Thursday night was fight night at kobra gym. There were some sore heads the following morning. And arms and legs and sides.
5 of the fighters from Kobra (4 of whom were nak muay farang or foreign fighters) took on opponents from other gyms. And all won. It was brutal.
Of the guys I knew competing, first up was Jesse, a 24 year-old Canadian. He’s only been training 3 weeks.
What he lacks in technique he makes up for in muscle, energy and enthusiasm. He won after 2 rounds knocking out his Thai opponent and leaving him with a cut to the head.
One of the other fighters was Nadine from Sweden. She’s been training here for 3 months (this time round) and is good. And not just good for a ‘farang’, or Westerner – she completely outclassed the Thai girl she was fighting with body kicks, elbows and knees – just-non stop til her opponent called it a day.
Nadine also started her fight with a ‘wai kru’ that had the crowdcheering – something very rarely seen. The ‘wai kru’ is the traditional dance the competitors perform before they fight. It’s a way to provide the crowd with a taste of what’s to come, throwing punches, kicks, acrobatic moves, slaps to the ground and a combination of prescribed dance moves which each individual makes into their own. It shows personality, respect to your trainer and allows to the crowd to switch bets if needs be. Nadine took in every corner of the ring, and then stretched out in the centre to mime putting on make-up. She is, after all, a pretty girl. The crowd loved her and who can blame them?
Leo, one of the trainers from the gym also stepped into the ring. He’s a renown fighter but is the size of an 8 year old child. He’s small even for a Thai, and next to a 6ft Westerner just looks ridiculous. He’s half MY size for god’s sake and yet can fell anyone. Or at least usually. He’s lazy, confident act turned sour when he took a bad kick and collided his foot with his opponent’s elbow. And having done exactly the same myself not too long ago, I know how much it can hurt. He was incapacitated.
Unlike at home, all Muay Thai is performed here without any protection whatsoever. No foot guards (so it’s really going to hurt when you collide with a sharp elbow), no head guards, no breast shields…. the only concessions are gloves often combined with elaborately constructed hand wraps for extra punching power, gum shields and boxes for the boys. Each fight starts with the ref giving a quick check to make sure that’s there.
A bout may look like there are no rules, but there are some. Muay Thai is less rigid than a lot of other sports, for instance whilst a spinning back-fist will lose you a kickboxing fight, here you’re likely to either win or take out your opponent. “Game over” as the Thais like to say. You’re also not allowed to kick or punch to the back or the groin.Fights are won and lost on points made up from the number of legal punches or kicks that make contact with your opponent versus the number of points deducted for fouls.
The final fighter I knew for the evening was Peter Wales.
Well, that’s Peter from Wales but I like the idea that he might somehow be connected to the Royal Family as was suggested on the flyer. He suffered a few fouls himself – an illegal elbow to the head after the ref called for a break and a knee to the throat, during a well-matched bout with a tough American. It was very close and having lost his first fight only 2 weeks ago, Pete had his eye on a win. After 5 tough rounds, he got one. I went over to congratulate him and found him arranging to meet up and have a beer with his opponent.
And that the thing about Muay Thai. It may be tough. But it’s not personal.
What I’ve learnt today;
1. Muay Thai is brutal. Ok ok, I already knew that but to me (and I’m going to put my cards on the table here) it’s less of an art form than kickboxing. It’s definitely more about the fight, taking out your opponent than kickboxing or Taikwando, where there the beauty of the kicks and your moves count for something.
2. Boxing linement stings. Particularly when rubbed REALLY had into your bruises. However much much to my surprise, the pain is worth it. Any bruises immediately calm down and the swelling is reduced helping them heal at twice the pace.
3. My ‘resort’ doesn’t serve coffee til 8.30 am. #middleclass problems.