Sports and Martial Arts - RTE Moscow :
Thai Arts & Culture
Sports and Martial Arts
Thais enjoy practicing a wide range of sports. Throughout history, they were fighters by nature, thus forging the unity of the nation and upholding independence, at times of war as well as in times of peace.
Since the 13th century, sports and games were practiced widely and regularly throughout the country. Courage, perseverance and sportsmanship were always held in high esteem as attributes of contestants in peaceful competition and of fighters in times of war. They constitute an invaluable heritage handed down from ancestors, especially the great kings. The armed forces fought enemies bravely employing superb traditional martial arts such as Muay Thai (Thai-style-Boxing) as well as Krabi Krabong (Sword-against-Pole fighting), and using deadly weapons such as Dap Thai (Thai Sword Fencing)
Although martial arts predominated, many other traditional sports, both in recreational and competitive forms, were always important and spectacular performances at local fairs, regional festivals and national celebrations. These types of sports are preserved and promoted, as documented in the National Sports Development Plan, along with the development of contemporary universal and recreational sports as well as competitive sports for excellence. Members of the general public usually take up sports to exercise and maintain a healthy state of body and mind.
In olden times, particularly young men took up Thai-style boxing and comprehensive combat arts, ranging from blades to poles, to keep themselves physically fit and ready for battle. Sports such as wrestling, Thai –style boxing and the ball game called takraw, internationally known as sepak borrowing in name from the Malay language, have been part and parcel of festive seasons and traditional events, from the Ayutthaya Period (1350-1767) to this day, alongside with the introduction and adoption of popular Western sports.
«Muay Thai» – Thai style Boxing
From the Ayutthaya Period onward, Thai-style boxing has been a popular bare-first fight closely associated with entertainment and competition, across the land. Famous Thai-style boxers of the past include Nai Khanomtom, who managed to floor ten Burmese opponents in a row.
In the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868), Thai males with prowess is boxing were recruited as the King’s bodyguards into the Boxing Regiment. Boxers in the service of the King were dispatched to teach boxing in various parts of the country, in preparation of boxing tournaments on occasions such as royally- sponsored ordinations and to entertain visiting dignitaries.
To uphold traditional Thai martial arts, Thai-style boxing is integrated into school curricula, particularly in programmes for physical education instructors and of the Chula Chom Klao Royal Military Academy. Present-day Thai-style boxing takes place inside a boxing ring, in accordance with international rules and practices, including the use of padded gloves instead of fighting with bandaged fists.
Internationally known by its proper name of Muay Thai, it has become popular throughout the world owing to its forceful traits of martial arts. It is practiced widely abroad, e.g. in France. Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the Us and the UK as a variant of fitness training.
At the 40th Statutory General Assembly of the General Association of international Sports Federations (GAISF), convened in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on 7 April 2006, the international Federation of Muay thai Amateurs (IFMA) was admitted to the GAISF. From then onward, Muay Thai was designated as a new Olympic discipline and competitive sport in future Olympic Games.
Chess has its origin in India. According to the epic Ramayana, when King Rama’s troops laid siege to Langka, Montho was concerned that her lover Ravana (Dhos-Kanth) was overly engaged in battles, with no time for happiness. To alleviate his plight, she invented a chess board likened to battle maneuvering. The ancient Indians called it chaturangkha, hence chaturong in Thai, due to the use of four military corps, the elephant contingent, the chariots, the cavalry, and the infantry, as chessmen on a square board with 64 squares. The ancient Indian chess comprised four teams of red, green, yellow and black chessmen, with each set consisting of one king as the supreme commander, one elephant, one knight, one castle or rock, and four pawns. In more recent history, the chessmen were reduced to two teams, representing the armies of two rival countries. Chess was later adopted worldwide, with certain adaptations to suit local cultures while retaining the original core rules and stipulations. Thai chess is believed to have been in existence since long. There is evidence of its practice in olden times, as substantiated by the historical battle manual on display at the National Library as well as through northeastern folklore and various little-known documents preserved at centres of cultural history in different parts of the country. Furthermore, the game was documented early in the Rattanakosin Period (from 1782 onward), when it was popular among the aristocracy as well as the general public. The Thai Chess Championship is organized annually to promote the game.
