In the battlefields of Ayutthaya, in 15th and 16th centuries, the Burmese and Thai armies faced each other. Accounts from the Burmese of the period give reports of ferocious unarmed Thai soldiers who were trained to fight with their feet.
In Thailand today, Muay Thai or Thai Kick Boxing is a highly organized and popular sport.
Each bout begins with a period of Ram Muay (boxing dance) in which the boxer pays tribute to his teacher and invokes the good will of the spirit of the ring.
The boxers wear a woven headband, which is removed during the fight, armbands containing tiny Buddha images, tape round the ankles and feet and regulation boxing gloves and shorts.
The atmosphere at a Thai boxing event is full of noise and enthusiasm. An orchestra of Thai oboe and percussion instruments plays continuously, with the tempo rising and falling in time with the action.
When the Burmese faced the Thais there were no ‘rules of combat’ but modern Muay Thai is organised under a set of well established regulations.
Any part of the body may be used to strike an opponant, except the head.
Although the boxers today wear gloves, punching is considered the weakest of all blows. It is the head kicks, and knee and elbow strikes which are decisive in most matches.