By William Patton
Thai Kick Boxing or Muay Thai Fighting
Muay Thai, Thai kick boxing is known as the “Art of Eight Limbs” because of the number body parts that can be used as weapons while fighting. Thai Boxing is also known throughout the world for its ferocity, athleticism and potentially devastating maneuvers. Muay Thai is Thailand’s national form of martial art that has become increasingly popular worldwide as seen in West in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Kickboxing fights consist of five, 3 minute rounds separated by a short 2 minute break between rounds. The fighters use gloves and brightly decorated shorts and often have symbolic decorated armbands. Fighters may kick, elbow, knee or punch their opponent and are scored through these methods. Fighters protect themselves and the other fighter using boxing gloves and taping ankles although severe bodily injury does occur. Matches take place in a ring, with rope held up by four padded corners similar to a boxing ring. There is also one referee to ensure safety and fair play. Prior to the initial fight, the fighters perform a dance were they dance to loud, rhythmic music usually coming from a live band.
Historically, Mauy Thai was traditionaly used in the military setting. However, the first great upsurge of interest in Muay Thai as a sport, as well as a battlefield skill, was under King Naresuan in 1584 (muaythaifighting.com). Soldiers, generals and even kings trained in Mauy Thai. As the story goes, he there was a war between Siam (historical Thailand) and Burma and he was captured. Given the opportunity to fight one on one for his freedom (losing meant death) with Burma’s best fighter he prevailed and returned back to Siam a hero. The army used the martial arts technique and it has since been used by subsequent generations as it is the national sport.
Muay Thai and Tourism
Many tourists are interested in seeing the spectacle of the fight nights. There is however a much more personal way to experience Muay Thai. It has become increasingly popular to study the sport at academies set up for tourists to learn kickboxing, dive into a physically demanding environment and explore a unique avenue to view a culture.
Many different areas offer training centers to compete at beginner to highest professional level. Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chang Mai all have academies were it is possible to train for a weekend or a year. Different gyms offer places to stay, tourist sightseeing and outside activities.
Stadiums in Bangkok
Muay Thai stadiums in Bangkok are the best places to see fights. There is alcohol served, the prices are fairly inexpensive, betting is encouraged and the scene is very unique. There are different prices for locals and tourist. Betting is intense and the fight nights are a spectacle to behold. Although, the best seats are ringside ($50 USD) the most authentic experience is in the stands with all the Thai people (mostly men) standing, shouting and betting. The people are quite friendly and respect the foreigner that will join them in the madness in the nosebleed section.
• Lumphini Stadium–Tuesday and Friday nights (some of my classmates and I went to this one. Very fun)
• Ratchadamnoen Stadium-Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights