Thai sport is part of Thai culture which has been passed on from generation to generation. Sporting activities of Thais blend well into their agricultural way of life. It is another form of group relationship enhancement during the cultivating and harvesting periods. Thai sport is also a form of entertainment which takes place during religious and royal ceremonies and festivals. Thais young and old come together to participate in exciting games which are oftentimes humorous. Thai sport reflects the Thais’ way of life and their intellectual subtlety. It is a fine bond that has bound the Thai people through a long past until today. Thai Sports include: Thai Boxing, Sword and Pole Fighting, Boat Racing, Kite Flying and Thai Chess.
Thai Boxing (Muai Thai)
Thai boxing started way back in the medieval ages when wars were fought with bows and arrows, swords and pikes. Thai Boxing which was included in military training was given prominence by King Naresuan 1560 A.D. Thai boxing is an ancient martial art handed down from generation to generation. The Thai boxing fights are commonly fierce and furious. Thai boxing is unique in which combatants use elbows, knees and bare feet as well as gloved fists. A good Thai boxing contest is decided by application of techniques rather than brute force. There is a pre-fight “Wai Khru” rite with traditional Thai instruments, a Java pipe, double-ended drums and cymbals, providing musical accompaniment. Mae Mai Muai Thai (types of blows) is an artful science requiring years of learning. Often as entertaining as the action in the ring is the reaction of the spectators who yell and shout encouragement to the boxers as the excitement mounts.
Sword & Pole Fighting (Fun Daab & Krabi Kra-bong)
This martial art once formed part of medieval military training. Before fights, contestants perform a ‘Wai Khru’ rite with musical accompaniment. Excitement comes from the clashing of weapons and the music.
Boat Racing (Kaeng Ruer)
Boat racing dated from the Aytthaya period. Boat Racing is commonly staged during the post-rainy season months of October and November, after Kathins and presenting fresh robes to Buddhist monks. Boats are made from hardwood such as Takhian. Coloured cloth tied to the boat prow honors the guardian spirit. Each team consists of 8 t0 10 oarsmen and a heimsman (or more in long-tailed boat racing).
Kite Flying (Len Wow)
Thais generally fly kites during the summer months of March through May. Kites have been enjoyed since the 13th and 14th-century Sukhothai period. The sport was probably most popular during the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868), when people were granted royal permission to fly kites at Bangkok’s Phra Men Ground next to the Grand Palace. There are two types of kites, those designed for display, and those designed for fighting. The latter types are the Pak-Pao and the Chula.
Thai Chess (Mak Ruk Thai)
Thai chess is believed to have originated from Indian chess, and may have been used to plan military strategies. Thai chess requires a square board. Opponents each have six types of chessmen Khun (king), Khon, Met, Ma (horse), Rua (boat) and Bia (pawn). Players move the chessmen until the Khun of one player is “cornered”. Thai chess provides intellectual pleasure, and sharpens rapid calculation and decision-making.