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How Did Muay Thai Come To Be? A Short History

Last Updated: 16.05.22



Muay Thai is a type of sport that has numerous fans and practitioners at the current moment. All aficionados of this type of boxing probably have already purchased quality Muay Thai gloves, as this piece of equipment is considered a must, as well as Muay Thai shin guards for extra protection, especially when training.

Because Muay Thai is so incredibly popular, in this short article, we have decided to give a summary of its history.


When was it invented?

Among scholars, the origins of Muay Thai is still a topic of debate because most documents that attested the history of this type of boxing were lost in the 14th century when the capital of Thailand was sacked by the Burmese army.

Yet, one piece of info that is still known is that the sport was conceived as a way of using the human body to mimic the weapons of the war. Because of this, the sport was known as “The Art of Eight Limbs” as each part of the fighter’s body was said to imitate a type of weapon.

Therefore, the hands of the practitioner act as a sword, or as a dagger, while the forearms and the shins were trained to act as an armor that shielded the boxer from blows. The knees and legs were regarded as the ax.

The development of the sport is linked to the fact that the Siamese were, at first, a small tribe that had to fight to survive as they moved from the steppes of China through countries such as Vietnam, Burma, Laos, and Cambodia. So, they had to fight other tribes in order to survive.

Even more so, later on, in ancient Thailand, no weapons were allowed inside the Royal Palace. Because of this, the king would only employ Muay Thai practitioners in his personal guard.

One interesting tradition that has survived throughout the centuries is the Wai Kroo. This is a dance that fighters carried out before the actual battle. The purpose of the Wai Kroo was to show respect to the spirits, the sport, the teacher, and the country.


Form of art

Today, Muay Thai is considered by numerous people in Thailand a part of their identity, and as a form of art that accurately depicts the Thai culture. This type of boxing evolved form being a form of self-protection into an actual sport. The art of Muay Thai has survived through the centuries because it was passed down from one generation to another.

Although not all practitioners consider it an art form, this type of boxing is now widely popular around the globe. The sport has garnered international exposure starting with WWII when Thai soldiers were stationed overseas.

At first, Muay Thai was known as Siam Boxing because Thailand was known as Siam until 1948. Another popular name of the sport was given by the French who called it “Le Sport Orient”.

Because the other soldiers were impressed with Muay Thai, they asked Thai soldiers to teach it to them. Once the sport became more and more popular, its rules changed and it became more similar to other similar sports such as boxing.

In the 1920s, modern Muay Thai was created. Now, open courtyards were replaced with rings and the traditional leather bindings that Thai practitioners used were replaced with special gloves.

According to the experts, another reason why the popularity of Muay Thai grew was because of movies such as Kickboxer and Ong Bak that introduced the sport to the world. Numerous Muay Thai competitions started being held in various countries.

The sport today

Because in the last 20 to 30 years this form of boxing has gained mass appeal, Muay Thai is now one of the fastest growing sports out there. Its allure comes from its beauty and effectiveness. Now, there are numerous competitions where the best boxers from Thailand and from all around the world come to compete.

Most of the fights are streamed live and they can be watched by those interested. The best fighters are considered those from the under 145 lbs. category. These fighters are very skilled as most of them come from Thailand, and Thais are petite in size. Foreigners are generally better fighters in the heavier weight categories.

A newer form of Muay Thai that follows different rules and that promotes violence over artfulness has also been introduced. In this version of the sport a match takes up to three rounds of fighting and clinching is not allowed as much.

Although the fighters that compete in this new form of the sport are not necessarily considered the best, they are quite popular because of the exposure that they are given. This happens because most of the fights are broadcasted on TV.

How Thais perceive the sport

In Thailand, Muay Thai was always considered a barbaric sport that was only popular among the poor population. As a result, only farmers, villagers, and drivers were normally interested in it.

What is more, it is crucial to say that gambling is illegal in Thailand. However, Muay Thai is the only sport that allows legalized gambling. As a direct consequence, this form of boxing draws the attention of numerous gamblers in the country. Many consider that the richer gamblers actually control the decisions that are made in some of the biggest stadiums.

Because of the popularity of the sport, and because it attracts people who gamble and waste lots of money easily, Thai fighters are constantly under heavy scrutiny.

One advantage of Muay Thai is that it attracts numerous tourists to the country. Apart from those that come to watch the fights, there are also many neophyte fighters who go to Thailand to train as there are a lot of camps that were specially created for foreigners who want to perfect their fighting techniques. This sport is very lucrative for Thailand as it has been transformed into an industry.




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