Muay Thai is a cultural sport of Thailand. It is widely popular in the country and has a huge following. And as they say, what is popular would always make its way to the consciousness of the gamblers who will try to make money out of it.
Muay Thai or Thai boxing is a disciplined developed during the 13th century when it was mainly practised for combat that uses the whole body as a weapon against the opponent as if mimicking weapons of war. The hands serve as the dagger and sword whilst the shins and forearms act as a shield against blows. The elbow is used as a hammer or a mace to make the opponent fall and the legs and knees as an axe or staff. One must remember, though, that the body acts as one unit. The elbows and knees should constantly move to look for an opening as the arms grapple and spin the enemy and move for the kill.
But to say that the sport originated in Thailand is an ongoing debate among modern scholars since much of the historical accounts of Muay Thai was lost during the attack of Ayudhaya, capital of Siam by the Burmese warriors in the 14th century. The said warriors looted many temples and libraries and destroyed volumes of written history.
Many experts claim that Muay Thai originated as a fighting style used by migrating tribes from the steppes of China to Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Cambodia. The Siamese were the major tribes during that time and were to ones to always fiercely fight and use Muay Thais as they moved southwards and came face to face with smaller tribes.
In the last century, Muay Thai has evolved as it gained international consciousness and recognition. Before it was known as Muay Thai, many foreigners referred to it as Siam Boxing during the Second World War. Thai soldiers would train amongst themselves as foreign soldiers watch them with awe. The foreigners became so impressed with this particular fighting style that they began to practise and train with the Thai. They eventually brought the sport to their home country where it began to gain a huge following. As Muay Thai became popular, rules were put in place to make it similar with other governed sports such as boxing.
Its popularity has even made it to the movies. Here are some of the Muay Thai movies that you might want to binge on the next time that you are in Thailand.
Starring: Akara Amarttayakul, Thawatchai Penpakdee, Sonthaya Chitmanee, Sarita Kongpech, Sangthong Ket-U-Tong
Muay Thai Chaiya is a 2007 drama film that centres on two highly skilled Muay Thai boxers who were childhood friends. This is great to watch if you are in the mood for an action-packed drama film.
The film tells about the story of three boys: Pao, Piak, and Samor. Growing up in Chaiya, the boys were avid followers of Pao’s older brother, Krang who is a famous Muay Thai fighter trained by their father, Tew. The three dreamt about being the best Muay Thai fighter there is. Unfortunately, Samor figured into an accident and ended as a cripple, leaving Piak and Pao to train as under the wings of Tew. Their training came to a halt when both Tew and Krang were recruited by a Bangkok-based gym. To realize their dream, the two friends, along with Samor and Sripai, Piak’s fiancée and nurse of Samor, decided to go to Bangkok. Pao, as it turns out, is secretly in love with Sripai.
The two boys eventually went on to live different lives. Piak is an aggressive fighter making him a strong contender but his hot temper ultimately cost him a fight and his career. He then proceeded to join underground bare-knuckles fights. In addition, Piak would do some odd jobs with Samor including working on a bar where the beautiful Warn also works as a dancer. Warn eventually seduces Piak. Both Samor and Piak would do some dirty work for their boss.
Pao, on the other hand, continued training with his father and eventually made his name in the boxing world. Pao was matched against a farang, causing the former to become at odds with Piak and Samor’s boss.
Sripai found out about Piak and Warn affair and goes on to live with Pao as the rebellious Piak took over the underground operations when their boss was killed by a rival. The film ends with Pao winning against the farang, as he recalls his friends whilst they were training as young boys.
Starring: Jean Claude Van Damme, Dennis Alexio
Easily one of the earliest and best Muay Thai movies is Kickboxer, with Jean Claude Van Damme as the lead role.
