Nai Khanom Tom
In 1767 the Burmese under King Mangra captured the Siamese capital of Ayutthaya and many prisoners were taken back to Burma. Among them was a well-known Muay Boran fighter called Nai Khanom Tom. In 1774 King Mangra held a 7 day festival in Rangoon in honor of the Buddha’s relics. He was intrigued to know how the Thai style of Muay Boran would match up against the Burmese boxing style of Lethwei. Nai Khanom Tom was selected to fight the Burmese champion. Before the fight Nai performed a ritualistic and mysterious dance around his opponent. Later he explained that it was performed to honor his teachers, ancestors, his opponent and the country for which he fought. The dance is now called Wai Kru and is an integral part of the sport we now know as Muaythai.
It is said that after his Wai Kru that Nai advanced on his opponent with such a ferocious combination of punches, elbow and knee strikes and kicks that the Burmese champion was defeated. However the referee declared the fight invalid as the Wai Kru had so distracted the champion. King Mangra invited Nai to take on more fighters to prove himself. It is said that he took on fighter after fighter defeating them all until finally he was challenged by a renowned Burmese kickboxing teacher from Rakhine. Nai defeated him and no others would challenge him.
King Mangra was so impressed by his skill and courage that he granted Nai his freedom. He also offered a reward. He had to choose between money or 2 beautiful Burmese wives. Nai chose the wives and returned to Siam a hero.
Nai Khanom Tom is revered as the Father of Muay and is remembered every year on Boxer’s or National Muay Boran day – March 17.
King Chulalongkorn (Rama V)
In 1868 King Chulalongkorn acceded to the throne and Muay spread dramatically throughout the kingdom due to his personal interest in the sport. He promote it for physical exercise, as a useful skill for both self-defense and attack, as a recreation and as a path towards personal advancement. From this time Master Teachers would watch over their trainees at boxing camps.