One thing I’ve been neglecting to talk about so far are the various shows that we got to see all along our trip. The most popular being Muay Thai fights and Fire spinning.
Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand. Before I came on the trip I had trained in it for about a year, so naturally I was a huge fan. Muay Thai is a martial art similar to kickboxing with the major differences being the use of shins, elbows and knees in attacks. It was great to be able to see real Muay Thai fighters doing what they do best in their own country.
Before the fight there is a little ceremony in the ring called the Ram Muay ritual dance. The fighters perform dance like movements in rhythm to ringside music. This ritual dates back to ancient times and is used to show signs of respect and gratitude.
(Some people I speak to do not see the appeal in watching a martial arts match such as this. Often the wrong impression is taken that fighting is a barbaric macho display where one fighter simply wants to beat the others brains in. They see it as a pointless uncivilized waste of time. I think organized fighting matches such as this are amazing tests of skill, stamina and endurance. A well trained fighter goes through huge amounts of hardship through his training and proves what the human body is capable of achieving. It is an excellent display of the strength of the human spirit. Also the great respect fighters share for each other is often missed by outsiders. Muay Thai fighters even have an oath they undertake.
“I will ensure that I am clean, strong and behave with honesty and integrity.
I will not bully those weaker than myself.
I will undertake good deeds to the benefit of others and be loyal to the nation
I will avoid causing trouble of any kind.
We will be united and help one another whenever possible”
After many of the fights the fighters would shake hands or hug each other to show respect for each other and resolve any negativity.
The fighters were incredibly fast, and focused much heavier on using kicks that I had seen back home. The fights were always intense and action packed, and quite often there were a lot of serious blows dealt to each other. The strength of the shins the Thai fighters have is unbelievable. Kicks are blocked shin to shin and incredible speeds. Even back home when I wore shin guards during sparing this would often be quite painful. Throughout my time in Thailand I saw multiple knockouts and by far the best’s fights I’ve ever seen in any martial art.
The most popular shows around Thailand are the fire spinning shows. Incredibly talented Thai’s would bring out either a fire staff, or two fire chains, and put on incredibly intricate demonstrations.
At one time during the trip a fire spinner was doing a difficult move where he extended his arms and spun the fire in a small circle close to his chest. The fire was so close it actually caught his shirt on fire! The Thai guy noticed quickly and threw it off, but somehow managed to keep the show going without missing a beat!
The coolest thing we saw with a staff fire spinner was when they did something called a burn off. After dipping the staff in the fuel, if they don’t spin the excess fuel off before they light it they do it right after, and create huge balls of fire! You can really feel the heat from the crowd!
At one point, one fire spinner using the chains throw one chain about 10 meters into the air and caught it. That was really impressive but then he through it again, this time about 20 meters high and this time he caught it with his toe!!! Ya I have no idea… my mind was blown. :O
At the last bar in Railay we even got to see a snake show! Before the show this crazy looking guy brought out a friendly snake for us to pet, it was awesome, snakes feel wicked!
During the show the tamer would bring out different snakes from vipers to king cobras. The snakes would lash at him and try to bite him but he was very focused and always jumped out of the way inches before being bit. He would eventually maneuver so he could grab the snakes, and he even kissed some of them on the head! Once he managed to kiss the snake on the head he could push its head with his lips all the way to the ground without the snake attacking. The brought out an enormous king cobra at the end after a while they were going to put it back in its box, when the carpet folded up in a strange way and the cobra dodged to the side and got away from the guy. It started dashing straight at my friend Ryan (who was sitting only inches from the stage.) The snake lunged only about 2 feet from his face before the Thai guy jumped on it and got control again. Ryan was in shock!
Railay was a great place for some relaxed, awesome times. Next we headed for a short stay in Koh Lanta.