In the late 1980’s, the Thai government recognised Muaythai as an international sport. In order to regulate the sport a single organization was commissioned and created, maintaining uniformity of the sport under the same rules, regulations, and safety measures and get international recognition for Muaythai. The primary objectives were to promote Muaythai as a cultural art form, self-defense, and ring sport; as well as to procure Amateur Muaythai inclusion into Southeast Asian Games (Sea Games), Asian Games, GAISF and Olympic Games.
An international meeting soon took place in 1989, in Thailand with 20 amateur federations from around the world in attendance. The discussion was focused on the first constitution, rules and regulations to establish a world federation, International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA).
In 1990 another international meeting was held at which, IFMA were officially established. Over the years, IFMA has held nine events of the Prince’s Cup Championship, five events of the Asian Cup Championship and six events of the King’s Cup World Championships. Additionally many continental championships were also held throughout North America, Australia, Europe and Africa; under the IFMA and other associated continental federations.
Then on December 5th 1994, His Majesty the King of Thailand graciously commissioned the First King’s Cup World Championship. The IFMA continued its duties to maintain Muaythai as an international sport, acting as the world sanctioning body for amateur Muaythai during the 18th Sea Games in 1995, followed by the 1st IFMA Queen’s Cup Championship, an exclusively female tournament in 1996.
1998 was the most glorious year for Muaythai as it was selected as a demonstration sport for the 13th Asian Games under the IFMA banner. This development gained the world recognition for the sport and clearly obtained an acceptance from the Olympic Council of Asia for IFMA as the international federation that represents amateur Muaythai worldwide.
The World Championship in 2003 held in Kazakhstan was the first championship ever held outside of Thailand.
His Excellency General Pichitr Kullavanijaya travelled to Kazakhstan to preside the opening and closing ceremonies, representing Thailand. The event was well received, showing the depth of amateur Muaythai talent around the world.
Another milestone for Muaythai took place in 2004 when Amateur Muaythai was included in the 1st Asian Indoor Games. In the same year, the World Muaythai Against Drugs (MAD) Festival was held with the participation of 69 countries.
Also in June 2004, The General Assembly of International Sports Federation (GAISF) recognised the IFMA as a true international body following international sports law and structure, and recommended IFMA for inclusion as the world recognised amateur body for Muaythai.
In 2005, a Muaythai Cultural Festival was held and organised in cooperation with the Thai government. Amongst the dignitaries attending were the GAISF President and Secretary General, Mr. Hein Verbruggen and Mr. Don Porter who were the guests of honour. Included in the activities were junior Muay Boran and skillful demonstrations of Muaythai by male and female boxers.
2006 was undoubtedly the most successful year for Muaythai when in April it was confirmed at the World Congress in Korea, that Muaythai was overwhelmingly voted into GAISF and became a full member of the world sport community. His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Thailand granted audience with the President of GAISF, the Privy Councillor to His Majesty the King, the IOC member of Thailand, the President of the WMC, the President and General Secretary of IFMA; in order to congratulate and show his appreciation for IFMA and Muaythai inclusion into GAISF.
In mid 2006, the largest World Championships and the first Muaythai Expo brought 82 countries of athletes, equipment manufacturers, event promoters and fans together under one event; an immense effort for Muaythai by IFMA.
2007 was another historical year for Muaythai and IFMA. Muaythai originated in Thailand hundreds of years ago and has become a world recognised sport today. To mark this recognition, the 2007 World Championships, was held in Thailand to celebrate His Majesty the King’s 80th Birthday along with the whole nation. Muaythai athletes from an unprecedented 100 countries travelled to Bangkok to participate, which made it the biggest single sport event ever held in the Kingdom of Thailand, and to honour the traditions and values brought to the world through Muaythai. The King’s Cup and closing ceremony of the 2007 World Championships was chaired by the President of GAISF Mr. Hein Verbruggen, along with 12 of the GAISF Martial Arts member federations.
IFMA started as a small federation with several enthusiastic countries more than a decade ago. Currently at the dawn of an exciting new century, the federation can claim 110 member countries worldwide with 5 continental federations under a sole and unified regulatory body.
Muaythai through IFMA has come a long way from its first World Championships in 1993 with a mere 20 countries participating to the most recent World Championships with an overwhelming participation of 100 countries.
Another great leap for Muaythai happened at the 2007 SEA Games when for the first time in the history of the sport, Muaythai was a fully recognised sport for both male and female.
2008 was another exciting year for Muaythai with the IFMA world championships being part of the TAFISA world sport for all games under patronage of the IOC. IFMA’s cultural exchange program involving kids from over 40 countries received highest accolades from private and public sector IOC members.
The highlight of 2009 was the IFMA world championships with 82 countries travelling to Thailand to participate in His Majesty the King’s 82nd birthday celebration. 2010 will be another milestone for muaythai and IFMA with the SportAccord combat games in Beijing. IFMA has given these games highest priority and promotional events will be taking place in all continental championships: the European Championships in Italy; Pan-American championships in Brazil; the African championships in Morocco, and the Asian championships in Uzbekhistan. IFMA will send their elite athletes to these games and is proud to be closely related with the other 12 GAISF / SportAccord–recognised martial arts.
IFMA has also started a roadmap to take Muaythai towards Olympic recognition, and the next milestone must be recognition by the IOC.
IFMA’s objective is the total unification of all national federations working mutually for the sport and the athletes. The enthusiasm and commitment of the members, boxers and officials are the greatest assets that IFMA brings to this ancient sport of Muaythai.
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