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A Small Country's Big Hit Sport

Aug 10, 2008
Imagine this, two combatants enter a ring to face each other with only their own bodies to use as weapons. What tools can they use to defend both themselves and to defeat their opponent? To take an inventory, they can punch with their fists, use their elbows when in close, then grab to tie them up and throw a few knee strikes. To complete these human weapons, they can also launch an arsenal of kicks that includes one so powerful, you had better hide your Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Many a Thai fighter representing their national sport, have demonstrated the power of their kick by breaking this symbol of America's national sport, in half!

Sound a little scary? This little known fringe sport is rapidly becoming popular outside the borders of Thailand. Called Muay Thai, it literally means "The Eight Weapons." Two fists, two elbows, two knees, and two shins are the tools a Muay Thai combatant trains and hones to perfection. Rounds are fought much like western boxing. Rounds are three minutes long, and bouts are in a roped ring. Gloves are worn, but nothing covers their other weapons.

To allow a degree of safety for the fighters and to create a sport, bloody as it is, Muay Thai includes a minimum number of rules. These rules include no headbutts, attacking the eyes, fish hooking, or biting.

Muay Thai Kickboxing started back in the medieval ages when wars were fought with bows and arrows, swords, and pikes. And in hand-to-hand combat arms, legs, knees, and elbows were also used as weapons. This sport which was included in military training was made famous by King Nareusan 1560 A.D. During one of the many battles between Burma and Siam he was captured. The Burmese knew of his prowess as the best unarmed fighter in the realm and gave him a chance to fight with their best for his freedom.

Upon his return to Siam he was hailed as a hero and Siamese-style boxing, as it was called then, was soon recognized as a national sport. Boxing in this style reached its zenith of popularity about two hundred years ago, i.e., in the reign of Prachao Sua (King Tiger), when it was indulged in by all classes of the population.

From those days up until the early part of this century, the fighters, particularly those in provinces, used horsehide strips and later help in lieu of gloves. It was also a practice at one time to grind pieces of glass into the help if both contestants agreed. Since these practices were obviously dangerous to the fighters' health, regular boxing gloves were introduced about 50 years ago and have been used ever since. To the Thais, Muay Thai is regarded as a prestigious national sport. Thai boys will in one or another way, intentionally or unintentionally, learn how to box Thai style. Even Thai girls will know enough of the basic principles and to be able to use it for self-defense when necessary.

Muay Thai, called Thai Boxing by foreigners, is Thailand's national sport and is now getting more popular in many countries, especially in the U.S. and Japan where this fighting style is called "Kickboxing." At present "Kick Boxing" is an internationally known sport itself, and is a very big part of the fastest growing new sport in the world, Mixed Martial Arts.
About the Author
Steve Doss is a former world rated kickboxer. For Austin Muay Thai Kickboxing and MMA - Mixed Martial Arts, he teached at Premier Martial Arts - Austin, TX.
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