Having been in Thailand for more than a few days, it was high time we got out to see some fights, which our trainer hooked us up with last night. Once we managed to all get on the same page about what time we were supposed to meet back at the camp, anyway. See earlier entries about communication troubles. The fights themselves were an interesting experience, especially in contrast to the way we do things at home. They had a ring set up outside in the middle of a festival at a temple, which was nice since I’m pretty sure we would have died of heat stroke if they held them inside. “We” meaning the three white people there, because Thais don’t seem to sweat from heat.
Anyway, I’m used to seeing a bunch of douchey-looking guys walking around and doing their best to look tougher than everyone else in the room and eyeballing anyone who they think might be looking vaguely in their direction. That, and heavily forced “sportsmanship” when it’s done, involving a perfunctory teeth-gritted handshake and then going off to brag for the rest of the night about how you badly you beat that other asshole. Here, I saw almost all of the fighters hanging out and joking after the fact, and I’m pretty sure I saw a few of them comparing bruises. Also, Tryn pointed out there wasn’t any of the usual ceremony when announcing the winner. The ref held one fighter’s hand up, everyone left the ring, and the next two hopped in. Completely different culture, which took me a few fights to notice.
The fights themselves were also kind of an eye-opener. It was like going to a steakhouse after eating McDonald’s your whole life(which is, coincidentally, an experience I’ve actually had). Even the lower-level fights here make the amateur scene at home look sloppy and awful, which it is, for the most part. The least-technical fights never degenerated into a brawl, and I think I saw one fighter all night gas out, after which he was promptly KO’ed. My first thought after seeing a few was “Wow, I guess this is what happens when everyone involved takes this stuff seriously.” My second thought was “Wow, I’m hilariously out of my league.” I mean, really, I have a LOT of work to do before I think about getting in the ring in this country. Tryn did point out that I have no idea of how many fights most of these guys had, but it’s still hard not to be a little overwhelmed when you see it in person.
One other thing- some of you who are unfamiliar with how the fight culture in Thailand works may be mistaking me when I talk about the fighters, in terms of age. I’m pretty sure the oldest one of them there last night was 17, and most were younger. Some people I’ve mentioned this to have been horrified, and think it’s terrible that kids should be doing this. It isn’t really that simple. Muay thai here is a little like boxing at home. A lot of the time, it’s a way for poor kids to get out of the ghetto. Although in this case, more often than not I think it’s that kids frequently get adopted by the training camps for one reason or another. Fighting for a living sure as hell isn’t easy, but it’s better than starving on the street. Something to consider before getting outraged.
Anyway, overall it was a good time, except for the fifty million bug bites I got. I wasn’t too crazy about riding in the back of a pickup truck to get there either, but when in Rome, I guess.