It is the stars,
The stars above us, govern our conditions.
(King Lear, 4.3.37), Kent
Fate’s favor has forever been fickle I thought as I stepped over the ropes. P’ Ple held the ropes down for me. I felt them rub against my crotch. I’ve never been particularly savvy about my ring entrance, leaping over the tight cords with style and grace. Instead I lumber over them, oft afraid that I will trip and cause embarrassment to myself.
The passing days had brought me to the ring again to test the opinion of destiny. I’d always imagined that the ring was the epitome of fairness, in it two men of equal size and experience would contest and show who had the stronger spirit, who was the better sportsman, the more technical tactician… Yet the passing of time, with all of its accompanied crimes, showed that the ring’s mettle was the same as society at large.
Those who won seemed deemed by some heavenly powers to be predestined. It was if the winners had been picked in a genetic lottery to succeed. As I looked closer into the society of fighting culture I realized that it was the same as civilization’s racket. Those who succeeded were indeed those who had the connections, the fights that would make them grow, the promoters who helped them out, the money and time to go abroad to train and fight, those who were trained to fight in strict accordance to the judge’s decisions. In the world of U.S. Muay Thai it is not generally the Muay Thai fighters that win, but the boxers that kick a little, the glorified kickboxers.
The realization of another of society’s fixed schemes had sat on me for some time, and I ignored it, I coped with it, I did what every other young blue blooded man of a stalwart generation does: I trod on. I continued to fight.
In my last bout I broke my face. My opponent kneed me in the dome and broke my orbital, skewing my nose to the side and demanding immediate plastic surgery. My inner Horatio Alger got up and wanted to continue with the bout. The referee called it off.
I remember two moments of not wanting to fight, both were when I was worse for wear. My nose was held together by a plastic cast. My head was full of staples and stitches. My face was a swollen mess.
“No more,” I thought to myself. “No more,” I said again. The two moments came and passed.
The staples, the stitches, the cast came out. The remnants of surgery still linger but now they look more like fancy hair design on the side of my skull. I am doomed to look like an 80s rapper with lightning bolts in the side of his head, a hipster Vanilla Ice.
I’ve always been pro active about life. If you want to live life, you have to live it. You have to make choices, you have to do things, you can’t be a spectator watching life passively passing by, an especially important lesson to learn given out spectacular society. I wanted to get over my injuries so I ran a marathon. I figured that the distance and all that running would somehow psychologically heal me. With each mile that I ran I felt as if I was Colin, the protagonist of “The Loneliness of the Long Distance runner,” I was acting in defiance of what society thought that I should do, just call it quits in terms of physical contests. I passed the finishing line by the San Francisco waters. The bay lapped across the city’s pier and I thought to myself; “That was it?” I’d run all that way and nothing had changed. I didn’t feel better, I just felt like I’d run a long time. My feet and my knees hurt.
With a stupidity, and naivete that seems to strike Americans in particular, I returned to the same brutal origins that had caused me my injuries. I looked to the ring. I worked out at my Muay Thai gym in Oakland (Pacific Ring Sports) and at my job, saving for my return to Thailand where I would take up the gloves again.
A year and one day later, with the typical Thai tendency to be auspicious I fought again. I had come to Thailand in early January and spent most of the month “vacationing,” which more properly defined can be understood as; “drunk and in da club.”
Eventually I found my way to Sitmonchai gym in the Kanchanburi province, more precisely in the small town of Thamaka. Located 96 kilometers away from Bangkok the gym provided the training and seclusion that I needed.
Initially I was intent on my training. I wanted to fight. I wanted it. I wanted it bad. I imagined my glorious training montage over and over. I was a hardened warrior that wanted to continue with the battle but with the passing days my sword dulled. I was bored by the rural landscape of Thamaka. I missed my friends in the big city of Bangkok. I wanted out of the routine of train, eat, “free time,” train, sleep, train, eat, “free time” sleep… More than any other time training for a fight, I was burned out. I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to fight, let the dice roll as they do and let the game be finished.
