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  Sports   14 Apr 2024  Gloves up! It is time for a Muay Thai bout

Gloves up! It is time for a Muay Thai bout

THE ASIAN AGE. | LEKHA SHANKAR
Published : Apr 14, 2024, 5:53 pm IST
Updated : Apr 14, 2024, 5:57 pm IST

Thailand includes its traditional boxing format in tourist packages, offering visitors a sporting experience!

Muay Thai is not just a sport, but has history, connects cultures and incorporates spiritual dimensions
 Muay Thai is not just a sport, but has history, connects cultures and incorporates spiritual dimensions

In their new campaigns to promote soft power and creative economy, Thailand has now chosen its Muay Thai boxing to get the world’s attention. It’s one of its five F’s to promote tourism in Thailand — food, festivals, fashion, film and fight.

Like its classical Khon dance steeped in history and culture, Muay Thai is the country’s local boxing genre with historical antecedents dating back to the 16th century. Used as a form of self-defence, it gained royal patronage and got imbued with many rituals. Every year, for instance, there is a traditional World Wai Kru Muay Thai ceremony in the ancient city of Ayutthaya, outside Bangkok, where the students and masters of the martial art show their respect towards each other through a bevy of unique rites. The event is now a major tourist attraction.

This March marked the 16th year of this gala, attracting students from the world over, India not excluding. With day tours to Ayutthaya being very popular with Indian tourists, this yearly Muay Thai ceremony will indeed now be included in their itinerary.

“India is one of our big markets, and we certainly plan to include Muay Thai in our promotions there,” said Nathaphat Sukitanonta, director, event promotions, of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), during a recent panel discussion on this boxing format. Muay Thai has been designated a “soft power” attraction of Thailand.
The talk was led by none other than vice-minister in Thai Prime Minister’s office, Varavut Yanjareon. “Muay Thai is not just a sport, but has history, connects cultures and incorporates spiritual dimensions,” Yanjareon stated.

Assistant professor Pirnol Srivikorn, who is chairman of the sports industry steering sub-committee, spoke of various measures taken to promote the sport, from master classes to clinics, matches and tourism packages which combined training with sightseeing programmes.

At the Petchyndee Academy, one of the oldest and best-known Muay Thai institutions in Bangkok, president Nuttadaj Vachirarattaawong informed us that they had rooms for tourists (reasonably priced at about 1500 Baht a night) who took Muay Thai classes in between their sightseeing programmes. One learnt that a couple of Indian tourists had stayed with them, and enjoyed it so much that they decided to enrol in a second Muay Thai camp at their next stop, the beach town of Krabi which is also one of the favorite destinations of Indian tourists. With more than 3,000 Muay Thai camps in the country, they are now being checked, regulated and promoted for tourism by the Thai government. In fact, one was told that it was possible to get a three-month Thai visa to do a Muay Thai course in the country and this could be extended depending on the foreigner’s interest in the game.

Thanks to the formation of the World Muay Thai Federation, with 70 member countries, the sport has now become popular in many countries in Europe, the United States, Russia and China, too. In fact, one encountered a young filmmaker from New York University who flew down for a week just to film different aspects of this fascinating sport which many Americans had become interested in. With different levels of training curricula in the country, there was a demand for Muay Thai classes and training. One was told that there were requests for Muay Thai trainers in many countries, from the US to the Middle East, to improve the combat fitness of their defence forces.

The interest in Muay Thai has increased so much that there is even a Tai Fight Hotel in the beach town of Samui studded with Muay Thai pictures, memorabilia and gyms in a beach-facing location, which has become a great attraction for individuals who want to combine sport and pleasure.

A major highlight of the Amazing Muay Thai Experience is attending a live Muay Thai match at the newly renovated Lumpini Stadium. The matches are arranged by One Championship, one of the biggest promoters of martial arts around the world. Jittinat Asdamongkol from One Championship informed us that they had many brilliant Muay Thai boxers of other nationalities as well on their roster. That’s why they organised live matches every Friday which were beamed to about 150 countries, including India. Jittinat added that his team had discovered many exciting new talents in this sport.

In this connection, we met the diminutive Stamp Fairfax who rose from poverty to become a world champion. She confessed that she loved the sport both for its fitness challenge and also for the money.

This writer learned some basic Muay Thai exercises at the Petchyndee Academy and found them vigorous and enjoyable.

A new portal has been created for tourists to get all the info on elaborate and exciting Muay Thai packages in the country at Nowmuaythai.com.

Tags: muay thai, cultural heritage, martial arts