Muay Thai Fight Nights… Is there any better entertainment possible for an evening?? While I’ve seen fight nights in Sangkhlaburi over the New Year, it wasn’t until I started training in Muay Thai Kickboxing that I really started to not only appreciate, but also notice so many more details of the action.
On the lovely island of Koh Tao, fight nights take place every 10 days at the Island Muay Thai training gym. And every 10 days I would stay up past my normal bed time of 10pm (hey, I was trying to stay healthy and get in shape so early to bed and early to rise was my schedule then! That was until Anna arrived… but that’s another post!) and join in the fun of the fights.
Being a solo traveler does have its perks, as does training at the same facility where the fight nights are hosted, but in truth if the owner and trainers of Island Muay Thai weren’t as nice of souls as they are, I would never have had as much of a great time as I did in each of the 7 or so fight nights I’d been to since being on the island. Why do you ask?
Ring side seating!! Sitting beside the owner (Patone) in his elevated judges chair literally right smack on the edge of the ring. The scent of deep heat oil was thick and awakened the senses, you could feel the sweat from the bodies fling your way as a punch or kick hit and ice was potentially flung your way during the round breaks as the assistants iced down the fighters. There were even a few times where the fighters pinned each other against the ring and were pressing so hard against it that it seemed they may fall into my lap if the ropes didn’t hold! All the action could clearly be seen and it just added another level of thrill to the sport!
Of course I never expected to be able to sit ring side. But when I showed up for the first fight night and picked a spot in the top row of the bleachers sitting on my own I think the owner felt bad for me and invited me to sit with him, even offering to buy me a beer. And again though I figured it would only ever be a one-time thing, after about 3 times it seemed to just be the way it would be. It was a generous gesture and one I won’t soon forget for sure! I also wasn’t alone in being ring side as others were also invited for the up-close fun, but I was just tickled to have been one of them 🙂 Though admittedly I do wish sometimes I would forget watching the fighters spit and (sadly) shed blood over the ring surface knowing that the next day I would be sprawled on the very surface doing my cooldown stretches or sit-ups, lol!!
Speaking of blood… Yes, Muay Thai is obviously a contact sport and there is always the chance for skin to be split apart and blood spilled. I’ve never seen fights in Bangkok, but I’ve heard that aside from featuring (no doubt)the best fighters and having to pay a pretty penny to see a show, that the fights are quite brutal in that blood is often shed due to them being “glove-off” fights and the fights aren’t near as often broken up by the ref. Here the fighters wear gloves and the ref often intervenes if it looks like an unfair hit (striking someone when they are on the floor) or stand-off (the fighters are locked into a hold where neither can really make a move) and skin breaking injuries only occur if an elbow has made contact. Surprisingly most of the fighters don’t even wear mouth guards! And while most fights I’ve seen result in the usual bruises, one fight night in particular resulted in a cracked tooth, 2 split shins, and 2 split skulls!! Ok, obviously the skulls weren’t cracked (I hope!) but at least the skin on their skulls were.
Each fight night featured 7 fights in total, each going a max of 5 rounds or 3 rounds if women were fighting. Winners were chosen within the first 5 rounds if they knocked their opponent out (or did enough damage that the opponent tapped out) and if the fighters made it all 5 rounds then the winner was chosen by the judge based on points they’d earned from each kick, punch, elbow, etc. I still haven’t a clue how the point system works really (i.e. how much a kick or punch is worth in points) but perhaps one day I’ll get into that nitty-gritty:)
Pictures as you can tell are quite a bit hard to take in great focus… Of course that depends on the camera AND the user… But honestly while many more could have been taken, I found that my focus was diverted from the fight while snapping away because I kept trying to get that “perfect shot” and I didn’t want to miss a potentially great knock-out!
Sometimes the final fight would feature a falang (foreigner, i.e. non-Thai) fighter who had come to the island just to visit or continue training and they would be asked to fight in the upcoming event. Those fights honestly were not my favorite to watch because they seemed quite poorly matched. It always seemed the falangs were either really tall and ripped or just muscled to the hilt and they were up against a Thai fighter who looked at least 50 pounds (whether in weight or muscle) lighter and a foot shorter.
Probably my favorite of the fights was one that was cleverly fought. It was against two Thai fighters and while one was getting in lots of punches and kicks, the other would either endure the hit or miss it by avoidance. Into the third round it looked like the one fighter was going to eventually get pummeled over but he kept avoiding hits just enough to stay active and in a single split second when the intimidating fighter let his guard down, the other fighter let out a swing kick right to his head and knocked him out. Ding, ding game over!! It took several minutes to wake up the knocked out fighter too! Overall, if ever in Koh Tao and looking for a fun night out, I highly recommend going to the Muay Thai fight night!!