Various forms of kickboxing have long been practiced throughout Southeast Asia. As with most countries in the region, Thai culture is based on that of India and China. These countries had a hand in the development of local martial arts. Indian boxing forms like Musti-yuddha are remarkably similar to Muay Thai and it is often said that every move in Muay Thai has a similar equivalent in Shaolin kung fu. Muay Thai's origin in Thailand can be traced back to its ancestor Muay Boran ("ancient boxing"). This was the form of unarmed combat used by Siamese soldiers in conjunction with Krabi Krabong, the weapon-based style [1]. The precedence Muay Thai and Muay Boran give to the kicks may be indigenous to Thailand and the surrounding area, since Indian boxing as well as southern Chinese styles use even low kicks sparingly. Another influence from Thailand's weapon style can be seen in the pre-fight Wai Kru ritual which is based on the sabre dance of Krabi Krabong. Eventually Muay Boran was divided to:

- Muay Korat (Northeast) emphasized strength. A technique like "Throwing Buffalo Punch" was used. It could supposedly defeat a buffalo in one blow.

- Muay Lopburi (Center region) emphasized movements. Its strong points were straight and counter punches.

- Muay Chaiya (South) emphasized posture and defense, as well as elbows and knees.

- Muay Pra Nakorn (North) emphasized speed, particularly in kicking. Because of its faster speed, it was called as well "Ling Lom" (windy monkey or Loris).

- There is a phrase about Muay Boran that states, "Punch Korat, Wit Lopburi, Posture Chaiya, Faster Thasao. (หมัดหนักโคราช ฉลาดลพบุรี ท่าดีไชยา ไวกว่าท่าเสา)".

As well as continuing to function as a practical fighting technique for use in actual warfare, Muay Thai became a sport in which the opponents fought in front of spectators who went to watch for entertainment. This kind of muay contests gradually became an integral part of local festivals and celebrations, especially those held at temples. It was even used as entertainment to kings.

Eventually, the previously bare-fisted fighters started wearing lengths of rope wrapped around their hands and forearms. This type of match was called muay kaad chuek (มวยคาดเชือก).