Every since I got back from Thailand, I’ve been trying to Muay Thai fight everybody. In a bar a few weekends ago, I tried to leap off my friend Thanh’s bent knee and then kick her in the face. Although she’s a girl and I shouldn’t try to kick her, she appreciated the ambition in my move. Another move I’m fond of involves throwing a jab with the left hand and then following it with a devastating elbow to the back of the head. This is a good move for me. I’m skinny and lack muscle; my elbow is a boney bludgeon of death. This is why I developed a quick affinity for the Muay Thai – it focuses on elbows, knees, and precision. And it looks cool.
In Koh Samui, trucks drive up and down the main streets advertising the Muay Thai fights. One Friday night I went to Chewang Stadium with the hopes of seeing some intensely violent action. The stadium is located down a side street, very close to a little red light district. Thinking back on Thailand, it seems like almost everything is located within a reasonable distance of a red light district. Chewang Stadium is not really much of a “stadium,” as it’s about the size of a Bally Total Fitness. The place was packed with blood-thirsty foreigners, drinking Singha beer in the stands, while the fighters sized each other up, swaying side-to-side to the strange and constant sound of a Pi Java.
Since I only wanted to see someone get knocked out, the third match was by far the best. Older Thai men sat by the ring placing bets, mostly on the favorite – Sittisak – who I figured must have been good because his picture was on the poster. The entire experience of seeing two guys fight in a room filled mostly with men, some gambling and others just drinking and shouting, feels rather anachronistic, like being in a movie from the 1940s or something. For two rounds, Sittisak threw elbows and missed, sulking back to his corner where the gamblers yelled at him in Thai.
I looked around at the crowd, trying to see if there was anyone I could take. It’s been ages since I’ve been in a fight, and sometimes I wonder if I have it in me to actually throw a punch with real conviction. Turning my attention back to the ring, I was delighted to see Sittisak land a sweeping kick directly on his opponents jaw. His opponent stood there for a second, stunned, and then shattered. His body crumpled and he fell flat on his back. The crowd was uproarious. Sittisak looked like a happy little boy. He did a somersault and then kicked his mouthpiece into the adoring crowd, all while his opponent shook and twitched on the canvas like he’d stuck his finger in a socket.
Sittisak and the crowd were in such great spirits that I started to wonder why people don’t fight more. If you think about it, it’s amazing how few fights there are in regular life. Eventually Sittisak’s opponent was helped to his feet, and the crowd politely clapped for him. Maybe that’s why there aren’t more fights in real life, I thought. Because in real life, no one claps for the loser. In reality, there isn’t a corner team there to sweep the loser away and return him to wherever he belongs. No, in reality the loser is not a pleasant sight. Not outside the confines of an arena, where fights aren’t for sport, the audience isn’t comprised of strangers, and the elbow blows probably sting a whole lot worse.