“Muay Thai”, another name “Thai Boxing” is a Martial Art form and a Combat Sport that was originated in Thailand, which is also the present national sports and cultural martial art form there. Muay Thai uses the whole body as a weapon. Also known as “The Art Of 8 Limbs”, as both fists, knees, elbows & shins are used combined in this sport.
It was developed several thousand years ago as a form of close combat. Today the exact origin of Muay Thai is in debate among modern scholars, as much of the Muay Thai history got lost when the Burmese ransacked Ayutthaya, Siam’s capital city in Thailand, during the 14th century.
Most of the written Muay Thai history was lost when the Burmese looted the depositories of knowledge like the temples of Ayutthya in the past, the left volumes that are saved are now the national treasures that are preserved as documentations in Thailand for Thai culture and heritage.
The history of muay Thai can be traced at least to the 16th century Siam kingdom as a peace-time martial art practiced by the soldiers of King Naresuan. An exhibition of Muay Thai was observed and reported by Simon de la Loubere, a French diplomat who was sent by King Louis XIV to the Kingdom of Siam in 1687, in his famous work “Du Royaume de Siam” (1688). During battles between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and the Ayutthaya Kingdom Burmese-Siamese war (1765–1767) 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(Rama V) 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 (‘ancient boxing’) by awarding (in 1910) three muen to victors at the funeral fights for his son (in 1909). The region style: Lopburi, Korat, and Chaiya.
1913: British boxing was introduced into the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College. The first descriptive use of the term “muay Thai”.
1919: British boxing and muay taught as one sport in the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College. Judo was also offered.
1921: First permanent ring in Siam at Suan Kulap College. Used for both muay and British boxing.
1923: Suan Sanuk Stadium. First international style three-rope ring with red and blue padded corners, near Lumpinee Park. Muay and British boxing.
1925–1935: 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 a 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.
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. As of 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 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 Muay Thai Council, the oldest and largest professional sanctioning organization 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 via the merger of two existing organizations, and established in Bangkok becoming the federation governing international muay Thai. As of August 2012, it had over 70 member countries. Its president is elected at the World Muay Thai Congress.
In 2006, muay Thai got included in GAISF 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(IWGA) and will be represented in the official program of The World Games 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland.
In January 2015, muay Thai was granted the patronage of the Federation of International Sports University(FISU) and from 16 to 23 March 2015 the first University World Muaythai Cup was held in Bangkok.
As of 2021, there are approximately 4,000 Thai boxing gyms overseas.