About Muay Thai
Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as Thai boxing, is a martial art and combat sport that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. This discipline is known as the “art of eight limbs”, as it is characterised by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees and shins. Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the late 20th to 21st century, when Westernised practitioners from Thailand began competing in kickboxing and mixed-rules matches as well as matches under muay Thai rules around the world. The professional league is governed by The Professional Boxing Association of Thailand, sanctioned by The Sports Authority of Thailand.
Muay Thai is related to other martial art styles such as musti-yuddha, muay Chaiya, muay boran, muay Lao, lethwei, pradal serey and tomoi. Muay Thai developed from the traditional muay boran. A practitioner of muay Thai is known as a nak muay. Western practitioners in Thailand are sometimes called nak muay farang, meaning “foreign boxer”.
The history of muay Thai can be traced at least to the 16th century as a peace-time martial art practised by the soldiers of King Naresuan. An exhibition of muay Thai was observed and reported by Simon de la Loubère, a French diplomat who was sent by King Louis XIV to the Kingdom of Siam in 1687, in his famous work and the Ayutthaya Kingdom Burmese–Siamese War Muay boran, and therefore muay Thai, was originally called by more generic names such as toi muay or simply muay. As well as being a practical fighting technique for use in actual warfare, muay became a sport in which the opponents fought in front of spectators who went to watch for entertainment. These muay contests gradually became an integral part of local festivals and celebrations, especially those held at temples. Eventually, the previously bare-fisted fighters started wearing lengths of hemp rope around their hands and forearms. This type of match was called muay khat chueak.
The ascension of King Chulalongkorn to the throne in 1868 ushered in a golden age not only for muay but for the whole country of Thailand. Muay progressed greatly during the reign of Rama V as a direct result of the king’s personal interest in the sport. The country was at peace and muay functioned as a means of physical exercise, self-defense, attacking, recreation and personal advancement.
The modern era
1909-1910: King Chulalongkorn formalized muay boran by awarding three muen to victors at the funeral fights for his son. The region style: Lopburi, Korat and Chaiya.
King Rama VII pushed for codified rules for muay and they were put into place. Thailand’s first boxing ring was built in 1921 at Suan Kulap. Referees were introduced and rounds were now timed by kick. Fighters at the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium began wearing modern gloves, as well as hard groin protectors, during training and in boxing matches against foreigners. Traditional rope-binding made the hands a hardened, dangerous striking tool. The use of knots in the rope over the knuckles made the strikes more abrasive and damaging for the opponent while protecting the hands of the fighter. This rope-binding was still used in fights between Thais but after a death in the ring, it was decided that fighters should wear gloves and cotton coverlets over the feet and ankles. It was also around this time that the term “muay Thai” became commonly used, while the older form of the style came to be known as “muay boran”, which is now performed primarily as an exhibition art form.
Muay Thai was at the height of its popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. Top fighters commanded purses of up to 200,000 baht and the stadia where gambling was legal drew big gates and big advertising revenues. In 2016, a payout to a superstar fighter was about 100,000 baht per fight but can range as high as 540,000 baht for a bout.
In 1993, the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur, or IFMA was inaugurated. It became the governing body of amateur muay Thai consisting of 128 member countries worldwide and is recognized by the Olympic Council of Asia.
In 1995, the World Muaythai Council, the oldest and largest professional sanctioning organisations of muay Thai, was established by the Thai government and sanctioned by the Sports Authority of Thailand.
In 1995, the World Muay Thai Federation was founded by the merger of two existing organisations, and established in Bangkok, becoming the federation governing international muay Thai. In August 2012, it had over 70 member countries. Its president is elected at the World Muay Thai Congress.
In 2006, muay Thai was included in SportAccord with IFMA. One of the requirements of SportAccord was that no sport can have a name of a country in its name. As a result, an amendment was made in the IFMA constitution to change the name of the sport from “muay Thai” to “muaythai” —written as one word in accordance with Olympic requirements.
In 2014, muay Thai was included in the International World Games Association and was represented in the official programme of The World Games 2017 in Wrocław, Poland.
In January 2015, muay Thai was granted the patronage of the International University Sports Federation and, from 16 to 23 March 2015, the first University World Muaythai Cup was held in Bangkok.
In 2020, there are more than 3,800 Thai boxing gyms overseas.
Today, the Isan region in the northeast famously produces a lot of muay Thai boxers. Many of the boxers from Srisaket, Buriram and Surin are of ethnic Kuy, Lao and Khmer descent. Most people in the northeast area of the Khorat Plateau share traditions of religion, culture and linguistic with the Lao people that live on the other side of the Mekong River. The Lao-speaking people of this area call themselves “Khon Isan” and make up the majority of the population. The Kuy and Khmer who live in the southern part of the northeast region have traditions and speak languages more similar to those in Cambodia than the Lao or Thai.
According to IFMA rules and regulations, Muaythai is a martial art of using every part of the body limbs therefore making every strike including punch, kick, knee and elbow are allowed.
Generally, for a strike to count towards the point score, it has to hit without being blocked or guarded against by the opponent. Strikes also do not score if they hit the opponent’s glove, forearm, foot, or shin. Strikes to the groin are against the rules and if found to be intentional are counted as fouls.
If both Muaythai fighters have the same score at the end of the round, the winner is determined by which fighter has the more powerful strike.
Timeline of International Federation of Muaythai Associations from founding to International Olympic Committee recognition:
1992 – Νational Federation of Muaythai Associations was founded.
1995 – Ιnternational Amateur Muay Thai Federation was founded.
2012 – Official request for International Olympic Committee recognition launched.
2016 – First endorsement received.
2017 – Muaythai is included in the World Games.
2021 – On June 10, the IOC Board of Directors agreed on the full endorsement of IFMA at the 138th IOC General Assembly in Tokyo.
2021 – On July 20, the IOC General Assembly granted full recognition to the International Federation of Muaythai Associations and Muaythai.