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After watching his action flicks, who didn’t try to imitate Bruce Lee, the famous martial artist? We all did as children. If you are into Martial Arts or have been obsessed with all things related to Martial Arts then you certainly must be aware of Muay Thai, the traditional Martial Art of Thailand.
By definition “Muay” is referred to as boxing, a combating sport whereby clinching techniques use elbows, fists, knees, and shins to overpower the opponent. Apparently violent, the game is more of a mind game than fighting. It is all about calculated moves made at the right time. One interesting fact related to Muay Thai is that it is also famously called the “Art of Eight Limbs” for an apparent reason; 8 parts of the body are essential for Muay Thai, hands, elbows, shins, and knees.
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Historical Background of Muay Thai
Every sport is born out of the need, and so did Muay Thai. Back in the 13th century when the Sukhothai dynasty had to safeguard the kingdom, the army had to find solutions to make their soldiers sturdy enough to fight with or without arms. Thus, began the legacy of Muay Thai along with Muay Boran.  But who knew that soon this tradition would become a regular, day-to-day norm for the people of Thailand? Wars among the neighboring lands were a norm back then. But do you know that this national sport of Thailand has a day specially dedicated to it, the 17th March of each year is Muay Thai Day which the Thai people celebrate with all zeal.
Muay Thai Day: From Battlefield To National Sport
The sport has the power to unite people and it can become a source of a memory that reminds one of the valor and glory of the people and their struggle, Muay Thai is no different in this regard. During the Ayutthaya Period, one of the young soldiers by the name of Nai Khanom, managed to win 9 combats against 10 Burmese fighters, when he became a prisoner of the war. From that day onward, the historical event became the most celebrated event in Thai history and something every Thai person is proud of.
This sport of war became the national sport in the early 20th century when during the Rattanakosin Kingdom, allowing every individual to learn the sport by following the stipulated rules.
Muay Thai Went International:
When the warsport became the national sport, specific rules were inculcated in the sport to make it suitable for every kind of individual. Soon the sport gained so much popularity that by the late 20th century, many people outside Thailand started learning it. To make it an official sport, Ajarn Surachin Chai Sirisute initiated World Thai Boxing Association (WTBA) in 1968.
With an aim to make the sport global, Ajarn Chai reached America and it was his efforts that Muay Thai is now known worldwide. His 40 years of work for the sport make him the most influential personality in the world of Muay Thai. Each year “instructor Development Camps” are organized in Australia, America, and UK to enhance the training and impart knowledge related to Muay Thai, all by WTBA
The Sport with Cultural Value:
Muay Thai is not just a sport for the Thai people, for them, the sport represents the bravery of their soldiers in the face of oppression, a true symbol of a warrior who is not afraid of whatever comes his way. Many see the combating sport as the symbol of perseverance and national identity for the people of the country.
The Rules & Techniques of Muay Thai
While the sport did not have any rules during the wars, it soon developed few to ensure inclusivity. The most important is the weight rule. Anyone willing to participate in a professional competition of Muay Thai has to be 15 or older and should not weigh lesser than 100 pounds and the competitors cannot have a weight difference of more than 5 pounds when fighting each other. These rules are formulated by World Muay Thai Council to ensure fairness. In Muay Thai, the super heavyweight is referred to as anyone weight more than 209 pounds whereas the lightest allowed weight is 105 pounds and is referred to as Mini Flyweight.
The Gears for The Sport
In order to compete in Muay Thai one needs to wear gloves and shorts that should be half-thigh length. To avoid injury over the mouth or groin, both need to be protected by wearing the guard. The sport’s rules do not allow beards or long hair as these are easier to grasp during the fight. Mongkol or sacred headband and the charm are compulsory to be worn by all the participants during the contest. Muay Thai is fought without footwear.
Unique Scoring System
The Scoring system of Muay Thai is judged on round to round basis, with 10 being the highest score and is given to the winner whereas the one who loses will still score 9, 8, or 7 depending on how well he performed during the fight. An example of this could be the score of 10:7, with 10 for the winner and 7 for the opponent for his performance in that particular round, given by the referee. Anyone who does not follow the rules and receives a warning loses one point.
Key Techniques and Strikes Used in Muay Thai
Like every sport. Muay Thai has certain tricks and techniques that the players have to master in order to compete with each other, the punches and kicks in a variety of ways, make this boxing sport unique and thrilling.
While punching and kicking are the two main techniques of Muay Thai, punching is used most often. From a straight rear punch called a cross to a straight lead punch known as a jab, Muay Thai has various types of punches as a part of the game. Other standard punches are overhead, overhand, uppercut, spinning-back-fist, and hook punches.
