Muay Thai in Black and White

BOOM! Knocked out. When it comes to the martial arts, Muay Thai  (or Thai Boxing) is said to be unrivaled. Fighters deliver mind-blowingly powerful blows, which can knock the opponent straight to the ground (or in some severe cases, kill them).

Muay Thai is known as ‘The Art/Science of 8 Limbs,’ because of the allowed use of knees and elbows- not just fists and feet. It is one of the few fights where this full contact is allowed, which opens up more opportunities for bloodshed and violence and gives way to the most brutal of blows.

There are about 6 matches, starting with the youngest of fighters at 16. Each match consists of  5 rounds which begin and end with the loud ‘DING’ of a man manually ringing a clunky hanging bell.

Before beginning the match, the fighters participate in rituals of ‘Wai Khru’– paying respect to their trainers, their religion, and fighters who came before them- by steadily dancing around the ring, and praying.

Although Muay Thai is not about speed, with each of the rounds, fights get a little more aggressive and rowdy. The steady beats of the traditional Thai music, created by a small, live band, pick up speed. The severe slap on bare skin from each swift kick sends the crowd into a frenzy of synchronized oh, OHHH, OHHHHHH’s!

Between rounds the fighters have a team of men who jump into the ring, douse them with ice water, give them a rub down, and good spiritedly slap them on the back before jumping back out of the ring. Like they need to be slapped again.

They are often end up in a hug-like embrace (clinging), which is the point in other fights where they are usually pulled apart, but in Muay Thai… it’s the perfect opportunity to knee each other relentlessly in the stomach.

These men are small and muscular, but oh so sprightly and deft. Their size and light, bouncy footwork is not to be underestimated- their strikes are powerful, and their resilience is evident. Still, there has to be a winner… 

Match after match, one man throws his arms up in the air in the and takes a victory lap around the ring while welts, bruises, and fat lips slowly start to become evident on both fighters.

Recently, I was a VIP-seated spectator at my first Muay Thai Fight. Instinctive flinching and gasping were my inadvertent reactions to watching young men beat the shit out of each other. Enjoyable may not be the right word…

However, it was entertaining, with the audience’s enthusiasm being just as entertaining as the fight itself.  I can’t say I know the tactics and moves enough to appreciate them, but this intense fight really is an art form, and worth seeing if you find yourself in Bangkok.

I saw this televised Sunday fight at ‘Channel 7 Stadium,’ a rinky-dink building most fit for some behind the scenes betting.  This is one of 3 major stadiums in Bangkok that host Muay Thai fights, and fights are every Sunday. I would like to see my next fight at either Lumpinee or Rajadamnern, where fights are more expensive for foreigners, but the locations are rumored to have the best fighters.

Have you ever seen a Muay Thai fight?