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Muay Thai or literally Thai boxing is a combat sport of Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. This discipline is known as the "art of eight limbs" as it is characterized by the combined use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins. Muay Thai became widespread internationally in the 20th century, when practitioners from Thailand began competing in kickboxing, mixed rules matches, as well as matches under Muay Thai rules around the world. The professional league is governed by The Professional Boxing Association of Thailand (P.A.T) sanctioned by The Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT), and World Professional Muaythai Federation (WMF) overseas.
It is similar to related styles in other parts of the Indian cultural sphere, namely Lethwei in Myanmar, Pradal Serey in Cambodia, Muay Lao in Laos, and Tomoi in Malaysia.
The history of Muay Thai can also be traced to the middle of the 18th century. During the battles between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam, the famous fighter Nai Khanomtom was captured in the year 1767. The Burmese knew of his expertise in hand-to-hand combat and gave him an opportunity to fight for his freedom. Nai Khanomtom managed to knock out ten consecutive Burmese contenders. Impressed by his boxing skill, he was freed by his captors and allowed to return to Siam. He was acknowledged as a hero, and his fighting style became known as Siamese-Style boxing, later to be known as Muay Thai. This fighting style was soon to be recognized as a national sport.
Muay boran, and therefore Muay Thai, was originally called by more generic names such as Toi muay or simply muay. As well as being a practical fighting technique for use in actual warfare, muay became a sport in which the opponents fought in front of spectators who went to watch for entertainment. These muay contests gradually became an integral part of local festivals and celebrations, especially those held at temples. Eventually, the previously bare-fisted fighters started wearing lengths of hemp rope around their hands and forearms. This type of match was called muay khat chueak. Kickboxing was also a component of military training and gained prominence during the reign of King Naresuan in 1560 CE.
Muay Thai is referred to as the "Art of Eight Limbs" or the "Science of Eight Limbs", because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight "points of contact", as opposed to "two points" (fists) in boxing and "four points" (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, such as kickboxing and savate. A practitioner of Muay Thai is known as a nak muay. Western practitioners are sometimes called Nak Muay Farang, meaning "foreign boxer".
1909-1910: King Chulalongkorn formalizes Muay (Boran) by awarding (in 1910) 3 muen to victors at the funeral fights for his son (in 1909). The region style: Lopburi, Korat, and Chaiya.
1913: British boxing introduced into the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College. The 1st descriptive use of the term “Muay Thai”
1919: British boxing and Muay taught as one sport in the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College. Judo also offered.
1921: 1st permanent ring in Siam at Suan Kulap College. Used for both Muay and British Boxing.
1923: Suan Sanuk Stadium. First international style 3-rope ring with red and blue padded corners, near Lumpinee Park. Muay and British Boxing.
King Rama VII (r. 1925–35) pushed for codified rules for muay, and they were put into place. Thailand's first boxing ring was built in 1921 at Suan Kularp. Referees were introduced and rounds were now timed by kick. Fighters at the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium began wearing modern gloves, as well as hard groin protectors, during training and in boxing matches against foreigners. Traditional rope-binding (Kaad Chuek) made the hands a hardened, dangerous striking tool. The use of knots in the rope over the knuckles made the strikes more abrasive and damaging for the opponent while protecting the hands of the fighter. This rope-binding was still used in fights between Thais but after the occurrence of a death in the ring, it was decided that fighters should wear gloves and cotton coverlets over the feet and ankles. It was also around this time that the term "Muay Thai" became commonly used, while the older form of the style came to be known as "Muay Boran", which is now performed primarily as an exhibition art form.
In 1993, the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur, or IFMA was inaugurated. It became the governing body of amateur Muay Thai consisting of 128 member countries worldwide and is recognized by Olympic Council of Asia.
In 1995, World Muaythai Council, the oldest and largest professional sanctioning organizations of Muay Thai was set up by the Royal Thai Government and sanctioned by the Sports Authority of Thailand.
In 1995, the World Muay Thai Federation was founded via the merger of two existing organizations, and established in Bangkok becoming the federation governing international Muay Thai. As of August 2012, it had over 70 member countries. Its President is elected at the World Muay Thai Congress.
In 2006, Muay Thai was included in SportAccord with IFMA. One of the requirements of SportAccord was that no sport can have a name of a country in its name. As a result, an amendment was made in the IFMA constitution to change the name of the sport from "Muay Thai" to "Muaythai" – written as one word in accordance with Olympic requirements.
In 2014 Muay Thai was included in the International World Games Association (IWGA) and will be represented in the official programme of The World Games 2017 in Wroc?aw, Poland.
In January 2015, Muay Thai was granted the Patronage of the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and on March the 16th to the 23rd, 2015 the first University World Muaythai Cup will be held in Bangkok.
Today, there are thousands of gyms spread out across the globe.
Formal Muay Thai techniques are divided into two groups: mae mai, or major techniques, and luk mai, or minor techniques. Muay Thai is often a fighting art of attrition, where opponents exchange blows with one another. This is certainly the case with traditional stylists in Thailand, but is a less popular form of fighting in the contemporary world fighting circuit where the Thai style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable. Almost all techniques in Muay Thai use the entire body movement, rotating the hip with each kick, punch, elbow and block.