Tag - thai boxing

What to do in Thailand

What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand

In this exotically inviting land where the weather is usually hot and sunny, travel is easy and the food is delicious and plentiful, there isn’t really much that you can’t do. No matter what you are into, whether it be extreme sports, sunbathing, exploring, discovering a new culture or pure hedonism, Thailand is the perfect place to do it, whilst getting a tan at the same time.

Thailand’s temples – known as wats – are big, richly decorated and contain an interesting assortment of treasures. Every town has a large assortment of temples, with perhaps the highest concentrations in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya. Some temples not to be missed are Wat Arun on the Chaopraya river in Bangkok, Wat Po, also in Bangkok and Chiang Mai’s Wat Benchamabophit. Whilst in Chiang Mai, climb Doi Suthet to see Wat Doi Suthep, which offers stunning views over the area.

As well as spectacular scenery, Thailand’s islands and beaches offer a good opportunity to take part in diving and snorkeling, the clear blue water offering glimpses of colourful coral and fish. Koh Tao is rapidly becoming the most popular island for diving and snorkelling, whilst Koh Phi Phi and Phuket are also popular. Other water ports available include sailing and windsurfing. At many places, bungee jumping and rock climbing are the order of the day, whilst paintballing offers a good opportunity to let of some steam.

Thailand has some beautiful golf courses, some designed by skilled international golfers. Muay Thai is the national sport and no trip is complete without watching a match or even training and competing yourself.

The amazing landscape makes Thailand a great place for walking and trekking, the hill tribe villages to the north making a great stop over or a three or four day trek.

Many come to this deeply spiritual country to learn about meditation, and there are numerous meditation courses available. Whilst here, you can also learn the ancient art of massage or join yoga classes on the beach.

Thai food is some of the best in the world, and you will find some outstanding restaurants, offering everything from international style dining, dining aboard river cruises or simply eating at a tiny table on the street.

The spas and saunas are also a great place to unwind and be pampered; whilst for many cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dentistry provide the opportunity for self improvement. Also, there are plenty of chances to indulge in a little retail therapy.

Thailand has a great selection of outdoor markets, floating markets, stores and shopping centres. Do not miss Bangkok’s Chatuchak market, MBK, Paragon or the night bazaar at Suan Lum, whilst Chiang Mai’s Night Market draws visitors from all over the world.

For people wishing to take in some culture there are some interesting museums, art galleries, exhibitions and displays of Thai dancing. Thailand also has some interesting theme parks, shows and zoos such as Sri Racha Tiger Zoo.

There is always something to see and do in Thailand, and the numerous festivals can add colour and life to your holiday, especially if you are lucky enough to be in the country during Songran or Loi Krathong.

There are plenty of opportunities to get in touch with nature in the national parks, such as Khao Yai where parts of the movie The Beach was filmed or Koh Samet, where the outstanding natural beauty has led to its being preserved as a national park.

Whatever you decide to do, there never seems to be quite enough time, and it is almost certain that Thailand’s charms will draw you back time and again.

Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?

Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?Loads of people come to Thailand with visions of taking a few Muay Thai lessons and going home the next Tony Jaa. Problem is, not many recognise the reality of getting even past the first base as far as Muay Thai (Thai boxing) is concerned… Unfortunately, there’s a less glamorous side to Thai Boxing that involves getting out of bed in the morning and plenty of sweat hitting the concrete. Oh, and yes, believe it or not you might get hit once in a while! Dominic Lavin takes us through the bits martial arts films and the travel brochures tend to miss out. He also interviews a few of the people training at Jitti Gym – a well respected Thai boxing gym… and we interview Dominic… Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?


“What the f*** am I doing here?” those are the exact words that went through my mind just after I’d climbed into the ring. My corner men were rubbing my legs, 400 blood thirsty half tipsy spectators were gazing in my direction and my opponent was in the blue corner, limbering up and avoiding eye contact.
 
That was back in 1994 and I lost the fight by the narrowest possible of margins. I’ve seen video footage of the event since and from a judges perspective the only thing that gave my opponent his one point margin was one more head kick than I’d thrown. Six months later a career change meant I had to retire from the competitive side of Thai Boxing but I’ve trained on and off in the sport throughout the remainder of my life. When people find out you’ve boxed they want to know what it’s like, does it hurt? Is it fun? Is it dangerous? It’s that long since I fought myself memory prevents me from giving a fair answer but as I’m in Bangkok and training pretty regularly at a gym I’ve known for 10 years or so I thought other people (who’ve fought in Thailand while my fights were in the UK) can give me a better insight into the sport.
 
On Monday at about 2:15 pm I got the underground to Rahcadaphisek station. I left by exit number 1, turned left through Rachada Night Bazaar and within thirty seconds or so I was at the back of the gym compound that sports the sign Jitti Gym International Muay Thai Training. I decided to have a cigarette before going in. As I drained the life out of a Marlborough Light I could hear the pop pop pop of heavy plastic skipping ropes on the concrete floor and smell the linament from over the wall. I walked round to the front, pulled back the ornate blue and gold gate and entered the gym. It was smiles all round. Last night, Richard from York had fought at Rajadamnern Stadium (ranked even higher than Lumphini Stadium in boxing circles) and won in the second round.

