Before anyone ever imagine of thinking of Muay Thai as a competitive tournament sport, it was just a way for the people of Thailand to protect themselves. You see, in the earliest history of the country, the people of Thailand were constantly being attacked by other conquering nations who intended to take over Thailand and make it their own. During this time, the Thai people had little choice but to use their own minds and bodies to defend against their encroaching enemies.
Back then, the people of Thailand din not have a arsenal of weapons from which to choose. During intense battles the only defensive weapons they had were clubs and rudimentary spears. These kinds of weapons could only be used at in very close combat situations. As a result, the Thai people had to rely on sheer force of will and instinct to protect themselves from being overtaken by other countries.
The fighting methods employed by the people of Thailand utilized their own body parts as lethal and dangerous weapons. They used their hands, their fists, their elbows, and their feet as close combat training weapons. Once their techniques were systematized and incorporated into a routine, the martial arts discipline came to be known as Muay Thai. In the west it is also known as Thai boxing.
In Muay Thai's earliest of days, fighters used bare fists to attack their opponents, and the use of grappling techniques were very rare. Instead of grappling, fighters would move in on their enemies to make a quick strike, and then they would move out of their opponent's range as quickly as humanly possible. Things like weight classes were unheard of. You got paired up with the next person who tried to kill you and then you moved on to the next enemy if you were successful.
Rules in that type of fighting situation were basically nonexistent. Today we consider it bad to use the head to strike an opponent, and hitting below the belt is a violation of sparring rules. However, back then nothing was off limits. It wasn't until much later that the discipline would turn into a sport for sparring and the Muay Thai matches would be broken up into different fighting rounds.
Blocking is important in the sport of Muay Thai, but it is one of the more difficult elements to learn. It requires that Muay Thai practitioners be in the very best physical and mental condition. This sport is not for the weak or faint of heart.
Muay Thai has come a long way since those days though, and it is popular all over the world, not just in the country of Thailand. Now a recognized competitive sport you can find classes for it all of the United States and you can even find martial arts dvd training programs for the discipline of Muay Thai. Today's practitioners come from all walks of life—they are young, old, male, and female and they practice for fun, for health, and for sport.