Thailand’s Art of Eight Limbs
Muay Thai or Thai boxing is a form of martial arts and one of the most passionately followed sports in Thailand. Major fights are broadcast on TV five nights per week and results from the major stadiums are published daily. Thailand has produced dozens of international boxing champions who all started as young boys in a small local gym learning muay Thai.
As an action-packed competitive sport, muay Thai is also known as the “art of eight limbs” because it makes use of eight points of contact: hands for solid punches, elbows for sharp blows, knees for powerful strikes and legs for lethal kicks. Other forms of boxing use only fists for two points of contact.
The culture of muay Thai has a long history going back to King Naresuan the Great during the 16th century. This famous warrior king, in defending the Thai kingdom against the invading Burmese, used muay Thai in military training for close combat using the whole body as a weapon. Nai Khanom Tom, an expert warrior in this style of combat was taken captive by the Burmese after the Thai capital fell. He was able to win his freedom from the Burmese king by defeating ten Burmese fighters in a row. He returned to Siam a hero and his fighting style came to be known as muay Thai.
During the golden age of Thailand in the late 1800’s, muay Thai progressed rapidly as a direct result of King Chulalongkorn’s personal interest in the sport. Where previously Thai boxing had been combat training or a dangerous sport lacking any safeguards, the modern version is now governed by international regulations. Training facilities have spread to countries all over the world and muay Thai has become very popular with both genders, regardless of age, as a martial art anyone can learn to improve stamina and mental discipline.
The biggest and most famous muay Thai stadiums are Rajadamnern and Lumpinee in Bangkok, both of which are filled with a large number of tourists each night. Tickets are often sold out in advance for big events. Your travelers may have heard about Thai boxing or watched it on TV. However, nothing compares to seeing the furious fighting skills of muay Thai executed in a large stadium roaring with cheers and loud, pulsating music. This is muay Thai: historical tradition, martial art, homegrown sport and pride of a nation.
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Photo by Tuff boxing.