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An introduction to Muay Thai


Posted November 23, 2012 by

Muay Thai or Thai boxing can be a brutal sport but one you will come to love. It is personally my favourite sport.

The word Muay derives from the Sanskrit Mavya which means “to bind together” Muay Thai is referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science of Eight Limbs” because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”, as opposed to “two points” (fists) in boxing and “four points” (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, such as kickboxing

This my friends, is the wonderful world of Muay Thai, with furious punches, bone crushing elbows, lethal and piercing kicks, and the unforgettable knees! I’m smiling from ear to ear whilst writing this.

There are no belts in Muay Thai, no ranking systems, or pretty little certificates, it is about learning to fight and you prove your worth in the ring.

Muay Thai is a martial art that is unlike any other, rich in the proud heritage of an entire nation. The style is interwoven into the well known history of the Thai people and even though they are gentle and fun loving people, they’ve had to defend both themselves and their land for many years against aggressive powers. To protect what they had, the Thai people developed a fighting system of close combat techniques that were suited to the type of rough terrain they would be fighting in. Over the years, it eventually became a rite of passage for all Thai men to train in this amazing martial art.

muay_thai_oldIn the beginning, Muay Thai proved to be a dangerous and deadly art, with the fighters having no safety gear or protection – Originally bare fists were the only option until lengths of cord were used, which they would wrap their fists with as gloves. As the years progressed, thankfully, rules were written into the equation to establish some protection for the fighters.

Thailand’s first boxing ring was built in 1921 at Suan Kularp. Referees were introduced and rounds were now timed. Fighters at the Lumpinee Kickboxing Stadium began wearing modern gloves during training and in matches against foreigners. Rope-binding was still used in fights between Thais but after the occurrence of a death in the ring, it was decided that fighters should wear gloves and cotton coverlets over the feet and ankles.

Over the years, Muay Thai has progressed as both a martial art and a style, attracting people from all over the world and now is one of the most popular sports in the world. If you want to get fit, simply join a Thai boxing club. I have seen 20+ stone Men, lose 1 stone per month every month until down to a reasonable fighting weight. The transformations are amazing.
Normally, Thai bouts are fought with 5 three minute rounds, with a two minute rest period in between the rounds. Rules can change depending on experience, country or level.

All fights are preceded by a dance, which gives the contestants the opportunity to pay homage to their teachers. The dance, known as ‘Wai Khru Ram Muay’, is an excellent exercise to warm up with, with plenty of symbolic meaning towards the style. Wai is an action of Thais to show respect to others by putting the hands together like in prayer. Khru means teacher. Ram means dance in the old Thai traditional style. Muay means boxing. Usually Thais prefer to call it Ram Muay or Wai Khru for short. Ram Muay is the way to show respect to the teachers and the trainers. Also, in the past Muay Thai was usually fought in front of the King, so Ram Muay was also to apologize to the King for the brutality in fighting.

So, what is the Thai head dress you see fighters wearI hear you ask? The Mongkol or Mongkon is a traditional sacred headband worn by the fighters and has been a part of the combat sport since it’s beginnings. Traditionally a trainer will give it the student once he feels that he/she has become an experienced fighter and has learnt the culture behind certain Muay Thai traditions.

Traditionally the Muay Thai headband is woven together by rope, thread and silk materials then taken for worship by the Thai Angel Dhewada. If the fighter has Buddhist beliefs then the headdress is traditionally taken to a Buddhist monk who would bless the Mongkon for luck. mongkon

The Mongkon is a symbol of your gym, trainers and family. You wear the headband when you enter the ring to show that when you fight its not all about you, it’s about your gym, your coach, and your family.

The Mongkon must never fall on, be close to or held near the ground as it would lose its magic. The student is never allowed to touch or handle the Mongkon, only his Kru (teacher) may handle it. He will take care of the Mongkon and will present and remove the band to the student when he competes inside the ring.
During training, Thai fighters will learn a lot about their spiritual well being, the history of Muay Thai, and the skills they need to survive. Fighters that plan to compete in Thai fights will need to practice a lot, as the fights are very demanding. Thai training can be very brutal, all depending on where you study. If you are studying the ancient arts of Thai boxing, you can count on the training to be very rigorous and demanding.

Although Muay Thai can be a tough art to practice, it is one of the best martial arts that you can study. The techniques are lethal, the training is tough, but the friendships you will make and the confidence you will gain certainly make it all worth while.

My advice is to find your local Muay Thai boxing club today and start your journey.


James is a NASM personal trainer living in Derby who loves to use his martial arts experience to help people to get fit, strong and achieve their goals. Based in the Midlands James started boxing as a child, moved on to Thai boxing during his teens and now in his (early) 30's loves to mix it all up with MMA. His ambition is to build his own cob house in the mountains where he can train, climb and generally just mess about.


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