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Early Muay Thai Kickboxing in America, 1952

November 16, 2014

According to website of the Thai Boxing Association of the U.S.A., the history of Muay Thai in America began in 1968, when Ajarn Chai came to the United States. Chai, reputedly, was the first-ever Thai boxing instructor to teach Americans the art.

However, a number of vintage articles indicate that Thai boxing arrived at least a decade earlier in the United States, although it is not known if any of the visiting Thai pugilists taught the art as did Chai.

The following photograph appeared in the Register-Republic on October 29, 1952. An accompanying article noted:

“Thailand “boxers” really get a kick out of their version of the sport. Out in Seattle, Bancomong Chiaphat (right) wards off a hefty kick by Chaleim Amatayakul while fellow Thailander Woradheb Khoonwongse referees an exhibition match. The trio will tour the U.S. to show boxing fans how they do it in Thailand where anything—kicking, elbowing, kneeing, and butting—goes.”

October 29, 1952_Register-Republic_ThaiBox_FrontPage

Nearly two months later, on December 21, 1952, the Idaho Statesman published yet another picture of the two pugilists:

December 21, 1952_Idaho Statesman_ThaiBox

The caption accompanying the picture explained:

“SIAMESE FOOT BOXERS Worad Khoonwongse and Chalerm Amatayakul will introduce their rugged sport to Boise fans Monday night at Riverside Arena in an added attraction to the regular weekly wrestling card. The combatants wear four-ounce gloves and their feet, wrapped in cotton bindings, are an essential part of their equipment, along with their heads, hands, elbows, and knees.”

It seems that Muay Thai has been with us in America more than many people realize…


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