Similar to punches, there are kicks unique to the sport, the most common being the Push kick or the Teep kick. In order to ensure that the opponent stays at a distance, one needs to directly thrust the foot into either the face or solar plexus, hips, or abs. One more common kick is the Round kick, which has 4 different ways: low, mid, high, or switch. These round kicks target different areas of the body of the opponent. Other than teep and round kicks, jumping, diagonal, Straight-foot-Jab, Switch, and Low kicks are also very common in Muay Thai.
Clinching and Grappling Techniques
Muay Thai is all about gaining power over your opponent by using physical fighting techniques at the right time. Though there are many techniques but two that are often observed in the game are the Clinching and Grappling Techniques
The clinching technique is used if one wants to attack the opponent with full force by restraining him to attack. In this, the attacker has to close the distance between himself and the opponent, ensuring that the arms are inside the opponent forcing him to press the elbows tightly. The technique is usually used to knee-strike the opponent and save oneself from his attacks.
Grappling is limited in Muay Thai, in that, one is not allowed to ground strike the opponent or throw him by pulling his knees or calves. Grappling is more of a Clinch Plum where the fighter has to close the distance between his opponent by closing both of his hands behind the opponent’s neck.
Defensive Strategies and Counters
The sport has many defensive strategies but mastering all of them is not an easy task but anyone who wants to compete and be the master of Muay Thai has to learn most of the defensive techniques as well as these give one room to win over the opponent and provide more offense opportunities. The table below lists some common defensive techniques that are used by the fighters:
This lower-body defensive technique works to stop low kicks. In this, one needs to stop the impact of the kick through one leg and one elbow. The incoming kick should meet your shin instead.
Bob And Weave
The trick works against the “hook”, allowing the fighter to close the distance between the opponent by bobbing and weaving and turning the defense into offense by gaining momentum.
Parry is used to avoid the crosses and jabs of the opponents by using the arm opposite to that of the opponent’s punch. The hand is used to push their punch toward their body. One has to ensure keeping their face outside while parrying to avoid injury to the face.
Catching the Kick
As the name suggests, this technique dampens the impact of the kick by “catching it”. When a kick is thrown, one needs to move towards a strike by footwork. Using the body as a cover, the hand has to be used to catch the kick and keep it tightly grasped.
When a jab or cross is thrown your way, one has to move the head to avoid a blow on the face. Using footwork to the slip, one has to move slowly towards the opponent to immediately get an angle to dominate the opponent.
Other techniques that are used for defense are cover, offense as defense, long guard, and leaning.
Muay Thai Training and Conditioning
Similar to every sport, Muay Thai requires resilience, and body strength to succeed, therefore, the traditional method of body conditioning is very much intact. In this, martial artists kick bamboo shoots and banana trucks to strengthen the shin. This method allows the body to adapt to the pain and injury. Repetition is the key.
An extensive regime has to be followed whereby 6-8 weeks of training is compulsory; the training comprises 4-5 hours of extensive workout whereby one does bag workout, weight training, exercises to condition bones, and sparring. Even diet is changed according to the requirement of the sport. From push-ups to side planks, and dumbbell rows to squats and single-leg deadlifts, the artists have to go through rigorous routines to build up body strength.
Famous Muay Thai Icons
The sport of Muay Thai has many legends worth praising but there are few who ruled the hearts of the Thai people and are still known throughout the world for their contribution to the sport. The table represents some famous Muay Thai icons who literally changed how the world sees Muay Thai 
Muay Thai Martial Artists
Saenchai Sor Kingstar
Buakaw Por Pramuk
Pop Culture and Muay Thai
Muay Thai is not limited to a sport, it has influenced pop culture and has graced our television screens several times as a movie, manga anime, and now even video games. From famous movies like Bloodsports(1988), and The Fighter’s Blue(2000) to the recent one Raya and The Last Dragon (2021), the sport has influenced many media people to make it part of their movies. Besides movies, anime/manga is a famous genre for Muay Thai, some popular animes were Beyblade, All Rounder Meguru, and The Demon of Kickboxing. If you are a video game fanatic, you probably have encountered Muay Thai if you have played Tekken, Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, or Battle Arena Toshinden.
The Muay Thai sport does not only build body strength but it allows the fighters to learn discipline, learn self-control, and exercise patience while being always alert and vigilant in times of need. The sport is a must for anyone who wishes to learn self-discipline but often grapples with the idea because it seems too far-fetched. Muay Thai is not just a sport, but its influence can be felt and observed among the Thai people due to the heroic legendary stories attached to the sport.
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