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Muay Thai


Muay Thai
Kat Steele vs Michelle Grizzle (2005)
Photo by Jan Plitko

Русская версия


Muay Thai ("Thai Boxing") is the Thai name for an indigenous form of martial art practiced in several southeast Asian countries. Besides Thailand, it's Cambodia (where the martial art is known as Pradal Serey), Myanmar (where it is generally known as Lethwei) and Malaysia (Malaysian derivative of Muay Thai known as tomoi or Muay Malay). This combat style was the first one to be popularized outside of southeast Asia.

Traditional Muay Thai has a long history in Thailand as a martial art used by the military as well as entertainment show for kings and noblemen. The military style of Muay Thai is called Lerdrit, while today's "Sport Muay Thai" slightly varies from the original art and uses kicks and punches in a ring and with gloves similar to those used in boxing. Muay Thai is referred to as "The Science of Eight Limbs", as the hands, feet, elbows, and knees are all used extensively in this art. Unlike other martial arts such as san shou, karate, or tae kwon do, Muay Thai is specifically designed to promote that level of fitness and toughness required for ring competition.

The basic offensive techniques in Muay Thai use fists, elbows, shins, feet, and knees to strike the opponent. To bind the opponent for both offensive and defensive purposes, small amounts of stand-up grappling are used: the clinch. The clinch is applied by holding the opponent either around the neck or around the body. (In Western boxing and kickboxing, the two fighters are separated when they clinch.) Defensively, the concept of "wall of defense" is used, in which shoulders, arms and legs are used to hinder the attacker from successfully executing his techniques. Block is a critical element in Muay Thai compounds the level of conditioning a successful practitioner must posses. Low and mid body roundhouse kicks are normally blocked with a raised shin. Mid to high body strikes are blocked with the forearm, knee/shin.

Roundhouse kicks to the mid section are often blocked/accepted by a slight rotation of the torso so that the attacking shin strikes the back 1/4 of the rib cage. Mid section round house kicks can also caught/trapped, allowing for a sweep or counter attack to the remaining leg of the opponent. 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.

With the success of Muay Thai in mixed martial arts fighting, it has become the de facto martial art of choice for competitive stand-up fighters. As a result, it has evolved in order and incorporated much more powerful hand striking techniques used in western style kickboxing, and the Thai style of exchanging blow for blow is no longer favorable.

Traditionally, women were banned from entering the Muay Thai boxing ring and there was no women's boxing in Thailand. Long-held superstitions and prejudices that women pugilists will jinx any ring they fight in have traditionally colored local attitudes toward "nak muay ying" (young female fighter). Thai women have not fought professionally since the late '60s when Amnuay Kesbumrung, current president of the MTI (Muay Thai Institute) and a former fighter himself, tried to popularize the sport by holding female bout at the famed Lumpini Stadium. However, he abandoned the idea after three years because the predominantly male Thai fans refused to watch -- or more crucially bet on -- the matches. In the ensuring four decades, the only place to see women boxing was a provincial temple fairs and festivals. Female Thai boxing gained impetus form abroad - over the last decade, women throughout Europe, Australia, the US and Japan have been taking up Muay Thai as a form of exercise and self defense. Wanting to test out their skills in the country where the sport originated, the foreign female boxers came to Thailand only to discover a dearth of qualified local opponents. "Thai women weren't being properly trained and the foreigners basically destroyed them," recounts Irish Niamh (Neve) Griffin, a junior featherweight champion from Ireland. "It was humiliating for the Thais." Under pressure to even up the boxing scores, in 1998 Amnuay resuscitated the idea of promoting women's fights. This time, however, he decided to provide women - and any interested men - with an on-site school as well as just a sport venue.

Once inside the ring, Thai women fight just as intensely as their male countrymen do. The only difference between the five-round matches is that men fight three-minute rounds with one-minute breaks, while women go for two-minutes with two-minute breaks.

