Back some 25 years ago I was lucky enough to get involved in Tae Kwon Do while in college. I did this for about 3 years, 2 of those years quite religiously. My friend, who was the Sensei, invited me to his Dojo. My main intention of accepting his invite was simply to learn self-defense but I very quickly came to appreciate the beauty of the martial arts. And since I was a struggling college student my friend not only gave me a good deal but also gave me private lessons whenever I had a few hours to train. Our goal was to make me a more confident fighter so most of our training was in the ring.
I had been training for a few years when I met Amy. When she met me I constantly had discolored and bruised arms and legs and the occasional black eye or bruised face. One day I took a really good shot to the mouth. I remember everything happening in slow motion; I was sparring and we were instructed to break, I put my arms down and turned to the middle of the ring when I saw in the distant mirror a high kick coming straight to my mouth from my opponent. All the other students that were watching said it was like a movie, it was a beautiful kick to my mouth, then my head just snapped back and I went straight to ground. That beautifully placed kick ended up cutting the inside of my top lip open. When I saw Amy that night, my mouth now twice its normal size, she looked at me for a minute and said in a very calm and concerned voice, “I don’t want you to do this any more”. That was the last time I fought, which was the right decision.
Fast-forward 25 years and here we are in beautiful Thailand where the national sport is Muay Thai or Thai-Boxing. This sport is bigger than soccer here in Thailand. Instead of the 2-limb contact of boxing, or the 4-limb contact of many martial arts this is the contact of eight limbs. The eight limbs being; fists, elbows, knee’s and feet. The kids and I decided to take a few beginner lessons while in Thailand; I had forgotten how incredible this workout can be. I’m sure I would never want my kids to get in a ring without heavy protective gear but the lessons have definitely made them appreciate the beauty of this art and its intensity.
Amy, Kendal and Keegan did not want to come with me to see live Thai boxing at Lumpini Stadium while we were in Bangkok. Lumpini is “the place” in Thailand to see Muay Thai! This stadium is world renown for its Muay Thai fights and I couldn’t imagine not checking it out while I was there. While we were in Bangkok Ryan Gosling (Amy and Kendal informed me who he was) was there preparing for a movie where he will compete in Thai Boxing. For a second I thought they would end up coming with me just for the odd chance of seeing this guy but they didn’t, I guess he’s not ALL that.
I’m not sure if you heard the news reports of the terrorist bombings in Bangkok but we headed to Bangkok the day after the bombings so we were even more alert than usual on being smart about where we went and when. I decided to go to the early bouts at 4pm instead of the later ones to be back to the apartment before 8pm.
It was very interesting; I got second row seats and watched 9 bouts. The bouts are 5 rounds of 3 minutes or until some one gets knocked out. Surprisingly all the weight categories were around 100 pounds give or take 10 pounds. The main event consisted of 130 pounders; which you could really appreciate the skill and power of this fight after the first few minutes. The fighters all seemed to be an average age of about 17 years old. The 9th fight was a couple of really young boys who looked to be about 10-11 years old. All the fighters fight with a mouth guard, boxing gloves and a cup, no other protection. So to see these young kids going at it for 5 rounds is utterly amazing and at the same time a little unsettling for a dad. I say unsettling because of all the loud and aggressive gambling that takes place during the entire fight. I did an Internet search before I went so I knew that was to be expected. The men screaming and betting throughout the fight and giving instruction to the fighters didn’t surprise me but what surprised me was the fighters looking over to the betting crowd for direction on what is needed for the bet.
I’m not judging, I’m just saying . . . maybe they should be allowed to fight their own fight without this continual barrage of betting involvement. Nevertheless, the Lumpini Stadium is run by the Royal Thai Army on behalf of the Thai Government (all the judges were government officials) and gambling is allowed.