Muay Thai is a martial art which combines several traditional fighting techniques with modern boxing techniques. It is based on traditional martial practices which origins date back to several centuries. According to the documents that recount its evolution, Muay Thai has played an important role in the development of the Siamese (Thai) army.
Muay Thai: a legacy from Siamese warrior princes
Legend has it that in the early 15th century, two princes named Ki and Fang had wanted to seize power after the passing of their father, the King Sen Muang Ma. Each prince therefore rallied millions of soldiers in an attempt to beat their other brother. However, no army managed to win the battle. In order to settle the fight, they decided to organize a duel, in which each army would present their best fighter. Prince Ki’s champion eventually won the fight, enabling him to ascend to the throne of the Kingdom of Siam (as Thailand was formerly known). According to the tale, the winning soldier had used techniques from Muay Boran in order to defeat his opponent. These techniques were then picked up and adopted by other Siamese warriors, thus giving rise to Muay Thai !
Muay Thai and military training
From the 16th Century onwards, thai boxing was not only taught to soldiers, but also to certain sovereigns. At the end of the 17th century, the King Naresuan the Great, who was a seasoned Muay Thai enthusiast, made it compulsory to incorporate this martial art into the trainings of the Siamese army. During the second half of the 19th century, the King Chulalongkorn decided to take Muay Thai outside of military barracks through the organisation of competitions throughout the country. Fights, which were often violent, opposed fighters spanning the whole country in order to showcase their strength and their mastery of this popular martial art. As a means to promote this sport in Thailand, fighters were entitled to salaries. So to speak, this period marks the beginning of the professionalization process of Muay Thai. From the 20th century onwards, soldiers, entrepreneurs and high dignitaries have considerably contributed to the promotion of Muay Thai as we know it today, through financing the construction of stadiums and training centres.