Muaythai (Thai Boxing)


I attended my first muaythai match January 2012 at the decaying Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand. Also known as Thai boxing, muaythai is a form of kickboxing that combines martial arts with traditional hand-to-hand boxing and is the national sport of Thailand. Many kickboxing enthusiasts consider muaythai the "King of the Ring," with fights that feature punches, kicks, elbows, knees, grappling, and head-butts intended to wear down and knock out opponents. Fighters use power, speed, and endurance to defeat their opponents.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (12)

2012_01_07 Muay Thai

The origins of muaythai are unclear, although tradition has it that the sport emerged centuries ago from the hand-to-hand (sword and baton) battlefield tactics of the Thai army. The Thailand-based World Muaythai Council suggests that muaythai developed in rural Thailand as a way for Thais to defend their lands from invaders or settlers.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (26)

The sport came into its own during the reign of King Naresuan the Great (1590-1605) of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. In 1584, the then-Crown Prince called upon Thai soldiers to learn muaythai in order to improve their combat skills. According to the Thai Boxing Association of the USA, early bouts pitted Thai army units against one another with few rules, no weight divisions, and no time limits. The matches were very popular throughout the kingdom.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (9)

Thais generally consider muaythai an essential aspect of Thai culture. During the Ayutthaya Period, the sport became a favorite pastime among Thais, who went to muaythai training camps to watch bouts and learn it. A betting culture developed around the sport that persists today. The reign of King Rama V (1868-1910) was a golden age for the sport as fighters from around the kingdom competed in Royal Command matches for the chance to earn fame, glory, and a military title bestowed by the king.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (20) 

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (8)

Muaythai adapted to changes in Thai culture. For centuries, matches were held wherever space was available until the standard boxing ring with ropes was adopted during the reign of King Rama VI (1910-1925). Muaythai was part of the curriculum in Thai schools until the 1920s, when it was discontinued because of the high number of injuries sustained by students. Stadiums replaced makeshift rings during the reign of King Rama VII (1925-35). In the 1930s, a uniform set of rules, time limits, and weight classes were introduced, and fighters began to use boxing gloves instead of rope bindings on their fists. After World War II, television introduced the sport to a larger audience, and the sport gained an international following. It is now practiced by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (33)

Muaythai fighters wear a combination of boxing and martial arts equipment with some ceremonial accessories. Where fighters once wore strips of horse hair, and in some cases, hemp ropes or strips of cotton with ground glass on their fists and feet, they now wear boxing gloves and cloth strips wrapped around their upper arms. Fighters used to wear groin guards made from tree bark, sea shells, or coconut shell held in place by a strip of cloth. Later, they wore a triangular-shaped red or blue pillow, and later still, a groin box. In the 1930s, kicking or kneeing the groin was banned, and fighters donned the colorful red and blue boxing shorts worn today.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (30)

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (15)

Each muaythai bout begins with a short ceremony with Buddhist rituals. Fighters remove their bright red or blue ceremonial robes and bow, pray, and walk around the ring, kissing and bowing to the posts in each corner. They walk to the center of the ring, remove their neck wreath and ceremonial headband, and begin to stretch with dance-like movements. When the bout begins, the fighters wear only boxing gloves, shorts, shoes, socks, mouth guard, and the cloth strips on their arms.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (22)

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (31)

Muaythai bouts feature five three-minute rounds with two-minute breaks in between. During bouts, live musicians perform traditional Thai music, a cacophony of sound dominated by the taphon drum, finger cymbals, and an oboe-like instrument called a pi. Judges determine the winner based on how well fighters attack their opponents and defend themselves. Winners are awarded a trophy.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (17)

Traditional Thai music performed during muaythai matches.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (18)

I enjoyed my first live muaythai match. I saw amateur bouts between teen-aged fighters, who went four rounds instead of five, and some professional fighters in the lightweight divisions. I was fascinating by the traditional muaythai demonstration during intermission. Prices for the Saturday night fights cost 2,000 Thai baht (about $65) for ringside seats and 1,500 baht ($50) for general admission (standing or sitting on the concrete floor only). Getting unsuspecting customers, mostly foreigners, to upgrade to ringside seats was a trick the box office used to fill seats. Those in general admission used chairs and had fine views of the ring. The crowd was small but lively; more spectators poured in later for the professional matches that were broadcast live on national television.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (2)

Although most muaythai fighters are male, women also participate in the sport. Tradition stipulates that women and men fight separately. The ring in Lumpinee Boxing Stadium had a sign that read, "Ladies Please Don’t Touch the Stage."

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (19)

If you’re visiting Thailand for more than a week, you might find watching a muaythai match an interesting alternative to the usual tourist activities. Thai boxing is an entertaining way to experience an event ingrained in Thai culture.

2012_01_07 Muay Thai (7)

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He recently published a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an ebook and in print on Amazon.com. His upcoming travel novel, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, will be available in March 2012. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Resolve to Make 2012 A Great Year


Happy New Year! How did you enjoy ringing in the new year? Did you wake up feeling great or with a literal or proverbial hangover? Now that the celebrating has subsided, are you ready for 2012?

