Why Muai Thai Is So Big In Thailand
Many who have looked into Muay Thai take it for granted that it’s one of the most beloved sports in Thailand, and something of a national pastime. But when you think about it, this is almost a little unusual. Not too many countries around the world have favorite sports that are so uniquely tied to their own cultures. So what is it, really, that makes Muay Thai such a big deal in Thailand? When you really explore the matter, there seem to be a number of factors at play.
The Sport’s Unique History
Most modern sports are perhaps anywhere between 50 and 150 years old, and some others are older still. Muay Thai is among the older ones, however, dating back several centuries to, according to most scholars on the subject, the 1300s – and probably well before that. It was around this time that the Burmese sacked what was then Siam though, and unfortunately much of the region’s recorded history was very literally destroyed. That is to say, we don’t know for certain how deep the roots of Muay Thai might have run before the sacking. However, we do know that Muay Thai was at least this old, and was used as a literal form of combat involving the use of the knees and elbows. From these ancient origins, the art was passed down generationally, gradually becoming more of a sport and less of a form of combat. And during World War II, people from around the world became exposed to it (though in some cases they referred to it as Siamese boxing). When you consider all of this, it’s clear that Muay Thai’s connection to the Thai people goes beyond of that of most sports to related cultures.
A Lack Of Alternatives
Rest assured we aren’t claiming with this point that there is no depth of sport in Thailand. Other martial arts are popular as well, with the Thais having had particular success in international boxing. Football is perhaps even more popular than Muay Thai, and many are fans of international basketball even if Thailand doesn’t have a particularly robust program. Badminton and tennis are played relatively commonly, and individual sports like tennis and golf have a place in Thai culture as well. More recently, Thailand even has a developing eSports industry, for those who consider this to be a sport. But for the most part it’s Muay Thai and football that dominate, and with relatively few major alternatives it’s only natural that both should flourish.
This point relates largely to the last one, in that if we accept that Muay Thai is either the first or second most popular sport in Thailand, there of course must be opportunities for people to watch it live. Sure enough, the country has numerous excellent stadiums dedicated at least in part to showcasing Muay Thai. Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok
is without a doubt the most renowned Muay Thai venue in the world for spectatorship – though some of the smaller stadiums also do their part by hosting Muay Thai training and classes, as well as professional matches.
We see across sports all over the world that once conditions are deemed special, that special quality seems to compound. A great rivalry gets better with each new contest, because each one has more history behind it; a legendary stadium that remains active only gathers more lore; and a dominant team, like New Zealand’s “All-Blacks” rugby squad, only grows more intimidating the longer it keeps winning. It’s hard to define these things exactly, but there’s something to be said for the idea being applied to Muay Thai in Thailand. The sport and the country are so deeply linked, and remain so tightly tied to one another, that it’s only easier to admire the connection with each passing year.