Getting a kick out of Muay Thai boxing in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Muay Thai boxing is a national sport… An ancient form of kick-boxing using 8 points of contact to engage in battle (including the arms, hips, knees and feet). I use ‘arms’ loosely, as fighting with the arms can include using one’s hands, elbows and shoulders to defeat the opponent.

Tired Muay Thai boxer taking a break before losing a fight in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tired Muay Thai boxer taking a break before losing a fight in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I say ‘battle’ (rather than ‘fight’) as Muay Thai boxing isn’t merely a 21st century form of athletic comradery…but rather, originates from the warring periods of the Cham and Lanna dynasties of over 700 years ago, whereby warriors engaged in muay thai (or muay lao, or muay khmer – as this sport takes different forms in different countries within the Southeast Asia region) to pursue territorial expansion.

Muay Thai boxers at prayer before the fight in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Muay Thai boxers at prayer before the fight in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Muay thai is particularly violent. The only forms of protection used are boxing gloves and mouth guards. Fighters can easily knock an opponent out with one hard punch to the face…or a technical knee-hit to the kidney. All such masochism is allowed in the pursuit of victory in a muay thai boxing rink.

The first time I heard about muay thai boxing was from Benjamin… a boy I met when visiting Helen in our first year of university at Southampton. He trained in numerous muay thai boxing camps with his family when he was a child, and continued going to Thailand almost annually to keep up with his sport.

Prior to my travels in London, Charlene and I had discussed and researched training in a muay thai boxing camp in Koh Samui as well… and, who knows, maybe this will someday take place…

In Chiang Mai, I found a few ‘taster’ muay thai training opportunities… whereby travellers can be taught the basics of Thai boxing in a couple of hours… or a day… a week… a month – what have you. But – unfortunately – the pain in my neck and back from my diving accident lingers on… and I know better than to stick myself in the middle of a battle-zone when I already have an ailment.

We went to Thaphae stadium to watch a few fights instead… and my oh my, do they really go for it in battle!

Punch to the face in Muay Thai boxing in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Punch to the face in Muay Thai boxing in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Nico, Kevin and I (Kevin is a funny Canadian climber Nico met when climbing crags at the Crazy Horse Buttress in Chiang Mai) drank beer in the second row of the stadium, watching fight upon fight of muay thai boxers in action. I managed to capture one of the best blows of the night on video (mere coincidence!) where an opponent was pretty much knocked out by a single kick.

The Thaphae Group (the organisers of the fights) also treated spectators to what they called a ‘special fight’… whereby 8 or so non-fighters in muay thai boxing gear and blind folds entered the rink to fight each other at whim. Though dangerous – and, arguably – not the best sight (few pay to see topless chubby boys beat the poo out of each other)… it turned out to be very funny (Nico, Kevin and I were in hysterics).

Enjoy! I hope everyone is doing well! 🙂

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