As you might already know, ‘Muay Thai’ or ‘Thai Boxing’ is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. Muay Thai is also well-known as the ‘Art of Eight Limbs’ because it combines the use of 2 fists, 2 elbows, 2 knees, and 2 feet to protect the weak parts of the body when fighting. With good physical preparation and good practice, one can become a powerful fighter. It is also somewhat similar to other Asian sports, such as Lethwei from Myanmar, Muay Lao from Laos, Tomoi from Malaysia, or Pradal Serey from Cambodia.
Muay Thai was developed even before the Sukhothai Kingdom, which was founded in 1238 as a form of close-combat by utilizing the entire body as a weapon in the battles in order to protect the kingdom. It was used in the army and entertainment for the King. It was also popular for the commoners. Muay Thai became well-known internationally in the twentieth century. The Ministry of Culture of Thailand has registered Muay Thai as the Folk Games and Sports domain on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2010. The professional league is governed by the Professional Boxing Association of Thailand (P.A.T) sanctioned by the Sport Authority of Thailand (S.A.T.) and the World Muaythai Federation (WMF) overseas. Every 6th February is celebrated as ‘Muay Thai Day.’
The two of the world-renowned boxing stadiums of Muay Thai in Thailand are Rajadamnern and Lumpinee stadiums.
In 1941, the Thai Prime Minister Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram gave an order to construct the Rajadamnern stadium. However, the project was forced to stop until August 1945 due to a lack of construction supplies during the World War II. After the war ended, it took only four months to complete it. The first boxing match was held on 23 December, 1945. Currently, Muay Thai contests at Rajadamnern stadium are held on every Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. The fights start at around 6.30 p.m. and ticket prices range from 1,000 (third class) to 2,000 (ring-side) baht.
The Lumpinee stadium opened more than a decade later. The Lumpinee is run by the Royal Thai Army on behalf of the Thai Government. All proceeds are for the various departments of the Thai Army. Unlike the Rajadamnern stadium, the Lumpinee holds Muay Thai contests on every Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The fights typically start at 6:00 p.m. and ticket prices range from 200 to 2,000 baht. The similarity of these two stadiums is the rules. The boxers have to weigh more than 100 lb (45.4 kg), aged over 15 years, and the weight difference between the boxers should not exceed 5 lb (2.3 kg). Women are also not allowed to fight in the stadium or enter the ring. These two stadiums are the best places to see Muay Thai in Bangkok!
Apart from watching and experiencing Thai boxing at the stadiums, you can also enroll for Muay Thai lessons if you have enough time! There are various types of courses you can choose which can be perfect for you. I saw many Western tourists wanting to learn Muay Thai when they visit Thailand. Before going back home, a lot of tourists usually buy Muay Thai shorts as a souvenir from Thailand for their boyfriend, son or male friends these days. It is one of the greatest souvenirs that well represents the traditional Thai culture and sports!
By Natcha Poompradit, ASEAN Correspondent from Thailand