Most people in America consider March 17th to be just another day. Others look to celebrate St. Patrick’s day and enjoy some time at the pub. In Thailand, March 17th is one of its biggest holidays as it celebrates the Father of Muay Thai, Nai Khanom Tom.
The story of Nai Khanom Tom is told to every child in Thailand and to most students of Muay Thai. In 1774, Siam (now known as Thailand) was defeated at the ancient capital of Ayutthaya by Burma & thousands of Thais became prisoners including Nai Khanom Tom. During a festival, the Burmese King Mangra wanted to see his Burmese fighters take on the best of the Thai fighters and Nai Khanom Tom was chosen to represent his country. Nai Khanom Tom performed a traditional Wai Kru Ram Muay to honor Thailand and then knocked out his opponent. The referee claimed that the “sorcery” of the dance distracted the Burmese fighter so the victory was not valid. The King decided to send 9 more fighters, one by one to fight, only to be defeated by Nai Khanom Tom.
Now, the feat itself sounds amazing but these fights were not like the refined sport that we see now. Boxing gloves were not worn instead his hands were wrapped with rope similar to what you see at Thai Fight Kard Chuek. The fights were stopped when someone could no longer continue.
The Burmese King is said to have been so impressed that he gave Nai Khanom Tom his freedom as well as a choice between wealth and two wives. Some stories say that the King granted freedom to the other Thai prisoners as well.
Every year in Ayutthaya, a week long annual festival celebrates Nai Khanom Tom and Muay Thai. In stadiums in Thailand, the fights are dedicated to Nai Khanom Tom. It is known as “Muay Thai day” or “Boxer’s night.”
So how does this apply to us outside of Thailand? If you are a student of Muay Thai, March 17th should be a day to show respect to your Kru (teacher/coach) and gym. You can decide how you do it, but know that you will be bringing honor and respect to your Kru/Coach/Trainer through this tradition.
Muay Thai is more than just fighting, it is full of Thai culture and tradition. It is a martial art with honor, tradition and respect. I hope this article encourages you to celebrate Nai Khanom Tom and Muay Thai every March 17th.