts movies in the western world. Movies like “Kickboxer” starring Jean Claude Van Damme, inaccurate though they were, brought international recognition to the sport. More recently, “Ong Bak” starring Thai action star Tony Jaa, has sparked even more curiosity about this amazing fighting art.

Originally used by the armies of the kingdom of what was called Siam, now Thailand, as a form of un-armed battlefield combat, Muay Thai has constantly changed and adapted over hundreds of years into the form we see today. Its history is the history of Thailand.

When the Burmese army sacked and razed Ayuddhaya (then capitol of Siam) to the ground, the archives of Thai history were lost. With them, much of the early history of Muay Thai also disappeared.

The little we do know comes from the writings of the Burmese, Cambodian, early European visitors and the few surviving chronicles of the Lanna Kingdom in Chiangmai.

What all sources agree on is that Muay Thai began as a close combat battlefield fighting style. It was developed as a way of training the local farmers and peasants in a very short space of time so that they could defend their homes and their kingdom from invaders.