Kicking a violent habit
I bet millions of people across the country spent their holiday at home on Tuesday viewing the afternoon live broadcast of the first round of "Thai Fight 2012", the highly popular Muay Thai tournament featuring competitors from around the world, including the superstar Thai boxer Buakaw Banchamek.
It was a good show. And watching foreigners from different continents being able to execute Muay Thai techniques effectively and beautifully, I couldn't help but feel proud of the Thai martial art which is growing in global recognition and, of course, in being Thai.
Then again, as I was watching the one-on-one encounters in the ring, I began to wonder: is what I see in "Thai Fight" an authentic Thai-styled fighting?
A few years ago, during a casual conversation, an expat friend of mine said something I would never forget. "Thai people don't believe in fair fighting, right?" he asked, laughing, not knowing I was fuming inside. Then his next sentence immediately doused my anger. "I see in the news almost every day somebody got beaten up by many other people."Well, that's very true. It's so common, not just among vocational students who are notorious for gang fighting, but also among university students or even grown-ups, from wage earners to white-collar workers.
Brawls at night-time entertainment venues and other places often end up that way. And if it's a one-on-one clash, it is not unusual that one side is armed with a deadly weapon that gives him/her a huge advantage over their empty-handed opponent.
If you have never seen such a thing with your own eyes, go to the internet. YouTube has lots of video clips of unarmed people being shot, stabbed or beaten repeatedly by rivals larger in numbers. So what are the causes of such cowardly and shameless practices in Thai society? This is a topic that requires a discussion too lengthy for this space.
However, from my observation few such cases of unfair fighting involve boxers. We have very little chance of seeing Buakaw in a brawl, let alone assaulting somebody with a weapon. (Okay, Mike Tyson may spring up in your mind. But I think a lot of people would understand that he's a rare exception.)
As someone who spent six years of his youth as a boxer, I have a couple of reasons to support this claim. First, like practitioners of other martial arts, Muay Thai boxers are strictly taught not to use their fighting skill outside of the ring. Second, as athletes, boxers are aware that even a second of anger can completely ruin their game and thus are trained to keep their temper under control.
While the law is obviously incapable of hampering the rampant practice of unfair fighting among Thai people, could Muay Thai come to the rescue? Would Thai people, most of whom these days don't even know how to do proper Muay Thai kicks, fight less on the street if we relearn our own martial arts? This may sound odd to some but I don't think it's a bad idea.
Instead of just watching and cheering the competitors in "Thai Fight", why don't we also absorb the true spirit of Muay Thai which is so respected and cherished by those international boxers?
Pongpet is the Bangkok Post travel editor.
Pongpet Mekloy is the Bangkok Post's travel editor and a mountain bike freak.