As in men's Muay Thai, each women's match begins with the ceremonial "Ram Muay" dance taken from the Ramakien (a Thai epic closely based on the Hindu Ramayana). Wearing the traditional Monckton headbands created from written monk's prayers that are wrapped in silk thread, the boxer move gracefully in the center of the ring, bowing in all directions. The dance is a mark of respect for the boxer's trainer and parents. As Niamh explains, "It also serves to calm a fighter so she can take possession of the ring and feel safe there." Supposedly, in the past, you could tell which gym a fighter came from based on the style of the dance. Nowadays this is no longer true.

Thailand has been always famous by beauty and attractiveness or its women. Nowadays, female Thai boxing became an additional important tourist attraction in Thailand. Young girls (dressed and even undressed) fiercely fight on the ring. In the sharp contrast to the Thai stereotype of smiling gentleness, the sport combines graceful physicality with grunting savagery that can break bones and draw blood. However, despite its toughness, a Muay Thai match carries elements of dancing, gracious and airiness. These features of the ancient Thai martial art are tenfold intencified in women's accomplishment.

Currently, women's Muay Thai is well established international sports represented by International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur (IFMA) and Women's Muay Thai Federation (WMF). The next World Muay Thai Championship for men and women will be held in Thailand in 2006. Currently, the highest ranked fighters in the Thai style are our friend Ilonka Elmont (below 112 lbs), Lisa Howarth (117 lbs), Karen Harding (122 lbs), Jacqueline Nava (122 lbs), Holly Ferneley (127 lbs), Julia Halturina (127 lbs), Germaine de Randamie (132 lbs), Julia Budd (142 lbs), Mariya Golovan (147 lbs).

Obviously, Muay Thai is a distinctive sport, other than kickboxing. However, International Kickboxing Federation, IKF holds tournaments and championships not only by the international and full contact kickboxing but also by Muay Thai and Sah Shou rules. Many female kickboxers also practice and compete in Muay. Since many of Muay techniques are used in modern kickboxing, contemporary Muay Thai is sometimes consider as a form of kickboxing.

Now women reach even secluded corners of the male dominated combative world. Recently, Rachael Jones of England participated in a rare event - a bare-knuckle Muay Thai match in Thailand, knocking out her local opponent with a left hook in round 3.


Prominent Muay Thai fighters

Julia Budd
Julia Budd

Germaine de Randamie
Germaine de Randamie

Holly Ferneley
Holly Ferneley

Mariya Golovan
Mariya Golovan

Julia Halturina
Julia Halturina

Jacqueline Nava
Jacqueline Nava


Muay Thai episodes


Lisa Houghton-Smith in "Ram Muay" pre-bout performance. Photo from Women Kickboxing


Kimberly Tomes in "Ram Muay" pre-bout performance. Photo from Women Kickboxing

Topless Muay Thai
Topless Muay Thai

Rachael Jones against a Thai fighter
Rachael Jones against a Thai fighter

Episodes of Muay Thai bouts




Muay Thai
Chanelle Borgen vs. Rachael Jones (2005). Photo by Jan Plitko



Tricia McKeary vs. Rayelene Kellock (2005). Photo by Jan Plitko



Charlotte Webster vs. Sophie Bowyer (2005). Photo by Jan Plitko



Jaimie Ricketts vs. Erin Linley (2005). Photo by Jan Plitko



Ardra Hernandez vs. Yoshimi Ohama (2005). Photo by Benny E. Palmore



Liza King vs. Ariana Ramirez. Photo from Benny E. Palmore


Rachael Jones in her bare knuckle bout in Thailand (2005). Photo from Women Kickboxing


Videoclips


Muay Thai bouts
Featuring Anna Zucchelli (WMC MAD World Champion), Karen Lynch, Amanda Kelly (WMC World Champion Contender), Annabelle Gely, Isabelle Aranega, Ruqsana Begum, Claudia Bertel, and Alison Blease


LaTasha Marzolla proves that it is possible to be sexy and to be a great fighter too


Muay Thai female fighters who were Ring Girls before


Muay Thai bouts
Tournament in California with Gina Carano, Lisa King and others


Felice Herrig vs. Jessica Sanchez at Shindo Kumate at Tampa. Round 2


World Combat League - Jeri Sitzes vs Melissa Bopp


Gina "Conviction" Carano dominates her opponent


>> Combative activities

>> Punches and kicks

>> Kickboxing


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