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The Father of Muay Thai: Nai Khanom Tom

This year’s Summer Smoker saw the debut of a new Easton shirt graphic featuring a vintage photograph of a Muay Thai Fighter, with the name ‘Nai Khanom Tom’ written above it.

You may see many of your fellow Nak Muays sporting the shirt, part of Easton Training Center’s “Founders” series, and it’s important to understand the legend that the shirt represents: the story of Nai Khanom Tom.

Nai Khanom Tom is considered the founder of the martial art now known as Muay Thai. Thailand, one of the few Pacific Island nations that never became subjected to Colonial rule, was known as Siam until 1939.

In 1774, the Burmese invaded and sacked the Siamese capital of Ayutthaya, capturing thousands of Siamese, Nai Khanom Tom among them.

Burmese King Mangra sought to know if the Siamese martial art of Muay Boran (the precursor of Muay Thai) could match up with the Burmese style of fighting that his soldiers practiced. He selected Nai Khanom Tom to fight against King Mangra’s Burmese Boxing champion, to which the fighter humbly obliged.

Nai Khanom Tom paid respect to his elders, family and the sport by blessing the ring with a traditional Wai Kru. The fight began with Sarma music setting the tone and pace for the fighters. To the surprise of all, Nai Khanom Tom won the match by knockout!

After the fight, the referee tried to invalidate Nai Khanom Tom’s victory, claiming that the fight was invalid due to sorcery from the Wai Kru and the distraction from the music.

King Mangra then sent his second champion to try and defeat Nai Khanom Tom. When Nai Khanom Tom easily defeated the second fighter, King Mangra then sent a third fighter to attempt victory.

It wasn’t until Nai Khanom Tom defeated King Mangra’s tenth champion that the Burmese king declared, “Every part of the Siamese is blessed with venom! Even with his bare hands, he can fell nine or ten opponents. But this lord was incompetent and lost the country to the enemy. If he had been any good, there was no way the city of Ayutthaya would ever have fallen!”

The king then released Nai Khanom Tom and all of the captured Siamese.

According to history, this occurred on March 17th, 1774. Since then Thailand celebrates the day as Nai Khanom Tom Day, National Muay Thai Day, or National Muay Boran Day.

The day offers an opportunity for all Thais to show pride and pay respect to their national sport, it’s founder and the prior teachers who developed Muay Boran into the contemporary martial art known today as Muay Thai.

Paying homage to your lineage, history and founders comprises an essential aspect to training in any martial art and part of what distinguishes a martial art from a sport. Knowing your roots while training can bring focus, drive and resilience to you as a practitioner. Kap Khun Krap, Nai Khanom Tom!

Curious about Muay Thai? We start our students off in our Kickboxing program, and advance them to Muay Thai as they progress! Try a free Kickboxing class near you today!

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