Boxing (Muay Thai)
might have heard about it, or even seen it on TVthe
furious punches, crushing elbow strikes, lethal kicks, powerful
grappling and artful feints. But nothing compares to seeing
them executed to loud cheers and heart-racing tune of an
accompanying wind-and-percussion ensemble. Welcome to the
exciting world of Muay Thai, a martial art like no others,
and a proud heritage of a nation.
The history of Muay Thai is interwoven with the history
of the Thai people. A gentle, peace-loving people, for centuries
Thais had to defend themselves and their land from aggressive
powers. They developed a form of close, hand-to-hand combat
best suited for the kind of rough-terrain battle they were
fighting. Over time it became a rite of passage for Thai
men to take up training in this martial art. King Naresuan
the Great (1555-1605), one of the countrys most celebrated
warrior-heroes, is believed to have been an excellent boxer
himself, and it was he who made Muay Thai a required part
of military training. Another milestone in the history of
Muay Thai was the triumph of Nai Khanom Tom over 10 Burmese
boxers in 1774. Taken captive after the Thai capital fell
in 1767, Nai Khanom Tom was picked to fight before the Burmese
king. After defeating ten of them in a row, he was freed
and returned home a hero.
the old days, Muay Thai was a dangerous sport, with no safety
gear of any kind for the fighters, and only lengths of cords
to wrap around the fists in place of gloves. Over the years
rules have been written along the line of international
boxing regulations. In recent years the sport has attracted
a wide following outside of the country, and training facilities
have been set up in countries as far as the U.S. and the
former Soviet states. In 1995 the World Muay Thai Council
was set up by cabinet resolution in 1995 to promote this
national heritage at national and international levels.
At a conference held that same year, 78 member countries
voted for the establishment of a training school where all
elements of Muay Thai would be taught. The Muay Thai Institute
was founded in 1997 and is now the only training school
accredited by the Ministry of Education.
An International Passion
Muay Thai, along with soccer, is certainly the most passionately
followed sport in the country. Television networks broadcast
fights five days a week, and the fight results at major
stadiums are reported in all major newspapers. International
boxing is also very popular, and the country has produced
dozens of world champions, but they all started out as Muay
Thai fighters. So it is not surprising that a boy as young
as seven or eight would start training to become oneand
many do, at stables across the country. Most provincial
capitals have a boxing ring, but the ultimate dream of young
boxers is to fight at Lumpini or Ratchadamnoen, the biggest
and most famous stadiums in the country. Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen
alternate, so there is a fight program every night. Tickets
on an average evening are 220, 440 and 1,000 baht, but on
big nights prices of ringside seats may go up to 2,000 baht.
Ratchadamnoens Sunday Special rates are good bargains,
with ringside tickets going for 500 baht each. Fights usually
begins around 6:30 p.m., with preliminary bouts featuring
younger, less experienced boxers, and build up towards the
main event, usually around nine oclock.
Muay Thai is fought in five three-minute rounds with two-minute
breaks in between. The fight is preceded by a wai khru dance,
in which each contestant pays homage to his teachers. Besides
the symbolic meaning, the dance is a good warm-up exercise.
You will notice that each boxer wears a headband and armbands.
The headband, called mongkhol, is believed to bestow luck
to the wearer since it has been blessed by a monk or the
boxers own teacher. Since Buddhism and the teacher
play important roles in the life of Thais, the headband
is both a lucky charm and a spiritual object. It will be
removed after the wai khru dance, and only by the boxers
trainer. The armbands, meanwhile, are believed to offer
protection and are only removed when the fight has ended.
A match is decided by a knockout or by points. Three judges
decide who carries the round and the one who wins the most
rounds, win the fight. The referee plays a very important
role, since boxers safety depends on his decision.
To one side of the ring is the band section, comprising
a Javanese clarinet, drums and cymbals. They accompany the
fight from the homage dance to the conclusion. The tempo
goes up as the action inside the ring intensifies. The musicians
are mostly old-timers who have seen just about anything,
yet their music always makes the heart race faster. It is
said that the tune is a siren song that the true Muay Thai
devotee can never resist.
On fight nights at major stadiums, especially at Lumpini
and Ratchadamnoen, tourists fill up a sizable portion of
the seats, and the number is growing. Most opt to sit at
ringside, to see the action up close. On nights of major
events, usually advertised days in advance, it can be hard
to get tickets. You might want to book through your hotels
or travel agents.
