During the Thonburi Era, Thailand experienced peace long enough to begin reconstruction. Muay Thai was reserved for soldiers and became a favorite past time for others. However, the sport became more competitive. Training camps would have their best fighters compete for entertainment and gambling opportunities.
Rules and regulations were introduced to the sport by the time Rama I was king. Muay Thai was a featured event at festivals and celebrations throughout the country. The length of a round was equal to the time it took a coconut, with a small hole, to sink to the bottom of a barrel. Competitors still fought until there was a clear winner.
Boxing Meets Muay Thai
In 1788, two brothers from France were traveling through countries while one of them challenged fighters. They arrived in Thailand so the brother could compete against a Thai boxer.
The head of the royal boxing ministry, Pra Raja Wangbowon, and the king agreed to bet 4,000 Baht. A ring was crafted in the Grand Palace and measured 20 x 20 meters for the fight.
The fighter from France was stronger but the Thai fighter was faster. When the Frenchman began to tire, his brother jumped in the ring to assist him breaking the rules. This action caused a riot between the fighters and the crowd.
The World Is Introduced to Muay Thai
Royally appointed boxing centers, called Muay Luang were built throughout Thailand. This is how King Rama V found royal officers. Fighters in these centers were invited to fight in tournaments by the king to participate in international events and royal tournaments.
During WWI, Muay Thai was introduced to the world. Fighters were sent to France to entertain the troops. After the war, the first Thai boxing stadium was built in the Suan Khoolab School. Fighters still wrapped their hands in hemp but added cotton. They still wore Mongkongs around their heads and pa-pra-jiats around their biceps.
More Traditions Develop
As tribes migrated south, they fought their way through China, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Cambodia. Through military exercises, combat, training, and loss of life the Thai sport began to take shape, developing rudimentary elements and techniques of precision. Each movement was designed to create excruciating pain to an opponent. This would allow a fighter to overcome a rival without being open to attack.
Proper posture and positioning were used to enhance awareness. Soldiers taught specific techniques and skills to students, and fathers taught sons.
Teachers of the sport are called Kroo Muay. The ritual dance performed by fighters in the ring is called Wai Kroo. It honors the teacher, casts spells of protection, and mentally prepares the fighter. Ram Muay is a dance unique to each training camp. The dance is done in each direction of the ring. The contender touches each corner post in prayer to show respect for the spirits and his opponent.