This year may be a momentous one with some major milestones on the calendar, from the Chinese Year of the Dragon to the end of the Mayan calendar. Some dates are already set, such as the Expo in Yeosu, South Korea (May 12-August 12), the Summer Olympics in London (July 27-August 12), not to mention the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in August, and, barring a new framework agreement, the end of the Kyoto Protocol on December 31. Some major events this year are already known, while others are not. No one really knows what will happen in places such as North Korea, where newly-installed “supreme commander” Kim Jong Un takes over as leader; possible sanctions and threats to blockade the Strait of Hormuz; unrest in Syria and other protests sparked by the Arab Spring; the European financial crisis; protests in Russia; potential economic slowdown in China; general elections in the United States and in dozens of other countries worldwide. No one knows what will happen. On December 21, 2012, when the Mayans purportedly predicted the end of the world will occur, we’ll look back at the year 2012, analyze the fall out, and, hopefully, be around to tell about it on December 22. Until then, we can only speculate about the future.

There’s no reason to worry about 2012. We can only control what falls in our own sphere of influence, which for most people amounts to whatever affects us directly. What do you have planned for yourself this year? Have you considered making some life changes? I believe in making and achieving goals, and I consider New Year’s resolutions worthwhile. Realistic resolutions can help frame a goal and give you a specific objective to achieve. You may not achieve everything you set out to do in a given year, but if you achieve at least one resolution or make progress toward one, you’re better off than you were. I met half the resolutions I set for myself in 2011 and set some new targets to achieve in 2012. The ones I did not achieve will be carried over to this year. They range from publishing a new book to losing weight to strengthening my faith to learning the guitar. Some will be easier than others, but I resolve to tackle them all in the next 12 months.

Even if you’re not the type of person to make New Year’s resolutions, there’s one goal you can resolve to achieve this year. Make this year a better year than 2011. Make it the best it can be. It doesn’t matter if you had a good or bad year last year. Life can always be better. Resolve to make 2012 a great year.

Are the Olympics over yet?


The Beijing Olympics ended today.  Interestingly, I didn’t really care.  I did not have much interest in these Olympics, although my wife — who was born in China — spent plenty of time watching the games.  My son also enjoyed watching some of the events.  However, even my wife did not spend as much time watching the Olympics as one might think for an Olympics hosted for the first time by her birth nation.  I didn’t have much interest partly because life has been so busy here, and partly because I feel quite isolated from the rest of the world in Paraguay.  I thought about the Olympics when walking past the Paraguayan Olympic Committee’s training facility yesterday, but only fleetingly.  Likewise, I spent perhaps 15 minutes in several installments watching the games.  The coverage — Argentine cable broadcast from Buenos Aires — wasn’t very good.  Once upon a time, when I was much younger, I spent untold hours watching Olympic event after Olympic event.  Not anymore.
 
Somewhere along the way, I lost interest.  I just wasn’t that interested in the games this year.  The most intriguing aspects of this summer’s Olympics were the controversies; and even those weren’t very noteworthy.  Of coure, it was a tragedy that the American family was attacked by a knife-wielding Chinese.  So the fireworks during the Opening Ceremony were enhanced, and the Chinese had a pretty girl lip-sync in lieu of not-so-cute one who sang the national anthem.  Or the Armenian-Swedish wrestler who was stripped of his medal for unsportsman-like conduct but turn out to be right when he contested a bad call.  Or the apparently underage Chinese gymnast the IOC absolved in three hours.  Even the debate over medal counts didn’t stir up much fury in me.  The U.S. won 110 medals; the Chinese 100.  The Chinese won 51 gold medals, the American 36.  The IOC and the rest of the world would say that the Chinese won based on the IOC’s regulations (which, obviously based on the gymnast age controversy, can be bent when necessary).  Yet the American media stubbornly continued to rank the U.S. first. 
 
 
None of it really matters, in the end.  The Chinese staged an excellent Summer Olympics, and they will continue to be a presence in the future.  The IOC will continue to make flaky decisions and annoyingly appeal to nationalist sentiments to bolster support for what is — when you boil the games down to its essence — really just a large collection of sporting events.  Someday, the United States will host the games again, perhaps as early as 2016 in Chicago.  Someday, India and Brazil will host an Olympics; someday Shanghai, China will host the Summer Olympics, and Harbin, China will host the Winter Olympics.  But for now, I really want to know why I really don’t care all that much anymore.
 

Am I supposed to be excited?


Having attended the University of Washington and being a proud Husky, I’ve been told I should never root for cross-state rival Washington State University, home of the Cougars.  I don’t begrudge the Cougars when they win at sports, even when they beat the Huskies.  But as a Vandal who attended the University of Idaho, I cannot be so quick to congratulate the cross-state Boise State University Broncos for winning the biggest football game in Idaho State history.  BSU beat Oklahoma 43-42 in the Fiesta Bowl in a game touted by many as one of the greatest bowl games in history.  BSU, the cinderella team, beat the Sooners on a trick play in overtime. 
 