Two and a half minutes into the round a man wearing a taxi drivers bib stood by a large urn of water shouts rieu rieu rieu rieu (quick quick quick quick quick) and the pace intensifies. I find it hard to lift my legs and after another thirty seconds my spirit lifts as here the word break. The man in the corner hands me a cup of iced water, I pour some of it on my head, face and down my back then drink the rest. It gives me a moments’ salvation from the searing heat, but within seconds warm beads of sweat force their way out of my skin. I lift my arms above my head to help me breath better and as my heart beat starts to return to normal round two starts. Somehow I complete the second round without suffering too much more delirium and the start of round three (where I get my second wind) is delayed while a dog chases a cockerel round the ring and the trainers shoo them out. The fourth round is torture and I only just manage to stay on my feet, so call it a day, climb out of the ring and douse myself in iced water, while the rest of the gym continue oblivious to my plight.

After sitting on a bench feeling sorry for myself for seven or eight minutes I feel guilty about my indolence and decide to work on a big leather punch bag. I maintain a low to moderate pace, boxing mainly with the occasional kick or knee thrown while the guys from Leeds and the youngsters throw themselves into their training relentlessly. A while later I get called over to train with Daomai, the boxing coach. He smiles, slams the focus mitts together, points at my stomach and calls me Sweat Pea. I’m assuming he’s referring to the slightly podgy American heavyweight rather than the featherweight Colin Sweat Pea MacMillan from Sheffield.

He holds the left pad up and I jab. Bam Bam, he shouts and I jab twice. Two, he holds both pads up and I throw a one two combination. Four, I throw four as he smacks the pads down onto my hands. My right knuckles and wrist hurt but I ignore the pain and try and punch as powerfully and quickly as possible. Doamai adds in hooks and uppercuts and makes me block and roll from his punches. After two and a half rounds I want to lie in bath of iced water for the rest of my life, again I sit down for a while before going back to a bag while the rest of gym continue their relentless efforts to knock the stuffing out of the pads.

Eventually people switch from pad work to light sparring and clinch work. I decide to join in and get gracefully wrestled into a corner by one of the pad men, who proceeds to gently knee me around the abdomen. When the smell of cooking rice wafts out of the kitchen I get pangs of hunger and decided to call it a day.
    
After showering I return and the rest of the people are either playfully and respectfully sparring with one another or indulging in excruciating looking exercises. By six thirty everyone’s gathered round a big table in the kitchen, having a laugh and eating and that’s when I interview a cross section of the regulars at the gym and KhaoSanRoad.com interviewed me!


 
jitti_damriramJitti Damriram, age 46, Gym Owner, home town Burriram
 
Q How did you get involved in Thai boxing?
 
A To be honest I like all sports, football, takraw, boxing, but I liked cooking, washing, cleaning and ironing my clothes and my friends called me “ladyboy” so I had to fight to show them I wasn’t.
 
Q What level of success did you achieve as a Thai boxer? 

A I reached number 5 at Rajadamnern stadium, but as a boxer not a Thai boxer.
  
Q What does a typical day involve for you?
  
A Right now, I wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning and then check that they go running and start to prepare the food for them and I look after them like my babies you know, my family. I see that they have enough sleep, enough food and things like that.
  
Q What do you like about Thai boxing?
  
A I think it’s got into my bones I love it I couldn’t do any other job you know.
  
Q What do you dislike about it?
  
A If something’s not correct, that’s when I hate it.
  
Q What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you in Thai boxing?
  
A Many Champions all over the world know my gym is one of the best ones, because we’ve run for a long time. Before we started to train farangs for nothing that was when we were near Khao Sarn, then when they started to want to come and train they had to give me 50 baht. Then many more started to come, so we needed more pad men, we needed more trainers and I was lucky that I had many friends and ex students who were top champions already. They wanted to come to work for me because they could see the opportunities in the future to go and work abroad teaching people to fight.
  
Q Has there ever been anything bad that’s happened?
  
A It was a long time ago there was one Japanese student, he was stupid and got too excited about a fight, he was training for a fight in Cambodia, he trained too hard and then got nervous. He didn’t eat or sleep properly and went sparring full power. With the heat his system went into shock, and when he left the ring he went into the shower and passed out and hit his head on the floor. He died in hospital that day.
  
Q How many champions have you trained?
  
A Many, I can’t remember them all, but Rajasak was the best he was Rajadamnern Champion at four weights.
  
Q Did he fight at Lumphini as well?
  
A At the time the promoter at Rajadamnern didn’t allow the fighters to fight at Lumphini, but he fought many Lumphini champions and beat them.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt?
  
