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What Is Muay Thai?

Muay Thai

Thanks to Muay Thai PROS for the image.

Recently, a friend of mine started posting pictures and videos of herself and her kids doing Muay Thai. From what I have seen, it appears to be an intense workout that combines skilled hitting and kicking. On the other hand, it’s simple enough that her 5-year-old can participate in a class.

Currently, Georgianna lives in Kenya, so I imagined Muay Thai as some popular African sport. Perhaps because of her location, I thought I would interview her and write this great article about an exotic fitness class that’s making its way to the United States. I couldn’t have been more incorrect.

Loosely translated, Muay Thai is Thai Boxing. Although it has existed since 1774, Muay Thai popularity has increased globally since 1968. Currently, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia offer instructor training.

So, if you’re like me and thought Muay Thai was a new trend, you’re sorely mistaken. Here’s more about this sport that has existed longer than the United States.

Muay Thai History

The Story of Nai Khanom Tom

According to, in 1774, the Burmese king decided to create a week-long festival to honor some relics of the Buddha. As part of the celebration, he ordered “a royal presentation of a Thai boxing match between Thai and Burmese fighters.” In the first night, Nai Khanon Tom, a Thai fighter, was matched with a Burmese fighter.

When Nai Khanon Tom came out, he “began dancing around his opponent, which amazed and perplexed the Burmese spectators.  The referee then announced that the dance was a Thai tradition (wai khruu) through which the boxer paid his respects to his mentor.”

The fight began and the Thai boxer knocked out the Burmese boxer. However, the judge ruled that the Burmese boxer became so confounded by the preceding dance that he couldn’t fully function. He ruled that the Thai boxer would have to come back and fight 9 other Burmese boxers to prove himself. He did just that and defeated them all.

Nai Khanon Tom “is considered the first Thai boxer to have imprinted the art of Thai boxing with dignity, and who gave it such a reputation beyond Thailand’s borders that the episode remains engraved in the history of Burma until this day.”

Rising Popularity

According to,

“Muay Thai is known as ‘King of the Ring’ in kickboxing circles. These fights feature punches, kicks, elbows, knees, standing grappling and head-butts to wear down and knock out their opponent. Thai training methods develop devastating power, speed and superb cardio-vascular endurance as well as fighting spirit. Muay Thai training is also quite safe thanks to sophisticated pad training that evolved to keep fighters healthy between fights. Muay Thai has also proven very effective outside the ring and has been embraced enthusiastically by practitioners of a variety of self-defense, sporting, military and law enforcement activities.”

In 1968, Ajarn Surachai “Chai” Sirisute founded the World Thai Boxing Association. Then, he came to America as the first Thai boxing instructor and began teaching. His goal is to spread Muay Thai throughout the world, and he has worked toward this goal for the past 40 plus years.

So How’s Class?

According to my friend, Georgianna, people might think that Muay Thai is some sort of kickboxing or fighting class, but Muay Thai offers so much more. It’s a great cardiovascular workout . “I love it because it is pretty intense and takes a lot of energy, and I get a lot of satisfaction from punching and kicking.”

Because of the punching and kicking activities in the class, Georgianna warns that this class may not be a good fit for everyone. Anyone with wrist injuries should avoid punching. If you have lower back/hip flexor issues, you might need to refrain from kicking. When you kick, you medially rotate at the hip, so the kicks can grind.

Have you tried Muay Thai? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.

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