How did Muay Thai Become as Popular as it is Today?

Martial arts have long been a part of our history – an opportunity for people to discipline themselves and learn some very impressive physical moves. However, the art of Muay Thai – essentially a form of Thai boxing – has become the go-to choice for people looking to take part in some form of martial arts. As the name suggests, Muay Thai originated in Thailand, and it brings together the art of the clinch with being able to strike with cleanliness and precision.

Photo: Jonathan Tomas/Unsplash

By using the ‘eight’ limbs – elbows, knees, limbs, and shins – to defend yourself, Muay Thai teaches you to be a complete fighter. Having been around since the 16th Century, though, the modern popularity of mixed martial arts (MMA) events has seen Muay Thai become a global fighting phenomenon.

The earliest discovery of Muay Thai hails back to the Siam Kingdom, and it was used as a form of fighting that promotes peace over violence. It was used as a way to hold off opponents, but the technical challenges involved meant that Muay Thai became a much-loved spectator event as well.

The quick history of Muay Thai

The combat sport itself was regularly held as a sporting contest across the country, and for many years it was a bare-knuckle fighting sport. During the 1860s, King Rama the Fifth declared the ‘golden age of boxing’ and used Muay Thai as a way of spreading the Thai ideals of love, peace, physical excellence, and self-defense.

Photo: Nick Wang/Unsplash

Indeed, it was common for Muay Thai fights to be held to try and impress the Thai King of that particular era. One King who loved Muay Thai was King Prachao Sua, and he loved to hold his Muay Thai events in smaller towns and villages. Dressing as a normal man, the King would face off against opponents.

Eventually, Muay Thai tournaments became commonplace as they were used to try and determine who should be able to serve as part of the Thani Lir – the Royal Court. Those higher up the social ladder in Thailand would regularly go and fight others from nearby nations like Burma and Cambodia, bringing their Muay Thai technique to the test against foreign opposition.

It was not until the end of the First World War, though, that Muay Thai began to become a sport and experience practiced by others. It rose to prominence as various Thai soldiers stationed in France and across Europe would compete with the local boxers. Those who can participate in Muay Thai are encouraged to become instructors themselves, passing on the power and discipline of this sport to others.

For over 500 years, then, Muay Thai has been a crucial part of Thai history. Even as it becomes a more globally recognized fighting style, long may it continue as a one-of-a-kind fighting discipline.