Muay Thai @ The Military Stadium

Muay Thai is the Thai martial art of kickboxing. It incorporates all styles of Siamese boxing, including Muay Chaiya, Muay Korat, Muay Tasao, Muay Jerng and other forms. Each ancient local style has its own unique guards, stances, dancing rituals and music as well as striking techniques and fighting priorities. All boxing is known as 'Muay', including 'Muay Lok' ('Lok' meaning World, so World Boxing, better known as Queensberry Rules).

Muay Thai is often referred to as the 'science of eight limbs', because the fighters utilise their hands, elbows, feet and knees (the ancient style of Muay Boran steps it up a notch further by introducing headbutts.) It is therefore not for the faint-hearted. Watching fighters kneeing each other in the ribs and elbowing each other in the faces is pretty hardcore.

Korat is somewhat of a hub for Muay Thai and there are lots of schools and top fighters that are based here. The army have a stadium that is not far from Lady Yamo called Muay Khai Suranaree Korat. Every Monday, there is a Muay Thai evening that goes on for a good few hours and is a great night out. Tickets are 250 Baht for men and 200 for women (not sure about children's prices).

The evening is comprised of 10 fights, each consisting of 5 rounds. The majority of the fights were very young boys (5 years old and up), which was strange to see, but they were obviously well trained an the atmosphere was as if it was grown men fighting for a championship belt! One of the fighters, I was told, had defended his title 6 times, yet he looked no older than 6 years old! They do start young!

The younger Thai boxers have 2 minute rounds that go very quickly. The older fighters get 3 minutes per round, so they are slightly more protective of their energy. The oldest pairing I saw was about 17 years old.

The fighters enter the ring with Thai boran music playing in the background. Each boy is wearing a head garment and commences the Thai kickboxing ritual dance before battle. This lasts just a few minutes and is a time for the fighters to psyche each other out a bit. They then remove their headwear and the fight gets going, with bets being thrown around the arena like a New York stock trading sales floor a minute after opening. How on Earth the guys taking the bets can remember who is telling them what is quite amazing. I tried to crack the codes, but watching 800 people chucking their fingers up in the air and the resulting head nodding that follows is beyond me. The betting continues throughout each round in 'real time' so there is never a quiet moment amongst the crowd. Although gambling in Thailand is illegal, Muay Thai and horse racing provide legal betting events (perhaps due to their affiliation with being Royal sports or the national sports of Thailand?)

The boran music really adds an intense vibe to the already vibrant atmosphere, with the fighters rarely taking it easy in the ring. Feet are flying in the air, knees are being thrust into opponents ribs and elbows are being dropped on heads. It's mayhem. The end of each round sees the boxers return to their respective corners and sit down with heir trainers for water, tactical talks and a cooling off period. They are placed on metal trays to ensure that the water doesn't make the fighting area too slippy. There is a rather comical scene at the end of each round with the younger fighters, as they jump into their coaches arms and are shaken down in mid air to loosen their muscles. They are then given a rub down and covered in tiger balm before the next round ensues.

After 5 rounds, a winner is announced, though you will surely know who this is gong to be from the reaction of the crowd to the last round.

During all the fights, there are lots of fighters walking around preparing so you can get a few photos and have a chat with them if you want.

Food and drinks are available, as they are everywhere in Thailand, so you can have a good feed whilst you're there. I ate the penaeng curry which only cost me about 30 Baht. They had a lot of luk chin (nasty meatballs on sticks) and pickled mango too, but I stuck to penaeng which was really nice.

If you are interested in going to the Muay Thai on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday it opens at about 7:00pm. Fighting doesn't begin until about 8:30pm, so don't get there too early. It finishes before midnight.

Location: It's near the 'other train station' Thanon Jira at the far south side of Rajadamnoen Road on the corner before you go into the army base. It's next to a big football field with a stadium around it called Sanam Khai on the south west corner of the Old Town.


Best Bites

Spaghetti Party @ Chez Andy
Thai Buffet @ T-bone Steak
Salami Pizza @ Save One Pizza Shop
Kimji Fried Pork Bento Set @ Korea Bap Restaurant
Chicken Panaeng @ Baan Kuer

Thing's to do...

Buy a Car Battery @ Chung Battery Shop
Birds Fly Free @ Bung Talua
Grab a bargain @ Craigslist, Thailand
Buy a Model Plane @ S Hobby
Watch Classic TV @ Youtube

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