A I had one fight where I couldn’t remember what happened, I got stopped. The guy was 5 kilos heavier than me, because at that time I was top at boxing and nobody wanted to fight me, so I had to go up 5 kilos. I did ten rounds and then I just blacked out. When I got out of the ring I couldn’t remember my opponents name, then I got back to the gym and I asked my friend where I was, I didn’t know where I was. He had to give me some pills, valium or something like that to help me sleep and relax. The next day when I woke up I was fine.
  
Q What other interests have you got?
  
A I’d like to move up and be a promoter, that’s my dream, my aim. I also like football and takraw.


  
Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?Rajasak Sorvorapin, age 38 home town Burriram
 
Q How did you get involved in Thai boxing?
 
A To be honest I like all sports, football, takraw, boxing, but I liked cooking, washing, cleaning and ironing my clothes and my friends called me “ladyboy” so I had to fight to show them I wasn’t.
 
Q What level of success did you achieve as a Thai boxer?
 
Q How long have you been involved in Muay Thai?
  
A Since I was twelve years old.
  
Q What level of success did you achieve?
  
A At Rajadamnern I was recognised as fighter of the year for two years.
  
Q How many fights have you had?
  
A Over two hundred.
  
Q What is your daily routine?
  
A Drinking (laughs). Handyman as well, repair buildings that sort of thing.
  
Q When you’re training people what does that normally involve?
  
A 5 in the morning I wake up, go for a run and then training until around 9 o’clock.
  
Q After training what do you do?
  
A Many things relax, go shopping, get a massage then train again in the afternoon from 3 until 6.
  
Q In Thai boxing what’s the best thing that happened to you?
  
A The first time I won a title at Rajadamnern.
  
Q What’s the worst?
  
A I had a motorbike accident that stopped me fighting.
  
Q What do you like about Thai Boxing?
  
A My brothers and my father were fighters. I have Muay Thai blood.
  
Q What do you dislike about it?
  
A I don’t like some of the bad people involved.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt?
  
A The worst was when I had just started to train and fought without having trained properly.
  
Q What other interests have you got?
  
A I want to be a good trainer and teacher so that I can travel abroad and see other countries.


 
Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?Komgiat Sortanikhun age 33, home town Khon Kaen
 
Q How long have you been involved in Thai boxing?
 
A Since I was 16.
 
Q Why did you get involved in Thai boxing?
 
A My father was an ex champion, he encouraged me and I loved it.
 
Q How good were you? 

A I fought for titles many times, but didn’t quite beat the Champions. There was business and money involved.
  
Q What does a normal day involve for you?
  
A As well as training people at the gym, my girlfriend sells food. I help her with the cooking.
  
Q What do you like about Thai boxing?
  
A I like the technical side of it, being skilful.
  
Q What do you dislike about it?
  
A I don’t like the clinching and knees, but I like left kick left punch.
  
Q What’s your proudest moment in Thai Boxing?
  
A I fought a guy called Chamophet who had about eight or nine titles.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt in the ring?
  
A Only cut. 
  
Q What interests have you got outside boxing?
  
A I love cooking Isaan food, laarb and som tam.


daomai_setcordomDaomai Setcordom, age 40 and still handsome, hometown Burriram
 
Q When did you start Muay Thai
 
A I am more of a boxer than a Thai boxer. I started when I was fourteen.
 
Q What made you start boxing ?
 
A When I was young I had rough friends around me and I needed to be able to take care of myself.
 
Q What level of success did you achieve ?
  
A I was ranked second in the world by the WBC.
  
Q Who was the best person you fought ?
  
A I fought a Korean guy who was ranked number one by the WBA and 9 by the WBC.
  
Q What was the proudest moment you had ?
  
A When I fought Junior Frazer for the WBC belt.
  
Q How many fights did you have ?
  
A At least 75. 
  
Q What do you like about boxing ?
  
A I like having the punches and speed of a champ boxer.
  
Q What do you dislike about it ?
  
A I don’t like fighting relentless fighters.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt ? 
  
A In one of my fights I got my eye closed by the swelling.
  
Q What other interest’s do you have? 
  
A I have a food shop that sells barbeques and steaks. 
  
Liam Harrison, age 20, home town Leeds England
 
Q How long have you been involved in Thai boxing?
 
A Seven and a half years.
 
Q Why did you get involved?
 
A My cousin took me down to Bad Company Gym in Leeds where he was training at the time.
 
Q What level of success have you had?

A I’ve done quite well. I’ve won two world titles, one of them in Thailand against a current world Champion and I’ve had six fights in Thailand and five wins. I’ve had 35 fights in total.
  
Q What does a typical day involve?
  
A Training wise it’s a run in the morning, clinching, pads and sparring. About 6 hours all together.
  
Q What’s it like when you fight, what goes through your mind?
  
A I don’t know how to answer that one. I can’t explain it. It all just comes naturally. I’m happiest when I’m in the ring.
  
Q What do you like about Thai boxing?
  
A Everything. 
  
Q Is there anything you dislike about it? 
  
A Idiots on discussion boards mouthing off. 
  
