Popularized by King Nareusan of Thailand or Siam as it was known in 1560AD, Muay Thai was primarily used for military training. In those times, battles were fought using swords, bows and arrows and soldiers also engaged in hand to hand combat using their arms, elbows and legs. Captured by the Burmese in one of the wars with Siam, Nareusan, known for his ability as a fighter was given the option to fight his way out to freedom. On his return to Siam after waylaying some of Burma’s best fighter, he was hailed as a hero and the sport got national recognition.
Later for two centuries and during the time of King Tiger, Muay Thai was a very popular sport in Siam that was played by all sections of the population. Till the early part of the last century, horsehide strips were used for protection and if both the fighters agreed, glass shreds were used inside the help. For the safety of the contestants, the practice was discontinued fifty years ago and has never been used since.
Known as kickboxing among foreigners, Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport and every boy in the country plays the sport some time or the other. Even girls are conversant with some of the techniques of kickboxing as they learn it for self defense. Popularity of Muay Thai spread to other nations including Japan where it is played as a martial art under a different name.
Records are not clear when Thai boxing originated but it is presumed it was brought over by Tai migrants from China. It is thought to be the need for self defense that made the Tai tribes use this style of boxing against the Siamese who used to attack them. Ever since their arrival from China, the Tais had to fight all the while for their survival. Later they managed to settle in the ‘Gold Promontory’ but not before fighting many battles for survival and loosing countless lives.
With traditional weapons like bows, arrows and swords appearing redundant in hand to hand combat, the Tais showed how successfully elbows, fists and legs could be used in combat. Soon it became so successful that it was a real popular form used in subsequent battles that the Siamese fought with other nations and came to be known as Muay Thai.
It took a while before the Thais settled down and built a city of their own and later acquired territory what is now known as Thailand that this combat sport was co opted by the soldiers to defend the country. Even though they used traditional weapons in battle, soldiers had to learn the art of Muay Thai and the need for trainers or teachers, or Kru Muay as the Thais refer to them. New techniques of attack and defense were developed by them which they passed down to students who learnt diligently as being adept in the sport was a primary qualification for enlistment in the army. So that is why, muay thai boxing is pretty much popular among them.
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