|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2009)|
|Also known as||Tinju Siam|
|Country of origin||Malaysia|
|Famous practitioners||Kudin Raja Jerong, Faizal Ramli, Big Bear Ampang|
Tomoi is an unarmed offensive martial art from Malaysia practiced mainly in the northern states of Kedah, Trengganu, and especially Kelantan. It is closely related to other Indochinese boxing styles such as muay Thai in Thailand, pradal serey in Cambodia, muay Lao in Laos and lethwei in Myanmar. Practitioners are called petomoi.
The word tomoi is a cognate of the Thai dhoi muay. This was originally used for pugilism in general, and usually referred to what is now called muay boran or "ancient boxing". In modern Thai it denotes western boxing. In Malaysia, however, tomoi has always referred to the indigenous Southeast Asian tradition of kickboxing while the general term for pugilism is tinju.
It's not clear exactly where the various Indo-Chinese forms of kickboxing originated but they are known to share a common ancestry having been based on Chinese techniques with some influence from the Indian martial arts. One theory is that they were spread by the ancient Funan empire, based in modern-day Cambodia and Vietnam, which once encompassed what are now Thailand, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan and Pahang. Originally, boxers wrapped their fists in hemp rope instead of wearing gloves. There was no ring, so the fights would take place in any open area while surrounded by spectators. If the crowd was satisfied when the match was over, the victor would be rewarded with food and money which helped supplement the income of poor families. British colonists later introduced the modern rules, boxing ring and gloves. The old style, often referred to by its Thai name muay boran, was passed down to advanced students. However, only a handful of masters in Malaysia still teach these techniques.
Tomoi was a popular pastime before the Islamic revival beginning in the 1980s. After coming into power, the Kelantan government banned several Malay cultural traditions for their "un-Islamic elements", including dances like mak yong and shadow puppetry or wayang kulit. Tomoi was also outlawed in 1990 mainly on account of the animist war-dance ritual which precedes the fight, but also because of the violence and the fact that men and women mix freely in the audience. A few tomoi practitioners at the time competed in the boxing, kickboxing and muay Thai circuit outside of Kelantan but tomoi's popularity reached its lowest point. Because Kelantan is close to the border with Thailand, many Malaysians during this period began referring to the art by its Thai name of muay Thai. In 2006 the ban was abolished and tomoi was again allowed to be practiced under the name of moi Kelate which means "Kelantan boxing" in the local dialect. The name used by promoters is "freestyle kickboxing" but most Malay-speakers still call it tomoi.
Tomoi incorporates kicks (tendang), punches (tumbuk), knees (lutut) and elbow strikes (tujah). Originally, punches in tomoi consisted of simple straight-armed strikes but, through the influence of British boxing during the colonial period, it now includes the jab, cross, hook, and uppercut. The main kicks in tomoi are the foot-thrust and the roundhouse kick. The foot-thrust is typically not meant to damage the opponent but to push them back. Tomoi practitioners consider punches to be the weakest form of attack, and regard elbow and knee strikes the best way of inflicting damage, so much so that it is sometimes referred to as the art of siku lutut which literally translates as "elbow-knee". Knee strikes are mostly delivered while clinching the opponent.
Standard attire consists of shorts, boxing gloves, armbands and cotton coverlets on the feet. The armbands were traditionally inscribed with prayers for victory but this is not always done today. Matches are made up of five rounds, each lasting three minutes and broken with a two minute rest period. Biting, blows aimed at the groin, holding the ropes, attacking a fallen opponent, and hitting an opponent when they are turned around is illegal. During the match, traditional music is played with the gendang (drums), serunai (oboe) and other instruments. The music slows down and speeds up according to the pace of the fight. Victory is usually obtained on points but 20% of matches end in a knockout. This occurs when a fighter has fallen and cannot continue after the referee counts to ten.
- Draeger, Donn F. (1981). Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts. Kodansha International