Muay Thai or Thai Kickboxing is Thailand’s National Sport. It is often referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or “Science of Eight Limbs” because participants use eight “points of contact” including the kick, punch, elbow strike and knee strike. A practitioner of Muay Thai in Bangkok is called a nak muay. A foreign practitioner, on the other hand, may be called a nak muay farang or foreign boxer.
If you’re in Bangkok to watch a Muay Thai match or you want to learn it in Bangkok, here are few interesting facts you might want to know about it first:
Origins and History – The ancient people of Thailand have developed a form of combat using the hands and the feet to fight with an enemy. Over time, they developed different variations of that combat in different regions of the country, and it became collectively known as Muay Boran or ancient boxing. From this, Muay Thai gradually developed into the kind of sport that it is today. From just an ancient method of fighting, it’s now a pastime of many Thais.
Living Legacy – Nowadays, even though the nak muay wear boxing gloves to fight with an opponent, the techniques have remained the same. The Thais recognize the sport as a legacy from the older generation and claim the sport as theirs and theirs alone. Unlike other forms of boxing in other parts of the world, Thai Kickboxing employs ritual ceremonies at the start of the game.
Before a game starts, the fighters will perform a Wai Khru. A Wai Khru is a spiritual ceremony to thank the spirits, the boxer’s teacher, the boxing ring and Muay Thai itself. When the boxers are done with the Wai Khru, they dance to the loud music of Thai’s classical instruments. This dance ceremony is called Ram Muay. When the players have dispensed with the formal rituals, that’s the only time when the fighting starts.
The Thais believe that these rituals will bring good luck and protection to the fighters. Unlike American boxing where boxers enter the ring through the spaces between the ropes, fighters of Thai boxing should leap over the ropes. This is because the Thais believe that the head is the most important part of the body and must be kept above everything. The headbands and the armbands also have some spiritual beliefs attached to them. These are blessed by a Buddhist monk for good luck and must only be removed by the teacher of the boxer. The bands are removed before the start of the fight after the Wai Khru.
Where and When to See – The two best places to enjoy and watch Muay Thai in Bangkok are the Ratchadamneon Stadium and the Lumphini Stadium. The Ratchadamneon Stadium is located at Ratchadamneon Nok Avenue, Bangkok. The Lumphini Stadium is found in Rama IV Road in Lumphini Park, Bangkok. All the weekday evening fights starts at 6:30 P.M. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Ratchadamneon Stadium, and Tuesdays and Fridays at the Lumphini Stadium.