National Muay Thai (Boxing) Day

Thailand celebrates March 17 as National Muay Thai (Boxing) Day

Each year, Thailand celebrates National Muay Thai Day on March 17. Muay Thai (kickboxing) is the Thai national sport. This is a day when the Muay Thai community celebrates the legacy of Nai Khanom Tom who faced fearsome odds. It is also a day when its members reflect on the sport they love, showing gratitude to those who teach them.

His Majesty the King is an avid fan of Muay Thai, and ever since his coronation, the sport has gained in popularity more than at any time in Thailand’s history.

Muay Thai is a martial arts form and contact sport where boxers use their entire body.It is also known as “The Art of Eight Limbs”, as martial artists of Muay Thai employ eight parts of the body that mimic weapons of war.

  • Hands are like swords or daggers.
  • The elbows are like a mace or hammer, to fell opponents.
  • The legs are like an axe.
  • The knees are like the staff of the axe.

Developed several centuries ago, its origins are not definitive. Much of its history was lost when Burma ransacked Siam’s capital, Ayutthaya, in the 18th century.

The Legend of Nai Khanom Tom

The legend and courage of kickboxer Nai Khanom Tom lives on today. In 1767, invading Burmese troops captured many Thais in the ancient Siam capital of Ayutthaya. Those captured included several Thai boxers.

During a religious festival honoring the Buddha, the Burmese king commanded that a contest be held between fighters of the Thai and Burmese martial arts disciplines, to see which form was superior. A Burmese champion of the art of Lethwei was pitted against one of the captured Muay Thai boxers, Kai Khanom Tom.

Before he began to fight, Nai Khanom Tom performed the customary Wai Khru ritual to pay his respects to his teacher, the Burmese king and the audience. The Wai Khru dance he performed was eloquent and graceful, mixed in with fierce battle movements. Legend has it that the audience was mesmerized, as was the Burmese boxer. When he completed the ritual, Nai Khanom Tom came out fighting, punching and kicking using his elbows, knees and his entire body to defeat his opponent.

The opponent cried foul, saying he was distracted by the Wai Khru dance. The referee voided the win. The King ordered Tom to fight nine consecutive opponents. Without rest, Tom defeated them all. The Burmese king was so impressed that he granted Nai Khanom Tom his freedom and gave him two wives.

To commemorate the extraordinary accomplishment of Nai Khanom Tom, the Thai Martial Arts Festival and Wai Khru Muay Thai Ceremony is staged annually on March 17. This year’s celebration will be held at the Ayutthaya Stadium, Ayutthaya in Bangkok. For more information, visit