An Introduction to Muay Thai
Muay Thai is the national sport for the country of Thailand. To many Thais kickboxing is more than a sport it is a massive staple of their culture. A big part of that culture is the legends and mystique that surround Muay Thai, and its fighters.
Legend says that Thai boxing is two thousand years old. Scholars still are still debating on the beginnings of Muay Thai. The earliest physical evidence found dates Muay Thai being in existence in the Ayuthata era which is approximately four hundred years ago.
Thailand is not the wealthiest of countries when it comes to financial terms. Wealth distribution is also not the best. These economic factors coupled with the mystique and legends that surround the country's top fighters is why it is not uncommon to see children as young as five years old competing in stadiums.
These kids will live at the training camp, quitting school so that their focus can be solely on fighting. Winning is life changing to most of the kids in these camps. What they earn from a single fight could be an entire month's salary for their impoverished family.
Fighters have to keep winning in order to maintain their spot at the stable where they train. The stable or camp is more like a regional sports team than a martial arts affiliation. These stables are concerned with one thing, winning! Winning brings money and prestige, both pay dividends.
When you fight for your next meal, or your family’s sole income from the age of 5. We can see why Thai fighters become the most dedicated and feared strikers in any organization.
As aforementioned Thai boxing is rich with culture and legends. Legends about the “Old Ways” of bare knuckle boxing with hemp cord wrapped hands. Dipped in water and let dry to make it hard as a rock.
Although there is not much sign of bare knuckles Thai boxing anymore, there are still plenty of the old ways and traditions before every match. Preceding every fight a fighter will visit each corner of the ring doing what is called a “Wai Khru”. They are claiming the ring as their own.
Next The fighter will do a dance like movement referred to as “Ram Muay”, it symbolizes respect to their opponent and their camp.
The fighters will then remove their ceremonial headpiece (Mongkong) and Arm bands (Prajiad).
The only thing left to do is fight! Muay Thai rules allow for Punch’s , Elbows, Knees and Kicks. Earning it the name “Art of eight limbs” or “Art of eight weapons'' depending on who you ask.
Muay Thai’s culture is unique to most western viewers. MMA, Western Boxing, even Karate start fast and hard. In the western part of the world, people love seeing a first round knockout. This is the exact opposite of Thai boxing.
In Thai Boxing the fighters use the first round to feel out their opponent but to also make a strong visual statement for the gambling. Yes, you read that right. Thai fighters do not go for the kill right away because gambling on the fight is legal and the betting lines change after the first round.
It is also not uncommon, or the winning Thai fighter will be tipped or gifted money for a good performance by the gamblers. What the fighters want amongst all the cheers and screams in these stadiums that litter the landscape is to get another matchup quickly. The more fights, the more money.
The fight’s themselves are brutal. Blood is almost always drawn. Elbows and knees slice skin like knives through paper. This sport is not for the faint of heart, or the squeamish.
Despite the damage fighters have long careers. It Is not uncommon for fighters to have several hundred pro fights. Few other impact sports share this characteristic. The reason for the longevity is due to the “Thai Clinch”. The clinch allows fighters to grapple for positions to land strikes. Due to the closer distance which eliminates big punches and kicks to the head. Though if a fighter is not careful or gets lazy with clinch work a knee or elbow to the head can end your day.
Seanchai or Suphanchai Saenpong is a multiple time world Muay thai champion, or more importantly a Lumpinee stadium champion. In Thailand Lumpinee stadium is considered Mecca. It is the most prestigious stadium of them all and if you are the Lumpinee champion. You are “THE” Champion. His pro record is astounding. 345-41-0.
This is some advanced stuff from the legend himself. Maintaining inside control, and using a shin on the hip to prevent another knee. Then using the shin like a ladder climbs his taller opponent and throws a 12-6 elbow to the top of the head!
If you are interested in Muay Thai, there are thousands of fights on social media for you to watch. If you need some search materials check out Saenchai , Manachai, Liam Harrison and for a classic Raymond Dekker.
Be Careful as Muay Thai is a rabbit hole, and has one of two outcomes, you will like it, or you will LOVE IT!
Now that you have a hefty intro to Muay Thai learn from one of the best to EVER do it, Saenchai!!! Check it out today!