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
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
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
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
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
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
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.