Perhaps the most famous of the early Muay Thai fighters was Nai Khanomtom, who won his freedom after the fall of Ayutthaya by defeating 10 Burmese boxing champions when he was being held captive in Burma in 1774. To this day his feat is celebrated every 17 March, now called Muay Thai Day in Thailand and a ceremony is held to pay respect at Nai Khanomtom’s statue in Ayutthaya.
These days, Muay Thai is more regulated to ensure the safety of fighters, but it’s still known as the art of eight limbs, due to it being a full contact discipline with fighters using their feet, legs, knees, fists, hands and elbows to strike opponents in fights of five rounds that last three minutes each. The mentally and physically taxing sport now has passionate followers in every country, and they train hard to emulate the skills of the Thai masters past and present.
King Naresuan the Great (1555-1605) was a king of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and used to promote Muay Thai among the soldiers and citizens as a way of protecting the nation. The King was a skilled fighter himself as many Thai kings have been over the years. The warrior King Prachao Sua, loved Muay Thai so much that he would enter tournaments around Thailand, in disguise, so that no one would be too intimidated to fight him. He is now fondly remembered as the Tiger King.
Between the reigns of Rama I the Great and Rama V the Great, both huge Muay Thai fans, the sport became codified and was made part of a military curriculum. Gloves replaced the hard ropes fighters would use to wrap around their fists, weight classes were introduced and arenas were opened up nationwide.
Many young rural Thais today join training schools hoping to become legends of the ring. From a young age, they undergo vigorous training and have taken part in hundreds of fights before they are even in their 20s. For many, Muay Thai offers a chance at fame and fortune and allows them to earn money to send back to their families.
Source: Tourism Authority of Thailand www.tatnews.org