What Is Muay Thai? History and Benefits

Muay Thai is Thailand’s combat sport with a tall and high bar stance. Striking in a standing position is at the core of Muay Thai. Clinching, or grappling is another significant part of the sport. Muay Thai is considered as a form of Martial Arts and, like many others, is fought between opponents of the same gender. This fighting technique has a robust set of offensive and defensive moves that the practitioner must transition to at high speed.

The sport’s beginning can be traced back to the mid-16th century, but the sport didn’t get international recognition until the late 20th century when westernized athletes from Thailand started competing using the rules of the sport.

The International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA) is the highest governing body for the Muay Thai that has a strength of 130 member countries. The sport is also recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

What is Muay Thai – History

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Muay Thai has evolved over the centuries to the modern form that we witness today. It started as hand-to-hand combat for the Siamese tribes. The Tai tribes were those who developed this fighting style. Their migration from China to the south brought the sport to Thailand.

Muay Thai boxing was given official recognition as a form of Martial Arts by King Naresuan, who ruled the region over 350 years back. Muay Thai is an effective form of hand combat.

Originally intended to facilitate warriors to cut through the crowd using kicks, strikes, and blows with immense speed, Muay Thai was inducted as part of the regular military training. Such is its effectiveness that even present-day military practices in Thailand have Muay Thai moves.

The sport is embedded deeply into the Thai culture and is considered an art. Muay Thai also was part of some dance in its ancient history.

The sport is called the “Art of Eight Limbs,” for it uses eight points of body contact as weapons. The hands are the sword and the dagger while the forearms and the shins act as a form of body armor. The elbow mimics the hammer to pin down an opponent. Finally, the knees and legs are the equivalents of axe and staff.

Contemporary Muay Thai

Muay Thai remained unknown to a significant part of the world until the early 20th century. Muay Thai globalized with western athletes competing in kickboxing matches, mixed rule matches, or matches that follow the international rules.

The Professional Boxing Association of Thailand (P. A. T) governs the professional league. The Association is sanctioned by the Sports Authority of Thailand domestically in Thailand. This association’s global counterpart is the World Professional Muay Thai Federation (WMF).

What are the benefits of Muay Thai?

Muay Thai as a fighting skill has three focus points that are determinants of quality – speed, agility, and flexibility. The practitioners of this sport not only a defensive and offensive weapon but are also usually fit. Speed, coordination, and fitness are all interrelated and are signs of good health and a toned body.

Muay Thai has multiple benefits that are related to health, hobby, human interaction, psychological well-being, increased focus, coordination, discipline, and fame.

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Health benefits

Muay Thai requires a conditioned body. As you have already read before, the sport needs speed, flexibility, and agility. Practitioners, therefore, must step out of their comfort zones and invest a lot of effort into achieving these three characteristics.

Amateurs and professionals alike, vigorous practice is required to be able to stretch the body to its limits. During a fighting match, the heart rate skyrockets because the body needs an immense burst of energy. Practitioners must perform routine cardio and endurance exercises to improve cardiac health and function.

Hobby

Thanks to the associations like the Ultimate Fighting Championship, many young individuals take up Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) as a hobby.

Muay Thai requires a lot of gear – punching gloves, punching wraps, full-body punching bags, hanging bags, among other equipment. The internet has a fantastic variety of gear which reflects the popularity of the sport as a hobby.

Human Interaction

The digital age is causing ever-decreasing real social interaction as we transition to using mobiles and computers. A hobby, mainly a sport, facilitates a very positive form of human interaction. For Muay Thai, there is a drawback; however – the human you are going to interact with is going to punch and kick you!

Psychological well-being

Aerobic exercise has established health benefits considering cardiovascular health, joints, bones, lungs, and other parts of the body. Muay Thai practice and real matches involve a lot of endurance exercise. It may get so vigorous that the body goes into anaerobic respiration.

Such exercise causes a very high heart rate and more flow of blood to all areas of the body. The brain benefits a lot from this blood flow. Cells inside the brain, also called neurons, regenerate faster, thereby increasing memory and retention.

It seems getting a few punches may cause some pain, but your brain may benefit from those.

Increased focus

Any immersive activity requires physical and mental attention. Muay Thai takes focus to a whole new level. During a match, an individual may not know the opponent’s next move and may end up taking a hit. The practitioner not only needs to focus on his moves and maneuvers but also carefully observe the actions of the opponent to anticipate and preempt the next predicted step.

Coordination

Muay Thai helps a practitioner build a supreme level of coordination between different parts of the body. In Muay Thai, the most commonly used parts and muscle groups are the hands, fists, elbows, shoulders, legs, knees, hip muscles, as well as pivoting around the center of the torso.

This physical coordination needs to be carefully moderated to protect oneself from the opponent. The visual and auditory senses should be active to recognize the situation rapidly. Finally, the response time – the time between a stimulus and response – needs to be lower than an average individual.

Rigorous Muay Thai practice provides the physical, visual, auditory, and mental coordination required to be successful in the sport.

Discipline

A virtue that benefits regardless of the situation, discipline is a core requirement for becoming a successful Muay Thai practitioner.

When an individual starts practicing Muay Thai, a lot of discipline is required to follow the practice and exercise schedules. Consider, as an example, a young man who just started to learn Muay Thai. The exercise routine needs proper warm-up and cool down pre- and post-exercise, respectively. Skipping any of these steps can bring more harm to the body than the benefits of the practice.

Fame

There is a lot of publicity to be earned if you want to step into the professional arena of Muay Thai. Many associations are focused exclusively on Muay Thai and hold championships at different levels. You’d need some dedication and hard work before you reach the professional ring.

Apart from exclusive Muay Thai moves, the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) have a lot of Muay Thai moves. If your speed, agility, and some of the powerful punches you practiced during kickboxing could make the difference between winning and losing a match.

Apart from fame at championships, we are sure you’d get some fans and friends when they see you make those swift, smooth moves at your opponent.

Conclusion

Muay Thai is not just a sport. It is a discipline, one that has evolved over 350 years and has been a part of the Thailand military practice since. Thai culture is deeply embedded in the sport which is globally recognized for 100+ countries and the International Olympic Association.

Muay Thai is a self-defense technique for those who do not want to play the sport professionally. For the others, the possibilities are endless because there are many championships dedicated to Muay Thai.

Learning Muay Thai could be your entry point to the league of professional practitioners.

Even if you discount fame, money, and self-defense, you still earn the priceless – good health. Regardless of the intent, you have in mind to pursue Muay Thai, and the practice sessions bring in a lot of discipline. The rigorous training increases endurance, strengthens the heart, keeps the body lean and flexible.

There are a lot of products for Muay Thai beginners, and those can be bought for cheap on the internet. These include boxing gloves, hand wraps, Muay Thai shorts, and other gear. We have other articles dedicated to Muay Thai which you may want to go through to increase your knowledge of the sport.