Nak Muay Farang: Foreign boxers in Thailand

Nak Muay Farang: Foreign boxers in Thailand

Muay Thai is referred to as the "Art of Eight Limbs" as it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, using eight points of contact.

Gaining prominence as far back as the 16th century as a practical combat technique, it soon morphed into a sport fought for entertainment.

It began its spread from Southeast Asia in the 20th century as Muay Thai boxers began defeating established practitioners of other combat styles.

This growth has ushered in a wave of foreign fighters and international growth during the first decade of the 21st century.

These fighters are referred to as Nak Muay Farang, or 'foreign boxer'.

Muay Thai's growing popularity in places such as the United States, the UK, Europe and New Zealand has led to a steady influx of foreign and international fighters making their way to Thailand to train under some of the most experienced and well-versed instructors in the world, in the country that proudly calls it her national sport.

Those who fight find the sport for a variety of reasons.

For Richard Heaps a young fighter from New Zealand, Muay Thai is a way of striving towards self-improvement.

Training in Thailand, he claims its is a welcome dose of reality and perspective in an increasingly out of touch western world.

Having trained and fought in Muay Thai for close to three years, he brushes off the notion of being called a 'fighter'.

Even with a 24-6 record, he says that there is still much to perfect before being considered a true fighter.

James MacDonald is a photographer and photojournalist based in South East Asia. You can view his work at and


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