It’s a high-octane sport that has developed over the centuries and has deep cultural and spiritual ties. Yes, we are talking about Muay Thai, or Thai boxing.
If you’ve ever been to a live Muay Thai bout, you’ll be familiar with the hard-hitting moves, known as the “Art of Eight Limbs” – eight points of contact a fighter uses to “mimic weapons of war”.
According to tigermuaythai.com, Muay Thai was “developed several hundreds of years ago as a form of close combat that utilises the entire body as a weapon.
“The hands become the sword and dagger; the shins and forearms were hardened in training to act as armour against blows, and the elbow to fell opponents like a heavy mace or hammer, the legs and knees became the axe and staff,” it says on its website.
“The body operated as one unit. The knees and elbows constantly searching and testing for an opening while grappling and trying to spin an enemy to the ground for the kill.”
These days, of course, the aim of Muay Thai is not to kill an enemy but to beat an opponent in the ring.
While Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, its popularity is growing around the world, including in Oman, where you can train at a number of martial arts clubs around the capital. And if you happened to be at Muscat Grand Mall last Saturday (August 27), you would have witnessed a spectacular Muay Thai show straight from the stadiums of Thailand.
Brought to Muscat by the Royal Thai Embassy in association with the Oman Fighting Championship, the demonstration by 11 Muay Thai fighters drew a large crowd that was transfixed by the skills and agility of the athletes, as well as the cultural importance of the martial art. Sahara Hamayon, 26, is a huge fan of Muay Thai and has been training in the martial art for the past two-and-a-half years. She was at MGM at the weekend to watch the show, which she described as thrilling.
But for Sahara, the biggest thrill of all was the previous day, when six members of the Muay Thai squad and Thailand’s Ambassador to Oman, Jesda Katavetin, visited her martial arts club in Al Khuwar for a special training session.
“The training was amazing,” says Sahara, who has also represented Oman at a Muay Thai competition in the Philippines.
“They divided us into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels and we trained with them for three hours.
“After the training was over, they showcased their moves and techniques and then we watched an actual Muay Thai fight.
“What I loved about the training on Friday was that it was genuine – and I have learned Muay Thai in Thailand.”
Sahara says she took up sport after losing 30kg in weight. “I wanted to do something different and build my self-esteem because I was obese,” she says.
“I would say the sport is fun and a great cardiovascular activity. The average calorie burn for a training session is about 700 to 800.
“The one thing I love about it is looking forward to class and I enjoy it because it’s not restricted to kicking … it’s an exciting sport.”