The history of Muay Thai and the legend of Nai Khanom Tom

Muay Thai (also known as Thai boxing) is a traditional Thai martial art form derived from the ancient boxing technique, Muay Boran. It is known as the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’ as fighters are able to use fists, elbows, knees and shins against eight points of contact, six more than regular boxing.

From as far back as the 1500s, soldiers in the Thai army were trained to use each body part as a weapon. The hands became two swords, shins and forearms were the shield and the elbows, legs and knees were a heavy blunt instrument like a hammer.

This ancient martial art form has evolved and is now practised all around the world. Thousands of Muay Thai enthusiasts travel to Thailand every year to sample the authentic Muay Thai experience. You can find out more in this Muay Thai Holidays YouTube video featuring Alex Reid:

The legend of Nai Khanom Tom
Arguably the most important fighter in Muay Thai history is Nai Khanom Tom, whose heroics have gone down in Thai folklore.

During the fall of the ancient Siamese capital, Ayutthaya, to the Burmese in 1767, thousands of Siamese were rounded up and taken back to Burma as prisoners, including Nai Khanom Tom.

A few years later, King Hsinbyushin of Burma held a religious festival in honour of Buddha. The king decided he wanted to see how Muay Boran compared to the Burmese equivalent, Lethwei. Nai Khanom Tom was selected to fight against the Burmese champion and promptly won after performing a traditional Wai Kru pre- fight dance. The referee claimed his opponent was distracted by the dance and ruled the knock-out invalid.

The king then asked Nai Khanom Tom if he would prove himself by fighting nine other opponents. He agreed, and triumphed over each one. Impressed, the king awarded Nai Khanom Tom his freedom along with two wives.

Wai Kru
Wai Kru Ram Muay is a dance-like ritual performed before a Muay Thai match to pay respect to the fighters, teachers and trainers. The fighter performs the ritual on each side of the ring to demonstrate their prowess and strength. The simple movements also represent a fighter’s style, teacher and birthplace.

Ayutthaya, our Thailand Destination of the Month, is home to the annual World Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony. During the ceremony, Muay Thai boxers from all over the globe visit Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya to pay respect to their teachers and to Nai Khanom Tom.

The ceremony coincides with the Thai Martial Arts Festival and a variety of matches and tournaments are held across the country.

Are you a Muay Thai enthusiast or been lucky enough to experience the World Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony? Share your stories with us on Facebook or Twitter using #DiscoverMuayThai.