Bangkok Thai Boxing
Thai Boxing - Muay Thai
You might have heard about it, or even seen it on TV - the furious punches, crushing elbow strikes, tethal kicks, powerful grappling and artful feints. But nothing compares to seeing them executed to loud cheers and heart-racing tune of art accompanying wind-and-percussion ensemble. Welcome to the exciting world of MuayThai, a martial art like no others, and a proud heritage of a nation.
The history of Muay Thai is interwoven, with the history of the Thai peopl. A gentle peace-loving people, for centuries Thais had to defend themselves and their land from aggressive powers. They developed a form of close, hand-to-hand combat best suited for the kind of rough-terrain battle they were fighting. Over time it became a rite of passage for Thai mento take up training in this martial art. King Naresuan the Great (1555-1605), one of the country's most celebrated warrior-heroes, is believed to have been an excellent boxer himself and it was he who made Muay Thai a required part of military training. Another milestone in the history of Muay Thai was the triumph of Nai Khanom Tom over 10 Burmese boxers ln 1774. Taken captive after the Thai capital fell in 1767, Nai Khanom Tom was picked to fight before the Burmese king. After defeating ten of them in a row, he was freed and returned home a hero.
In the old days, Muay Thai was a dangerous sport, with no safety gear of any kind for the fighters, and only lengths of cords to wrap around the fists in place of gloves. Over the years rules have been written along the line of international boxing regulations. In recent years the sport has attracted a wide following outside of the country, and training facilities have been set up in countries as far as the U.S and the former Soviet states. In 1995 the World Muay ThaiCouncil was set up by cabinet resolution in 1995 to promote this national heritage at national and internatioal levels. At a conference held that same year, 78 member countries voted for the establishment of a training school where all elements of Muay Thai would be taught. The Muay Thai Institute was founded in 1997 and is now the only training school accredited by the Ministry of Education.
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 ftght 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 220, 440 and 1,000 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 boxers 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 boxer's 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.
Bangkok Thai Boxing - Lumpini Stadium
Rama IV Road, Bangkok
Tel: (662) 252~ 8765, 251-4303, 253~7702, 253-7940
Fight Nights: Tuesdays and Fridays from 6.30 p.m, Saturday afternoons 5-8 p.m., Saturday nights from 8.30 p.m.
Ticket prices: 220, 440, 1,000 baht (ringside)
Bangkok Thai Boxing - Ratchadamnoen Stadium
Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue
Tel: (662) 281-4205, 280-1684~6
Fight Nights: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, starting at 6.30 p.m.
Ticket Prices: 220, 440, 1,000 baht (ringside); special discount on Sunday nights
Bangkok Thai Boxing - Channel 7 Stadium
Behind the old Northern Bus Terminal (Morchit), opp. Chatuchak Park, Bangkok
Tel: (662) 272~0201
Fight schedule: Sundays, from 1.45 p.m., third Wednesday of each month starting at 12.00 noon
Ticket prices: Free admission
Bangkok Vicinity Thai Boxing - Rangsit Stadium
336/932 Prachathipat Road, Rangsit, Pathumthani
Tel: (662) 992-0099
Fight Nights: Wednesdays & Thursdays from 8.30 p.m.
Ticket Prices: 110 (women only), 220 baht
Bangkok Vicinity Thai Boxing - 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
Bangkok Vicinity Thai Boxing - 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
Bangkok Vicinity Thai Boxing - 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