It’s no secret that I’m the unlikeliest fan of Muay Thai boxing. Who would this that this former lazy-bum and current athletics-snubber would fall in fist over gloves for Thailand’s national sport?
I’ve written quite a bit about Muay Thai on Koh Tao — from the history and the lore of the fight nights I love to attend to the training sessions that taught me fitness could be fun. But no trip to Koh Tao, and therefore no blog coverage of said trip — would be complete without a visit to my favorite gym in the world.
When I walked into Island Muay Thai for the first time in almost eight months, I wasn’t sure the trainers would remember me — after all, they train dozens of farang every day. But a chorus of “Alek!” greetings rang out when I walked down into the valley, and the big mischievous smiles told me I hadn’t been forgotten. The trainers were fascinated by my weight loss, demanding to know how many kilos I had lost and repeatedly shrieking “so tiny!” — endearing themselves to me forever, of course. Too bad I don’t understand the metric system.
When I told them my sister was in town they asked why she hadn’t come to training but then answered the question for themselves — very lazy. I promised to bring her in the next time.
She loved it — and they certainly loved her. It was really wonderful to show her this little slice of my life.
Plus, I totally got to show off.
Training is only half the fun though. Sometimes you’ve got to go see how the pros do it! So we made our way back to the gym on fight night, where students get a nice 200 baht discount off admission. As soon as we walked in the owner of the stadium, Pi Toon, gave us a big smile, and insisted we take beers from his cooler. It was such a small gesture but a lovely show of hospitality that made me feel that my affection for everyone at the gym was really reciprocated.
This fight started off with a youth match. A lot of people don’t like seeing the kids fight but I don’t see how it’s any more violent than American football.
Muay Thai fights on Koh Tao are the most integrated activity between locals and foreigners that I have found. It’s pretty much a 50-50 split in the crowd.
While I sometimes find the violence hard to swallow, I think it is offset by respect, tradition and skill. Attending a fight is a cultural experience that I can’t imagine missing in Thailand. To learn more about Muay Thai and the fights on Koh Tao, read my previous post here.
Have you tried Muay Thai training or been to a fight? Would you?