Grassroots Muaythai

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This past weekend I had the privilege of attending a small Muaythai exhibition held at Crom Martial Training in Rockaway Beach, NY. The exhibition featured 7 bouts between select members of Crom Martial Training and Lion’s Roar Muay Thai. While watching, I was reminded of my time spent in Pitchit, Thailand; a place where grassroots Muaythai is so ingrained into the culture it can be compared to that of little league baseball here in the United States. It also reminded me of the lessons and values that such an activity brought to those kids living in Pitchit, and how the same lessons were being absorbed by the kids who took part in the exhibition this past weekend. Sure, there were a few bloody noses and broken hearts, but at the end of the day the lessons learned by those kids will probably be carried with them throughout most of their lives.

Now I am in no way suggesting that every kid take up fighting. However, what I do believe is children that step into the ring(or push themselves in any similar manner) at an early age are learning things crucial to their childhood development. For one, it teaches kids how to deal with losses. In today’s schools where no child is left behind, everyone is deemed a winner. Rarely does a child have to deal with meeting that undesired adversary known as failure; but failing, and learning what it is to have to pick oneself up from any type of defeat, are all conditions that build a strong character. This, I am convinced, is what these exhibitions are teaching these kids. Also, the children are learning to face their fears which, over time, will transfer over to many other aspects of their lives. How much stronger would a child become after accomplishing such a feat as competitive combat, having to face not only the physical opponent standing across from him but also the opposition of his own mind?

Additionally, as important as it is that these children are getting the chance to experience character development through Muaythai exhibitions, it also sets a path for them to follow throughout their adolescence. More often than not kids with no direction, or kids who come from broken homes, wind up turning to less desirable sources for guidance. At least these exhibitions are giving children an outlet for their youthful verve. Instead of being tempted to invest their energies into the negative areas surrounding them, they turn to the training and the competition to rid themselves of all the harbored exuberance that comes along with being a child. What’s more, these exhibitions act as a means for the trainers and the kids who desire to compete to come to an agreement.

For example, Chris Romulo, professional Muaythai fighter and owner of Crom Martial Training, told me that he wouldn’t let one of his students compete unless that student raised his grades. Because of that student’s enthusiasm to test himself through Muaythai, shortly thereafter his grades went up. So there is a correlation between Muaythai and life outside of it, where if guided properly achievements can be made in both areas. I also believe to some degree that there was something in the Muaythai that motivated this student; something that he couldn’t find elsewhere. Maybe it is something in our genetics. After all, for thousands of years there have been cultural practices set in place that have acted as rites of passage allowing young kids to become adults. Different cultures offered different ideas, but the act was universal. For those kids in Pitchit, Muaythai is their rite of passage into manhood, and in some distant resemblance these Muaythai exhibitions here in the states may provide the same outlet for America’s youth.

I’ve met many people who can’t understand how a parent would let their child compete in such a tough sport. Although, in America the protective equipment is there for these kids and general safety guidelines are in place, it’s as if we as Americans are sheltering our kids from the truth that at times, life is tough. However, what better way to prepare for the adversity that is almost certain to meet us in daily life than to face it head on from an early age. After all, the Thai’s have been doing it for hundreds of years and if it has shown us anything, it’s that the conditioning that Muaythai brings to a persons mind, body, and spirit can make them far more resilient to the struggles of everyday life.

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John Wolcott currently lives in Thailand and works as a freelance writer and videographer. Join him on Twitter or John Wolcott.

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