Takraw is a popular in Southeast Asia, with no clear region of origin. Some believe that it was in the region that is present-day Myanmar, where it was first played. Malaysia claims that the sport of takraw, known as sepak raga in Malay, has been played on the Malay Peninsula since long. The name of sepak raga, however, resembles the name sipak for this ball game in Tagalong, a major language in the Philippines. The Thai name of the game describes the ball made of woven cane strips which is called takraw. The challenge of the game is to maneuver that ball into an oblong basket, originally made of small- sized bamboo or tattan strips and fastened to a long pole, or suspended from a high strung rope.
In ancient China and Korea, a similar game called Tek Kau was played by kicking a round feather ball back and forth over a net fixed across a court, which resembles a game played in the southern provinces of Yala and Narathiwat. The present-day takraw game using a ball made of rattan is played in Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and on Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Takraw is a popular Thai sport. The game techniques and styles evolved over the centuries, involving the use of head, shoulders and thighs for flying kicks. Nowadays, variants of the takraw game are played, including sepak takraw and loop takraw.
Dap Thai-Thai sword fencing
In time of yore, man used crude solid objects as tools in search of food that could also be used as weapons in self-defence or attacking, as it were. Man, then, learned to make advanced weapons from iron and other metals such as swords. They are now commonly used in a variety of demonstrations of combat arts. One of these, a weapon-wielding dance became a popular display for entertainment. Today, the acrobatic use of swords is integrated into the sword-against-pole performance, comprising different types of weapons such as saber, pole, pike and sword. These martial arts are preserved and promoted for the benefit of future generations.
Since time immemorial, when settlements had been clustered on river banks and people went about their daily activities by playing water courses, boat racing has been a popular sport. Monarchs and their royal families also commuted between palaces by boat. Boat races across the country usually take place in November when the level of the river water peaks.
The spectacular royal barge of King Narai the Great (1656-1688) was described in good detail by a French emissary, Abbe de Choisy. He also mentioned the upstream racing of boats owned by high-ranking noblemen and rowed by tough and well-trained oarsmen, with the winner awarded a grand prize by the King. The boat-racing tradition was upheld throughout the Ayutthaya Period. Boat races were also staged on royal merit-making events such as the offering of robes to monks. According to popular belief, the outcome of a boat race was a predictor of future events bearing on state affairs.
Nowadays, boat races are spectacular events on such occasions as festivals across the country, during the months of November through December, when long boats converge at certain locations along rivers and canals to vie for top honors.
Krabi Krabong – Sword-against-Pole Fighting
This combat art highlighted by acrobatics has been a traditional Thai sport since time immemorial. Literary works authored by King Rama II (1809- 1825) contain references to artistic performances involving the use of swords and poles. One such example is the royally-authored poem in verses entitled I- nao. Also, the poet laureate Sunthon Phu related it in his literary work entitled Phra Aphai Mani.
Martial art performances using swords and poles were very popular during the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1868). The King had his princely sons trained in this combat art which, however, steadily lost its glamour during the reign of King Rama V (1868-1910).
In 1936, this particular variant of the martial arts was integrated into the programme for physical education instructors by setting up a venue for martial art drills using swords, pikes, poles, shields and other such items. A prelude dance, Wai Khru, before the start of the performance proper, similar to that performed at the start of any Thai-style boxing fight, conveys the required agility and velocity of the encounter and its high risk of bodily injury, the performance of the sword-against-pole duel is restricted to specially trained individuals.
Kite flying has been popular since the Sukhothai Period, as early as in the 13th to 15th centuries, Simon de la Loubere, a French emissary to the court of Ayutthaya during the reign of King Narai the Great, described the types and designs of kites, He reported that kite flying was a royal sport during the dry and cool season.
Lanterns were sometimes attached to kites, making them look like little stars in the sky. Attached gold leaves would go to anyone who found them upon touching down. The kites of the Kings of Siam would be flown in the air during the winter months. Noblemen were tasked with manipulating the strings to keep the kites flying.
