Background and History of MUAYTHAI
1. MUAYTHAI and the Thai people
Thais are classified in the Mongolian tribe. The distinguished physical
features include small body with average height of 5' 3". They are
usually strong, light-weighted, and agile. They have light brown complexion,
black hair, little body hair and beard. The face is round with black eyes
and plump cheek. Since Thailand is in the tropical zone close to the equator,
most of the people live on the riverside and use boats as vehicles. The
Thai people wear little light clothes and do not wear hat and shoes. They
are able to use fist, foot, knee, and elbow efficiently. These bodily
weapons are used as the self-defensive weapons to fight with the enemies
to protect the country.
Muaythai is the cultural heritage descended from the ancestors for centuries.
In the past, Thailand had numerous wars with its neighbors. Thai males
had to practice Muaythai and other weapons to defend the country. Muaythai
has been developed to have its own identity, with graceful but ferocious
style. It was practiced for self-defense, health, and profession.
2. Muaythai in Sukhothai Period
Sukhothai Period dated back to 140 years ago from 1238 - 1408. From the
stone inscription, it was obviously inscribed that Sukhothai made several
wars with the neighboring countries. So soldiers had to be trained to
fight with weapons like sword, lance, including bodily weapons at close
After the wars, young men in that era liked practicing Muaythai to strengthen
their fighting skill and prepare themselves for military service. It was
a tradition for a Thai young man to study Muaythai in a well-known boxing
camp; for example, Samoh Khon Camp in Lopburi. Muaythai was also trained
in the courtyard of a temple by monk. In the old days, the trainees were
taught by fetching buckets of water, pounding paddy, cutting firewood,
swimming, swinging on creepers and vines to gain physical strength and
patience before starting practicing Muaythai skills. These skills included
the punching of folded bathing loincloth hanging on a branch of tree,
kicking banana trees, fighting and clinching with sparring partners. The
practice would end with swimming to clean the body and relax the muscle
before going to sleep. Muaythai masters did not teach only skills but
ethics to their students as well.
In the Sukhothai Period, Muaythai was considered as a course taught to
the king. It was described in the legend that King Si Inthrathit, the
first king of the Sukhothai dynasty, with his far-sighted vision, dispatched
his second son, King Ram Khamhaeng at the age of 13, to practice Muaythai
in Samoh Khon Camp in Lopburi. He wished this son to be a brave king in
the future. From 1275-1317, King Ram Khamhaeng composed a military fighting
manual in which Muaythai was mentioned. King Li Thai, who was interested
in all fields of studies and was famous as a great scholar, learned Muaythai
in parallel with other weapons.
3.MuayThai In Ayutthaya Period
In the Ayutthaya Period 417 years ago, from 1350-1767, Thailand was from
time to time in wars with Burma and Cambodia. The young men of this period
had to learn fighting skills with weapons and Muaythai, which was taught
to either aristocrats and general public. Budhai Sawan Camp was very famous
at that time. The camp taught the students to fight with rattan sword
and bare hands, which was known as Muaythai. In this period, the temple
was still the center of knowledge where general subjects and fighting
skills were taught.
King Naresuan the Great (1590-1604)
He picked up a group of young men to teach Muaythai. They were trained
to be brave, confident, and skillful in using all weapons efficiently.
They were recruited to be soldiers in a special task force set up by King
Naresuan to be the Guerilla squad. This squad played an important role
in proclaiming independence from Burma in 1584.
Narai the Great (1604-1690)
Under the reign of King Narai, the country was peaceful and prosperous.
He was greatly interested in promoting and encouraging sports, especially
Muaythai that was so popular among the public that it became a profession
in this period. There emerged considerable boxing camps. The fight was
generally made on ground with a rope encircled in a square. Cotton yarn
made hardened by dipping into starch or tar would be wrapped around the
fist. The boxers wore headband and armbands during the fight. The arrangement
of bout was mainly based on the will of both fighters regardless of the
weight and age. The rules and regulation at that time was so simple; both
boxers had to fight until any of them yielded. Muaythai was usually arranged
in festivals and the bet was inevitable.
