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What is Muaythai boxing

     The definition of boxing is an exchange of blows. It is a form of combat practiced by people everywhere by children and adults, male and female. It is a trial of strength using various parts of the body-or even its entire frame-as weapons in the struggle. The combatants may bite, kick, punch, grasp, headbutt: all these are considered oart of Thai boxing. It is all fighting with the weapons with which human beings are naturally endowed.

     Thai boxing has been a national sport since ancient times, and has been an essential part of the Thai culture since time immemorial. When the term "Thai Boxing" was mentioned, our ancestors knew(as we even ourseleves know when it is mentioned now) what is meant, what the essence of Thai boxing and its techniques is...

     Thai boxing is a maritial art and a method of self defense, with rules different from those of international boxing. In thai boxing, no part of the body remains inactive. Physical strength as well as willpower and intellect are among the necessary qualities every boxer must possess. All boxers must also be agile in single combat, and without the use of weapons must be able to fight with ferocity.

     In former times, Thai boxer had to fight without the use of modern equipment available today. Boxers in those days used to bind their hands with raw cotton threads loosely woven into a chain-mail-type configuration knotted at the fingertips in a whorl(like a seashell). Then, to give the bound hand a hard and abrasive surface, it was dipped in glue and sprinkled with finely-ground glass or grit. The use of glue and glass gradually stopped, but the cotton bindings continued to be in use long after the glue and glass method was dispensed with. They were used, in fact, until 1929, when a switch was made to the type of glove worn in international boxing. However, Thai boxers did not abandon their traditional form of boxing, namely, that making use of feet and elbows in a fight. Whenever a quarrel arose, the contenders would still only use their bodily strengthe in combat, without having recourse to weapons.

     Therefore, it is fitting that this art should be preserved as a weapon to be passed to the young by mothers and fathers from generation to generation, a weapon to be kept at the ready wherever one may travel.

The origins of Thai boxing.
      If one asks how Thai boxing was born, how it developed and who created the art, the correct answer would have to refer back to prehistory, when the human race was still primitive, and necessity and nature pressured humans to fight each other.

     To fight for survival, for father, mother, wife and clan. To fight with canes and clubs as weapons, extending finally to the use of mouths, feet and hands to bite and strike, because it is in the nature of humans and animals to attack and defend themselves regardsless of whether the enemy is human or animal. From the deep-seated feeling for the necessity of self-protection at all times, natural weapons came to be developed as offensive and definsive tools.

     This is the beginning of the Story of how humans started making use of their feet, knees, elbows and fists. It is a known fact that humans are basically inclined to live in communities rather than live as individuals apart, because human beings need each other and the support of their families and of one another against outside dangers. In a group, it is normal for one person to assume leadershipi. The head of the group must be a kind of top man who is skilled and possesses qualities superior to those of the rest of the band. In short, a person of superior strength capable of overcoming the enemy.

     Aleader with these qualities generally will instill loyalty, fear and respect in his people without pressuring them because of the same natural principle that causes a young child to follow a bigger one. Weaker persons usually trust and obey those who are stronger. In those early times physical strength was usually considered superior to mental prowess. Leadership respect among such early people was all the stronger when, once it had been gained, the leader tended to advise them to a behave well, to learn how to earn a living to build their own homes and live in harmony with each other. Above all, the leader of the group teaches his people the methods of self protection from invaders. This teaching included the use of feet, fists, knees, elbows and pushing tribesmen had any questions, the chieftain had to be able to answer adroitly so as to instill trust, fear and respect for his unfailing skill.

     In time, skill and cunning in the art of fighting grew in importance and the whole tribe became more and more adept at it. They were then able to draw other tribes to merge with them. As the number of members grew, the tribe became a larger community, and resourceful leaders were able to bring prosperity to these growing settlements by using all known methods until they were able to make arrows, spears and javelins. When societies became more advanced they discovered methods of forging various metals into weapons such as knives, various, types of battle cutlery, lances, swords, shields, etc., and developed the skill of using weapons in battle.

     As the population grew, a community leader was chosen, who was appointed to the position of what we now call "king". The person chosen as king had to possess in great measure the qualities of physical strength, will power, and skill in the martial arts and tactics of self-defense. He also had to have the ability to amass and unify a population and train it in his methods of combat, both those using weapons and boxing.

     In the days when Thailand was in the process of forming and gathering strength, wars were perpetually being waged with neighboring countries. It could almose be said that the Thai national profession at the time was to prepare for conflict.

     Attacks and invasions took place all the time. Combat methods differed from those used today primarily in that the weapons used were short-range ones: spears, javelins, large, curved-bladed pikes called "khaw-ngao" ,and even short wooden clubs, all which, it should be remembered, could only be used in hand-to-had combat. Thus the earliest weapons, including natural weapons such as the fist, elbow and foot came into use in fighting enemies, and the systematized use of these natural weapons came to be called "Classical Thai Boxing" .

