-Hijaaa!!- *SMACK* -Elbow- *BANG* -Knee- *THUMP* -Jab- *TUF* -One-Two- *DSHH DSHH* *PAFF* -Strong- *DSH whoops* -Slowlie-
Top notch training @ local ring with a thai champion. Nice thirty five degree heat, small Muay Thai pants and sweat dripping off every crevice making the muscles glisten in the sunlight. Focus and determination in the eyes. The fist, just as ready as the leg, ready to fly as hard as it can into the unknown.
Photo: Leo James
We had seen the small outdoor Muay Thai ring at the end of our soi many times when we passed it going to listen to the music at the pier next to the Rama VIII protest festival site. It always had kids 7-12 training hard and it looked like fun. So we asked for a training session.
First hour and a half we balled around like a couple of idiots trying to act cool and tough kickin ‘n’ punchin our knuckles dry. We looked like idiots and we have proof. Then the kids went into the ring to do this hug and kick sorta warm up so we thought we’d do the same since no one told us otherwise.
After stepping into the ring the adrenaline hit. It was do or die and neither of us was going to take it. The youngsters were taking it easy and every once in a while showing strength, but with us it was like a scene from the expendables with muscle against muscle action trying to pin the other one down. In the 36 degree heat it took about 30 seconds until we were out of breath and had to take a break. ‘Let’s take it easy ok. This is warm up’
Photo: Leo James
40 seconds we lasted second round. It was a good try taking it easy but its not always so easy. We continued our feat of strength battle until we were so out of breath we had to stop.
After the warmup it was back to the punch bags. We still didn’t know what we were doing so we kept kickin ‘n’ punchin until finally, two hours into the training someone says, ‘go close. Kick, go close. Look’, and pointed to the 12 year old boy who could have kicked me in half. Then we tried kicking a little closer. Better? Hard to say.
It wasn’t until the end 20 minutes when we went into the ring with a former Muay Thai champion that we were told what to do. He didn’t speak much english but we learned a lot from him. He fixed our kicks an punches and finally it felt like there was some real power. Then it was time to go home an lick the wounds.
It’s not easy being a kid that grows up in the Muay Thai ring. Hundreds of pushups, kicks, punches, knees, elbows and throws to the ground, every single day, twice a day. It’s physically demanding and bruising is normal. But behind the bruising, the Muay Thai community is humble, respectful and caring.
They live together, feast together and help each other through life from the beginning to the end. They don’t need much to enjoy life, just a rusty old roof that covers the training area and each other.
For food they have a little refreshment shop so they have money for the market and some of them fish for food from the Chao Phraya. They are all happy and healthy having nothing else, and they don’t seem to be in hurry to change things.
They are not there because someone wants them to be there or that they have no other choice. They are there because they choose to be there. They learn so much about life and how to survive through this type of lifestyle, that they would be stupid not to want to be there. They are always free to fulfil whatever dream they want, and they have the will to do it. It all about what they choose to do, a life without boundaries.
Behind all the bruises, you can feel the love they share. In the ring they give all they got, but win or lose, they will always have a loving family around them. This is the life they grow into with Grandma, Grandpa, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, children, babies, cats, dogs, chickens, puppies, kittens and bunnies.
Photo: Leo James