The sport of Muay Thai Kickboxing evolved from the practical fighting techniques that are used in actual warfare, which are called Muray Boran meaning “ancient boxing” and Muay meaning “unarmed combat”. During the reign of King Naresuan in 1590, Kickboxing gained prominence and became the unarmed component of military training.
According to historical records and Thai folklore, at the time of the fall of the ancient Siamese capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1767, the invading Burmese army captured thousands of Siamese and took them to Burma as prisoners; among them were a large number of Thai warriors.
In the Burmese city of Rangoon, Burmese King Hsinbyushin (known in Thai as “King Mangra”) decided to organize a 7-day 7-night religious Festival to commemorate his “short lived” victory and to Honor the Emerald Buddha.
The Festivities included many forms of entertainment, such as the costume plays called Iikay, comedies, dancing, and highlighted by sword fighting and martial arts matches.
King Hsinbyushin organized a tournament with his country’s team against the Thai to see how the Siamese style of boxing would compare to his Burmese Lethwei boxers. The boxing ring was set up in front of the King’s throne.
Nai Khanomtom a soldier from Thailand’s ancient capital was selected represent the Thais in this event. He was scheduled to fight against the Burmese Boxing Champion.
According to Burmese officials, while the fighters were warming up, Nai Khanomtom preformed the traditional Wai Kru, (the pre-fight dance called “Ram Muay”) to pay his respects to his teachers and ancestors, as well as the spectators. This amazed and confused Burmese people, some who thought it was a trick, or black magic.
When the fight began, Nai Khanomtom in classic Muay Thai style stepped forward, using punches, kicks, elbows, and followed up with knees overwhelming his opponent, scoring a quick First Round Knockout.However, the Burmese referee said the Burmese Champion was “too distracted by the pre-fight dance” and declared the Knockout a No-Contest.
To settle this dispute, The King issued a challenge for Nai Khanomtom to Fight 9 Consecutive Burmese Boxing Champions. He agreed to fight them all, 1 after the other, in 1 consecutive round with no rest periods in between.
After defeating the first 8 fighters, his final opponent was a great kickboxing teacher from Rakhine. With forward pressure, Nai Khanomtom chopped him down with leg kicks to score a TKO. No others would challenge him after that fight.
King Mangra was so impressed with his fantastic display of skills, he was quoted as saying, “Every part of the Thai is blessed with venom. Even with his bare hands, he can fell 9 or 10 opponents. But his Lord was incompetent and lost the country to the enemy. If he had been any good, there was no way the City of Ayutthaya would ever have fallen.”
After this event, King Mangra granted Nai Khanomtom his freedom along with either riches or 2 Burmese wives. He chose the wives saying, “money was easier to find”. He then departed with his wives back to home in Siam.
The stories followed him with his return to Thailand as a hero and spent the rest of his life teaching Muay (Thai). He is often referred to as the “Father of Muay Thai.”
His accomplishments are Celebrated every March 17 as “Boxer’s Day” or “National Muay Thai Day”(outside of Thailand) in His honor. On this day participants across the world take time to reflect on the sport they love and show gratitude to the ones who teach it.
This week when you are training, realize that you are part of this history; you are carrying on these techniques, skills and traditions. Think of him and know that every time you hit the pads, chop down with roundhouse kicks, and each time you blast someone in the face, you honor his memory and achievement. Happy Muay Thai Day!