With techniques including kicks, punches and the extensive use of knees and elbows, Muay Thai is often referred to as the science of 8 limbs. It is an effective and brutal martial art originally from Thailand. Muay Thai distinguishes itself from western kickboxing and other standup martial arts by 3 things: the clinch, the Thai low kick and the Thai roundhouse.
The clinch includes some stand up grappling, where the fighter tries to control the opponent’s head and use knees and elbows in this close range to inflict damage. The Thai low kick involves kicking the opponent’s outer thigh with the upper part of the shin. To perform the Thai roundhouse kick, the entire body rotates from the hip and the leg is straight and”locked” just as it makes contact with the opponent. Other standup martial arts, have the tendency to utilize “snappy” kicks, which are faster but less powerful or menacing. It has been said that getting hit with a Thai kick is analogous to being hit by a baseball bat.
Muay Thai or Thai boxing, in its most commonly seen sports form, is a full contact ring fighting often called the “science of eight limbs (hands, elbows, feet, knees).” Thai Boxing can be seen throughout Thailand in hundreds of stadiums and is now gathering popularity throughout the world. Thai Boxers are considered the kings of the ring due to their incredible ring record. The Thai international full contact competitors win over 80% of the time and most of those who do defeat the Thais do it with methods similar to Thai boxing. Currently, Thai Boxing is gaining popularity in many countries due to its simple, yet extremely effective approach to training and combat.
Thai Boxing is believed to have started in 1650 when King Naresuen of Siam was captured by the Burmese and offered freedom if he could defeat the Burmese champions. He successfully defeated 12 of the finest Burmese boxers to become a national hero, and instilled the pride of the Thai people making Thai Boxing a national pastime. However, because of Burmese book burning in 1776 the actual origins may be dated back even further. In its modern form, Thai Boxing is practiced by over 300, 000 men, women, and children.
Thai Boxing is an adaptation of the Thai military arts. In peacetime the weapons of the battlefield were laid down and the soldiers would fight empty handed to keep their edge. At that time there were few rules, no rounds, and no weight classes. In this time period boxers fought barefooted, their fists and forearms were wrapped in hemp rope and combat was extremely brutal. Training methods were varied. Banana trees were kicked, kneed, and elbowed, softening the tree until it could be wrapped on the trainer’s arms for kicking. This is where the unique creation of the Thai pad got its start.
Thai Boxing also has much of its roots in Buddhism. People who see Thai Boxing for the first time often wonder about the pre-fight ritual that takes place before every authentic Thai fight. This ceremony called the Ram Muay is a spiritual ceremony which seals off the ring from outside influences, pays homage to gods, parents, teachers, loved ones, king and country. A great deal of significance is placed on the Ram Muay since it displays the spirit and heart of the fighter. Both the Ram Muay and the fight itself are accompanied by music from a four piece ensemble. The pace of fight is often dictated by the music played on the side of the ring.
Because the Thais quickly adapt to anything which may give them an edge, Thai Boxing has evolved towards greater efficiency for centuries. Most recently they have adapted various Western Boxing techniques, training methods and strategies to their already formidable tools. In the past 50 years Thai Boxing has enjoyed even greater popularity. Modern western style gloves, weight classes, three minute rounds have been adopted. Because of the rigorous nature of its testing ground and directness of its techniques, Thai Boxing and Thai Boxers are some of the most highly respected Martial Artists throughout the world.
Muay Thai is known for its rigorous and extreme conditioning. Class begins with an intense warm up which include jumping rope, shadow boxing and other bodyweight exercises. Pad work and drilling with a partner follows to develop power, timing and speed. The basic offensive techniques that are drilled use punches and kicks in the free range and knees and elbows inthe clinch. Classes end with some more conditioning, bag work and a cool-down. Sparring is reserved for the more advanced levels under a supervised instructor.
Thai shorts, t-shirt, hand wraps, gloves. If sparring is involved additional equipment such as a mouthguard, shin pads and headgear are recommended.