Filmed in 1989, Kickboxer tells about the story of two brothers Eric and Kurt Sloane who went to Thailand to combat with the best fighters of Muay Thai. Eric Sloan is a kickboxing champion who, after a successfully defending his title, was encouraged to compete in Thailand where the sport originated so he can further establish his legacy. As two brothers were in Bangkok, Eric was slated to fight against Thailand’s undefeated fighter Tong Po. Eric was extremely confident that he can beat Tong Po, but Kurt, who saw Tong Po kicking a concrete pillar during practice, convinces his brother not to fight.
Tong Po, with his superior strength and proper knowledge of Muay Thai easily defeats Eric. During the fight, Kurt threw in the towel as a sign of surrender but Tong Po did not acknowledge it and instead continued his assault – viciously striking Eric in the back, which eventually paralyzed the US kickboxing champion.
Kurt vowed to avenge what happened to his older brother and trained with Xian Chow, a well-known trainer. Kurt eventually fought and won against Tong Po in an “ancient way” of Muay Thai.
Starring: Dada Diafat, Bernard Giraudeau, Florence Faivre
Relatively unknown to the general crowd, Chok-Dee is one of the most authentic Muay Thai films ever filmed. It stars real-life Muay Thai champion Dida Diafat and tells about the story of how the fighter became the first-ever French-Algerian Muay Thai champion.
Directed by Xavier Durringer, this 2005 semi-autobiography film does not feature any fancy stunts and flips but everything about it as real as what one can experience should they want to train and fight like a true Muay Thai champion.
Diafat plays the role of Ryan who ends up in jail from doing various small robberies and tricks. In prison, he meets Jean, a former boxing champion who taught him everything about the practise of Muay Thai, including the moral values that come with it. When Ryan was released from prison, he travelled to Thailand to learn more about the sport and discover the training camp that Jean mentioned. The said camp, according to Jean, does not accept foreigners. Ryan fought his first fight just to be accepted in the camp despite all the humiliations. His second fight was to prove anybody can become a true Muay Thai champion if they work hard.
Starring: Tony Jaa
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew and choreographed by Panna Rittikrai, Ong-Back: Muay Thai Warrior is a 2003 action film that served as Tony Jaa’s breakout star. The film gained international recognition, with Jaa regarded as the up and coming martial arts star.
The story tells about the northeastern village of Ban Nung Prade in Thailand, which serves as the home of the Buddha statue known as Ong-Bak. Thieves from Bangkok decapitated the statue and stole the head, causing tremendous despair for the villagers. Ting, portrayed by Jaa, is a villager skilled in Muay Thai volunteered to go to Bangkok to recover the head of Ong-Bak.
When he got to Bangkok with a bag of money from the villagers, Ting met with his cousin, Humlae/George who makes a living as a racing hustler who cons yaba dealers. Instead of helping Ting, Humlae stole the bag of money and bets it on an underground fighting event held in a Khaosan Road bar. Ting tracked Humlae and recovered his money by beating the champion with just one kick, astounding the crowd and getting the attention of Komtuan, a crime lord on a wheelchair.
Ting discovered than Don, a drug dealer, stole Ong-Bak’s head who sells it to Komtuan who did not see its value it and ordered it disposed of. Ting found that Komtuan has a cache of stolen Buddha statues submerged in water. After the local authorities recovered the statues, Komtuan ordered his thugs to kidnap Muay Lek, Humlae’s friend. Humlae was then ordered to inform Ting to fight against the drug-enhanced Saming, Komtuan’s bodyguard in exchange for the release of Muay Lek and the Ong-Bak head. After the fight, Komtuan defaulted on his promise of releasing Muay Lek and the Ong-Bak head and ordered the murder of Ting, Humlae, and Muay Lek.
Whilst the three were in the mountain cave, where they fought and defeated Komtuan’s henchmen, including Saming but Ting was shot by Komtuan. The crime lord attempted to destroy the head with a sledgehammer but Humlae jumped to protect it, ultimately dying from hammer blows. The giant Buddha head statue fell and crushed Komtuan and fatally injuring Humlae.
Have you watched any of these films?