Muay Thai Origins

Muay Thai aka – “The Science of Eight Limbs” or “Thai Boxing” as it is commonly known in the West is both a martial combat-sport and wartime lethal fighting system, not to be confused with Japanese or Chinese “Kick Boxing”, which was a poor attempt by the Japanese invaders to copy the Muay Thai they witnesses destroying their Karate Masters during grudge matches in occupied Thailand. Muay Thai originated as best as can be determined over one thousand years ago in the entire Southeast Asian region. Muay Thai or more accurately Southeast Asian boxing, developed concurrently and mostly independent of foreign influence due to ongoing wars between several nations; Cambodia (Pradal Serey or Cambodian- Khun Khmer Boxing), Burma (Leth Wei) Laos (Lao Boxing) and of course, Thailand (Muay Thai).

It appears, given the progressive geographic  routes of Theravada Buddhism and commerce during early periods that Southeast Asian martial arts were influenced if at all from India, via ocean trade routes not by prohibitive land routes from China. This explains why Muay Thai and other regional combat systems appear significantly different when compared to Chinese/Korean/Japanese martial arts. Due to constant state of war between all of these collective nations, and the Burmese sacking of Ayutthaya, most records and documentation of Muay Thai’s original development have been lost.


Although many nations in the region claim credit for first developing ancient Muay Thai, Thailand has without a doubt been primarily responsible for preserving, enhancing and promoting the art. The fact that Thailand never suffered from foreign colonization like their neighbor nations played a big part in Thailand’s ability to preserve much of its culture unscathed. In early times Muay Thai was known generically as Muay Boran or “ancient boxing” and utilized with great effectiveness by Siamese soldiers in brutal close combat. Muay Boran was the weaponless supplement to Krabi Krabong the Thai weapons based fighting art. In peace time Thai solders and citizens conducted regular training and competitive fights or grudge matches with fists bound by hemp rope and very few formal rules. Most fights ended when one participant couldn’t continue from injury, exhaustion or death.

In the early 1900’s due to frequent fighter injury and even death, the Thai monarchy decreed that Muay Thai-Boran competitions would require western Queensbury style boxing rules with as weight classes, timed rounds, mouth guards, cups, referees, gloves and standardized rings. This was the beginning of the sport Muay Thai we see today.