Kevin put together the nice graphic above for me, the below timeline was co-authored by Kevin and myself
I’ve been reading through Peter Vail’s November 2014 article: Muay Thai: Inventing Tradition for a National Symbol.PDF and found some convenient facts about the timeline for the modernization of Muay Thai, and it seemed like a good idea to put them all down here in case others are interested. For me one of the more notable elements is that modern Muay Thai has had cross-fertilization with western (British) boxing pretty much from the beginning, at least in terms of curriculum at the most prestigious college at the time, and in terms of the 1st permanent ring in Siam. And it is notable that even before there was such a thing as proper “Muay Thai”, Siamese fighters crossed over as accomplished western boxers on the international scene. This timeline has been added to as reading sources expanded.
Timeline of Muay Thai Boxing Modernizing Events Along with Parallel Siam/Thai Changes
1898 – King Chulalonkorn holds a funeral ceremony for the military commander Marupongsiripat, with the first photographed Muay Boran fights (photo below) – there is a conflict in source material is may be the 1909 event.
1900 – The railroad reaches Khorat, connecting Khorat (North-East, Isaan) boxers more easily to Bangkok.
1902 – Religious Bangkok reforms outlawed non-Thammayut Buddhism mahanikai practices – these were often magical practices, but also boxing related activities were discouraged. It was a move towards orthodoxy that over decades would push muay teachings towards secular teaching (colleges, camps) and away from wat (temple) sources.
1905 – The Military Conscription Act – a national military conscription which progressively restricted the protection men received through ordination in wats, consolidating labor & martial manpower in Bangkok. Over the next 15 years much political resistance from provincial temple powers. source
1907 – The southern railroad line opens, connecting southern province boxers to Bangkok. (Members of the Japanese community in Bangkok begin to teach Judo.)
1907 – It is estimated that over 3,000 of the Bangkok police forces are British Nationals. Foreign nationals, especially the British, played a very strong role in the formation of, and composition of, a new police force since the 19th century. source.
1908 – Judo reported to be taught informally by the Japanese community in Bangkok.
1909-1910 – King Chulalonkorn formalizes Muay (Boran) by awarding (in 1910, May 22nd) 3 muen (the lowest non-heriditary rank) to victors at the funeral fights for his son Uruphon Ratchasomphot (in 1909). The region-styles: Lopburi, Khorat and Chaiya. Daeng Thaiprasoet from Khorat (north-east) became Muen Changat Choengchok; Klueng Tosa-at from Lopburi (central plains) became Muen Muemaenmat; and Prong Chamnongthong from Chaiya (south) became Muen Muaymichue. Each were to set up kong muay to teach their styles. Boxers at such camps were exempt from military conscription and forced public labor.
1910 King Vajiravudh ascends to the throne (reign 1910-1925), after having been educated in England (Sandhurst and Oxford) for nearly a decade.
1911 – King Vajiravudh establishes the Wild Tigers Corps “pa suea”, an independent military branch, particular to his command, enrolled with civil servants, and courtiers, a political move to counter-balance other military loyalties. “Muay Thai” by name would become a part of the civil servent curriculum (via Suan Kulap).
1912 – Unsuccessful coup lead by some officers of the Royal Guard thought by some to be loyal to the King’s brother.
1912 – Prince Wabulya returns from study abroad in London having learned Judo, and teaches it to enthusiasts (cite: Blackbelt Magazine, 1971)
1913 – British Boxing introduced into the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College (a Bangkok school for civil servants and military modeled on the British preparatory school, originally established by King Chulalongkorn in 1882). Here is likely the 1st descriptive use of the term “Muay Thai” to distinguish it from British Boxing.
1915 – King Vajiravudh was given the honorary rank of General in the British army.
1916 – Railroad connects Bangkok to Lampang.
April 1917 – Gambling houses, tax farms & huai lottery abolished (this was the culmination of a long process begun in 1987, as the Siam government tried to ween itself off its dependence on gambling tax revenue, and break the influence of Chinese triads.
1919 – British Boxing and Muay taught as one sport in the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College. Judo also offered.
circa 1920 Bangkok temples (Wat Benchamabophit Dusitwanaram) taught krabi-krabong, judo, gymnastics, Muay Thai and Western boxing as part of it’s secondary school education. (source p.34)
1921 – Railroad connects Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
1921 – 1st permanent ring in Siam is established at Suan Kulap College under the sponsorship of King Vajiravudh. A raised platform 4 ft off the ground surrounded by rope (3 ft high), with gaps in the corners, a floor of wooden boards covered by bamboo mats. Used for both Muay and British Boxing. The 1st Suan Kulap bout was muen muay Kueng Tosa (50-60 yrs old) vs Phong Prapsabok (22 yrs old, son of defeated 1910 opponent). The son avenged his father against the much older muen muay.
above, a reported early Muay Thai vs Chinese Kempo fight in 1921 – source
1922 – (above) Chinese Kung Fu vs Muay Boran, Lai Hoa vs Yang Harntalay at Suan Kularb, Bangkok, Siam source
1922 – clinch is not included in Siamese ruleset, but throws are, according to this Australian news report of the fight above:
1923 – Lak Muang Stadium erected where the National Theater stands today. It was an improved ring with no gaps in the corners. It would be the first stadium to adopt the use of gloves (closed in 1929).
1925 – Prajadhipok becomes King of Siam (Rama VII). He also was educated in England (went to Eton, 1906; graduated from Woolwich Military Academy, 1913). He had been a commissioned officer in the British Royal Horse Artillery, and had expected to fight as an officer in World War I.
1926 – Master Chua Chaksurak was forced to wear gloves for legal reasons when giving a muay demonstration in Sydney Australia. When he returned he became a strong advocate for adopting gloves in muay fights, and helped standardize modern Muay Thai based on modifications of the Queensbury rules during the post-war era at Rajadamnern.
