The history of Muay Thai mingles remarkably with the history of the country. The Thais had to defend their country from the marauding powers. This prompted them to develop a form of close, hand-to-hand combat which was suitable for the kind of battle they were fighting.
King Naresuan the Great (1555-1605), who is regarded as one of the country's most able warrior-heroes, was an excellent boxer himself. He is credited to have made Muay Thai a compulsary part of military training.
The sport has gained popularity even outside Thailand. World Muay Thai Council was set up in 1995 to promote this national heritage at national and international levels. At a conference held in that very year, 78 member countries voted for the foundation of a training school where all elements of Muay Thai would be taught. The Muay Thai Institute was established in 1997.
The Thais have huge passion for the sport. The fights are broadcasted by television networks five days a week, and the results of the fights held at major stadiums are reported in all major newspapers. The country has produced several international boxers, but they all started as Muay Thai fighters.
Muay Thai bouts are fought in five three-minute rounds with two-minute breaks in between. The fighters, wearing a headband and armbands, perform wai khru dance before the fight. The dance proved a good warm-up exercies. Tourists fill up a sizable chunk of the seats on fight nights at major stadiums, especially at Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen.