Thailand is the meeting point between Eastern and Western worlds.
It’s the place where you can learn the art of Muay Thai, their national sport.
A sport characterized by pre- fight combat dances and rituals, with a story hundreds of years old behind it, called “the art of eight limbs”. There is no distinction of sex, age or ethnicity. Everyone can train, be tested and compete. It becomes not only a sport to follow but a profession to practice for both Thai people and expats.
You breathe oil and sweat in the air, and the gloves are hanging on the ropes of the ring, waiting for the next match. An example is the Petchrung gym in Pattaya, run by Filippo Cinti, former WPMF world champion 2005, WKN2004 professional European champion, now established in Thailand since 2003. Filippo is an inspiration for all the boys who cross the entrance of the gym, such as Dylan Hoang, a young French boy 24 years old who met the art of Muay Thai 8 years ago and fell in love with it.
Their warm up follows everyday the same pattern: wake up at 4 am and start with the running and then move inside the gym. Stretching and rope jumping are followed by muscle relaxation smelling tiger balm, before getting to the best part of the day: the training itself. The practice, made of strokes and holds, in which the relationship between teacher and pupil is consolidated. After months of hard training, the time comes for the match for Dylan, inside the Max Muay Thai Stadium.
Tension rises up inside the locker rooms. You can feel it while the fighters are covering their hands with bandages and they are stretching their bodies with massages. This is the way the concentration gets to the highest livel before the fight. Wearing boxing gloves, the Mongkhon, the traditional ornamental hat that every fighter wears, is placed on Dylan’s head, along with the Prajied bracelets worn to keep the bad spirits away.
Dylan enters scenically under the eyes of an enthusiastic public and a flood of gambling freaks who are elbowing silently on the ringside.
Once the ritual dance is over, Dylan heads towards the corner of the ring. Here Filippo takes the Mongkon off his head and puts it on the ropes so he can keep being protected during the match.
The fight is spectacular and bloody, and goes on with slow movements, aimed shots and prayers whispered by the
athlete. The vaseline, previously spread on the body, stanches the blood from the wounds. What is surprising, regardless of the result is the mutual respect shown by the fighters themselves, both inside and outside the ring. And that is the real victory.
The main aim is not learning, but learning how to learn. This is the way you gain awareness of how your origin, your age and your wealth mean nothing, if you do not learn respect first.
About the author:
Matteo Maimone was born in 1990 in Torino. At the moment he lives and works in Australia, running his project Nutshell Travel as a freelance photographer. Since 2017 he has been documenting a long term project about the daily life and social facts in many parts of Asia.He has been published in Dolce Vita Magazine, Erodoto108, The Trip Mag, QcodeMagazine and many other magazines.