Q What’s been your proudest moment in Muay Thai?
  
A When I won my world title. I t was in a province three hours outside Bangkok, Cha Am.
  
Q What’s been the worst thing?
  
A The first time I fought a stadium ranked Thai, I got my comeuppance big time. I went the distance but lost on points. I got kneed all over the place.
 
Q What do you think makes a good fighter? 
  
A A big heart and toughness will take you a long way, but you need dedication and have to be willing to put the time in. It’s hard work you have to train all the time day in day out. The harder you work the more you get out of it, these people here can make you a champion if you put 100 % in.
  
Q What other interests have you got?
  
A I’ve played football semi professionally. I had trials with Leeds, Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday but never made it though, I didn’t quite make the cut.


  
Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?Richard Cadden, age 29, home town York, England
 
Q How long have you been involved in Muay Thai?
 
A It’s about 10 years.
 
Q What got you interested?
 
A I was involved in Kick Boxing and the instructor stopped turning up at the gym. One of the lads I
trained with suggested trying Thai Boxing instead
and I enjoyed it. I starting kicking the pads properly instead of just flicking them like you do in kick boxing.

A Back home I work full time, so can’t train all the time, but I spend all my annual leave in Thailand. I’m a railway engineer. When I’m here I get out of bed at about 6, and run until about 8, then I do bag work and pad work until about nine. After that it’s a shower and sleep. I get up again at 3 and train again until half six, seven, then shower and eat then sleep because it’s so intensive.
  
Q What’s been the proudest moment for you in Thai Boxing?
  
A When I won my world title.
  
Q What’s been the worst thing that’s happened in Thai boxing?
  
A To be honest I’m a pretty positive person. If something goes wrong I take it in my stride. I just deal with it.
  
Q What’s it like when you fight, what’s going through your mind?
  
A I think about my family and all the people who are supporting me. When I say that I mean people like my trainers, my friends from the gym, my family and my girlfriend who give me emotional support.
  
Q How many fights have you had?
  
A 36, I’m not sure how many of them I’ve won. I think it’s about 24.
  
Q What is it you like about Thai boxing?
  
A Belting people in the face. Whacking ’em(laughs). It’s everything to do with the sport it’s the lifestyle. When I get in condition I like seeing my body change shape. There’s also the spiritual side as well. I read a lot, I like the Wai Kru, Ram Muay, the fight ritual and stuff.
  
Q Is there anything you dislike about Thai Boxing?
  
A People on the discussion boards mouthing off. There’s one guy who’s shown a lack of respect, saying I’m running scared and have avoided fighting him six times. I’ve only known about two of them. The fight just never came off. It happens sometimes, but I’m going to fight him now, set the record straight.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt?
  
A Not really. 
  
Q Not even aches and pains from training?
  
A You always get things that happen, but you can work around them. I hate it when people wallow in the despair of injury. If your shins hurt you’ve got two hands and two elbows, you can still train around it. If your legs are knackered you can still box. There’s so many things you can work on because you need fitness, power, strength, stability and conditioning. I snapped a ligament on the outside of my knee when I was running once. My kneecap went down the side of my leg, I pushed it back in and limped back to the gym. I was out for about six months, the muscle definition disappeared in my legs, so I spent a lot of time down the swimming baths and doing weights and stuff like that. When I got back to the gym I’d changed shape, but just got back on with it. That’s an example of how you need to think positive about things. I could have used that as an excuse, but you won’t get anywhere without the positive attitude. You start to see things from a different perspective.
  
Q What other interests do you have?
  
A I’ve got a girlfriend back home and I’ve been into a lot of other martial arts. Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu, Kick Boxing.
  
Q What do you think makes a good fighter?
  
A Never say die attitude, passion and dedication.


 

dominic_lavinDominic Lavin, age 35, home town Wigan England
http://www.myspace.com/140525510
 
Q How long have you been involved in Muay Thai?
 
A Since about 92 I think.
 
Q Why did you start?
 
A I was a bit of a football hooligan in the early days and when I saw my mates going to prison for it I thought I’d better call it a day, but I still needed an outlet for my aggression. When a mate took me to see some fights I was hooked. It was handy as well because someone owed me some money and I wanted to know how to snot him properly.

Q What is your typical daily routine?
 
A It varies, when I’m in England I just work all the time, but when I’m in Thailand it’s different. For the first month or two on my visits to Thailand I tend to wake up at around four or five in the afternoon and wonder where my mobile phone, wallet and cash have gone. I have a shower then go downstairs. The apartment manager usually asks me to apologise to Mr & Mrs So and So in flat xxx for trying to get in their room using my keys at four in the morning, then I go and have something to eat and try and remember which bars I was in the night before. At around 7pm I start to drink. When the money starts running low I start training again to try and loose weight and feel better about myself and just get bevvied at the weekend.
  
Q What level of success have you had in the sport?
  
A I was never that good really I just liked a scrap. I had 3 Semi Contact fights which I won and four full contact, out of them I came second in all but one of them.
  