     Thai boxing is a weapon that is always at the ready. It is the ancestor of all other types of weapons, and is superior to them all. Any combatant who doesn't know how to use such natural weapons, even though he is skilled in the use of external and artifical weapons, will be at a disadvantage to the fighter who can use both. Phrayaa Phichai of the Broken Sword, otherwise known and Thongdii Fankhao, is and example to such a warrior. When still a child he loved to practice boxing and was always running away from his parents to train and improve himself in the art. Later, After he had risen to the estate of brave and triumphan fighter under the reign of King Taksin, he was the commander in the chief of the army who led the common people in bravely resisting the enemy without giving thought to the possibility of his own death. For love of his country he pushed firecely forward in battle until his sword broke. Throwing it down he continued the fight with his fists, knees and elbows. Because of his knowledge of Thai boxing, he came out of the battle alive and victorious.

     Thai boxing has been studied regualrly by Thai soldiers since early times. Whether in times of war, when it was neccessary to confront enemies, or in peaceful times, when emphasis was placed on proparation, self-defense techniques have always been of great importance to military leaders and to the monarchy. This is because, down through the ages, fighting wars has often come down to hand-to-hand combat in wich weapons and methods of combat change rapidly and unexpectedly until a winner and a loser emerge.

     Thai boxing is an art loved by Thai people in every stratum of society, including the nobility and royalty, who were not satisfied merely to watch but enjoyed participating in the sport. In the historical chronivles of the Ayudhya Period, is described the reign of phara Chao Suua, or "Lord of the Tigers". He would be so keen on Thai boxing that he would often disguise himseld in order to partipate in matches lowering himself to fight with commoners in order to preserve the tradition-a remarkable act considering the intense reverence with which Thais regard their monarch, and the usually uncrossable barrier this put in the way of their physical interaction.

      At the time of the fall of the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthyain 1767, when the city was destabilized and heading for destruction because its rulers were weak, the invading Burmese troups rounded up a group of Thai residents and took them as prisoners. Among them were held by the Burmese potentate Suki Phra Nai Kong of Kai Pho Sam Ton at the city of Ungwa.

     In 1774, in Burmese city of Rangoon, the Lord Mangra, king of the Burmese, decided to organize a seven-day, seven-night celebration in honor of the pagoda where the Buddha's relics are preserved. He ordered a royal presentation of a Thai boxing match between Thai and Burmese fighters. For the celebration, he also arranged for several folk-type spectacles such as the costume plays called likay, comedies and farces, and sword-fighting matches. The boxing ring was set up in front of the throne.

     During the first day of the celebration, a high-ranking Burmese nobleman led a Thai boxer to pay his respects to the Burmese king. Lord Mangra then agreed to allow a Burmese boxer to pit his strength against that of the Thai boxer. A referee led the Thai boxer into the ring and introduced his as Nai Khanom Tom, a famous fighter from Ayuthya, and viewers saw a robust, dogged dark-skinned captive. Among the group of Burmese spectators was a group of Thai captives who view with each other in cheering him.

     As soon as he was matched with a fighter, Knanom Tom began dancing aroung his opponent,will amazed and perplexed the Burmese spectators. The ref then announced that the dance was a Thai tradition(wai khruu), through which the boxer paid his respond to his mentor.

     When the signal for the match was given, Nai Knanomtom rushed forward, elbowing and pummelling opponent in the chest until the latter collapsed. The referee however, judged that the knockout was not be consider a victory for the Thai boxer, since his Burmese opponent had been distracted by the wai khruu dance, so Nai Khanom Tom had to confront nine other Burmese boxing. This decision prompted the other Thai boxer to voluntary to fight together with Nai Knanom Tom to avenge him.

     Nai Khanom Tom agreed to fight against the other Burmese boxers to upload the reputation of Thai boxing. His last opponent was in fact a boxing teacher from Kai city who was on a visit to enjoy the festivities. Then he volunteered to fight, but was soon so mangled by Nai Khanom Tom's kicks that no one dared to challenge him further.

     However, Lord Mangra was so enthralled with Thai boxing that he summoned Nai Khanom Tom to reward him, asking which he would prefer, money or beauteous wives. Without hesitation, Nai Knanom Tom said he would take the wives, because money was easier to find. So Lord Mangra awarded him two Burmese girl from the Mon tribe. In time, Nai Khanom Tom took his love wives to Thailand, where he lived with them until the ond of his life.

     He is considered the first Thai boxer to have imprinted the art of Thai boxing with dignity and who gave it such a reputation beyon Thailand's borders that the episode remain engraved in the history of Burma until this day.

      Thus the reputation of Thai boxinwas born.

