Presently Thailand (Land Of The Free) formally Siam, Bangkok as the Capital. Occupying a central position on the South Eastern peninsula, Thailand is boardered by Burma on the West, Laos on the North East, Cambodia on the South East, the Gulf of Siam & Malaysia on the South.
The 16th Century saw the beginning of warfare with Burma. In 1568 the Burmese captured Ayutthayar & dominated the countryuntil 1585. After the death of Bayinnaung the Burmese King, Prince Naresuan, of Siam organised an army & drove the Burmese from Siam to gain independance. Prince Naresuan & the Crown Prince of Burma, who had known each other since childhood, finally engaged in combat on the backs of armoured war elephants to determine the independance of Siam. After a ferocious battle Pnice Naresuan cut the Crown Prince from shoulder to waist. The Burmese Army withdrew, giving independance to Siam. Later King Naresuan honoured the bravery of the Crown Prince by erecting a shrine at the site of the Battle.
During the reign of King Naresuan The Great (1590 - 1605) Muay Thai was part of Miitary training, the King himself was an expert on individual combat techniques & won several contests.
Muay Thai as a Sport, came into its own during the reign of Pra Chao Sua, the Tiger King (1703 - 1709). Every village staged its prize fights with young, old, rich & poor joining training camps. The Tiger King himself was highly skilled in boxing & wearing disguises he would entre boxing events & defeat local champions. Some of the strategies used today are attributed to the Tiger King style of boxing.
In 1930 Muay-Thai underwent a major transformation, A number of rules were introduced, these included Boxing Gloves, Groin Guards & Weight categories making it a much more humane sport. a few years previously, fighters wore hemp rope wrapped around their hands & these were sometimes dipped in glue & then rolled in fragments of glass.
An important part in Muay Thai is the pre-fight ritual dance, Ram-Muay a slow motion ballet like set of steps & movements, often ridiculed by foreigners ignorant of it's significance. It is accompanied by music & starts with the wai kru to the Teacher / Instructor. The boxer kneels in the ring facing the direction of his or her camp, home or birthplace. He or she covers their eyes with their gloves & says a short prayerwhilst bowing 3 times low until their gloves touch the canvas. Now the Ram-Muay Thai Dance follows. It is performed in many different ways, each Teacher / Instructor having his own for their School / Club.
During the Ram-Muay Thai, a fighter wears a Mongkon (Thai Cerimonial Headband). This is in fact the property of the Teacher / Instructor & is considered sacred. It must be removed before the contest begins.
You can often see a Thai-Boxer wearing a string or a piece of cloth around the biceps, this is called the kruang Ruang & may be worn throughout the fight. Some Kruang Ruangs sometimes contain protective charms, a small picture of a buddha, or a herb said to have magical properties.
Probably the most celebrated historical figure in Muay Thai was Nai Khanom Dtom. He was an exceptional athlete, agile, strong, & very courageous. During the conflict with Burma he was captured by the burmese troop & was later promised his freedom if he could defeat 12 of his captors as chosen by the King of Burma, this he did one by one & in turn was set free by the King. Thai-Boxers & Promoters on this day honour this great boxer by dedicating 1 fight night a year to him.
To the Thai's, Muay Thai is regarded as a prestigious national sport. Thai Boys / Men will in one way or another, intentionally or unintentionally, learn to box Thai Style! Even Thai Girls / Women will know enough of the basic principles & have the ability to use it for self-defence when necessary. Muay Thai, called Thai Boxing by foreigners, is Thailands National Sport & is now getting more popular in many countries.