Q What was your proudest moment?
  
A I was awarded fighter of the year at Horwich Thai Boxing Club in 1994. I think at that time the club had about 9 members and two fighters.
  
Q What was the worst thing that happened to you?
  
A I got used to getting filled in after a while.
  
Q What was it like when you fought?
  
A It used to fill up my head space completely for about a week before the event. I never really got panicked by it I just went into a bit of a world of my own. On the night of the fight I had sort of an inner calm but wanted to get down to business as well.
  
Q What did you like about the sport?
  
A It was the adrenalin buzz of a combat sport. One-to-one with your opponent. In Thailand sparring’s pretty light, they can’t afford to get injured and save the heavy stuff for in the ring. Back in the UK some of the sparring sessions were like World War 3, it was great, very little technical merit but good honest battling. If I was lucky I could get a good half hour of heavy scrapping every day five or six times a week.
  
Q What did you dislike about it?
  
A one of the worst things was sitting in the changing rooms before a fight, waiting for your turn and seeing your mate come back in on a stretcher. Another thing that annoyed me was when loads of new associations started springing up in the UK. All of a sudden some bloke who’d had two fights got matched up with the caretaker at the church hall, won on points and was declared Buxton and New Mills Muay Thai Association British and European Champion at three weights.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt?
  
A I fought a guy called Craig Willis from Darlington. I don’t really remember what happened, but I think it ended in the second round. When I came round in the changing room someone told me that my nose was half way across my face and I had to reset it (push it back into place), it hurt like f***. One eye was completely closed and I could just see out of the other. I couldn’t walk properly for days.
  
Q What other interests have you got?
  
A A few really, drink beer and smoking tabs is the main one though. Seeing Wigan Athletic in the Premiership after all these years is truly amazing. I like the bars of Lower Sukumvit and their employees, listening to New Order and The Who, writing, reading good books and poetry, that sort of stuff.
  
A Not having me as your role model.
  
If you’re interested in training at Jitti Gym visit his website, www.jittigym.com, Jitti has an excellent reputation around the world and is happy to adapt training for everyone from complete novices to professional fighter.

Muay Thai

Muay ThaiI remember not so long ago, I was sat around a table with an American, a German, an Aussie and a Thai bloke. It had got to that stage of proceedings when we were missing our home lands and the ugly sceptre of patriotism raised its’ head. The theme of the conversation turned itself to what our homeland had brought to the world. Being a Brit I put soccer, rugby and cricket on the table. The American offered baseball, basketball and American Football, the Teutonic one offered BMW’s and lager, the Thai mentioned excellent food, Red Bull and Muay Thai. When it came to the Aussie’s turn he blushed a little and with more than a hint of embarrassment he muttered, “Errr. Well umm. Rolf Harris and Dame Edna.”

Now I could be evil and vent my sarcasm on a certain member of that group but because I’m in a good mood I’ll focus on my personal favourite sport of “Muay Thai” or “Thai Boxing” as it’s know in some quarters. It’s been described as the “Art and Science of Eight Limbs” and by another writer on a different site as “The most graceful way in the world of beating the snot out of some one”. Personally I wouldn’t have used the word snot, but I’m an ungracious Northerner. The Thai’s are justifiably very proud of their national sport and at some time in their lives, most schoolchildren will undergo some form of tuition in this ancient art. On a personal front Thai Boxing helped me stay on the straight and narrow when I could have got involved in less savoury parts of society, and when I’m in Thailand helps me work up a healthy thirst before I go out and undo all the good it’s done me.

Muay ThaiThe Muay Thai of today has undergone a metamorphosis from its original form. Its exact provenance is a little vague, as the country’s records were destroyed when some bad tempered guys from Burma decided to set a torch to the ancient capital of Siam (Ayuddhaya) in 1767, destroying the country’s Royal Archives, so what we know of the history of the sport is pieced together from manuscripts found in the adjacent countries.

The earliest written record is in 1411 up in Chiang Mai. After that the “fistic art” goes unmentioned until around 1590, when King Naresuen got a look in for heralding it as a form of self defence and unarmed combat against invaders, and documented some of the moves that characterise it today. In 1703 “The Tiger King” continued encouraging his countrymen to partake and was rumoured to fight himself (incognito) in a number of villages.

No article on Muay Thai would be complete without mentioning Nai Khanom Dtom, a Siamese soldier who famously won freedom by beating twelve of his Burmese captors and won national respect in doing so. From 1703 onwards the sport carried on merrily with the only change being the swapping of leather hand bindings for ones made of cloth, which if both parties agreed could be dipped in glue and ground glass. In the old days it was a sort of “last man standing” type of contest but in the 1930’s after a few too many fatalities they introduced rules and regulations, which have remained mainly unchanged to the modern day.

Muay ThaiThe changes of the 1930’s were to insist the contest took place in a ring, break the fight into five rounds of three minutes, replace the hand wraps with gloves, insist on mouth and groin guards and let a referee get in the ring to ensure fair play.

