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Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) came to Britain in the early eighties and is the ancient fighting art of Siam (now Thailand ), originated from the military use of sword and spear (Krabi- Krabong) by the Siamese armies defending their homeland during the 1600's. After many years of conflict, the borders finally settled, Siam relaxed into a peaceful but defensive lifestyle. The rulers, knowing peace is something you must be willing to fight and die to maintain, developed Muay Thai as a way to keep their soldiers sharp. Yearly contests, putting the best fighters from the military against the best their neighbouring countries could produce developed into the modern sport.
In full (real) Muay Thai all eight weapons are utilised. Two fists, two elbows, two feet and two knees (although the shins are used to kick and feet for pushing away). The only illegal striking on the body is a direct and deliberate groin attack or a strike intended to break the knee joint. British Muay Thai has modifications that involve not using the elbows and knees to the head at beginners level. The use of ‘real' full Thai rules comes later in the career of a fighter, often at international level. Muay Thai is the hardest ring sport in the world today, only superseded in the amount of contact allowed by what is now called ‘free fight' or' no holds- barred' (this is the use of both the striking skills of Muay Thai and groundwork from styles like Brazilian Ju Jitsu).
Muay Thai as a sporting aspect has proved itself time and time against many of the other styles. The greatest demonstration is modern times came at the Lumpini stadium (Bangkok) in 1974 where an entire team of kung-fu fighters from Hong Kong were all knocked out in the first round. Many modern day tournaments in the UK have had similar results with exponents (world champions) from styles like Taekwondo and Karate have been annihilated in the early rounds. This is not because the other styles don't have good street application it is just that Muay Thai is a combat sport for competitors that are used to regular full contact to all parts of the body. The training is very intense with the competitors expected to train every day and dedicate themselves entirely to it.
Today Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand . Thousands of Muay Thai gyms can be located across the country from the capital to the farming communities. Many of the towns have a ‘boxing' arena. In the stadiums of the capital, Bangkok , it's like the ‘World Series' and ‘Super bowl' every Saturday night. The two biggest, Rajadamnern and Lumpini holds fight every night. In the UK events can be found around the country almost every weekend but with much smaller crowds and minimal publicity. Of recent years the growth of the sport has seen Muay Thai reach the national television in the UK but is still dwarfed by the presence of orthodox ‘western' boxing and of course football. In Thailand children as young as 7 years old are sent to live at the local camps. This is considered an honour for them and the family. There is no mysticism to Muay Thai in Thailand it is considered as a way of life and a good way to earn money to support the family. In the UK most of us would find the way of life to hard. Professional fighters train every day two or three times a day, in temperatures of 45 degrees!
Many countries especially Britain , Holland and the United States have found it much harder to accept the level of contact allowed in Muay Thai and have introduced many watered down styles that are not Muay Thai! Luckily there are those organisations that do allow full Muay Thai rules. Several years ago the formation of the ‘World Muay Thai Council' has ensured the survival of the history and traditions of Muay Thai. Many of the other organisations are now following suit and the introduction of full Muay Thai rules is in effect.