Ancient Thai boxing gains new life as fitness regime
BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Once the province of men in dark, smoky stadiums and shadowed by an image of violence, Thailand's ancient martial art of Muay Thai is being reborn - as a fitness regime.
Known as the country's national sport and said to be 2,000 years old, Muay Thai has seen a surge in popularity over the last five or so years, with gyms promptly taking advantage with state-of-the-art facilities mushrooming in Bangkok's most prestigious neighbourhoods.
"Many Thais thought it was was a violent sport so they were hesitant to send their kids to our school, but that's all changed thanks to international interest in the sport," said Mr Phoemsakul Kesbumrung, general manager of Bangkok's Muay Thai Institute, which is dedicated to preserving the sport.
He should know. His school has grown from a handful of students in 1995 to 450 full-time students at present, with more signing up each year, and he has had to increase classes from 3 times-a-day, 6 days-a-week to 4 times-a-day, 7 days-a-week.