If you’re in Bangkok and want to enjoy the spectacle there are two different stadiums, Rajadamnern (five minutes walk from Khao Sarn Road) and Lumpinee where there are bouts staged most nights of the week. It’s a commonly held belief that the Lumpinee fights are of a slightly higher standard although it is hard to separate them. Whichever you chose, you’ll experience a night of true sporting excellence. The sport is still steeped in superstition and spiritualism. When the fighters enter the stadium, they’ll be dressed in silk gowns with garlands of orchids round their shoulders and a “Mongkon” (a ceremonial band) around their head.

On entering the ring (over the top rope if tradition is adhered to) they will remove the gown and perform what is known as a “Wai Kru” it’s a dance which is designed to pay homage to their mentors, family and Buddha but it also helps them focus and warm up. Often the competitors will have spent the day praying, meditating and being blessed by monks.

During the bout, the fighters wear a “Kruang Ruang” or “Ring of Charms” around their bicep, which usually contains a Buddha image. The fight itself is accompanied (as is the Wai Kru) by music from a three piece band made up of cymbals, drums and an oboe.

As the tempo of the fight raises and falls, so does the tempo of the music. Uninitiated spectators are often taken aback at what they see as the “brutality” of the fight. The competitors are allowed to strike each other with fists, feet, shins, elbows and knees. It can look a little scary, but the guys in the ring are highly trained in defensive techniques as well as offensive.

In the early rounds the fighters will typically “fell each other out” looking for gaps in their opponents defence. In the later rounds spectators are usually treated to a spectacular display of pugilist technique.

At the end of the five rounds if neither fighter is concussed, the winner (as in Western Boxing) is the one who has attacked and defended most effectively. Putting the fight’s themselves to one side for a moment it’s important to understand the enthusiasm of the crowd. The Thais live and breathe Muay Thai. When you attend the stadium the atmosphere is similar to a Premiership Football Game and if you chose to flick through the channels on a TV in Thailand, it’s unusual not to find at least one fight being shown.

Despite the brutality of the contest, the combatants have a great deal of respect for one another. They are highly trained sportsmen. Most of them start early, at the age of around seven or eight, and if they are accepted to a gym or “Camp” the Thai word is “Sit” they will often take on a “fight name” which encompasses the name of their gym or their mentor. They live in the gym under a Spartan regime and spend as much as seven or eight hours daily training.

To outsiders it may seem harsh, but Muay Thai offers an escape from poverty and a more healthy alternative to drugs or alcohol for a great many young Thais. The fighter’s career is often over by the time they’re in their mid twenties, with a successful fighter often having some two hundred fights under their belt. It’s hard to classify “Muay Thai” as either a “Martial Art” or “Sport”, I tend to put it in a box of it’s own and call it a “Martial Sport”. It differs from the more “conventional” Martial arts like Karate or Wing Chun, where participants receive grades and practice “forms”, it can seem a lot less formal, although the spiritual aspects of the fight separate it from a traditional sport.

On the international scene Muay Thai remained in the shadows for quiet a while, but films like “The Man With the Golden Gun” and “Kickboxer” have done a great deal of good in opening western minds to its potential.

If you’ve seen the James Bond classic, Golden Gun, 007 visits Lumpinee. The two fighters who were paid to perform for the cameras (Master Woody and Master Toddy) along with Master Sken were among the early pioneers to take the sport abroad. Towards the end of the seventies they settled in Manchester (where the rainfall must have reminded them of the monsoon, but I’m not sure what they made of the temperature) and went about training westerners in their art. They acted as ambassadors for Thailand, and have done a great deal of work in promoting the sport worldwide.

During the mid nineties Muay Thai was going through something of a slump, but was cast into the limelight again by Noong Tom, the famous lady boy boxer who competed wearing lipstick and nail varnish, until he was bared from competition when he underwent re assignment surgery.

In the martial arts field Muay Thai is universally respected as being one of the most complete forms, I don’t want to get into the “if a karate expert and a Thai boxer got in a scrap” type of conversation, but there are well documented examples of other disciplines trying to compete under Muay Thai rules and failing.

If having seen a few bouts and you fancy giving it a whirl there are plenty of gyms dotted around which welcome novices, and don’t be put of by the brutality of the contests. If you attend a gym the professional trainers are well versed in tailoring the sessions to an individuals capabilities. I can personally recommend Sor Vorapin on Chakrapong (the Gullivers World end of Kha Sarn behind the watch shop), Jitty’s (Soi 49 Sukumvit), Sityodthong (Nakula north of Pattaya), Sitpholek (Weekender Resort 2nd Rd Pattaya) and Jungle Gym (Haad Rin Kho Pha Ngan). Other’s which enjoy good reputations, that I can’t comment on personally are Fairtex (Trok Kai, Th Anuwong Bangkok), Chitlada (Rama IV Bangkok) and Lana (Chiang Mai). If you fancy competing you need to put aside a lot of time (years) to attain the levels Thais attain and foreigners don’t have good record of attaining a comparable level, although there are some noteable exceptions including Ronnie Green of England, Raymond Decker and Ivan Hippolyte of Holland, I also believe the Japanese are putting forward some serious contenders.