King Saeu or King Tiger (1697-1709)
King Tiger was very fond of Muaythai. Once he went in disguise to Had
Kruad District with 4 pages, he got into the boxing ring to fight with
3 skillful boxers whom he defeated. He also trained his own sons to acquire
skills in Muaythai, swords, and wrestling.
In early Ayutthaya Period, the ruling kings set up a royal boxing unit.
This unit was responsible for selecting young men who were good at fighting
with Muaythai to box in front of the king. The best fighter would be appointed
a royal guard to protect the king while he was in the palace or went to
other places. This guard would be responsible for training the king's
children and soldiers.
Late Ayutthaya Period
After Ayutthaya fell to Burma for the second time in 1767, there emerged
2 renown boxers as follows:
1. Mr. Khanom Tom was taken
as a hostage in Burma. In 1774, the Burmese king arranged a festival to
commemorate the great chedi in Rangkung. In this festival, he wished to
have a skillful Thai boxer to fight in his presence on March 17, 1774.
Mr. Khanom Tom could defeat 10 Burmese boxers without a break. This bout
was regarded as the first dissemination of Muaythai abroad. Mr. Khanom
Tom was therefore considered the father of Muaythai and March 17 the Muaythai
2. Phraya Pichai Dabhak (1741-1782) or Joi
was born in Pichai of Utraradit Province. He had profound knowledge in
Muaythai. He started learning Muaythai from Master Thieng and used Muaythai
to earn his living to the age of 16 when he began learning sword and Chinese
martial art. With his distinguished skill, he was selected by Phraya Tak
to serve the country as a soldier and became the Governor of Pichai during
the reign of King Taksin. When Pichai was attacked by Burmese troop, he
fought violently until his both swords were broken.
4. Muaythai during Thonburi Era
During the Thonburi Era from 1767-1781, the country was under the restoration
after proclaiming independence. The practice of Muaythai in this period
was actually intended for military purpose.
There were numerous good boxers. The boxing competitions were often arranged
between boxers from 2 different regions or masters. The rule and regulation
have not prescribed yet. The bout would stop when a boxer surrendered.
The ring was simply made on the ground of a temple. The boxers themselves
still used wrapped cotton yarn and wore headband and armbands.
5. Muaythai during Rattanakosin
During 86 years of the early Rattanakosin Era from King Rama I to King
Rama IV (1782-1868), Muaythai was still regarded as national sport. The
competition was usually held in festivals. Rules and regulations were
initially defined. The boxers were required to fight in rounds, each of
which lasted until a bored coconut shell sink to the bottom of a container.
Each bout had no specific number of rounds. The boxers would fight until
one of them yielded.
King Rama I (1782-1809)
King Rama I had practiced Muaythai since childhood. He was interested
in going out to view Muaythai competitions. In 1788, two French merchants
who traveled to different parts of the world by a ship to trade with the
local people arrived in Bangkok. They were good boxers and bet on boxing
everywhere they went. In Bangkok, they wanted to bet on a fight with Thai
boxer. King Rama I heard of the news and asked his brother who was in
charge of the royal boxing unit to arrange a boxing match between the
French and a Thai boxer. A temporary ring was constructed on the courtyard
behind Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). The ring was made
in square of 20 m. long, encircled with a rope around 4 poles at each
corner. In front of the ring was a royal pavilion. The fight started and
continued until a fighter would surrender.
The French boxer was bigger and when the fight began, he tried to get
approach and clinch with the Thai boxer. Muan Phlan, the Thai boxer, tried
to defend by delivering thrust kicks, punches and stepping aside. Time
lapsed and the Westerner was in disadvantage. The brother of the French
boxer couldn't stand and helped his younger brother by blocking the way
of Muan Phlan. Such action provoked the anger of the crowd and drove the
situation into the mutiny in the ring. Many Westerners were injured. King
Rama I sent a nursing team to take care of them. When they recovered,
they left Thailand for good.
King Rama II (1809-1824)
At his early childhood, he practiced Muaythai from Wat Bang Hwa Yai (Rakhang
Khositaram Temple). The master who taught Muaythai to him is Phra Wanarat
(Thong Yu), who was once a general. At the age of 16, he moved into the
old palace and learned more Muaythai skills from his father's royal guard.
