Muay Thai is undoubtedly the discipline that represents Thai culture most profoundly. It is believed to have originated in the Chinese Shaolin temple, circa 200 BC, and its spread can be attributed to Indian Buddhist monks. But as often happens in such cases, the certainty of its roots is lost in the oblivion and mystery of a distant and troubled past.
This practice, intimately linked to the country’s history, has produced formidable fighters and related legends, so much so that it has also become famous abroad under the name Thai Boxing or Thai Boxing. It is a full-contact martial art known as the art of the eight weapons because it allows combinations of punches, kicks, elbows and knees.
The preparation phase for combat is a fundamental part of the athlete. The fighter performs rituals to find concentration and favour with the spirits.
Becoming a warrior with Muay Thai
Even today, in the phrase that the trainer pronounces to the Nak Muay (practitioner) before the fight, one can still find legacies of Thai tradition, superstition and culture: ‘As a man, you become a warrior‘. And this does not only happen in Bangkok’s most important stadiums or busy gyms but also in the muban (neighbourhood) of the suburbs.
Near the Chiang Mai airport, in trainer Kanchai Chang-ngoen’s gymnasium, local boys learn Muay Thai from an early age to one day become warriors.