Muay Thai: Ultimate Striking
Muay Thai-or Thai Boxing-was born on the battlefields of the 15th century, during the legendary clashes between Thai (or Siamese) armies and their bitter rivals, the Burmese. Trained in the weapons-based fighting method known as Krabi Krabong, these early Thai soldiers also became famous for their toughness in close-quarters weaponless combat, where legs, knees, elbows and hands took the place of swords and sticks. This type of weaponless fighting became Muay Thai, known as the “Science of Eight Limbs.”
Though the Thai army still uses its lethal techniques, Muay Thai has also been the country’s most popular spectator sport for hundreds of years. There are more than 65,000 professional Muay Thai fighters in Thailand today. Many of them are poor peasants who begin training when they are as young as six years old, studying with highly respected teachers and risking injury-or worse-for the chance to compete.
Up until the 1930s, Muay Thai fighters fought bare-knuckled or with their hands wrapped in hemp rope that left nasty cuts. Because of the high number of deaths in the ring, the Thai government introduced new rules, including weight classes (though the great majority of fighters remain in the lighter weight classes) and mandatory use of gloves, cups and mouth guards. As a result, modern Muay Thai boxers rely less on punches and more on their lethal kicks, elbow and knee strikes and grappling.
Speed, accuracy and power are the buzzwords in Muay Thai. Fighters use kicks as both offensive and defensive weapons, often aiming to strike their opponents in the thighs for maximum impact. The knee and elbow strikes used in Muay Thai are almost unique to the sport. Executed correctly, with all the force concentrated in one spot-often the opponent’s head-the hard bone of the elbow can act like the blade of a knife, devastating the opponent and sending him bleeding to the mat.
In the devoutly Buddhist Thai society, Muay Thai is governed by ritual and tradition, and many fighters practice meditation as an integral part of their training. Devoted Muay Thai fans and fighters all over the world see it as the toughest martial art, and dismiss all challengers to its dominance.