     There is no other boxing
     Like that of the Thais:
     Fists, knees, feet and elbows
     Are all used.
     And the boxer, no matter how small is size
     Can't be beaten.
     All nine of the Burmese Mons
     Were defeated by Thai boxing.
     The name of Nai Khanom Tom
     Resound with fame.
     Although he is dead His name lives on.
     We, who were born in latter days
     Still know him
     He brought honor to our nation
     And we all admire him

     Now we come to Chulasakaraj, the Thai minor era, with began in 1788 A.A., the seventh year of the reign of King Rama I. This was the first time two French boxers, who were brothers, travelled by river to several provincial cities to challenge local boxers for prizes of money. They did not experience a single defeat. When they arrived at Rattanakosin (Bangkok), they asked an interpreter to act as intermediary to a high-ranking nobleman, with a request to pit and bet for a purse against Thai boxers in the capital. The nobleman presented the request to King Rama I, who issued a royal command to discuss the matter with the King's younger brother. The plea was as follows:

     "Since the foreigners have made a collenge, it would be considered an insult if we did not come up with Thai boxers to compete against them. It would be said that to Thais in all the capital could fight. Our reputation would suffer. The dishonor would spread abroad. I beg you to find That boxer skillful enough to inflict a resounding defeat"

     King Rama I accepted his brother the prince's advice, and asked the nobleman to tell the Frenchmen that a match would be arranged with a purse of 4,000 bath, a very large amount in those days.

     The prince fouund a boxer anmed Muen Phalaan, who was associated with a section of the Ministry of Defense which oversaw the art of wrestling at the time. This man was a teacher who had knowledge of both That boxing and wrestling. He was a powerful athlete whose skill at boxing was unsurpassed. The prince then ordered the construction of a pavillion near the western theater of Temple of the Emerald Buddha. On the appointed day the Thai boxer won easily, greatly shaming the two French brothers.

     Thai boxing is a sport which is enjoyed by all classes of society, even extending to the country's monarchs, who have always favored it King Rama V was an avid fan who frequently watched matches. He especially enjoyed bouts between top boxers from each province who competed for championships. The king was so supportive of boxing and the martial arts that during his reign the best boxers of each province were often given names directly by him. These included Phrachai Chokechokchana, a Bangkok boxing teacher; Muen Sangad Cheung Chok, a boxing teacher form the provincial city of Korat; Muen Muay Maen Mad, from Lopburi Province;Muen Muay Mii Chue, from Chaya Province; and others.

     Thai boxers of that period were graceful in their carriage and impressive in their demeanor. Some had the grace of the King of Beasts closing in on his prey, and were equally agille in defensive moves; others were great jumpers capable of boosting themselves with a foot on the waistband of an opponent's boxing shorts and delivering a stunning kick to the head; still others could box in a crouching position and get away quickly. This was importantly, as if such a boxer were not careful, he could get a skull-shattering kick in the head. If he was boxing in an upright position, he could strike from the position called "Hanuman offer the ring," punching upward to the jaw. Then there were boxer who feigned a fall to trick the opponent into coming close to deliver a coup de grace with his feet. But any boxer who fell for the suse would become the victim of an exclusive secret maneuvre that would instantly lay him low.

      In 1921, during the reign of King Rama VI, the king arranged for a great boxing tournament the the Sanaam Suan Kulaab(Rose Garden Field). This great event was to be a kind of restoration of art to its former splendor,the greatest tournament in the history of Thai boxing, with top-ranking boxers from different provinces going to Bangkok to participate. Besides the Thai boxers, there were to be Chinese, Indian and Burmese fighters coming to match their skills against the Thais. A huge crowd of spectators gathered, including many foreigners. Proceeds from ticket sales were used to purchase weapons for the country's defense.

     Europeans have been interested in Thai boxing for at least 60 years. During the First World War, Thailand sent troops to fight with its allies, and Thai boxing became known in the world to the extent that a sports publication called "Le sport orient," published in Mainx, wrote gaspingly that

      "Thai boxing is astounding but hard to get to see. The boxer are agile, strong and tough. This sport is not just a thrilling, strange and extraordinary from of entertainment. Once again, it makes the French feel that Siam is one of the truly powerful nations of Asia"

     The study of Thai boxing was widespread among Thai soldiers in the past because guns were not widely distributed as they are now, and most had to rely on their swords. Most fighting therefore took the form of close combat, and Thai soldiers studies kicking to give them an adventage over their opponents. Thai boxing was studied for two reasons: to provide an effective offensive in close combat, and to be used in self-defense, Thus, during this period, Thai boxing was studied as a complement to fencing and swordfighting.

     Thai boxing began to be a truly organized and orderly sport when a boxing ring was built in the football field of Suan Kulaab. The floor of the ring was made from wooden planks. Mats were made of rushes and placed on top of the boards. Time was measured in minutes, and there was a referee.

     By now, Thai boxing is known all over the world. Foreigners are always stunned when they fist encounter the art. Thai boxing loses its advantage when the boxer is forbidden the use of knees and elbows in fighting karate matches, as was in case in the USA or March 12, 1977, but the Thai boxer was still able to win a easy victory. On Tuesday, September 6,1977 at Lumpini Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Two Thai boxers used the methods of Thai boxing against karate fighters, and the latter were completely annihilated.

     In the future, if Thai boxers do not become careless, if they do not destroy and betray the art of Thai boxing but try to pass on the art of Thai boxing as it has come down to use through many generations, no combat art from any country or culture in the would will be comparable to it.