The exact origins of Muay Thai are a mystery as some of the first recordings of this martial art in Thailand’s history date back over 600 years but historians believe that in order for it to be established it needed to be gradually developed. Some believe it to be from 700 to 1000 years old but others believe it to be older than that.
The martial art of Muay Thai is usually associated with the Sukhothai period from 1800 to 1920 of Thailand when the Sukhothai kingdom engaged in many wars with neighboring kingdoms the weapons of choice for these wars were swords and spears but due to the amount of close-quarters combat required in battle, the soldiers were trained in Muay Thai at a very young age to be able to fight even without weapons or use kicks and throws to destroy their opponent’s balance and kill them with their weapon.
Traditionally Muay Thai became known as the art of 8 limbs because of the use of hands, knees, elbows, and kicks, and it was taught as a way of self-defense or as a means to settle disputes between people.
Traditionally the hands were wrapped in rope to make the punches more powerful and in some cases the ropes were covered in ground up glass to make it even more violent. For this very reason Muay Thai was often misunderstood and demonized by other countries who considered it to be extremely violent and savage.
But after a few years the rope and the glass was changed for boxing gloves and Muay Thai became Thailand’s national sport. It became a way of life for many people from all walks of life to gain money and fortune and to this day the sport of Muay Thai is Thailand’s most practiced and loved sports.
But even with these new changes and regulations Muay Thai was still very strange and odd to most western countries due to the fact that Muay Thai is surrounded with tradition and spirituality.
There are 2 main reasons why Muay Thai is so effective and the first reason is that it incorporates almost the entire body to deliver devastating strikes that can seriously damage an opponent like punches, elbow strikes, knee strikes, and kicks but what most people don’t know is that Muay Thai also includes some grappling. It includes throws, sweeps, and strikes from the clinch, otherwise known as dirty boxing.
The second reason why it is so effective is that the practice of Muay Thai is not measured by forms, breaking boards or belt systems, the skill of a Thai boxer can only be tested through fighting either in sparring sessions or in a fight against a trained opponent and the continual practice of battle testing the techniques allows the Thai boxer to effectively apply what he has learned while under pressure.
Muay Thai training used to include things that ranged from the strange to the esoteric like kicking banana trees, dropping coconuts on their partners from two stories up, splashing water in their eyes to avoid blinking and pulling weights using their teeth. Today the training has been modernized and some of those methods have been abandoned but the training is still very intense.
Muay Thai fighters have a very strict and hard strength and conditioning program that for many professional fighters is a full-time experience. Many fighters live in the gym, they sleep in a large dorm room they wake up in the morning go for a run, eat breakfast and train for one or two hours then they rest for an hour they eat lunch and train again for two hours every day. So they are in training all of the time and they are focused on Muay Thai all day and every day.
Because of the brutal training and the violence of the sport, many fighters who start young usually retire at ages 19 or 20 but some continue to be involved with the sport as coaches, judges, promoters or referees.
Some Muay Thai fighters are capable of incredible feats of strength like kicking down banana trees or kicking through baseball bats with nothing but their bare legs. They spend a lot of time conditioning their shins in order to not feel pain whenever they kick someone or something with their shin bone.
How does it fair against other martial arts?
When we compare Muay Thai to other martial arts most people will find a distinct advantage by learning the art of 8 limbs that by learning most styles of fighting because Muay Thai is one of the most complete forms of combat that uses all parts of the body to control, subdue and to incapacitate any opponent.
It does require a lot of speed, strength and athleticism to be very effective at this martial art but then again so do most martial arts.
While other martial arts focus only on kicking or punching, Muay Thai incorporates a variety of strikes and techniques while using 8 points of contact rather than the regular 4.
What are those 8 points of contact?
The right hand or the right punch, the left hand or the left punch, the right elbow, the left elbow, the right knee, the left knee, the right leg or the right kick and the left leg or the left kick. Coupled with that is the system that is known as the Thai clinch or the Thai Plum which consists of trapping your opponent’s head and sometimes his or her arms to control, strike or take them down.
And by using all of these points of contact as well as understanding the principles of how to manage distance and leverage correct technique to cause the most damage possible to their opponent Muay Thai becomes a very powerful tool in self defense.
Is Muay Thai good for self-defense?
Martial arts for self-defense are always a very divisive topic, while some people argue that absolutely any martial art can be used for self-defense others argue that only certain specific martial arts are worth training to defend yourself, and even other groups say that self-defense systems like Israel’s Krav Maga are the best way to go. We are not here to confirm or disprove these positions we hare only here to talk about the effectiveness of Muay Thai in a self defense situation.
Muay Thay is not only great for self-defense it is one of the best martial arts you could possibly train for the purpose of protecting yourself because of 3 mayor factors:
1. Distance management:
Managing correct distance is the most important part of any form of self-defense because when you understand your safe distances you can protect yourself and cause as much damage as possible to your opponent. Things like the Muay Thai clinch are especially good for this because if you understand how to close the distance and fight from the clinch your opponent will have a very hard time hitting you when you can hit them with punches, elbows and knees any time you want.
2. Battle testing:
We already talked about this briefly but it as a point that is important to establish well. While other martial arts may measure the effectiveness of said martial art through things like forms, overall knowledge, or a belt system Muay Thai practitioners measure their skill by proving it in battle against trained opponents either in a sparring session or in an actual fight. This causes the practitioner to know what it is like to have someone with bad intent try to hurt you and so if they were to encounter that in their daily life they would not be stressed or afraid. Because they have been there before and they know how to take care of the situation effectively under pressure.
3. Strength and conditioning:
While most Thai boxers are not physically imposing people filled with muscles or of great stature their intense training causes them to be very athletic and strong and their strikes all the more powerful. Most people believe that a very tall imposing and muscular person will always be able to win a fight but that’s not true, it is the person who has prepared in terms of strength, cardio and being able to take a punch and also punch others that will always win the fight.
And that takes a very specific kind of training known to boxers, MMA fighters, wrestlers and Muay Thai fighters.
In the end, Muay Thai is one of the most powerful and effective martial arts known to mankind because of its flexibility, intensity, and even it’s beauty in sport.
For a lot of people, Muay Thai is more than just a sport or a martial art, it is an absolute way of life and it is a very noble one filled with learning opportunities, personal development, growth, success, defeat and a very good friends that will be with you for life.
If you’re thinking about training Muay Thai I can honestly say that it is one of the best experiences you can ever engage in, it is a practice of growth, self-discipline, honor, respect and it will teach you so much about yourself and others you will never be able to look at the world the same. You will also gain more confidence and respect for others if you allow yourself to empty your cup and learn all that Muay Thai has to give you.
A great fighter to check out the beauty of the sport is Saenchai
Make sure to check out our shop for our current promotions and services.