In the field of sports, Thailand is most known for its Muay Thai. This form of martial arts is also referred to as kickboxing owing to the use of fists, elbows, knees and feet. It requires both physical and mental discipline in order to master the sport.
This Thai martial arts gained popularity in the 16th century but it was only in the 20th century when it spread to the different parts of the globe as more Thais achieved success in the sport.
Originally, Muay Thai was a fighting technique used in the real battlefield scenario. It later became a sport when contests were held featuring two fighters in a match with people watching them.
By 1868 during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) who was very interested in the sport, Muay became a form of exercise, self-defense strategy, recreation. His period was considered the golden age for Muay Thai as boxing camps and Muay Thai gyms were set up and talent scouts recruited boxers from across the country. The bouts then were held in any space with the right size such as in a village clearing or in a courtyard.
Did you know that the sport was even part of the school curriculum until the 1920s? It was withdrawn only when many students suffered injuries. But that did not stop people from pursuing the sport as many continued to do so in the gyms and fitness clubs.
It was, however, during the start of King Rama VII’s reign in 1921 when rules were put into place and the first boxing ring was built in Thailand. Training camps started to grow and boxers were given military titles.
Thailand’s military has used the techniques of Muay Thai for centuries. Its soldiers used Muay Thai particularly in close combat fighting. It was considered the martial art of the battlefield.
Use of Protective Gear
In its early days, Muay Thai Thailand fighters used strips of horse hair to cover their hands and forearms. Apart from serving as protection, the purpose of the horse hair was to inflict more damage to the opponent.
Eventually, the material was changed to hemp ropes or starched cotton strips. In some instances, ground glass was glued on the cotton strips but only when agreed upon by both fighters.
Groin guards were also used. They were then made from sea shells or from the bark of the tree and were tied between the legs and around the waist using a piece of cloth.
The groin protector later evolved into a pillow type in the shape of a triangle, normally in red and blue, and tied around the waist with a strap between the legs.
Muay Thai’s Popularity
Throughout its history until the present time, Muay Thai has always attracted spectators whether watching live in Thailand or elsewhere in other countries. On local television, the fight broadcasts are also among the most popular sports programs with numerous viewers.
Today, this Thai martial arts continues to thrive in other parts of the world such as in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan.
This post was written by Jesse who studies as a Muay Thai coach at Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Gym in Bangkok.
Image via mmaoceanside