New Years Eve, I had an opportunity to go to the fights at Rajadomnern Stadium. This was a unique experience for me because it was the first time I was able to accompany the fighters “back stage”. I got a call from “Bu” the head trainer of Ingram Gym, in the morning… “Are you doing anything this afternoon?” “Ummmm…No, just stuffing my face” “Good meet us in front of Rajadomnern 5pm don’t be late.”
I’m so excited that I don’t take into account it’s NYE and there is no traffic. (yes it does happen) So I end up getting there about an hour early. If you ever find yourself at Radjamonern with some time to kill… there is an excellent Grilled Chicken and Som Tom place next door.
So they roll up in a cab and Daosaming Ingram hands me an equipment bag, and tells me to follow them. We slip in through the fighters entrance and walk quickly into the “Dressing area”.
Bernung Sakhomsin wrapping
Dressing Room is as sugar coated description as I can come up with. You’ve honestly walked into the “belly of the beast” the energy in the room is palpable. It’s like you’ve stepped back into time and you are in the under belly of the Colosseum with the gladiators. Everyone is eerily quiet, the only noise is the syncopated roar of “Oye, Oye, Oye” as someone undoubtedly is getting their ass kicked.
The fighters are laying on these long wooden tables that resemble a big picnic table. They are being oiled down and massaged throughly with Thai oil. The tables are stained black from the countless coats of Thai oil. It’s kind of strange because the fighters are laying 3 feet away from each other. Nobody makes eye contact. Its hard to verbalize the feeling in there. I can honestly say that I had a pit in my stomach just sitting in there. It’s overwhelming…
Two fighters return as two fighters on deck make their way out. What’s strange is that based on their expressions it’s really difficult to tell who won the match. I tried scrutinizing the fighters expressions and those around them to gauge who might have won. Invariably there was a comment like “You didn’t get your kicks fast enough” or something to that nature which gave it away. No loud cheering, no celebratory high fives. Hard to explain but it’s very Thai.
We make it out of the dressing area and head to the opposite end towards an empty corridor. Ali wants some space… we sit for 10 min. in silence as Ali stands off by himself shadowboxing. Bu the head trainer calls him over. It’s time to put on his Monkol and Prajouid. Mongkon and Prajouid are blessed as talismans and are believed to be endowed with protective qualities. Some fighters have Yants (blessed prayer “flags”) interwoven into their Mongkon and Prajouids. The trainer recites a Mantra with fighters hands in Anjali (prayer position) what is recited varies from camp to camp, but the gist of it is to ask for protection and victory. Time to move into the hallway.
At this point we are sitting in view of the other fighter. I notice them sneaking peaks at each other, but no mad dogging. Ali is sitting quietly taking in the fight. Everyone is now watching the action in front of us. Daosaming whispers to me “Those guys have skills” he says it with mixture of admiration and appreciation. End of the fight… it’s time to make our way ring side.
getting your head on
That’s how you watch Muay Thai
What really annoys me about watching Muay Thai in the US, is that the spectators as a whole are quiet. Many of you who’ve been to fights in Thailand know that shit is crazy. You have one side of the stadium cheering for a fighter, as fighters exchange blow the stadium erupts with cheers of “Oiy”. I got be ringside with Bernung Sitkhomsing, Daosaming, and Sagatpetch yelling and cheering at the top of my lungs. Ali and his opponent got into a knee battle and spent the greater part of 4 rounds kneeing each other. It wasn’t looking good for Ali as his opponent was just getting the better of him.
last round advice from Sagatpetch
The crowd is also starting to go against him… in the final minute of the 5th round, Ali begins throwing down (Mat Kom) to our amazement his opponent continues to eat all 8 or 9 punches! He begins to stumble into the corner…10 sec. left, we being losing our shit screaming at the top of our lungs I’m so hyped I don’t even realize I’m standing there throwing punches into the air! (what a dick). At this point the crowd has turned and is cheering for Ali. 5 seconds… the fighter legs wobble as he isn’t able to get away from the flurry. He begins to fall DING! DING! DING! that’s it. It turns out that he had done enough to take the fight. If it would have gone 10 sec. longer he would have been out cold. All of us were jumping around, voices cracked. What an unbelievable finish.
I want to thank Hideki Suzuki and the rest of Team Ingram for allowing me to tag along. It was an incredibly experience.
I’d love to hear about your Lumpini or Rajadomnern experiences, thoughts etc.