I was initially scheduled to fight at Lumpinee which excited me, and then I was rescheduled. My opponent at the major stadium was too experienced my manager at Sitmonchai had told me. I would fight a week later outside of Bangkok near a Tesco Lotus, the walmart of Thailand.
The day of the fight, I felt as if my bout was an errand, a slightly annoying one which I had to attend to before I could get drunk. I arrived to the bout venue slightly late, as the directions were confusing.
The setting for Thai pugilism was in an abandoned basketball court. The turf was covered with cement and the area was demarcated with blue tarps preventing unpaid eyes from peering in. When I got there things progressed in usual Thai fashion, which meant slightly chaotic. My fight was rescheduled from being the twelfth fight to being the second. I looked at the schedule and notice my name had been misspelled. Evidently I was Baat from Sweden, instead of Matt from America. “Well America isn’t the best country anyways and its hip to be socially democratic,” I thought to myself with a mental shrug.
After two small kids fought I was pushed into the ring. P’ Ple looked at me expectantly as I moved over the ropes. I looked at my opponent. He was in his mid twenties and lighter than me by about 10 pounds at least. He was more experienced, having roughly thirty fights. He had a neck tattoo which in the tattoo hierarchy makes you tuff. The only thing tougher is having your ex girlfriend’s name tatted on your dick, or having a sick tat your face.
We did the wai khru ram muay. You’re supposed to think about your trainers, your teachers, and acting beautifully while doing the pre fight ritual dance. I thought about how dirty the canvass was. I came to the center of the ring and bowed three times. I put my right knee on the canvas and my left foot out in a lunge. I bobbed up and down with the motion of my arms. I leaned back and caught a glimpse of my opponent’s foot. He was wagging it up and down as if it was an extra appendage showing a proclivity to doing things beautifully. I turned my eyes away and thought “don’t think too much.”
Our gloves touched as the first round began. Most of my fights have seemed like slow motion car crashes, as if I was swimming in a gel of time. Yet this bout seemed open, and present. Each second that passed seemed real. Each drop of sand that fell in the hourglass of time resounded in my body. I could see my opponent’s every movement, that is not to say I acted accordingly.
I moved forward and he timed me with a left kick, several throughout the bout in fact. He made up for his smaller stature with his superior timing and technique. I trod forward like a blue blooded youth wanting only to maim. We engaged in the clinch and he put his left leg across my hips preventing me from kneeing him. His elbow smacked into my head and I saw stars. The streaks of color would last an hour or two after my bout. I desperately tried to return the favor. We were pulled apart. He push kicked me in the face and smiled at me with a grin that said it all: “Fuck you, you fat farang.”
The round ended. I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t feel injured. I just felt as if time had passed. My body was scrubbed with a combination of ice and water as I sat on a small wooden stool. Underneath me a large tin of metal caught the water. My trainers talked to me quickly in Thai. I repeated what they said. They asked me if I understood. I pretended that I did. Now a day after the conflict I can’t remember what they said, I attribute it to boxer’s brain.
The second round began and we touched gloves. As soon as my red 8 oz glove touched his he push kicked me. Dirty bastard, I thought. I moved forward to clinch him. I engaged him and kneed him successfully. We were broken up and I threw some body shots. I thought about leg kicking him and my blow was unsuccessful. We skirmished more and he dumped me to the ground. I rose. I threw a cross and walked forward with a long straight left knee. It was one of the moves that I’d practiced without thought countless times and it is only now that I realize that knock out blows are never the ones you expect, both as executor and as recipient.
He fell over crumpled in pain. I walked to the neutral corner. My trainers joined me in the ring. That was it.
I bowed to the audience. I walked to his corner and bowed. Later I gave him some water. My manager told me that my 500 baht prize money went to my opponent to cover gas and expenses for the fight. I shrugged.
I’d improved my record. I am now 3-0 in my pro career. A stark contrast to my amateur careeer in America. I came back to Bangkok and got drunk. I passed out in my bed. I woke up. I didn’t think that much about the fight. Another day had passed.
Amor Fati – “Love Your Fate”, which is in fact your life.”