A Move to Promote Muay Thai as an International Sport (25/01/2011)
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports is making an effort to promote muay thai, or Thai boxing, as an international sport and as a way to boost tourism.

An ancient martial art of the people of Thailand, muay thai has become world famous, especially among martial arts and boxing enthusiasts. It uses various parts of the body as weapons in the fight, especially the fists, elbows, arms, feet, knees, and head.

Permanent Secretary for Tourism and Sports Sombat Kuruphan said that muay thai is considered part of the identity of the country in terms of both sport and tourism. In order to promote this martial art, he suggested that road shows be arranged to make it better known in the global community. Also, proper training should be provided in the form of “Thai fighting” for interested persons. Boxers of muay thai could make a name for the country.

Mr. Sombat has the idea of pushing for muay thai to be included in international sports competitions, such as the Olympics. He will propose the establishment of a national muay thai conservation center at the National Stadium, Supphachalasai, in Bangkok. The center will provide visitors with knowledge and information about this martial art and will serve as a channel to promote this sport, as well.

Muay thai is different from Western boxing in the diversity of offensive and defensive blows, thus making the art more challenging for the boxer. Moreover, cultural and psychological elements are added to muay thai, as the boxer has to perform a traditional ritual of “paying respect to the teachers,” or the wai khru ceremony, complete with rousing Thai music accompaniment.

At the start of the match, the wai khru ceremony must be performed, in which the two boxers enter the ring wearing a ceremonial rattan head-band. They perform the ritual simultaneously with deep concentration. For fighters, the ritual serves as a warm-up session for all the muscles and as a morale booster, as well. On completion of the ritual, the boxers return to their respective corners to have their ceremonial headbands removed and receive last-minute instructions from their trainers. Then they go into action to the sound of rousing music and fight, at most, five three-minute rounds.

Thai boxing forbids biting, spitting, or wrestling. It is a contest decided by the application of techniques rather than the use of force. Since Thai boxing has gained higher international exposure, promoters have arranged muay thai boxers to go abroad to stage exhibition matches.

The whole mix of a unique form of martial arts and cultural elements is what makes for the fascination with muay thai and explains its popularity worldwide. Today muay Thai matches are organized on a regular basis at the many boxing stadiums in Bangkok and provincial cities.

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