One of my favorite sports memories is going to see a University of Wisconsin-Madison hockey game in high school. I didn't really understand the sport or the rules but the thousands of college students in the stands chanting and dancing combined with bone crushing action on the rink created an awesome atmosphere that overrode the fact that I had no idea what was going on on the ice.
I experienced a similar night recently when I attended a night of Muay Thai at the Lumpini Boxing Stadium. This time I REALLY had no idea what was going on because everything was in Thai, but I wasn't about to let that spoil the adventure!
Muay Thai is a combat sport similar to kickboxing except that fighters are also allowed to use their shins, feet, elbows and strike each other both below and above the waist. It is a really intense sport and I wasn't too sure that I wanted to go watch a match. However, I decided that since I was living with in a 10 minute walk from one of the most prestigious Muay Thai stadiums in Thailand, I had to at least watch one match.
Our Muay Thai adventure began with attempting to purchase tickets at the Lumpini Boxing Stadium. As soon as we turned the corner outside the stadium, we were accosted by two ladies who really wanted to sell us discounted tickets. Even after we repeatedly told them we weren't interested, they continued to pressure us all the way to the official ticket office and wouldn't stop until we actually had our tickets in our hands. I am not sure if these women were selling legitimate tickets or not, but I will give them credit for being for being so tenacious.
|Outside of the stadium plastered with promotions for upcoming fights|
The rest of the night was a blur of fighting, music, shouting crowds and ringing bells. I think my favorite part of each match was when each of the fighters would enter the ring wearing marigold garlands and proceed to stretch and dance around the ring. Each school of Muay Thai has their own style of movement. The two fighters are also wearing a sacred headband which they take off before the fight and sacred rope around their biceps which they keep on during the fight.
Once they are done stretching and dancing- the fight begins!
Lumpini Boxing Stadium, as well as other Muay Thai boxing stadiums, are the few places in Thailand where gambling is legal. In this final video you can see the crowds frantically making hand gestures. This is how bets are place on the fights. I have no idea how they keep track of all those bets, but I am sure there is a method to the madness.
If you listen closely, you can also hear the band that plays during each round to provide the fighters with timing. Each fight is usually five rounds (it's shorter when there is a knockout) and at the end of the fifth round, the referee collects the votes from three judges sitting around ring and a winner is declared.
All in all it was a great night and I am so glad I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone. I will definitely be going back for another fight night!