Formerly known as Siam to foreigners who first came to this region as early as the 12th century, the country’s name was changed to literally mean “Land of the Free.” Throughout the country’s 800-year history, this nation can boast the distinction of being the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. Siam was changed to Thailand with the advent of a democratic government in 1939. People inhabiting Thailand today share rich ethnic diversity mainly Thai, Mon, Khmer, Laotian, Chinese, Malay, Persian, and Indian stock with the result that there is no typically Thai physiognomy or physique. There are petite, statuesque, round-faced, dark-skinned and light-skinned Thais. Some 80% of all Thais are connected in some way with agriculture which, in varying degrees, influences and is influenced by the religious ceremonies and festivals that help make Thailand such a distinctive country.
Thais are tribal people and have had to defend their country from many invaders throughout their history. As such, they have developed their own brand of martial art. Muay Thai is the devastating “science of 8 limbs” developed over thousands of years ago. The exact date of the creation of this fighting art is not known but it is widely believed to be over 2000 years old. Muay Thai used to be referred to as Pahuyuth (multi-faceted fighting style) hundred years back, but Muay Thai itself is only part of the whole Thai fighting system that covers weapons and groundwork which is often referred to as Ling-Lom. This most effective of fighting techniques has evolved from the cultural artform of the Siamese warriors of the past. It has also become an International sport with a proud heritage.
From time immemorial, Muay Thai had been practiced in imperial contests. During the early times, this would occur in any location such as jungle clearings, courtyards, a village square or any area of flat ground. There were no time keepers or rounds, and no forbidden moves, the winner being the boxer who remained standing. Boxers would fight with their forearms strapped in rope and their fists bound with strips of raw cotton.
In 1929, the switch was made to the type of gloves worn in International boxing, the contests became standardized and contained in a ring. Today, Muay Thai contests are fought over five, three-minute rounds with two minute breaks between rounds, a referee and three judges awarding points for effective strikes.
Muay Thai is now one of the most popular martial arts practiced all over the world. Just like any other form of martial arts, Muay Thai will enable the practitioner to develop many skills and attributes. Though most people would list physical fitness as an obvious benefit of studying Muay Thai, few people really understand all the physical benefits. One will realize increased strength and flexibility, stronger bones and joints, increased stamina and energy, better coordination and balance, weight loss, and lean muscle gain. One will also benefit in terms of increased coordination, flexibility, strength, endurance, and stress relief through constant practice of the martial arts.
In addition to physical skills, there are many noticeable spiritual and mental benefits. Some of the more subtle, but equally important benefit are; concentration, confidence, courage, awareness, respect, etiquette, self – discipline and humility.
Though martial arts such as Muay Thai seem at first glance to be a set of physical skills, in reality the real goal is to condition the mind. It is the mind that has to learn to act quickly, often reading subtle signs and responding with a complex set of moves. The mental benefits of martial arts are possibly more significant than the physical.