Muay Thai & Muay Boran History

/Muay Thai & Muay Boran History
Muay Thai & Muay Boran History2017-03-27T23:22:57+00:00

Muay Boran

Muay Thai History

Muaythai boxing as we know it today has evolved over many centuries. It has its origins in the hand to hand combat style used by the Tai (Siamese) tribe that migrated South from China. It became more recognized as a martial art in the mid-16th Century during the reign of King Naresuan. It became an integral part of military training from that time to the present day. This style of hand to hand combat is centered on the ability of warriors to move through crowds of opponents using blows, kicks and strikes to debilitate or kill at speed whilst not exposing themselves to attack. As such Muaythai combines attack and defense moves in a seamless and integrated technique.

Because of the wars between Siam and Burma the Northern part of Thailand and the Lanna people were constantly in the firing line. Muay Boran and later Muay Thai boxing is an integral part of the history and culture of the Northern Thai or Lanna people. They have their own style known as Muay Pra Nakorn which is renowned for the speed of the hands and feet.

Muay Boran

During the 17th Century this style of fighting became popular away from the battlefield and was practiced more as a sport. The fighters (Nak Muay) would bind their hands and forearms with hemp ropes (Muay Khat Cheauk) adding to the power of the fist. The style was known as Muay Boran and more generic names like Toi Muay or just Muay. Muay Boran became an integral part of local festivals especially those held in temples.

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.

Nai Khanom Tom

Muaythai Today

Nowadays the sport is practiced worldwide and strictly regulated and divided into classes for weights. Referees must be qualified and be assessed each year to maintain their licenses. Boxers must have a medical card and a check-up before and after each fight. There must be a qualified doctor at all fights.

Important landmarks
1921 The 1st permanent ring was set up at Suan Kulap College – Bangkok
1923 The first international boxing style ring with 3 ropes and red and blue padded corners was established at the Suan Sanuk stadium near Lumpinee park
1925 – 1935 King Rama VII oversaw the introduction of codes and rules which were put in place to govern the sport. Trained referees were introduced and Muay saw the introduction of boxing gloves and groin protection. In many places the practice of boxing with hemp bindings to the hands and forearms persisted. After a death in the ring it was decided that gloves must be worn and the term Muay Thai was first introduced to distinguish it from Muay Boran which largely became an exhibition art form.

Both forms are to be found at Old Chiangmai with professional fights being staged on specific dates whilst the Muay Boran exhibition can be witnessed every day.

1993 The International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur (IFMA) was established. This is the governing body for amateur Muay Thai with 128 member countries.
1995 The World Muay Thai Council was set up by the Royal Thai Government and the Sports Authority of Thailand.
2006 Muay Thai was included in the SportAccord. It is a requirement of SportAccord that no sport can include the name of a country. An amendment was made to the IFMA constitution changing the name of the sport from Muay Thai to Muaythai in accordance with Olympic requirements.
2014 Muaythai was officially recognized and included in the International World Games Association (IWGA). It will be included in The World Games in Wroclaw, Poland for the first time in 2017.

The following Video is an old documentary. Thailand has developed a great deal since the days when it was made and nowadays conditions for Thai Boxers has improved substantially. Nevertheless this documentary provides a fascinating insight into the history of Muay Thai.