Muay Thai boxing, also known as the art of eight weapons, is a contact sport that was developed in Thailand and can be traced back close to a thousand years. As with most classical martial arts, the sport was not first developed as a sport but rather as a discipline through which learners could learn self-discipline, control, and the art of contact fighting and so on. Muay Thai therefore has its roots in Thai culture and lore.
The history of the discipline as a sport starts more recently, some few hundred years back when Thai kings and other monarchy used to organize religious and quasi-religious festivals where they would have Thai boxers come out and entertain the masses. Mainstream western Muay Thai boxing nevertheless came into the limelight only in the 20th century.
As globalization took shape and travel became easier, a lot of cross-pollination took place between classical Muay Thai combat and more competitive contact mixed martial arts combat forms. The result is the competitive Muay Thai boxing that we have today that no longer strictly adheres to the classical ideals of the discipline.
Muay Thai boxing is called the art of eight weapons because of the fourfold attack a combatant assumes: using the fists, elbows, knees and feet to target eight parts of the opponent’s body. The skills therefore needed in Thai boxing center on attack and defense using these four body parts. The shins are also an important part of the combat arsenal but these are similarly used as the feet to create various attack scenarios from the bottom up or laterally.
In order to be a successful combatant, the fighter must learn the art of attack-block-counterattack, which is the bedrock of the sport. Unlike in conventional boxing, for instance, where trying to wear down an opponent may be an option, Muay Thai boxing relies more on trying to knock out the opponent owing to the diversity of moves involved. Anticipation, mental acuity and conditioning are therefore absolutely essential in this sport.
To achieve adequate conditioning and reflexive skills, fighters must engage in rigorous daily training to strengthen their bodies and harden their bones and muscles against the strikes of the opponent. All emphasis is laid on conditioning because it is a fighter’s ability to soak in the opponent’s punches and kicks and be able to retaliate when they least expect it that makes a sure winner.
On the other hand, conditioning also reduces the chances of getting soft tissue injuries while in the ring as well as increases the speed of recovery. One interesting type of training fighters engage in is bone strengthening. This is achieved by repeatedly hitting the shins or other bone structures against a very heavy and firm surface.
The bone sustains micro fractures which are filled up with bone material and this makes the bones denser and more rigid. This is how fighters are able to kick each other hard with their shins and be able to withstand the blows. This technique is also seen in bare knuckle fighters and conventional boxers who strengthen their hand bones trough repeatedly pounding them against a tough surface. Mental preparation also factors in but this is as varied as the specific training scenario. Most fighters however use sparring and dummy fights to prepare mentally.
As a contact sport
As with many other contact sports, the people who get involved either professionally or as amateur fighters depend on a number of factors. For instance, in Thailand, most pro fighters come from the poorer sectors of society as the sport is seen as an escape from poverty. The opposite is true in the more affluent quarters where few if any become pro fighters.
More affluent persons do, nevertheless, get involved as amateur fighters and get involved mostly out of interest or for fitness purposes. Before any real fighting can be achieved, a significant amount of training must be first undertaken owing to the contact nature of the sport. The main governing bodies, which incidentally are the only governing bodies, are the International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur and the World Muay Thai Council.
To get involved in Muay Thai boxing, you must first find a gym or trainer well versed in the sport. With lots of training and conditioning, it is possible to take part in amateur fights. But besides this, the intense training also offers a good way to exercise and stay fit.
Scott Ryan is a fitness buff, martial arts enthusiast and music man who picks his music from Morris Brothers Music.