Martial arts are popular around the world, with millions practicing at least one discipline. There are many reasons that people choose to practice a martial arts discipline. Some are seeking a fun way to exercise and keep fit and others see a potential career path. There are few countries where martial arts are more celebrated than Thailand. Millions enjoy ,at least one form of, martial arts in their free time. What are the most popular martial arts in Thailand?
The most popular form of martial art around the world is boxing. Besides being fun to watch, boxing is also an incredible way to stay fit. Very few are able to become professionals in the sport. It takes incredible technique, discipline, and commitment. Yet, that doesn’t stop millions from watching the action when the biggest fights are on. Boxing has come a long way since its formation. The earliest recorded boxing matches took place thousands of years ago.
Boxing has evolved into a global spectacle in the time since. The biggest matches attract attendances of millions buying. It’s also quite a business as the matches are pay-per-view affairs. A generation of Thai boxing stars were inspired by their local hero Manny Pacquaio. He dominated the sport until his recent retirement. Unfortunately, his career ended with a defeat to Yordenis Ugas in the summer of 2021.
There are many types of boxing in Thailand, and one of the most prominent is Muay Thai. This discipline is often referred to as Thai Boxing. The sport originated in Thailand in the mid 18th century. The discipline involves more of the body than boxing. Fighters deal blows with knees and feet. Using feet is something that would lead to a disqualification inside the boxing ring. The later development of the discipline allowed more outside-the-box thinking.
It wasn’t until the 21st century that Muay Thai became fully recognized as a sport. The sport has been quickly gaining an international standing. The Professional Boxing Association of Thailand is the sports top governing body. Muay Thai is, most certainly, a great influence on the modern Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) craze. MMA and Muay Thai draw from many disciplines including Tomoi, Muay Lao, and Pradal Serey. The International Olympic Committee has recognized Muay Tha after years of effort. It is not yet an Olympic sport, but it is a step forward.
Judo remains very popular in Thailand. Millions practice the sport throughout their lives there. One of the oldest full-contact grappling sports in the world. Jigoro Kano founded Judo as a discipline in 1882. Much-loved by those that practice it. Judo enhances the mental, moral, and physical senses it’s practitioners. It is also an incredibly competitive martial art. The competition form sees fighters attempt takedowns to earn points toward victory.
In Judo strikes with both hands and feet are also legal. This is a strategy used to weaken opponents to secure victory. Judo has also impacted other martial arts. Judo is often referenced as an inspiration for submission wrestling and MMA. Judo continues its popularity and looks set to continue for years to come.
Wrestling, in many forms, is very popular in Thailand. Forms such as Greco-Roman, submission, and folk style wrestling are popular in Thailand. Disciplines focused on grappling techniques such as throws, takedowns, and grappling holds. When it comes to popularity, professional wrestling is at the top. Huge TV events are just as popular in Thailand as in the west. Leagues like WWE and AEW have given wrestlers a huge platform to show their form. While more performance than wrestling, it is the biggest stage for wrestling in the world.
Despite being more focused on entertainment, professional wrestling draws techniques from different styles. Many of the styles we discussed find their way to the WWE and AEW. The performance aspect also gives fans stories to follow with the action. Actually attending a match means cheering and booing favorite and hated characters. Places like Mexico and Japan have strong foundations for professional wrestling. The popularity of professional wrestling in Thailand is on the rise. The WWE airing live matches is a huge factor. Fans of all ages in Thailand can see the biggest modern-day superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Becky Lynch without leaving the sofa.