You might have heard about it, or even seen it on TV—the furious punches, crushing elbow strikes, lethal kicks, powerful grappling and artful feints. But nothing compares to seeing them executed to loud cheers and heart-racing tune of an accompanying wind-and-percussion ensemble. Welcome to the exciting world of Muay Thai, a martial art like no others, and a proud heritage of a nation
| An International Passion |
| Muay Thai, along with soccer, is certainly the most passionately followed sport in the country. Television networks broadcast fights five days a week, and the fight results at major stadiums are reported in all major newspapers. International boxing is also very popular, and the country has produced dozens of world champions, but they all started out as Muay Thai fighters. So it is not surprising that a boy as young as seven or eight would start training to become one—and many do, at stables across the country. Most provincial capitals have a boxing ring, but the ultimate dream of young boxers is to fight at Lumpini or Ratchadamnoen, the biggest and most famous stadiums in the country. Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen alternate, so there is a fight program every night. Tickets on an average evening are 500, 1,000 and 1,500 Baht, but on big nights prices of ringside seats may go up to 2,000 Baht. Ratchadamnoen’s Sunday Special rates are good bargains, with ringside tickets going for 500 Baht each. Fights usually begins around 6:30 p.m., with preliminary bouts featuring younger, less experienced boxers, and build up towards the main event, usually around nine o’clock. |
Muay Thai is fought in five three-minute rounds with two-minute breaks in between. The fight is preceded by a wai khru dance, in which each contestant pays homage to his teachers. Besides the symbolic meaning, the dance is a good warm-up exercise. You will notice that each boxer wears a headband and armbands. The headband, called mongkhol, is believed to bestow luck to the wearer since it has been blessed by a monk or the boxer’s own teacher. Since Buddhism and the teacher play important roles in the life of Thais, the headband is both a lucky charm and a spiritual object. It will be removed after the wai khru dance, and only by the boxer’s trainer. The armbands, meanwhile, are believed to offer protection and are only removed when the fight has ended.
A match is decided by a knockout or by points. Three judges decide who carries the round and the one who wins the most rounds, win the fight. The referee plays a very important role, since boxers’ safety depends on his decision.
To one side of the ring is the band section, comprising a Javanese clarinet, drums and cymbals. They accompany the fight from the homage dance to the conclusion. The tempo goes up as the action inside the ring intensifies. The musicians are mostly old-timers who have seen just about anything, yet their music always makes the heart race faster. It is said that the tune is a siren song that the true Muay Thai devotee can never resist.
On fight nights at major stadiums, especially at Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen, tourists fill up a sizable portion of the seats, and the number is growing. Most opt to sit at ringside, to see the action up close. On nights of major events, usually advertised days in advance, it can be hard to get tickets. You might want to book through your hotels or travel agents.
| Equipment used in Thai Boxing Match |
Equipment that is necessary for Muay Thai matches must be provided by the stadium. There are a stopwatch, a signal gong, a warning bell, boxing gloves of various sizes according to the rules, equipment to provide water for boxers, and other additional personal accessories for boxers who have not prepared their own such as boxing shorts in red or blue, jock straps, surgical tape, or sacred cords. Thai boxing can be classified into two major types, the first is muay lak which puts the emphasis on caution and patience, and is very rare nowadays. Theo- ther is muay kiew which is full of tricks and feints performed to catch the opponent off guard.
| Basic rules of Thai boxing matches |
A 'Muay Thai' match formally have no more than 5 rounds, each round take 3 minutes to last, with a two-minute rest period in between. No additional rounds is allowed.
| Where & When to see |
|Bangkok & Vicinitiy|
|₪ Lumpini Stadium|
Rama IV Road, Bangkok
₪ Ratchadamnoen Stadium
Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue
₪ Channel 7 Stadium
Behind the old Northern Bus Terminal (Morchit), opp. Chatuchak Park, Bangkok
|₪ Rangsit Stadium|
336/932 Prachathipat Road, Rangsit, Pathumthani
|₪ Samrong Stadium|
|Samrong Road, Samutprakarn |
Tel: (662) 393-3592
Fight Nights: Fridays and Sundays, from 8.30 p.m
Ticket Prices: 100 Baht for women, 200 Baht for men
|₪ Omnoy Stadium|
|74 Moo 12 Tumbon Omnoy, Amphoe Krathumbaen, Samutsakorn |
Tel: (662) 420-4317
Fight Schedule: Saturdays from 11.45 a.m.
Tickets: 200 Baht
|₪ International Stadium, Chachoengsao|
|23/22 Moo 6 Thepkunakorn Road, Tumbon Sothorn, Amphoe Muang, Chachoengsao |
Tel: (66-38) 821-746-50
Fight Schedule: Sundays, from 4.00 p.m.
Tickets: 200 Baht
| Learning Muay Thai |
Muay Thai, with its emphasis on both offense and defense as well as on stamina, is a martial art anyone can learn: men, women, young or old. With the interest in Muay Thai growing fast, martial-art schools in Europe, America and Asia have added it to their curricula. Some hire former Muay Thai champions as instructors, others have trainers who studied with Thai teachers. These schools may teach all the right moves and maneuvers, but Muay Thai isn’t just about punches and kicks.
| Muay Thai Institute |
The Muay Thai Institute was established with the goal of preserving and promoting the art of Muay Thai and making it accessible to all. The Institute, which is located in Rangsit, just north of Bangkok International Airport, offers accredited training courses for boxers, instructors and referees. Opened in 1997, the Institute is run by a professional team of Muay Thai instructors, promoters and officials. Its staff instructors are all former champions, hold at least a bachelor’s degree in physical education, and speak English. Graduates will received a certificate recognized by the Thai Ministry of Education and the World Muay Thai Council. Since its opening, the school has trained hundreds of amateurs and professionals. Students have come from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, the U.K., and other parts of the world. Thai students, many of them girls and young women, also come for recreational and professional courses.
Posted by Kornwalai L. at Sunday, September 21, 2008