What is Muay Thai About?

“Muay” (มวย) in Thai meaning “To bind into rounded form”. The act of binding a person’s hair into rounded form is “Muay Phom”(มวยผม). As Siamese boxers wraped their hands with hump rope and hold their fists into rounded shapes when strikes, Siamese(Thai) called this act as “Toi Muay”, “ToiMoi” or “Tee Muay” (ต่อยมวย or ตีมวย) and finally shorten it to just the word “Muay”(มวย)

There’s a record In the book “Du Royaume de Siam”, by the French envoy who visited Ayuttaya during the 1600s named “Simon De La Loubere” described the Siamese boxing as ” boxers whom punched with fists and elbows with their hands wrapped with hump rope which never to be seen in other neighboring kingdom.”Sepia Picture of Muay Thai Fighters

The history of Muay Thai can also be traced to the middle of the 16th century. During the battles between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam, the famous fighter, Nai Khanomtom, was captured in the year 1767. The Burmese knew of his expertise in hand-to-hand combat and gave him an opportunity to fight for his freedom. Soon after winning the match, he was freed by his captors and allowed to return to Siam. He was acknowledged as a hero, and his fighting style became known as Siamese-Style boxing, later to be known as Muay Thai. This fighting style was soon to be recognized as a national sport.

Muay boran, and therefore Muay Thai, was originally called by more generic names such as Toi muay or simply muay. As well as being a practical fighting technique for use in actual warfare, muay became a sport in which the opponents fought in front of spectators who went to watch for entertainment. These muay contests gradually became an integral part of local festivals and celebrations, especially those held at temples. Eventually, the previously bare-fisted fighters started wearing lengths of hemp rope around their hands and forearms. This type of match was called muay khat chueak (มวยคาดเชือก). Kickboxing was also a component of military training and gained prominence during the reign of King Naresuan in 1560 CE.

Muay Thai is referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science of Eight Limbs”, because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”, as opposed to “two points” (fists) in boxing and “four points” (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, such as kickboxing and savate.  A practitioner of Muay Thai is known as a nak muay.

Western practitioners are sometimes called Nak Muay Farang, meaning “foreign boxer.”  Muay Thai is also used as a form of close-combat using your entire body as a weapon. For example, The hands become the sword or the dagger; the shins and forearms are trained to be like armor so you can defend yourself against heavy blows and the elbow is related to a heavy mace or hammer; the legs and knees are the axe or a staff.  (Wikipedia)


Formal Muay Thai techniques are divided into two groups: mae mai or major techniques and luk mai or minor techniques. Muay Thai is often a fighting art of attrition, where opponents exchange blows with one another. This is certainly the case with traditional stylists in Thailand, but is a less popular form of fighting in the contemporary world fighting circuit where the Thai style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable. Almost all techniques in muay Thai use the entire body movement, rotating the hip with each kick, punch, elbow and block.

The punch techniques in muay Thai were originally quite limited being crosses and a long (or lazy) circular strike made with a straight (but not locked) arm and landing with the heel of the palm. Cross-fertilization with Western boxing and western martial arts mean the full range of western boxing punches are now used: lead jab, straight/cross, hook, uppercut, shovel and corkscrew punches and overhands as well as hammer fists and back fists.

As a tactic, body punching is used less in muay Thai than most other striking combat sports to avoid exposing the attacker’s head to counter strikes from knees or elbows. To utilize the range of targeting points, in keeping with the center line theory, the fighter can use either the Western or Thai stance which allows for either long range or short range attacks to be undertaken effectively without compromising guard. (Wikipedia)

Wai Khru Ram Muay

Wai Kru Muay Thai               Wai Kru Muay Thai                Wai Kru Muay Thai

Wai Khru Ram Muay (Thai: ไหว้ครูรำมวยrtgswai khru ram muaiIPA:[wâːj kʰrūː rām mūɛj]) is a warm up activity in Thai culture that is performed by participants in Muay Thai competitions. Wai is an action of Thais to show respect to others by putting the hands together like in prayer. Khru means teacher. Ram means dance in the old Thai traditional style. Muay means boxing. Usually Thais prefer to call it Ram Muay orWai Khru for short. Ram Muay is the way to show respect to the teachers and the trainers. Also, in the past Muay Thai was usually fought in front of the King, so Ram Muay was also to apologize to the King for the brutality in fighting.

The fighter then performs the Ram Muay, whose simple movements demonstrate a fighter’s control and style. Each fighter performs the Ram Muay on each side of the ring to demonstrate his prowess to the audience. The Ram Muay is a personal ritual, ranging from the very complex to the very simple, and often contains clues about who trained the fighter and where the fighter is from.

Children Performing the Wai Kru
Children Performing the Wai Kru

The practitioner may wear a headband called a Mongkhon (see below) and armbands known as Pra Jiad (see below) during the ceremony, and the Ram Muay may be accompanied by music. The Mongkhon is unique to Thai boxing and not worn in Cambodia or Burma. (Wikipedia)

Blue Decorated Muay Thai Mongkon Black Muay Thai Mongkon  Muay Thai Blue MongkonA blue, white and red muay thai Mongkon

Mongkon (Thai: มงคล  [mōŋkʰōn]) is a type of headgear worn by Muay Thai athletes. The Mongkhon was given to a boxer after their trainer saw that the student had become an experienced fighter and learned a great deal of knowledge about Muay Thai. The Mongkhon was never to be, in any way, close to the ground or else they believed it would lose its worth. The Mongkhon is unique to Thai boxing and not worn in Cambodia or Burma.  It must be worn during the Wai khru ram muay and should be only handled by the fighter and teacher, so as not to lose its special powers.  (Wikipedia)

Pra Jiad

A Muay Thai Fighter with Pra Jiad

Pra Jiad (Thai: ประเจียดrtgsprachiatIPA: [pra.tɕìːət]) is a type of armband worn by Muay Thai athletes. In the past, their use was to give confidence and luck to the athletes. Some fighters wear one Pra Jiad, some wear two. Some schools also use color-coded pra jiads to show rank, similar to belts in karate. Today, some gyms will give Pra Jiad to their athletes to boost their confidence.  Traditionally, pra jiads were kept in high or well reverend places, as it was thought that if someone stepped over it, or dropped it, it would lose its mystical power.  (Wikipedia)