Mu Tye? My Tie? Who Thai!?
The correct pronunciation is closer to moi (moy) Thai (as in Thai-land) Although you will hear many men 'down the pub' calling it by various names. Different to kickboxing, Muay Thai or Thai boxing is often referred to as the "art of eight limbs,' involving each point of the body acting as a weapon of war. The hands act as a sword or striking tool, the forearms and shins specifically hardened for defense, the elbows, razor sharp and ready to bring a quick, solid end, followed by the knees, as damage causing as a hammer. The whole body works as one unit, constantly searching for a chance to spin the opponent out of a clinch and land the fatal blow. Many people percieve Muay Thai as simply the standing element of MMA-Mixed Martial Arts, however the journey to get there is much more exciting.
Ancient Thai Warriors
The 'Sukhothai' Era
In order to fully understand the beginning of this ancient sport, we have to transport back to early thailand, well before any types of weaponry we see today, and hundreds of years before soft padded gloves and special "thai-boxing' shorts. No the 13th century was a very different time to live in and a very different form of fighting was prominent.
It was a time of massive unheaval for the Thai peoples. The capitol (Siam) was under constant threat from neighbouring tribes, and so the need for an army was great. The Siamese army began as a form of protection of the government and the peoples. Young men became soldiers and were instructed in hand-to-hand combat with weapons, as well as how to use the entire body as a weapon, this training eventually became the Muay Thai we see today.
The best known fighter of this early time was Nai Khanom Dtom, after being captured by the Burmese, this fighter won his freedom by fighting 12 of the kings best gladiators in unarmed combat, witnessed by the Burmese king and many of the peoples. The king respected his tenacity as a brilliant fighter and let him return home as a free man.
Unfortunately this was not the end of the wars, and so learning the 'Military Arts' (Muay Thai) became engrained in the culture of the siamese peoples (early Thais). Before long, under constant threats of war, fight training camps began to spring up everywhere, many young men joining to learn to fight for defense, and well as excercise and discipline, even many buddhist monks would instruct in the art form, passing down the skills and knowledge to each generation.
In this early era of warfare, even the high-class and royalty considered combat an essential skill and were often extremely good at it, as will be seen in the next article. It was believed that good warriors made brave leaders that could prepare and protect them best as future rulers of the kingdom.