He commanded the construction of boxing stadium at the courtyard behind
his palace and the Thai-boxing style, which was previously called "Ram
Mut Ram Muay," was changed to Muaythai since then.
King Rama III (1824-1851)
He studied Muaythai from a royal guard. In this period, the people in
provincial area liked learning Muaythai and sword altogether. Therefore,
Thaow Suranaree or Lady Mo, the wife of Korat Governor, could lead the
people to defeat the invading troop of King Anuwong, a Loatian king.
King Rama IV (1851-1868)
While he was a little prince, he dressed in boxing attire and played sword
show in the festival held to commemorate the ordination hall of the Temple
of the Emerald Buddha. In this period, Thailand had been influenced by
the Western civilization. However, Muaythai was still the national sport.
King Rama V (1868-1910)
He practiced Muaythai from the royal boxing camp taught by Master Luang
Phol Yothanuyok. He was very fond of Muaythai and liked viewing Muaythai
competitions held in front of the royal pavilion. He asked the governors
in different provinces to dispatch skillful boxers to compete in the competitions.
The best boxers would be recruited as his royal guards under the royal
He was greatly aware of the value of Muaythai as the national sport. He
therefore commanded all provinces hold Muaythai competitions so as to
promote the sport. He also provided royal boxing masters to different
provinces to teach the skills to the public, hold and control the boxing
competitions held in the royal ceremonies, royal hair cutting ceremony,
cremation, royal guest reception. In the cremation of Krom Khun Marupong
Siripat, the winning boxers from the provincial area were granted a rank
called "Muan". Those boxers included
1. Muan Muay Mee Chue or Mr. Plong Chamnongthong from Chaiya, who was
famous for his distinguished style of throwing the opponent to the ground.
2. Muan Muay Maen Mut or Mr. Kling from Lopburi, who was smart in using
attacking and defending techniques including excellent straight punches.
3. Muan Changud Cherng Chok or Mr. Daeng Thaiprasert from Korat (Nakorn
Rajsima), who had a famous cast punch, called "buffalo-casting punch".
Picture: Boxing competition held in front of the royal pavilion in the
cremation of Krom Khun Marupong Siripat.
In 1887, King Rama V commanded the establishment of the Ministry of
Education and Muaythai was taught as a subject in the Physical Education
School and Royal Military Academy.
This period was known as the Golden Age of Muaythai.
King Rama VI (1910-1925)
From 1914-1918, Thailand sent a military troop to join the Allied in the
First World War in Marseilles, France. The troop was led by General Thephasadin.
He was greatly interested in Muaythai so he held a Muaythai competition
to show the sport to the Allied soldiers and the people there. This competition
was the first time Muaythai was held in Europe.
In 1921, after the first World War, Suan Kuhlab Stadium was constructed
on the ground of Suan Kuhlab School. It was the first permanent boxing
stadium where the boxing programs were regularly arranged. In the initial
stage, the viewers had to sit or stand around the square ring of 26 m.
long. The viewers were not allowed to get into the ring line made on ground.
The boxer wore headband, armbands, shorts and groin guard. The referee
in the ring was in the Thai-style attire.
The most interesting bout was between Muan Muay Maen Mut, a skillful boxer
in the reign of King Rama V, aged 50, and Mr. Phong Prabsabot, a young
man, aged 22 from Korat. For Phong, this bout meant the revenge for his
father, who was once defeated by Muan Muay Maen Mut just in 2 minutes.
Muan Muay Maen Mut was this time knocked to he ground by Phong's powerful
cast punch. The cheering crowd was excited with Phong's victory and turned
the ring into chaos. This event caused trouble to the staff who took care
of the order. So after the competition, a ring was constructed on an elevated
platform, 4 feet higher from the ground. The ring floor was covered with
mat and the ring was encircled by a rope of 1 inch. There was an entrance
for boxers and reference at a corner. The referee was dressed like a scout.
There were 11 rounds of 3 minutes and the time of each round was kept
by 2 watches. The gong was used to give signal for fighting. The fighters
had to take a break when ordered by the referee. They were not allowed
to bite or hit after the referee broke the fight. If a boxer fell to the
ring floor, the other had to wait at a corner.
