14 April 2003 - Bangkok
Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is one of those things that is uniquely Thai, like Tom Yam. As as Tom Yam are to most western soups, Muay Thai is more exciting, more frentic and more sweaty.
The ring itself is not particularly large (although I haven't been in many boxing rings myself). Muay Thai is held in one of two stadiums: Radjamamoen or Lumphini Stadium. I understand that these stadiums exist solely for thai boxing and nothing else. I wonder where Mike Tyson fights if he comes to town.
Tickets to get in are surprisingly pricey. The cheapest go for 500 THB, and they go up to 1500THB for a ringside seat. It seems those who sit ringside have an opportunity to pose with winners of the bouts for pictures.
A night of boxing is broken up into several fights. Each fight consists of five three-minute rounds of boxing, with about a minute's rest in between each round. Although boxing may start, say, at 6pm, the really good fights don't come on until about three hours later - I wish somebody had told me that. Radjaemon stadium is miles from anywhere and once here, you don't really have a place to hang about for an hour or two nearby.
Each fight begins with the boxers coming into the ring, offering prayers, and doing warm up exercises.
OK, now for the nitty gritty. As far as I can make out, you can punch, knee or kick your opponent anywhere above the belt. You can also elbow them, strangely enough. You can block with either your arms or legs. Clinching is allowed for the simple fact that it doesn't inhibit you from using your knees. At times, the bout degenerates into a mini-wrestling match. All the while, there is music playing in the background.
I'm not really a fan of boxing, but it sems to me that Muay Thai is more exciting than its western counterppart. It may have to do with how people can get twice as many hits in per minute, but also that the main strategy being employed is "punch and kick your opponent into submission before he does that to you".
It still isn't my cup of tea, though. I'm just not a huge fan of these kind of things, but my interest, I suppose, would rise if I had money riding on the match. This seems to be true for the Thais as well. A whole group of them congregate in one small area to place bets with one another on the outcome of the fight. There's a great deal of shouting anytime a punch or kick lands, so I suppose all we need to do is to count them to see who wins.
Labels: big trip
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