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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 country?s 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.
In 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.
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 isn't just about punches and kicks.
To learn Muay Thai is to learn about its roots and its purpose, and there is 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 wasn?t 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 amateurs.