To most of us, Muay Thai is seen solely as the ultimate striking martial art. Without a doubt, it is the most effective striking art for taking down opponents and this evolved in the only real way any martial art should – in the arena of combat. I’m not talking about just the ring – but on the actual battlefield where Thai soldiers fought and died to keep their country the only South-East Asian country never to have been colonized. Here are some interesting facts about the evolution of Muay Thai that you probably never considered.
Fact #1: Muay Thai Fighters Post Themselves Kicking Through The Banana Tree – This is An Ancient Training Method and Not as Hard as it Looks!
You’ve must have seen this on Youtube. If not, here is world-renowned and Champion Kickboxer Buakaw demolishing a banana tree.
However, what’s often not mentioned about this ‘trick’ is that they are kicking down a young banana tree, and not the full blown grown banana tree, which is as solid as any other tree. In Muay Thai, the kick is one of the most powerful technique and some practitioners are capable of generating up to 1.5 tons of force with their kick. This is just an ancient training method, used before there were heavy bags, to train the kick and condition the shins. The young banana tree doesn’t actually have any solid bark which resembles what you think of when you think about a hard-wood tree.
Fact #2: A Death in the Ring Sparked the Evolution of Muay Thai as We Know It
Back in the 20th century, the art evolved from Muay Khad Chuek. In this form of the art, fighters would wrap their hands with hemp rope instead of putting on gloves, making it far more dangerous. During an international bout between a prominent Muay Thai fighter in Thailand and a fighter from Cambodia back in the 1920’s, the Muay Thai fighter had defeated the Cambodian fighter, killing him in the process. As a result, the king at the time, (King Rama VI) instilled new rules and regulations to protect the fighters. This was a major historical moment in the evolution of Muay Thai as we know it today.
Fact #3: There’s More Than Meets The Eye to the ‘Wai-Kru’!
The wai-kru is a way for fighters to pay respect to their instructor, their Kru. Fighters and gyms from each region of Thailand have their own way of performing this ritual, indicating which gym and region they are from. For example, a fighter from the north would touch their head to the ground to pay respect to the Earth first and foremost, then their instructor, ward away ghosts, and salute the musicians of the fight last. This differs depending on the region of the country, the fighter had come from. From that framework, fighters from the north would have their specific dance depending on the gym they came from.
Fact #4: The Ancient Form of Muay Thai Utilized Only the Teep, Kick, and Footwork
Muay Thai evolved from an ancient martial art, Krabi Krabong, which utilized what we would call a long stick (bo) and a sword. Krabi Krabong is the ancient form of the art used for hand to hand combat on the actual battlefield. Because back in that time, (hundreds of years ago) battles were won in hand-to-hand combat, the teep and kick and specific Muay Thai footwork evolved as a way for Thai soldiers to get the edge in combat. Because they held weapons in their hands, these techniques were what evolved, at first. If not for this period of warfare between Thailand and it’s neighboring countries, the highly effective and powerful martial art as we know it today would not exist.
In modern times, Muay Thai has exploded in popularity for many reasons. For one, mixed martial arts is a global phenomenon and Muay Thai is the primary striking martial art in that mix. Another reason I believe is the explosion of the internet, which allows people from around the globe to see the incredible power of a Muay Thai fighter. Most of these fighters have been bred from a young age to be killing machines inside of the ring. When you think of Muay Thai on a global scale, you think of the major Kickboxing Promotions such as K-1 and Glory, were some Thai natives are found competing. Saenchai, known to be the fighter of decade in Thailand, is a global phenomenon and well respected in Thailand. He has made a name for himself by defeating the best international kickboxers and Muay Thai fighters outside of Thailand on huge promotions. Except for one or two fights, he has defeated all of his competitors outside of the country. However, within Thailand, top level fighters have beat him or at least given him a run for his money. There are so many talented fighters within Thailand that have gotten the chance to gain recognition on the mainstages of International Kickboxing.
That’s it! If you’re into Muay Thai and love to train, I know you found these facts as interesting as I did! As always, if you have any thoughts or questions related to Muay Thai, feel free to drop a line. I’d love to hear what you think!