To conclude if you’re passing through Bangkok and want a taste of culture you could do a lot worse than to spend anevening of watching fights (lots of sexy bodies if you’re a lady and a good scrap if you’re a bloke) and if your worried about getting fat, pop down to a gym, they won’t hurt you but you might ache a bit the next day.

Dominic Lavin

More than Muay Thai

Aside from Thailand’s obsession with English Premier League football and the ever popular “Muay Thai” (Thai Boxing), the Kingdom has a variety of home grown “sports” enjoyed by Thais in their own very special way. 

takrawTakraw

Said to have originated in southern Thailand, which is probably why the Malays play it too, this competitive and truly acrobatic team sport involves knocking a light weight ball, made from Ratan, back and forth over a badminton net. This highly skillful game is all about speed, acrobatics and for me, the defiance of gravity as aside from their hands players can use any other part of the body to keep the ball up and launch it back over the net. Matrix style moves are common place as players often somersault in the air to kick the ball. Friendly “knock ups” can be seen everywhere with players standing around in circles, heading, kicking and keeping the ball aloft. However, if you want to see some serious bouts, visit either the National Stadium or the Hua Mak Stadium.

Kitefighting in ThailandKite Fighting

Kite flying, “chak-wow jula” is enjoyed not only in Bangkok, but all over the Kingdom between March to May each year. However, during this period the serious business of “kite fighting” competition in Bangkok is focused on Sanam Luang (the large open area beside the Grand Palace) where at weekends spectators will see amazingly hand crafted kites of various shapes, sizes, colours and designs in aerial combat. Funnily enough, these airborne battles match “male” and “female” kites up against each other with the winner knocking their opponent out of the sky! 

fish_fightingFish Fighting

The beautiful, but raving mad, Siamese fighting fish, locally known as “Pla Gat”, has been cross bred so much that aside from its stumpy looking fins and the fact that it will insanely attack its own reflection, it is not easy to identify one from an ordinary fighting fish. Nevertheless, once bets are placed on this widespread local sport, competition between combatants couldn’t be simpler with two male fish placed into a glass jar and thereafter must fight to the death or at least until one tries to do a runner! Although most fights are typically over within minutes, some victories have been known to take hours. 

Bull Fighting in ThailandThai Bull Fighting

Down in Hat Yai local farmers have their own, safer, form of bull fighting. Unlike the deadly Spanish style, Thai farmers simply get their bulls to “lock-horns”, in a test of strength with the winner being the animal still standing in the centre of the ring or the one that hasn’t fled. Almost comically, in a well matched contest you will see owners actually giving their bulls a helping hand, push and even a kick up the backside! You can catch the action on the first Saturday of each month at the Khlong Wa Stadium. 

Makruk Thai ChessMak Ruk (Thai Chess)

“Mak Ruk” is more like the western style chess game rather than the Chinese one. Although the object of the game is the same; to get checkmate, it’s played a lot faster than its western counterpart. In general, the size of the “Mak Ruk” board, the number of pieces and the rules of capture are the same. Kings cannot castle and aside from the queens and bishops, which can only move one square, all other pieces move in the same ways as those in the western style of the game. Mak Ruk is enjoyed by all Thais with games commonly seen all over the kingdom. 

And remember….

Keepitreal

Muay Thai on Khao San Road!


Muay Thai on Khao San Road
muay_thai_on_khao_san_road_2
Muay Thai on Khao San Road
Muay Thai on Khao San Road
Muay Thai on Khao San Road
Muay Thai on Khao San Road
Muay Thai on Khao San Road
Thai boxing on Khao San Road

Want to learn how to kick arse and show your respect for thai culture at the same time? Not far from Khao San Road, down a small alley, is hidden the Sor. Vorapin boxer training center. You have likely walked past and been mystified at the shouts of “ess!” followed by the rather painful sounds of passionate pummeling. Yes, this is Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport, and you too can get in on the action!

Sor. Vorapin started around 30 years ago with only three people, and was initially a thai-only training center. This was back in the days when there were no banana pancakes on Khao San Road- no dreadlocked hippies, no VW bus bars – in fact, there wasn’t much there at all at the time! The location was chosen simply because of its proximity to Sanam Luang, where the trainees would be able to run around the park if they so desired, as part of their training. Eventually the area started to become the foreigner circus it is today, and farangs started traipsing past the gym and being distracted by the grunting and sweating. Simultaneously, the trainees had grown into champion fighters, and started thinking about training others. In around 1984, a french lad named Frederic became the first foreign student of Sor. Vorapin. He was also the first foreign champion.

