What are the origins/lineage of Thai boxing? That was a strangely graceful and dignified spectacle.
The Thais are thought to have originated to the North of China – and then slowly migrated as a distinct ethnic group down through China and into South East Asia. Thailand used to be part of the Indian Hindu empire thousands of years ago (with only Bali remaining today) – so the early Thais adopted the Hindu culture of the local Mon people. Then, Theravada Buddhism swept through India and out into its empire. The Thais then became Buddhist. Muay Thai is a fully rounded battlefield art designed for advancing infantry to protect the underbelly of battle-elephants. The ring version is a very good distillation of this art that retains all its Buddhist culture. A competing Thai fighter lives in a Buddhist training temple and is celibate. He cannot get married until he retires around 25 or 30-yesrs old (by which time he would have had around 300 fights). They start around 5-years old and have to meditate, read the Buddhist Suttas and cleanse their minds and bodies of all greed, hatred and delusion. This is as well as training 10 to 12 hours a day (everyday) . They also learn the various regional versions of the Ram Muay – the traditional martial dances performed before each fight. This is a ritual worshipping the Hindu God Rama, the Buddha, His Teachings and His community of monks, the Muay Thai teacher, the fighter’s parents and his ancestors! The accompanying music is played through each round and is designed to encourage the build-up (and flow) of martial energy in the body whilst maintaining clarity of insight in the mind. The pace of the music changes very subtlety during each round as the fight progresses – usually getting slightly faster. This is why proper Thai fighters always start slowly in the early rounds and gently build momentum as the rounds go by. A seasoned fighter in Thailand knows which round it is simply by ‘listening’ to the frequency of music being played!
This approach to training and fighting increases power and health – and assists in reducing severe injuries as well as ensuring spiritual cohesiveness. Many people in the West have no idea about any of this and just see Muay Thai as a form of Western Boxing that involves kicking – but it is entirely different! The Thai guard protests the neck, throat and head from the debilitating round kicks – whilst also deflecting vicious elbows aimed at the same targets. Punches, by comparison, are just not seen as that dangerous. This explains why many Western fighters lose against properly trained Muay Thai opponents – as their Western Boxing guards are ‘wide-open’ in the Muay Thai sense! Furthermore, many Westerners train for a few hours a week as a leisure activity and lack any genuine knowledge of Thai culture or Buddhist spirituality. As a consequence, their minds are riddled with greed, hatred and delusion – no matter how hard they have trained – and regardless of how hard they try, the Thais believe that they have already lost before the fight begins! There are exceptions, obviously, but even then, the spiritual aspect is a very real issue in Muay Thai! Thank you for respecting these two old men!