Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, is a traditional martial art which originated from Thailand. Practitioners of Muay Thai use their fists, elbows, knees and feet to compete into the race of the strongest. As with other martial arts, it is also a school of life, where the individual not only learn to control his body, but also his mind. It has become the national sport of Thailand and numerous competitions are organized in every major cities of the country.
Historically, the first occurrences of Thai boxing can be traced to the 1550s, but it was not until the 18th century that the sports had reached its peak, under the reign of King Pra Chao Sua, nicknamed the Tiger King, who was an avid combatant and sportsman, used to disguise himself to participate into Muay Thai competitions that were organized in the Kingdom of Siam. During his reign, the country was at peace with other nations, so he instructed the army to practice Muay Thai to keep them busy and ready should a war arises in the future.
Fast forward to 1921, the martial art was banned as it was considered to dangerous and, in some instances, deadly. In the mid 1930s, a reform of the rules was adopted so that it becomes safer and follows the rules of the Marquis of Queensberry, a set of rules that were drafted in 1865 to promote the noble art of boxing. Since then, practitioners have to wear gloves and learned how not to use headbutts, which used to be accepted.
Thai boxing is a large industry in Thailand, which provides a living to an estimate 200,000 people from boxers to venue organizers and traders. While gambling is illegal in Thailand, placing a bet on your favorite fighter is legal and accepted, though the codes and signs to communicate your intention may be difficult to grasp for the neophytes.
The number of “nak muay”, or Thai boxers, is estimated to be around 100,000 in the Kingdom, and more than a hundred fights take place every week across the country.
A traditional fight lasts five rounds of three minutes, or until one of the boxers is KO or TKO. Preceding the fight, the combatants will observe a ritual dance, known as “ram muay”, which serves as a show of respect toward the sport, the adversary and the public and showcases the specific technique of the school you have been training with.
There are several stadium in Phuket where you can see some Muay Thai fights, such as the Patong Stadium or the Suwit Stadium in Chalong. While watching a fight may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is truly a unique experience and the fact that you can have the opportunity to witness a competition in the birth place of the sport makes it even more special.
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