Muay Thai, or the “Art of 8 Limbs” is a martial art/combat sport that incorporates punches, kicks, elbows and knees (traditionally the head, but this has been removed from modern competition). Unlike kickboxing which only involves the fists, Thaiboxning involves all of your limbs to create devastating combinations. Originally known as the ‘fighting style of the Orient’, Muay Thai has become one of the most popular sports in Thailand, and is now practiced around the world.
The history of Muay Thai dates back to the 16th Century when it was first developed during the conflict between Siam and the Konbaung dynasty of Burma. The hand-to-hand combat skills of a legendary warrior named Nai Khanomtom helped him win his freedom from captivity in Burma, and the fighting style he developed became known as Muay Thai.
As Muay Thai grew in popularity, it began to evolve from demonstrations of fighting techniques in front of villagers into a spectator sport. In the 1920’s, ring-like areas were introduced to replace open courtyards, and this planted the seeds for modern Muay Thai.
When fighters are training, they must focus on both their physical and mental preparation for the fight. They need to build endurance by running, jumping rope and shadowboxing while improving their strength through punching, kicking, elbowing and kneeing drills. This combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises provides the perfect mix for strength and endurance, which is crucial to success in the ring.
During the early days of Muay Thai, there were no rules or regulations and fights were often a result of disputes between businessmen, royalty or local champions who would compete against each other for entertainment and as a form of gambling. Fights would last until a clear winner was chosen, or one person was left standing.
Because of this, fighters had to be resourceful and use what they could to train. Due to the tropical environment of Thailand, there was an abundance of banana and coconut trees as well as rivers and streams which provided fighters with a variety of different training tools. For example, fighters would use the hard husk of the coconut to strike, and the soft fleshy inner part was used for kicking training.
In addition to these natural tools, fighters of the time also utilized simple bodyweight resistance exercises and the grounding effect of barefoot training to help them improve their footwork, balance and movement in the ring. One such exercise was the so-called “slow walking drill” in which fighters would slowly walk, squat and jump into a stance to help with their balance and stance work, while keeping an upright posture. This simple yet effective workout is still used today in conjunction with other more advanced training methods to help fighters prepare for their fights.