Starting at the very beginning, Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and can be traced back to as early as the 16th century. It can be characterized by the use of stand up striking along with clinching techniques, a component of stand up fighting where opponents are grappling each other. Similar to kickboxing, Muay Thai operates under different rules including the use of clinching, knee and elbow strikes, as well as punches and kicks. Then, it was used as a peace-time martial art practiced by Thai soldiers within the kingdom of Siam, which was the former name of Thailand. One of the first recorded times Muay Thai was observed and recorded by someone outside of the country was when Simon de la Loubere was sent by King Louis XIV to the Kingdom of Siam in the late 17th century. Considered a combat sport otherwise known as the “art of eight limbs’ ‘, Muay Thai uses techniques that focus on the use of one’s fists, elbows, knees and shins. Originally used as a combat technique by soldiers, eventually, the martial art began to shift into a sport in which opponents competed in front of an audience. Over many decades, it was slowly adopted by citizens until the mid 19th century where Muay Thai became widespread across the country of Thailand as King Rama V found a great personal interest in it. This period was considered the golden age of muay thai. As warfare subsided, citizens around the country began to use the martial art as a form of physical fitness, recreation, and self-defense.
Within the 20th century is where Muay Thai began to hit its stride. In the 1920s, codified rules were eventually put into place for the sport as this was pushed by King Rama VII. These rules introduced the use of official referees and rounds were now timed by kick. Muay Thai began to quickly build in popularity in the 1980s and 90s, where matches were met with hundreds of spectators, gambling large amounts, and large high revenues. As the sport found worldwide recognition, in 2015, Muay Thai was granted entry into the International University Sports Federation leading to the introduction of the first University World Muaythai cup. Now in 2022, there are nearly 4,000 Thai boxing gyms overseas.