Murals in Buddhist monasteries indicate that kite flying had been a popular Thai game until in the Rattanakosin Period. The making of kites is an art. A kite could be made flying for a long time by talented individuals. The most popular types of kites are Wao Chula and Wao Pakpao. In recent history, the fighting between flying kites became popular. The winner is the one who manage to cut the strings of an opponent’s kite, causing that loosened kite to be blown away. Kite flying remains a popular game today, especially in the central and southern regions. Nowadays, the dry and rather hot months have become the season for flying kites.
Bamboo-stilt racing is one of the traditional games played by children. A player requires two bamboo poles, around three inches in diameter and of a maximum length of two and a half metres, with foot supports attached at the height of 30 centimetres above the ground. Players have to balance their movement on stilts throughout the competition. The person who reached the finishing line first will be the winner. If any parts of a player’s body touch the ground during the competition, he or she has to return and join the race again from the start position.
Required for this game are wooden tops of conoidal shape, four inches in diameter at the bottom, which a tapering steel-shod point, and strings. The venue should be a flat and solid floor. A circle must be drawn with a radius of one metre. This circle has to be enclosed by a square whose sides run at a distance of three metres form the centre point. To start the game, a referee has to toss a coin to determine who will throw the top, known as the first player, and who will beat it, know as the second player. The players have to stand outside the square, from where they throw their tops into the circle.
The first player will throw player will follow, throw another top into the circle and spin it. The second player will follow, throw another top into the enclosed area, spin it and try to beat the top of the first player by striking it and make it spin out of the circle. The player who can beat the rival’s top out of the circle to spin across the greatest distance within the square is the winner. The players take turns at throwing their tops and beating the rival’s top.
Buffalo racing is a traditional sport staged in Chon Buri, one of the provinces that constitute the Eastern Seaboard. At the end of the Rainy Season Retreat, by the middle of October, local farmers would head fort the market town of Ban Bueng on their buffalo carts to trade their produce. There always was fierce competition among buffalo owners, each fierce competition among buffalo was the best. One day in the past, before heading back home, a farmer named Chai had challenged another farmer by the name of Kittipong to race their buffaloes across the square in front of the district office. Chai was sure that his buffalo was faster that Kittipong’s beast. Soon, other farmers decided to join in the race. The beasts were un-tethered from their carts and prepared for the event.
Farmers’ sons used to ride the back of a buffalo when grazing and also on returning from the field after a day’s work. They had a great affinity with their animals, knew their temperament and peculiarities. They were excited at the idea of not only racing but winner for the honour of their own farm and village. This is how the sport of buffalo racing was born, though the name of the winners of that first race was never recorded.
The sport gained royal interest when, on 7 December 1912, King Vajiravudh (Rama VI, 1910-1925) was visiting Chon Buri. His Majesty had heard of the unusual sport called “buffalo racing”. The King was keen to see how it compared with horse racing which, by then, took place at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. While His Majesty enjoyed the day’s sport, His Majesty decided against the idea of establishing a stable of racing buffaloes.
By tradition, the race are held on the day before the 14th full moon night of the eleventh lunar month. Nowadays, three events take place, one each in the open ground in front of Chon Buri City Hall, as well as in Ban Bueng and in Nong Yai districts of Chon Buri Province. As down breaks on the day of the big race, participating farmers walk their buffalo through the surrounding fallow paddy land, splashing the beast with water to keep it cool, as they make their way to the racetrack. The event is part of the celebration of the rice harvest. Before the start of the races, a rite is performed to express thanks for the rains and to ask for a healthy and prosperous year ahead. The event is not only meant to be fun also to help preserve the traditional way of buffalo racing as well as their use in agriculture. It is a sad sign of the time that more and more farmers replaced buffaloes with modern machinery.
Saba- Pitching Contest
Saba is a traditional game of Mon origin. It is played as a unique feature of the Phra Pradaeng Sonkran Festival (Mon New Year Celebration) in the district of the same name, situated in Samut Prakan Province which straddles the mouth of the Chao Phraya River. It is a bowing game or a pitch-and –toss game that uses a large bean-like disk. Young women and men dressed in traditional costumes enter into a lively dialogue accompanied by song and dancing while playing the saba game.