Picture: Boxing competitions held in Suan Kuhlab Stadium
The public were interested in viewing the competition and asked for
following programs. King Rama VI commanded Phraya Nonthisensurenthorapakdi,
the chief of scout unit, to hold competitions with a view to raising money
for purchasing guns. The officers based in provinces were requested to
dispatch local boxers to compete in this stadium. Most of the boxers who
came from upcountry would stay at the club of the scout unit in Suan Dusit.
After comparing the weight and set the matches, the correspondence would
take a picture of the rivals of each match to print in newspaper. This
was the first time that Muaythai was printed for public attention.
The match that broke the record of selling tickets was between Mr. Young
Hanthalae and Mr. Ji Chang (How Jong Kun), a Chinese boxer. The match
ended with the loss of the latter who was hit on the face and kicked down
to the floor. He lied still and let the referee count to 10.
King Rama VII (1925-1934)
From 1923-1929, Lt. Gen. Phraya Thephasadin built a boxing stadium called
"Lak Muang Tha Chang Stadium" at the now national theatre. The
ring was encircled by big ropes, each of which was stretched from pole
to pole with no space left for entrance. The ropes were stretched in such
a fashion to prevent the boxers from falling down onto the ground outside
In 1929, the government issued an instruction requiring the boxers to
wear gloves during the fight. This instruction was issued because there
was a case in which Mr. Pae Liangprasert, a boxer from Uttraradit, hit
Mr. Jia Khaekhamen with his fists wrapped with cotton yarn to death.
On November 9, 1929, Muaythai competition was first held in the amusement
park of Suan Lumpini together with other entertainment. Skillful boxers
nationwide were selected to fight in the competition, which have been
regularly held on Saturday. The ring was constructed to meet the international
standard. The ring was encircled by 3 ropes. The floor was covered with
canvass. There were red and blue corners. There were 2 judges giving the
scores and 1 referee in the ring. The bell was used to give the signal
of the start and the end of each round. On December 30, 1929, a New Year
competition was arranged. The major match was between Samarn Dilokwilas
and Dej Phoopinyo whereas the other match was Air Mange VS Sudan Niwasawat.
In this competition, the iron groin guard was introduced and used for
the first time by Air Muangdee.
King Rama VIII (1934-1946)
1935-1941: There was a well-known millionaire who constructed a boxing
stadium called Suan Chao Set Stadium. The stadium was operated by the
army and the revenue earned from selling tickets was used to support the
army affairs for years. The stadium was closed when the second World War
broke out and the Japanese troop invaded Thailand on December 8, 1941.
1942-1944: The second World War nearly came to an end. However, there
were still patrol planes flying day and night. Muaythai contests were
held in theatres during daytime since the public still wanted to view.
On December 23, 1945, Rajdamnoen Stadium was formally opened with Mr.
Pramote Peungsunthorn as the chief, Phraya Chindarak as the ring management
director, and Master Chit Ampholsin as Promoter. The boxing program was
held regularly on Sundays from 16.00-17.00 h. The rules and regulations
applied in this stadium were adopted from the department of Physical Education
(1937). There were 5 rounds of 3 minutes with two-minute break. In the
initial stage, the boxer was weighed in stone like horse. Two years later,
the scale was changed into kilogram and into pond in 1948. The category
of boxers was classified by weight, ranging from Flyweight (not exceeding
112 lbs.), Bantamweight (not exceeding 118 lbs.), etc. In 1951, the construction
of permanent roof of Rajdamneon Stadium was started.
On September 3, 1953, Pol. Col. Pichai Kulawanich, assistant chief of
Rajdamnoen Stadium issued a regulation for the boxer to wear shorts in
the color corresponding to his own corner and for the seconds to wear
On December 8, 1953, Lumpini Stadium was formally opened with Erb Saengrit
as the chief and Khet Sriyaphai as the manager.
In 1955, Rajdamnoen Stadium Co., Ltd. published the rules and regulations
of professional Muaythai for the first time. They were based on those
prepared by the Department of Physical Education.
