The History of Muay Thai

Muay Thai World Champion Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn

To the Thai people, Muay Thai is an important part of their nation’s history and a source of real patriotic pride. Ever since the eighteenth century, Thais have prided themselves on being better at stand up fighting than any other nation and this is largely thanks to the legend of Nai Khanomtom.

Two hundred years ago, Thailand as we know it today did not exist. In its place was the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, which stretched all the way from Sukothai in the North to Malaysia in the South. The crown in the jewel of this 600 year old Kingdom was the city of Ayutthaya.

Foreign traders flocked to Ayutthaya from all over Asia and as far as Europe. The capital was one of the most prosperous cities in the East. Bangkok, by contrast, was just a small trading community on the banks of the Chao Phraya river.

Muay Thai, or Muay Boran as it is known in its ancient form, was an important part of culture in the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. It was also a means of social advancement for young men, just as Muay Thai is today. The best fighters were invited into the Royal Palace and responsibility for the King’s protection was given to a group known as as Muay Luang (Royal Muay).

While Ayutthaya was prosperous, it was far from peaceful and wars were almost constantly waged with neighbouring regimes in Cambodia and Burma. In 1765, a 45,000 man strong Burmese army invaded the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. In 1767, the actual city of Ayutthaya finally fell and was burned to the ground, destroying all evidence over the origins of Muay Thai.

The Burmese took a number of prisoners and amongst them was a sizeable contingent of Muay Boran fighters. In 1774, the Burmese King Hsinbyushin decided to organize a festival in Rangoon and the entertainment on offer included a contest between the best Muay Boran fighter and the champion of Lethwei, the Burmese stand up fighting sport.

Nai Khanomtom was the Muay Boran fighter selected to face the Burmese champion and he easily defeated him. However, the Burmese King was suspicious of the Wai Kru dance which Khanomtom performed before the fight and accused him of using black magic to overcome his opponent.
In order to truly prove himself, Khanomtom was asked to face another nine Burmese fighters. He defeated them all, one after the other. King Hsinbyushin was sufficiently impressed to grant the Muay Boran fighter his freedom and this occasion is commemorated every year in Thailand on March 17th.

The Wai Kru is still performed before Muay Thai bouts to this very day. Prestigious annual awards are given to the fighter with the best Wai Kru. Evolve MMA instructor Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn has received the Wai Kru of the Year award from the Sports Authority of Thailand on two separate occasions and is renowned for having one of the best Wai Krus in the history of the sport. Here you can see Namsaknoi performing his Wai Kru before a fight with Nuengpichit Sityodtong:

There might be almost two hundred and fifty years separating Namsaknoi and Khanomtom, but they actually have much in common. They both had eye catching Wai Krus and they were both among the very best fighters in their respective Kingdoms.

To this day fighters from Thailand are renowned for being totally fearless and for having an almost unshakeable confidence in their own ability. Much has changed since the eighteenth century. However, when it comes to Muay Thai, certain things are still very much the same.

Evolve Mixed Martial Arts® is Asia's premier brand of MMA academies. With World Champions in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing, and No Gi Grappling, Evolve MMA is the top martial arts training organization in Asia. It ranks among the best martial arts academies in the world.