The history of international sports in Thailand does not go back very long. Toward the end of the 19th century, some sports were introduced and adopted on a small scale. Competitions in international sports started at the beginning of the 12th century, mostly with schools participating that followed the modern education system. International competitions and exchanges of sports teams became rapidly popular, as friendship matches and international championships took place. Since the 1950s, Thailand is recognized as a country actively involved in international sports, beginning with its participation in the First Asian Games in New Delhi, in 1951, and in the Olympic Games in Helsinki, in 1952.
Football was introduced during the reign of King Chulalongkorn the Great, Rama V, in 1897 by Britishers who resided in Siam. At first, football was criticized as a violent and dangerous sport, however, this negative feeling soon faded away, given the excitement and fun of the game. From the year 1900 onward, clubs was initiated in 1951, in the reign of King Rama VI, which is remembered as a golden era of football in Thailand.
Today, football is the most popular sport. It is played in every part of the country, mostly by amateurs. People also love to watch international football competitions, such as the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Cup and Asian Cup. Some of the world’s famous football clubs have their fan clubs in Thailand such as Manchester United in England, Bayern Muenchen in Germany, Juventus Torino in Italy, and Real Madrid in Spain.
The football Association of Thailand (FAT) celebrated its 90 th anniversary on 25 April 2006. The FAT was established 14 years before the first World Cup (1930). Football made good progress because there are two football leagues, the Thailand Premier League and the Provincial League (Pro League). It is hoped that the nation’s football team will qualify as a participant in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Tournament.
Petanque was probably created during 1907-1910 in La Ciotat by Jules le noir, France. It is a variant of le jeu des boules. The first tournament was held in 1945 by the French Petanque Federation (Federation Francaise de Petanque et Jeu Provencal - FFPJP). Nowadays, it can be said that regulations. Mr. Chan Poyharn was the person who introduced petanque to Thailand in 1975. In 1976, the Petanque Federation of Thailand was established with Mr. Sripoom Suknet as the first President.
HRH the Princess Mother (Somdet Phra Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani) loved to play petanque to maintain a healthy state of mind and body. This impressive story began when HRH the Princess Mother Knew that petanque had just been brought to Thailand. Mr. Chan Poyharn was invited to have an audience with HRH the Princess Mother at Huay Luang Dam, Udon Thani Province. HRH the Princess Mother asked Mr. Chan to keep on promoting petanque and HRH the Princess Mother envisioned that petanque could be beneficial physically and mentally as follows: improve precision; build up healthy mind and body; develop intellect; foster concentration; enhance solidarity amongst the players; and establish good relationships with foreign countries.
HRH the Princess Mother felt certain that petanque could help children to develop. It was for this reason that petanque balls made from plastic were distributed to schools all over the country. Since then, petanque became popular amongst students. HRH the Princess Mother then asked the Department of Corrections to produce wooden balls for inmates.
To date, Thai petanque players won numerous championships and international events. Thailand’s team was placed at the top rank of ASEAN countries and is likely to emerge as one of the leading nations worldwide.
Golf was introduced to Siam around the year 1906. King Rama VI became strongly interested in golf. In 1923, His Majesty granted permission for the construction of the Royal Hua Hin Golf Course in Hua Hin District, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province. Thereafter, the Thailand Golf Association (TGA) was established under His Majesty’s Royal Patronage. His Majesty assigned HRH Prince Kampangpetch Akrayothin to supervise the construction of the golf course and act as the first President of the Siam Golf Association.
Golf made good progress. Thai pros, e.g. Thongchai Jaidee, Boonchoo Ruengkij, Prom Meesawat and Virada Nirapathpongporn rose to the height of the world’s most famous greens. Many golf tournaments staged in Thailand appeal to world-class players. In addition, golf of international standard in several parts of the country attracts many guest players.
Source: Royal Thai Embassy, MoscowRead more: