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Thai Kickboxing

THAILAND | Tuesday, 27 May 2008 | Views [1576]

27th MAY 2007

Bangkok, like many cities including London, is diverse. If you were picked up and unknowingly dropped in turn at Downtown Bangkok, the Financial Centre of Bangkok, and then Old Bangkok, you would be startled to subsequently learn that you had been in the same city all along.

BUT, having said that, I am tired of Bangkok. I want to get out. The sight of Khao San Road (the backpackers corner of Bangkok) makes me weary. In fact, when I look at the people who hang around Khao San Road at night, I feel like an old man. Maybe I am at heart.

The people who say 'I love Khao San Road' seem to be only capable of thinking about cheap alcohol, finding bargains (which they would realise are not in fact bargains if they bothered to leave Khao San Road and shop elsewhere), and sex (particularly the men, some of whom, sadly, parade a paid-for Thai girl down Khao San Road on their arm - more sickening when the man is 70+ and the girl under 25). Maybe I am being harsh, but Khao San Road just seemed to attract the worst types of foreigners, bottom-of-the-barrel-type people. I will be happy to leave.

Today, much of the day was spent waiting for Stephen, a classmate from the BVC, to arrive before we move out of Bangkok together. Stephen is also doing a round-the-world trip, which he started two weeks before me in India. We plan to travel together for a while through Cambodia and maybe part of Vietnam.

Stephen arrived this afternoon, having travelled up from Malaysia on an overnight sleeper train.

Having settled into a guesthouse, we decided to try and catch a thai kick-boxing match. There are two stadiums in Bangkok which show kickboxing every weekday. We tried to go to the nearest, to find that it had been closed for the evening due to protests in Bangkok against the government.

So we decided to go to the other stadium. At this point we witnessed a fine example of a Thai person in search of easy money. We hailed down a taxi to take us to the other stadium. He begrudgingly put the meter on (which they do not put on generally, unless you insist). He then took us a few metres to the closed stadium which we had just come from and asked for his money?! He obviously didn't have a clue which other stadium we were talking about, and he must have thought he had come across some stupid tourists. Anyway, we obviously didn't pay him for taking us a few metres, and not where we wanted to go anyway.

Eventually, we made it to the stadium. The matches were already in full swing. Each evening, about matches are lined up, with the highlight match being near the end.

The fighters in the first few matches looked very young. Maybe about 16. I am not certain, but I think that they may learn kickboxing at school - it is the national sport after all.

At the beginning of each match, the fighters will always follow a ritual. The ritual appears to differ from fighter to fighter, but all the rituals have commonalities. Firstly, all fighters will begin by kneeling down to make a prayer. <snip, further details of rituals will follow soon>

Stephen and I were standing at the back of the stadium - the cheapest tickets available, which were still relatively expensive at about 15 pounds. From the back we were able to see that the stadium seating was split into roughly two sections - the seated section (which was almost completely populated by foreigners) and the standing section (which was almost completely populated by locals). I was happy to be in the standing section, because that is where the really interesting stuff happens.

As the rounds of the kickboxing match progress, the locals become more and more animated - displaying a hypnotic interest in every blow, whilst simultaneously betting and re-betting frantically as each blow changes the odds. Stephen and I, oblivious to what was meant by the betting hand signals used by the locals, decided to bet between ourselves to make the matches more interesting. By the end of the evening we were even - which is good, because I am not sure that either of us would have paid up anyway.

As for the matches themselves...they were brutal. Blows can be struck on almost any part of the body by foot, knee, elbow or fist. Winners were determined by points in most matches - only in one match was the other fighter knocked unconscious by a kick to the head as he was falling backwards and then taken off by stretcher.



Tags: bailey, boxing, kickboxing, stephen

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