‘Nuff said.  I really should be happy, shouldn’t I?  I didn’t see the game, although I did wonder how it stacks up against last year’s Texas-USC game (waiting for Tortmaster to chime in).  Some of my high school chums attended Boise State.  It brings pride and recognition to a state many people confuse with Iowa (except for Iowans themselves and a few Minnesotans).  So should I be proud of the Broncos and say congratulations?  No, I really can’t, and here’s why:
 
  • Could you seriously root for a team whose school’s initials are B.S. U.?  (Yes, it is an Idaho inside joke.)
  • B.S.U. is an upstart.  Think of all those poor Idaho State Univesity students in Pocatello who get absolutely no respect as regional school, even though it really should be the state’s #2 university.
  • Rumor has it that cow-tipping and beer bonging are undergraduate majors.
  • The Broncos play on blue turf.  That’s fine if you’re a smurf or Timothy Leary.
  • B.S.U. primarily serves the Boise area, making it arguably the largest community college in the nation (no offense to community colleges around the country). 
  • No other colleges sponsor bowl games to make sure their teams get a bowl invite each year and name it after some lofty ideal with lousy marketing potential (Humanitarian Bowl).
  • Boise is not a State.
  • B.S.U. is a short drive to slots, booze, and brothels in Nevada.
  • The Idaho State Legislature forgot that the only reason the state capital is in Boise is because the territorial government in Lewiston gave the capital to Boise and the State University to Moscow.
  • Bronco football proves that a university can sustain itself through athletics when it does not have much to offer academically.

Oh, relax Broncos fans!  You know I love you anyway.

200,000 hits and the Curse of Yamauchi


Thank you, Dear Reader, for visiting World Adventurers over 200,000 times.  I really appreciate it!  I was very happy to see this blog pass that milestone.  I especially have to thank Google, Technorati, and Baidu for hitting it so often–some of the hits come from Web searches.  Thank you for stopping by to read my musings and post comments.  I will do my best to respond to your comments soon.
 
As if that weren’t enough, the Detroit Tigers eliminated the New York Yankees, the best team money can buy, from post-season play in Major League Baseball.  I am such a happy camper, and I’m not even camping!  Will wonders never cease?  First, the Atlanta Braves’ 14-year playoff streak is broken, then the Yankees become the Braves by making it to the post-season for the ninth time but falling short yet again.  Will Manager Joe Torre be able to keep his job year in and year out without a World Series ring, as has Braves Manager Bobby Cox?  We’ll have to wait and see what Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner does.  Wait, before flaming me, Yankees and Braves fans, consider this–I am a lowly, hapless Seattle Mariners fan.  I root for a team languishing in futility and tantalizes fans with letdown season after letdown season.  It breaks my heart to see two of the greatest Mariners of all time, Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez, playing on the New York Yankees.  Come root for the Mariners for, oh, 29 years, the number of times the Yankees have won the World Series, before casting any sneaky fastballs this way.
 
Actually, watching A-Rod and Randy on the Yankees may be for the best.  I have a theory, and here it is:  No team with a former Seattle Mariner who came up through the Mariners farm system will win the World Series while the Mariner is on that team, unless that player is acquired through a trade with the Mariners (and your team is not the Arizona Diamondbacks–OK, so this theory has a lot of stipulations).  Call it the "Curse of Yamauchi" (in honor of Hiroshi Yamauchi, majority owner of the Mariners).  When Mariner Pitcher Freddy Garcia was traded to the Chicago White Sox, they won the World Series.  When Mariner Pitcher Derek Lowe and Catcher Jason Varitek were traded to the Boston Red Sox for Red Sox Pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb in what will surely go down as the dumbest Mariners trade in history, the Red Sox won the World Series.  The Curse of Yamauchi extended to the Texas Rangers and now to the New York Yankees, who picked up Alex Rodriguez, the greatest shortstop of all time playing third base, as a free agent.  Now that A-Rod is gone, Texas can win a World Series.  The Curse extends to the Cincinnati Reds, who got the deal of the century when they hired possibly the greatest player in the 1990s, Ken Griffey, Jr., who proceeded to implode.  I can’t think of a single Mariners acquired by another team in free agency who has won the World Series, except Randy Johnson, when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  During the 2001 World Series, the Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees with Randy Johnson on their roster, in spite of Randy Johnson. (Randy is terrible in post-season player–not the pitcher you want to choose for your fantasy baseball team.)  It could be that the Blessing of Gonzo (in honor of Outfielder Luis Gonzalez) trumped the Curse of Yamauchi in that instance. 
 
If the "Curse of Yamauchi" is true, I hope the Yankees go after Ken Griffey, Jr. in the offseason.  With Griffey, A-Rod, and Randy on the Yankees roster, it would be like reliving the glorious, magical 1995 Mariners season, when the Mariners lost to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series!  It was pure magic.  Until they lost. 

Damn Yankees


The New York Yankees, the best Major League Baseball team money can buy, just won the American League East Pennant for the ninth straight year.
 
Be
 
Still
 
My
 
Beating
 
Heart
 
All
 
I
 
Can
 
Say
 
Is
 
Go
 
Mets!