The Modernization of Muay Thai – A Timeline

Kevin put together the nice graphic above for me I’ve been reading through Peter Vail’s November 2014 article:  Muay Thai: Inventing Tradition for a National Symbol.PDF and found some...

The Modernization of Muay Thai - A Timeline History

Kevin put together the nice graphic above for me

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.

Timeline of Muay Thai Boxing Modernizing Events Along with Parallel Siam/Thai Changes

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.

1907 The southern railroad line opens, connecting southern province boxers to Bangkok. (Members of the Japanese community in Bangkok begin to teach Judo.)

1909-1910 – King Chulalonkorn formalizes Muay (Boran) by awarding (in 1910) 3 muen (the lowest non-heriditary rank) to victors at the funeral fights for his son Uruphong 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 except 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 a decade.

        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.

1919 – British Boxing and Muay taught as one sport in the curriculum of the Suan Kulap College. Judo also offered.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 mongkon

1939 – Field Marshal Luang Phibunsongkhram changes the name of Siam to Thailand (Land of the Free). Non-Axis countries do not acknowledge the name.

Field Marshal Luang PhibunsongkhramField Marshal Luang Phibunsongkhram
Field Marshal Luang Phibunsongkhram

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).

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.

1955 – Rajadamnern hosted the first televised Muay Thai bout.

1956 – Lumpinee Stadium opens. Khet Sriapai, grandson of the muen muay Chaiya is the manager.

1960Kone Kingpetch defeats Pascual Perez at Lumpinee Stadium to become the first Thai western boxing World Champion (Flyweight).

1961 – His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej establishes the King’s Cup.

The Ring Magazine - Thai Boxing Magazine 1956

A 1956 issue of “The Ring”, the year that Lumpinee Opened

Main sources for the above are Peter Vail’s essay Muay Thai: Inventing Tradition for a National Symbol (2014) and supplimentarily his PhD. dissertation: Violence and Control and Cultural Dimensions of Muay Thai Boxing (1998)

Early 1920s Muay Boran Newsreel Footage

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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A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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