When it comes to Muaythai I always say it’s what lies in between the moves that gives the sport its character. After all, anyone versed in the art of fighting can throw an elbow, a knee, a kick, or a punch. However, it’s the way these techniques are executed that separates Muaythai from every other form of standup fighting. On the surface of the sport, the obligation is a 15 minute war, progressively getting more intense as the rounds go on; but what transpires beneath this fierce exchange is a display of technical impressiveness. It’s one of the many paradoxes of Muaythai – the fact that fighting and beauty can coexist on the same plane.
When speaking of this beauty, instantly I think of one thing that sets Muaythai apart from all other forms of kickboxing; technique. It’s technique that gives Muaythai its style, its flare. With all the various nuances hidden amongst its many tactics, Muaythai is to combat sports what Michelangelo was to the world of art. To the Thais, technique is something never to be taken lightly. While at Sangmorakot I once saw Don, one of the senior pad holders, feed thousands of left kicks to one of the younger fighters. For days on end, session after session, it was left kick after left kick. The young fighter reluctantly threw the kicks until each one was thrown with perfect technique, power, and efficiency. By the end of the few weeks of his training it looked as if a master puppeteer was manipulating the fighter’s body. I asked Don why he had taken this approach and he replied with assurance through his broken smile “I love technique!” With a bout soon approaching for the fighter I assumed Don would have covered more ring strategy, but as they’ve told me, technique is always first. If you’re going to use it, it has to look good. That is the beauty of Muaythai.
Nonetheless, what happens when the technique is already there? With the more experienced fighters the beauty lies elsewhere. For a fighter like Pinsiam Sor Amnuaysirichok(regarded as a legend at Lumpini Stadium for turning his fights into wars) the beauty can be found in his pad work. Rarely have I seen any other 31 year old outwork every young fighter at a gym, especially when most of the fighters are in their teens and early 20’s. However, when Pinsiam gets on pads it’s majestic to watch. If it’s possible for a person to put every piece of themselves into what they are doing, then Pinsiam has mastered that feat. While observing him on pads, it’s almost as if you can see the inside of his self and what makes up his unbreakable will. It’s as if the energy propelling every kick comes forth from some place deep inside; a place where the turmoil of life in poverty acts as fuel for his burning desire to succeed. Every bead of sweat, every moving muscle, every expression of pain on his face; it’s like they are all parts of his soul, each making up the sum of his entire existence. It’s like he brings life to the tired old gloves he wears and brings purpose to the run down pads he kicks. For that moment he makes his pad holder look like a god, with Pinsiam being at the mercy of his commandments. That right there is the beauty of Muaythai.
Just the same, you don’t have to live a life of poverty to enjoy the beauty of self expression through Muaythai. More often than not I find myself telling new students who are hesitant about breathing or yelling when they hit to stop for a second and listen to the symphony surrounding them. It’s like a small orchestra with each person owning their own vocal signature. It comes from the inside and through some transformation between the internal and the external, that energy supplies their mind and body with just enough to push through the training. It’s like that sound carries with it some central desire to push the physical beyond its limits. Man wasn’t made to spend his time trapped in a cubicle being suppressed by hours upon hours of indentured servitude. For the average participating American, Muaythai frees the man from the chains that bind him. It gives that man an hour of bliss; a time for rapport between that man and his own life. During that time, a man gets to acquaint himself with the a person he never knew existed. He meets a man capable of achieving greater things than the sinister corporation he labors for allows. And that right there is the beauty of Muaythai.
If anyone ever had any preconceived notions about human combat, or were tied to the idea that fighting is just some brute primal instinct deep-seated somewhere in the strands of man’s DNA, one would just have to look at the fabric that makes up the sport and art of Muaythai. For if you look deep enough, and peer through the threads of its own existence, you will find a sport rich in culture, but even more so, a sport defined by its beauty.