Guest Author - Caroline Baker
Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as Thai Boxing or Thai Kickboxing, has a long rich history that extends to the ancient battlefields of the Siamese. The competitors are involved in hand-to-hand combat, displaying a wide array of kicks, punches, and elbow techniques.
Modern Muay Thai is fought in a ring, very similar to the Western boxing matches. A traditional fighter would begin with the Ram Muay, a dance that honors the fighterís teachers. The ceremony will normally be performed in silence, starting at the center of the ring where the fighter pays homage to his homelands. As the ceremony continues, respect is paid to each of the four corners of the world and the ancestors who passed this art and talent along to the fighter. The dance is as much a sign of respect as it is a means to intimidate the opponent. The movements of a skilled Muay Thai fighter as are graceful as they are balanced and powerful.
Muay Thai has been a sport with a strong following in many Eastern countries and only recently started to take hold in the Western world as well. Often, it is lumped together with the more modern Kickboxing. However, the two different.
In Modern Kickboxing, one is restricted to specific zones and targets in order to score points. Depending on the kickboxing match, the competitors must complete a certain number of kicks in order to quality for the round. In addition, the gear and stances a kickboxer takes is very similar to that of Western Boxing.
In Muay Thai, the competitorís hands are mostly only wrapped or have very light gloves on. Men will only wear the shorts in the rings, perhaps a few arm rings for decoration, and the mongkol, a headdress, during the Ram Muay.
A Muay Thai fighterís resting position will often be with their arms (or guards) raised high at either side of their face. This is greatly different from Western Boxing and kickboxing where the guard is normally close to the chin and protecting the ribs. One of the training aspects of Muay Thai is to learn how to properly defend yourself by using either your legs or a turn of your body to protect your ribs. To drop your arms in a Western boxer stance would make it more difficult to execute certain elbow techniques that are part of the system.
Women have begun to fight in Muay Thai these days as well. This is more of a Modern influence as traditionally women were not allowed involvement in these competitions, a superstition that they would bring bad luck. In addition to the traditional garb, they will often wear a simple white, sleeveless top. These female matches are just as fierce and skilled as those fought by men.
Even if you have no intention of ever stepping into the ring to fight, Muay Thai is a high aerobic, toning form of Martial Arts. In Muay Thai, it is not weight but speed, endurance, and strength that wins the match. Flexibility and balance are also key to this art. After having personally sat through several Muay Thai matches, I donít believe I could ever watch a boxing or regular kickboxing match with the same awe as I felt watching two experience Muay Thai fighters go at it.