1927 – The Ministry of Education introduces annual inter-school Judo competitions.
1927 – The Gambling Act legalized gambling on boxing and other combat sports, increasing its popularity (reversing its ban in 1917).
1928 – Chia Khaek Khamen died fighting Phae Liangprasoet from Ta Sao in Uttaradit in a Kard Cheuk fight at the Bangkok city pillar, prompts King Rama VII’s government to pass a gloves only law. The decree does not affect fights in the outlying regions.
1928 – The first notion of weight divisions were introduced.
1929 – Metal groin guard (gra-jap) adopted, imported from Singapore. Previous guards sea-shell and/or tree bark.
1929 – Suan Sanuk Stadium opened, near Lumpini Park. The first 3-rope ring with padded red and blue corners. The first cloth covered floor. The owner wanted to present International boxing bouts so the ring was built to International standards. Fights were divided into rounds but the number of rounds was not predetermined.
1929 – First documentation of a (possible) female fight, in Lamphun (photograph here and here) Raised wooden, 3-rope platform. Barefisted.
1932 – Siamese Revolution of 1932. Constitutional Monarchy established.
1930s – Siamese including Nai Sapong excelled in international British Boxing matches in Malay and Singapore.
1935 – Suan Jao Khet Stadium opened. The first stadium to use gate proceeds to raise money for the military, a common provincial practice today.
1937 – A set of formal muay rules set down by the Education Department. These rules would be adopted by Rajadamnern Stadium when it opens. These included specified dress: Boxing shorts, boxing gloves, and groin protectors, as the traditional mongkol
1939 – Field Marshal Luang Phibunsongkhram changes the name of Siam to Thailand (Land of the Free). Non-Axis countries do not acknowledge the name.
Fourth Cultural Mandate (August, 1939), discouraged the use of terms such as northern Thais, north-eastern Thais, southern Thais, and Islamic Thais in favor of merely ‘the Thais’.
1941 – Construction begins on Rajadamnern Stadium, foundation stone laid March 1. Progress stalled due to the of lack of building materials due to the Pacific War.
1942 – Long after Rama VII’s 1928 decree, Khorat adopts the use of gloves for all bouts.
1945 – Rajadamnern Stadium opens December 23. Rules of timed rounds, gloves and points follow the Education Department rules set in 1937. The Stadium has no roof until 1951.
1946 – His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej ascends to the throne June 9.
1948 – Siamese constituent assembly votes to change the name of Siam to Thailand, a name internationally recognized.
1948-1950 – Magazines devoted to boxing started: Kila banthueng (1948), Muay raisapda (1949) and Kila muay (1950).
1949 – The Thai police department started a 5-year “improvement” campaign, undergoing training and given weapons by the US government. source
1950 – a fully developed ranking system with eight weight divisions was implemented. This system of divisions was developed with the assistance of an American GI stationed in the Philippines, one Major General Sullivan
1951 – Rajadamnern Stadium roof is added, and seating capacity is roughly doubled (doubling sell-out receipts, from 25, 975 baht to 57, 740 baht).
1952 – July, a record Rajadamnern receipt of 221,750 baht.
1955 – Rajadamnern hosted the first televised Muay Thai bout (Channel 4).
1956 – Lumpinee Stadium opens. Khet Sriapai, grandson of the muen muay Chaiya is the manager.
1960 – Kone Kingpetch defeats Pascual Perez at Lumpinee Stadium to become the first Thai western boxing World Champion (Flyweight). highlight
1961 – His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej establishes the King’s Cup. (originally a western boxing award)
1969 – Rocky Marciano referees a championship western boxing fight at Rajadamern, beginning a tradition that the last fight on a Rajademnern card will be a western boxing fight.
1979 – There were 56 fixed community/municipal stadiums built across the country. These stadia became part of a Muay Thai infrastructure which also supported a wide-ranging participation in amateur boxing under the inspirational support of the King.
Main sources for the above are Peter Vail’s essay Muay Thai: Inventing Tradition for a National Symbol (2014) and supplementarily his PhD. dissertation: Violence and Control and Cultural Dimensions of Muay Thai Boxing (1998)
The First Photo of a Muay Boran Fight (Marupongsiripat Funeral 1898)
1937 Father of Thai Judo
above, for the sake of history anchoring: Khun Kru Tim Atibroman – Father of Thai Judo 1937
Early 1920s Muay Boran Newsreel Footage
Date uncertain, the above may even be a show-fight as one of the falls seems dubious (the one with a kick to the back), and there are few blows to the head, but perhaps that’s the style. Some shots could be staged for the newsreel camera. The white short fighter appears to be without wraps. Perhaps it is bare knuckle vs rope-wrap rules? The 2 ropes suggest it may be Lak Muang Stadium (1923-1929)?
Edit in, from the Thai film archive: ““the examination Found that almost all events in the movie It is probably the filmography of the Royal Railway Department, which the foreigner’s creator has asked to buy a copy to edit, remix and add audio commentary in English. and part of the most interesting event Thai boxing match which when checked It appears that it is not a real competition in a boxing stadium. But it’s a performance scene from a silent movie. “Who is good and who” of the Wasuwat brothers which was released in 1928, which is considered an extremely rare example. Because it is an example of a silent movie, 1 in twenty stories of Thai silent movies. which was almost completely lost”
Rajadamnern 1946 – a Year After it Opened
Rajadamnern Muay Thai Newsreel Footage in 1950 (before the roof in 1951)
Thailand Championship Fight Footage – 1959
If you enjoyed this post, you may like my academic resource post filled with every academic Muay Thai related article I could find:
Resource: Academic Articles on Muay Thai (and Masculinity)
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