Nowadays, people (both men and women) come from all over the world to study muay thai at Sor. Vorapin. There are an average of five trainers on hand daily, who can give personal attention to anyone from a wide-eyed beginner to a (hood-eyed) experienced fighter. Each trainer has many years of fighting and many champion titles under their belt

We stopped by during an evening class to get the scoop. Dodging high kicks and flying sweat, we found a safe corner in which to gawk. The gym has a boxing ring, several hanging punch bags, lots of weights, space in which one can practice making evil faces in the mirror along with perfecting that move with their knee. The many students were each paired with a trainer of similar size, who prompted them to hit as hard as they could on the rubber pads they had slipped onto their hands. A tiny thai girl screeched loudly as she wailed on her startled victim in merciless succession. A well sculpted irish girl casually jumped rope. Several Japanese boys practiced combos on mats.

We cornered a group of trainers once they got a break and fired up the old pencil. A young man named ‘Us’ was most happy to oblige our interrogation. He, like many professional boxers, came from the area of Buriram, and has been with the gym for about 15 years. When asked why in the world he would ever choose fighting as his profession, he interrupted defensively- “it’s not so much fighting as it is an art”. Sure, he gets a lot of aggression out in the ring, but the reasons for his chosen life are more complex. Muay Thai teaches discipline, he says, and helps you realize your strength, both inner and outer. It also keeps you healthy, in shape, and away from vices like alcohol and drugs. It helps you defend yourself, and in the case of thais, is a way of showing patriotism to their country. The other trainers nodded in agreement, and a garrulous ‘Singh’ piped in that the money and international travel opportunities were good motivators as well. How much money do you make as a fighter? “It depends,” says Singh, “in my village when I was a little kid I made 50 baht for winning my first fight. Nowadays I make an average of 6000 baht per win, and much more in international championship fights”. Us nods, adding that he is headed to Indonesia in a couple of weeks for a fight and is excited to add that to the list of countries he has been to. “It’s good to give exposure to Muay Thai to other countries. It’s not like any other martial art- it requires you to be much harder and there’s a lot of different technique involved”. When asked how he will prepare for this upcoming fight he sighs- “It’s a lot of relaxing. Meditating, cleaning out your body, staying away from alcohol, getting sleep”. My Thai companion leans over and whispers in his ear and he blushes and says sheepishly “it’s true, you can not ejaculate for 2 weeks prior to a fight. It builds up tension which you can use to your advantage against your opponent”. I muse that it’s rather like joining the monkhood and they nod. “It’s a spiritual practice in much the same way. It’s been around for hundreds of years [in fact, it is first on record in the year 1767] and every thai child grows up with a certain reverence for it. It’s very ceremonial- before each fight we perform the wai-kru, which is a sort of traditional dance. It’s a way for us to please our families, please the king, and please ourselves with our bravery and stamina. This takes a lot of self discipline.”

A very large thai man emerges from the gym with his arm slung around the neck of a lily white dutch student, and I recognize the man from the many pictures pasted up on the walls as being Mr. Tanomsak. He is one of the most well respected trainers in Thailand, and now spends part of his time teaching in Switzerland. I am lucky to catch him. I ask him why he thinks people should come to his gym and he smiles. “We have so much experience, we’re all champions here. We’ve worked with foreigners for years, and we have a good understanding of just how far we can or can’t push someone. Each trainer has their own special techniques for bringing out the best in people, and we welcome anyone who is interested in observing or joining up”. I ask him if one should be worried about pain or injury and he laughs. “It happens occasionally, and certainly the first couple of times might be a bit painful. But you learn to feed off the pain and it eventually becomes welcome”. He adds that they take every precaution as to the safety of bones and muscles. I ask him how long it takes to become a champion and he muses, “It’s probably easier for a thai, as we grow up with muay thai and many boys start learning at a very young age. But if a person is careful, has a good trainer, and learns step by step- starting with building up strength in the body and progressing to having the strength in the mind, they can be ready to fight after just a couple of weeks of training”. Do they turn out farang champions? He nods vigorously, saying many backpackers come for just an introductory class and end up changing their tickets home so that they can stay longer and do more intensive study. “We have champions in Holland, France, Switzerland, Japan…. you name it. We have girl champions too!”- he scrambles for a photo of a very large swiss girl with arms like tree trunks and I shudder in awe.

Mr. Tanomsak urges anyone who is interested in having a look to stop by around 3pm. To get to the center you cross the main street (Jakapong) at the Khao San police station and walk left until you see the sign at an alley on the right. Training occurs from 8:00am-10:00am and again from 3:00pm -6:00pm. An introductory class sets you back a mere 400 baht, and they have special deals for packages of classes. Everything you need is on hand, just dress comfortably and bring an open mind. They guarantee you won’t leave without learning a thing or two, and you might even have some fun!

Nicole Furi lives in New York. She is a gradutate of the University of Colorado, Boulder (Psychology major) and a Human Factors expert working in the web industry where she designs and tests Graphical User Interfaces. She is also a writer. Currently in Thailand, Nicole is spening a bit of time writing for KhaoSanRoad.com. Are you interested in booking a Thai Boxing course? Use the form below to make an enquiry…