This last post covers the most dangerous and elusive of all Thai animals. No, not a tiger. I’m talking about the Muay Thai Master, The White Lotus himself, Buakaw Por Pramuk!
On December 16th, the last leg of a several month international Muay Thai tournament, hosted by Thai Fight, was held in Bangkok and it would’ve been foolish of me not to go. Also it was free, because Thailand is better than every other country on Earth.
So we go over to King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) Plaza where the fight is being held:
They had a sign up on Facebook for the event (it was free, but they had sign ups to guarantee a spot if the place filled up), but since it was all in Thai, it was difficult for me to navigate. Ajarn Sompit (Ajarn is a term for teachers. She’s our coordinator, as mentioned in previous posts) is a huuuuuge muay thai fan, so she’d been keeping me updated on things and mentioned the sign ups. When we got there, my name wasn’t on the list, but I told them that maybe it should’ve been, so they gave us tickets.
The plaza was pretty incredible and whatever White House-looking building they have there made a beautiful backdrop for the ring.
While it was still sunny out, they held the prelim bouts. There were fighters from Ukraine, Belarus, Ivory Coast and a few other countries participating. There was a heavyweight tournament that took place and, while it was fun to watch, Muay Thai requires a precision, coordination and speed that really only looks right when the smaller guys do it.
So anyway, it gets dark and the main card starts. This is when the theatricality of the event was on full display. Smoke, laser lights, giant LCDs, and 30 foot tall image of the king, etc. Thai Fight knows how to put on an event.
My phone is a phone and not a camera, so I wasn’t able to get any particular brilliant pictures of the event, but it was too awesome for pictures anyway. You had to be there. I’ve been to a number of fights back in the States and while its always fun and awesome, the density of drunk, muscled, testosterone-filled, douchebags tends to limit how much I can enjoy the event since I have to spend part of my energy avoiding drink spills and blocking out the shouts of ignorant fight advice from armchair quarterbacks.
In Thailand, or at least for this event, though, this was not the case. The audience, like everything else in Thailand, was diverse. There were old people, there were kids, there were young women who clearly were there to watch the fight and weren’t just accessories to their boyfriends. There were Thai celebrities and regular folk. There were plenty of young men, but few were drinking (which was a bit surprisingly, actually. Thai people love their whiskey) and the ones that were only had enough to have a good time and not to become belligerent. There was a group of Belarussians there to cheer on Buakaw’s unfortunate opponent who would chant “Belarus.” At first, the Thai fans were responding with chants of “Thailand,” but when they saw that it was several thousand Thai fans against six Belarussian dudes, some of the Thai fans started chanting “Belarus” to make it more even. Lolz.
Part of this, I think, is due to the cultural component of Muay Thai. While it is a combat sport, and one of the more brutal ones, actually, they don’t seem to view it, primarily, as a legalized, regulated street fight. The fighters bow to the King’s image on entrance, they do a traditional dance and bow to their trainers beforehand. Traditional Thai music is playing throughout (well, a Thai band with Thai instruments. They played Jingle Bells at one point). The audience seemed pretty educated on the sport and revered the technical brilliance of the main event and co-main event more than the bombastic violence of the undercard bouts.
But, anwyay, on to Buakaw. I only took video of his entrance cause I didn’t want to be looking through a phone for it, but it was pretty bananas. Before he entered, there was a several minute video highlight reel of his journey through the tournament and when he finally came out, to his epic theme music, there was smoke and lights and fireworks and angels playing trumpets and they released wild lions into the audience and Chuck Norris flew in on Silver Surfer’s board…absolutely insane. He’s basically a superhero out here and his entrance definitely showed that.
The fight was pretty tame as far as spectacle, but wonderful as far as tactics and execution. His opponent, who was very, very capable, used his longer reach and frame to mess around with distance, which made it hard for Buakaw to go to work with his obscene kicks. Instead, Buawkaw worked his clinch grappling and scored six or seen throws and takedowns.
In the end, Buakaw took the unanimous victory and is the 2012 Thai fight champion.
It was a pretty cool night and my students went nuts when I told them I was there live. Most of them watched it on TV.
Good times, good times.
What I’m Reading: The Once and Future King by T.H. White
What I’m Writing: Grad Stuff/Novel
What I’m Listening To: Off the Wall by Michael Jackson