Learning Muay Thai
Muay Thai, with its emphasis on both offense and defense
as well as on stamina, is a martial art anyone can learn:
men, women, young or old. With the interest in Muay Thai
growing fast, martial-art schools in Europe, America and
Asia have added it to their curricula. Some hire former
Muay Thai champions as instructors, others have trainers
who studied with Thai teachers. These schools may teach
all the right moves and maneuvers, but Muay Thai isnt
just about punches and kicks.
To learn Muay Thai is to learn about its roots and its
purpose, and theres nowhere better to do that than
in its homeland. In the past, foreigners wanting the
real thing would go to one of the stables, where training
focuses on professional competition. For those not so inclined,
there wasnt much choice, and language was sometimes
a problem. Not anymore, since Thailand now has a school
for total Muay Thai education for both professionals and
Muay Thai Institute
The Muay Thai Institute was established with the goal of
preserving and promoting the art of Muay Thai and making
it accessible to all. The Institute, which is located in
Rangsit, just north of Bangkok International Airport, offers
accredited training courses for boxers, instructors and
referees. Opened in 1997, the Institute is run by a professional
team of Muay Thai instructors, promoters and officials.
Its staff instructors are all former champions, hold at
least a bachelors degree in physical education, and
speak English. Graduates will received a certificate recognized
by the Thai Ministry of Education and the World Muay Thai
Council. Since its opening, the school has trained hundreds
of amateurs and professionals. Students have come from Australia,
France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden,
the U.K., and other parts of the world. Thai students, many
of them girls and young women, also come for recreational
and professional courses.
The Fundamental Muay Thai Program consists of Basic, Intermediate,
Advanced and Professional levels and takes 120 day to complete.
The program was designed to provide students with the historical
and cultural background to Muay Thai as well as the physical
skills and fitness training. The course includes a study
tour to Bangkoks major stadiums, so students can experience
the real thing live.
Muay Thai for Instructors is ideal for those who want to
become Muay Thai instructors or to run training schools.
The program comprises three 15-day courses.
Muay Thai for Referees and Judges is divided into three
levels of proficiency: local, national and international,
each taking 15 days.
The Muay Thai Institute occupies a complex next door to
Rangsit Stadium. Classes take place in the classroom and
in the well-equipped gym. Students have access to the in-house
fitness facilities and Muay Thai library. Dormitory-style
accommodation, with five bunkbeds to a room, TV, and fridge,
and meals are available. The Institute can arrange visa
and paperwork for applicants to any of the courses.
Tuition and Fees:
Fundamental Muay Thai 1-3: US$ 160 per course
Fundamental Muay Thai 4 (Professional): US$ 1,200
Muay Thai Instructors 1 & 2: US$ 288 per course
Muay Thai Instructors 3: US$ 320
Amature Muay Thai Referees & Judges (International):
Professional Muay Thai Referees & Judges (International):
Muay Thai Live
Bangkok & Vicinitiy
Rama IV Road, Bangkok Tel: (662) 252-8765, 251-4303, 253-7702,
Fight Nights: Tuesdays and Fridays from 6.30 p.m, Saturday
afternoons 5-8 p.m., Saturday nights from 8.30 p.m.
Ticket prices: 220, 440, 1,000 baht (ringside)
Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue Tel: (662) 281-4205, 280-1684-6
Fight Nights: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, starting
at 6.30 p.m.
Ticket Prices: 220, 440, 1,000 baht (ringside); special
discount on Sunday nights
Channel 7 Stadium
Behind the old Northern Bus Terminal (Morchit), opp. Chatuchak
Tel: (662) 272-0201
Fight Schedule: Sundays, from 1.45 p.m., third Wednesday
of each month starting at 12.00 noon
Ticket prices: Free admission
336/932 Prachathipat Road, Rangsit, Pathumthani
Tel: (662) 992-0099
Fight Nights: Wednesdays & Thursdays from 8.30 p.m.
Ticket Prices: 110 (women only), 220 baht
Samrong Road, Samutprakarn Tel: (662) 393-3592
Fight Nights: Fridays and Sundays, from 8.30 p.m
Ticket Prices: 100 baht for women, 200 baht for men
74 Moo 12 Tumbon Omnoy, Amphoe Krathumbaen, Samutsakorn
Tel: (662) 420-4317
Fight Schedule: Saturdays from 11.45 a.m.
Tickets: 200 baht