Tomoi

Tomoi is the Malaysian name for the South-East Asian martial art known in Thailand as Muay Thai, in Cambodia as Pradal Serey, and similar to an art from Myanmar known as Lethwei.

Tomoi refers to siku lutut, which in Malay is translated literally as “elbows knees”. It shares the common history of the various Southeast Asian forms of kickboxing which were based on Chinese techniques with some Indian influence. It is not known exactly when Tomoi was first practiced but its name gives a clue to its age.

The word tomoi derives from dhoi muay or dhee muay which is the Thai word for pugilism and fist fighting in general. It was also the term used for bare fisted Muay Thai, now known as Muay Boran (ancient boxing).

Tomoi is most widely practiced in northern Malaysia along the Thai border. The Terengganu state traded extensively with Angkor and was captured by Siam in the early 1800s.

Tomoi was probably brought into what is now Malaysia long before this time since Malasia has always been home to ethnic Thais. Even before British colonization it was a popular pastime among not only Thais but Malays, Chinese and Indians as well.

It remained so until 1990 when the Kelantan government under the administration of PAS banned a number of traditional arts including Malay attire, dances and tomoi along with them.

Although it was still practiced by a few, tomoi’s popularity among Malays began to wane and many began calling the art by its Thai name of Muay Thai. In 2006 the ban was abolished and the art was again allowed to be practiced under the proposed name of “Muay Kelate”. The preferred name used by promoters is freestyle kickboxing but most Malay-speakers in Malaysia still call it tomoi.