Statue of Nai Khanom Tom in Ayutthaya
At the time of the fall of the ancient Siam capital of Ayutthaya in 1767, the invading Burmese troops rounded up a group of Thais and took them as prisoners. Among them were a large number of Thai boxers, including Nai Khanom Tom. According to various accounts of this legend, it is said that during a religious festival staged by the Burmese King in honour of Lord Buddha, the king called for a contest between ancient Thai Muay Boran versus the Burmese art Lethwei to determine the more superior form of martial arts.
Nai Khanom Tom was selected to fight against the Burmese champion. Nai Khanom Tom began by performing the traditional Wai Kru ritual to pay his respects to the Burmese king and the spectators, as is customary practice. The audience was mesmerized by the unusual ‘dance’ which left the Burmese boxer bewildered. When the fight began, Nai Khanom Tom charged out, using punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. Confused and stunned, the Burmese boxer was defeated. The referee however stated that the Burmese opponent was too distracted by the Wai Khru ritual, and ruled that the knockout was not valid.
The King then asked Nai Khanom Tom to fight another nine Burmese champions to prove himself. He agreed and fought them all, one after the other with no rest periods in between. Following this feat, no one else dared to challenge him any further. Impressed by his impressive performance, the Burmese king granted Nai Khanom Tom freedom. To commemorate Nai Khanom Tom’s extraordinary achievement, the Thai Martial Arts Festival and Wai Khru Muay Thai Ceremony is staged annually on March 17, and the day has been designated “Boxer’s Day” or “National Muay Thai Day”.
Main Source: Tourism Authority of Thailand