In 1959, Mr. Nokuji, a Japanese businessman, took a team of Japanese boxers
to fight with Muaythai boxers. He took the pictures from the competition,
studied the game and changed the name of the game to Kick Boxing.
Mr. Kaito Kenkuji, a master of Japanese martial art, was very impressed
after viewing Muaythai at Rajdamnoen Stadium. He put Muaythai as a course
taught in primary school of Japan.
In 1960, Rajdamnoen Stadium Co., Ltd. added more rules, requiring the
boxers to be 18 - 38 years old.
In 1961, Rajdamnoen Stadium held a Championship in which the champion
would be given the royal trophy.
The list of champions
is as follows:
November 13, 1961: Namsak Yontrakij
May 8, 1963: Dejrit Itthi-Anuchit
February 25, 1965: Sompong Charoenmuang
December 14, 1969: Chalermsak Ploenchit
November 6, 1971: Sornnakrob Kiatwayupak
January 17, 1979: Phadetsuk Phitsanurachan
On October 29, 1964, Chalerm Chiewsakul, the Chairman of Rajdamnoen Stadium
Co., Ltd. issued additional rules concerning the contention for championship,
defending, and ranking of boxers of Rajdamnoen Stadium for the first time.
In 1965, Rajdamnoen Stadium Co., Ltd. revised the rules and regulations
of professional Muaythai and called "Rajdamnoen Professional Muaythai
Rules and Regulations 1965".
In December, 1984, the
top ten boxers were ranked as follows:
1. Phol Phrapradaeng
2. Suk Phrasarthinphimai
3. Chuchai Phrakhanchai
4. Prayuth Udomsak
5. Adul Srisothorn
6. Apidej Sithiran
7. Wichannoi Pornthawee
8. Put Lohlek
9. Phudphadnoi Worawuth
10. Deiselnoi Ch. Thanasukarn
At present, Muaythai is popular, not only at the professional level but
at the amateur level as well. In 1971, Sawaeng Siripile of Srinakarinwiroj
University (Physical Education) gave a comment that Muaythai should be
generally competed at the amateur level and accepted in the Olympic Games.
The amateur Muaythai should set its focus on the wit and style of applying
Mauythai techniques to make scores. He therefore prepared Amateur Mauythai
Rules and Regulations and held a campus competition among physical education
colleges. From then on, amateur Muaythai has gained more popularity.
In 1973, the first competition among physical education colleges nationwide
In 1984, Amateur Muaythai Association of Thailand was established by Mr.
Boonyuen Suwanthada and his team.
In 1985, the competition was first held among the students under the Department
of Physical Education. Yuttana Wongbandue and Chan Paiboon introduced
the application of protective guards to prevent the competitors from being
injured. These guards were still used in the Amateur Muaythai Championship
at all levels.
In 1992, Muaythai was first included as a game in the 25th national sport
held in Khonkhaen.
In 1993, International Federation of Muaythai Amateur was set up.
In 1994, Amateur Muaythai Association of Thailand held the first International
Training Program for Muaythai instructors and a meeting among the judges
and referees from all over the country was arranged by Yuttana Wongbandue
with a view to updating the amateur Muaythai rules and regulations to
meet the international standard. The revised rules and regulations were
translated into English by Professor Phansri Wichakornkul.
In 1995, International Federation of Muaythai Amateur held the first Amateur
Muaythai Championship in Bangkok. The scoring system was computerized.
The Amateur Muaythai was accepted as the demonstrative sport in the 23rd
SEAGAMES held in Chiangmai.
In 1996, Federation of Amateur Muaythai of Asia was established.
From 1996-1998, Gen. Chetta Thanajaro, Chairman of the World Muaythai
Council and Lt. Gen. Vorayudh Mesommonta, Chairman of the Amateur Muaythai
Association of Thailand have given serious attention and provided full
support to amateur Muaythai with a goal to encourage it as a world sport
accepted in SEAGAMES, Asian Games, and Olympic Games in the future. Amateur
Muaythai was finally approved by the Olympic Council of Asia to be a demonstrative
sport in the 13th Bangkok Asian Games, to be held in Bangkok from December