Thai boxing originated as a self defence and developed to become a sport. It is well-known for its various types of forward and backward elbow strikes, Knee strikes, swing and reversing kicks, foot jabbing and all types of fist blows. A great deal of training and coaching is required to develop this skill.
In the old days, Thai traditional boxers "had their fists and the lower arms wrapped in strings and then soaked in a starchy liquid, granulated glassy material was sprinkled on to lend additional devastating effects. When dry and hard, the pair of dress fists becomes a deadly lethal weapon." (Chaleo Manilerd 1980 : 23)
Thai boxers of today wear regular gloves and rattan headbands entering a ring with much ceremony - typical of Thai folk beliefs associated with martial sports. At every event of Thai boxing, there is a traditional musical band to provide traditional martial music for the fight. The band consists of Javanese pipe, a pair of two face drums and cymbals. Any tune can be played and varies with the phases of the fights. There is a tune for the ritual, for shadow boxing. During the fighting the piper can change the tune or the tempo to suit the action of the fighting.
For physical protection, a Thai boxer wears boxing trunks with a protective cup sewn on inside to prevent injury from kicks and kneeing. As for spiritual protection, Thai boxers believe in all kinds of charms and talismans. That is the reason for wearing lustral thread around the head and rings of charms around the biceps. No woman is allowed to go into the canvas ring for fear that her influence should destroy the strength and skill of the boxers.
Thai boxers are graded from fly weight to heavy weight, but welter, middle and heavy weight fights are rare. As with other styles of boxing, a referee controls the fight inside the ring and there are two judges who keep score outside the ring. At the opening sound of music, the two boxers in the ring will perform a short ritual of "Wai Khru" (paying homage to the teachers) and this quite often proceeds to a staging of the Four-faced Brahman dance which symbolizes four virtues: compassion, temperance, prudence and justice. Upon the completion of the prefight rites, boxers return to their respective corners to have their ceremonial headband removed and receive the last prefight instruction from their trainers. At the signal from the ring referee to fight, both boxers go into action. They fight 3 minutes rounds alternated by 2 minutes rest periods.
For foreign visitors, even if you are not interested in boxing and have never seen it before "you are almost certain to enjoy a Thai boxing match for the enthusiasm of the crowd is really infectious and to miss seeing one is rather like visiting the States and not going to a baseball match or omitting to see cricket match in England."
Information from: "Thai
Studies Through Games" Book 2 by Assist. Prof. Wadee Kheourai.
Pictures copyright: Panrit "Gor" Daoruang