Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Uncovering the secrets of Muay Thai

Above is the first part of the video series of Human Weapon aired on History Channel. In this videos s Jason Chambers a Mixed Martial Artist (MMA) and a professional Fighter, and Bill Duff a pro football player and a wrestler are a part on a mission, to explore the technique and history of different lethal Martial Arts. In these videos the mission is exploring the secrets of Lethal Martial Arts Muay Thai in Bangkok and Thailand. Apart from the what the city of Thailand is famous for the Buddhist Temples and the sex trades, the city has tens and thousands of fighters trained in the lethal art of Muay Thai, known as the science of eight limbs.

Muay Thai was practiced by the Thai soldiers against the traditional wars with Burmese. Thai soldiers had a upper hand in close combat without the weapons because of their training in this lethal martial arts training in Muay Thai. This martial arts also became the sport of the country and until 1930s the competitors fought with bare knuckle or with the hemp rope tied on their fist and hand, making the hand a lethal weapon. A martial art sport called Dembe in Nigeria still has the fighters with a hemp rope tied on one hand, dipped in sand. A post on this lethal sport called Dembe will be coming shortly with pictures on this blog.

It is not true that the Thai fighters dipped their hand wrapped in hemp rope in the glass powder, the video clip says. There are more than 65,000 fighters training in Muay Thai, under proper instructors and masters. This shows the amount of competition and the skills required by the fighters to reach the top.

After 1930s the government changed the rules to some extent and introduced the gloves and ring, as the ratio of serious injuries and the death were much higher. Even after the change in rules the sport remains a high risk sport and the injuries and death in the ring are still the part of the sport. Most of the fight ends in a knockout. Broken jaws and cracked ribs are common injuries in the ring. Punches, elbow strikes, knee strikes, pulling the opponents while striking, speed, accuracy are the trade marks of this sport.

Kyusityodtong a legendary master of Muay Thai and a owner of training camp is shown in the video. He has personally trained many fighters and champions. He invites Jason Chamber and Bill Duff to his training camp, and also ask them to survive one of his champions. Interesting to see this when these two guys are pitted against a human fighting machine, highly trained to bring the damage to their opponents.

this next video takes us to a gym in Bangkok which has produced about 30 champions. The low kick technique which is used as a powerful weapon against the opponents thighs is demonstrated and taught in this video. Also the defensive use of kick to push the opponent away or stop him from coming in is shown and taught. A sort of video tutorial for powerful and fast kiks of Muay Thai. While these guys are training for the low roundhouse kick, a very important tip is herd from the trainer, which even I repeat many a times while training the students in Taekwondo kicks, "when you are attacking, you don't forget your defense." Unlike the Karate, Taekwondo or other martial arts, Muay Thai fighters develop the shin bones and use them as striking weapon when striking with the low roundhouse kicks. The aim of the kick 'damage to the opponent.'

On their next stop they train with the Thai Soldiers, where a selected group of soldiers are taught an improvised version of Muay Thai, that focus one powerful accurate moves, accurate powerful moves that can take out opponent in a single deadly move. The master says, 'the point is three things 1. Fast 2. Powerful and 3. Accurate. He gives a demonstration from his soldiers to show it. The soldiers breaking heaps of bricks and concrete slabs with their bare hand strikes.

Then comes a tutorial on elbow strike in Muay Thai, you use that when the opponent is closer the trainer says. The elbow strike is demonstrated and taught using computer animation graphics and also on the punching bag and against a training partner.

Next they travel from modern capital Bangkok to ancient capital Ayutthaya by the river route. Here they meet a Muay Thai historian and a student, who takes them to a Buddhist temple, which is also served as training place for military personnels, prince and kings for hundreds of years.

The above clip starts with the mention that the Muay Thai was practiced in this Buddhist temple. That time it was not a sport but was a training center for the select warriors and the princes and kings. The training used to be with various weapons. Sometimes the weapons would drop while in fight, that time the warriors had to fight with bare hands. Training for this was called Muay Thai. Next is the demonstration and tutorial of Knee kick or knee attack in Muay Thai, with a training partner and also with animated computer graphics. Pull your opponent down as you drive up the knee, which increases a lot of power and damage to the attack.

Next they travel to Lop Buri, to learn the technique of unique punch. They visit a temple there where they find lots of monkeys. On asking about the monkeys present there they are encountered by a question, 'Do you know Hanuman?' by the local guide. Hanuman is the Hindu God, a greatest of warriors an possessing many powers. Lord Hanuman is better known for His devotion along with the warrior powers he had. On asking does the monkeys had some relevance with the fighters of Lop Buri? Yes comes the reply, he says, "It means, Lop Buri fighters can fight as fast as monkdeys, there movements are very dangerous the same as Hanuman.

Both them asks them if they can learn a technique as a fight with professional Thai Champion is coming up. They are shown the technique uf upper cut with both the fists that they called Hanman style. To execute this move the fighter moves inside or the opponent with both his fists placed under the opponent's chin and explode with the upper strike with both the fist under his opponents chin, a soft vulnerable area. Again a short video tutorial with animation is show for the double fist upper cut.

Next they travel to Sara Buri, famous for producing good Thai fighters. Where they are suppose to train under a repute and distinguished Muay Thai trainer. They are given a room to stay where they find that the sleeping bed was not a bed, but a mat, a part of training.

In the ring they demonstrate the Hanuman technique they learned from Lop Buri and asked the trainer if they could use that technique in the ring. "No", comes the answer, they are shown a counter move the flying knee, which looks more like a Hanuman Move than the double fist uppercuts they where shown. As Lord Hanuman had the power to fly and a flying knee attack would look more like a Hanuman move to someone like me who has studied much about Lord Hanuman. In fact the flying knee attack can be used as a follow up with a double elbow push, a very effective and devastating technique indeed. A video tutorial with computerized animation graphics is given again for the flying knee attack. Jason Chamber and Bill Duff exchange few sparring rounds with the fighters of the training camp.

Next Jason Chamber and Bill Duff travel to the dangerous jungles on the Burmese jungles. They fell like they are into a Ninja camp when they reach there. The master there Kru Preang is asked whether the Muay Thai techniques taught in the jungle military camps and the techniques which we see when two Muay Tahi fighters use in the rings. Kru Prang replies, "The Tahi boxing now a days that you see in the ring sport, they only took a little part of us. It's washed out to almost nothing, nowadays. Most of our technique, you know is used to harm a person, to take them down so fast. That's a battlefield fighting. The first thing they learned here was, 'A good defense makes a great offense.' The master further in the video after a demonstration of defense and offense states, 'In the ring sport, when the person punch and you try to move back, and you try to return a punch, it's to late." The master is obviously not with the Muhammad Ali movements, straight away get in, not to back off and hit. The Muay Thai fighters demonstrate few techniques and they look very fast in their techniques.

A small part of Thai history is narrated to them at the night camp fire.

I will tel you about small part of Thai History. Two Hundred or some more years ago. A farmer from Sing Buri gets captured by the Burmese. They took him to Burma and made a slave out of him. History say he perform ancient Thai Boxing and can knock off ten Burmese boxers in front of Burmese King. He used his Mae Mai Muay Thai to knock them off. And he can knock each Burmese boxer with a single strike. They called him Nai Khanom Tom, the Thai fighter. After winning his fights Nai Khanom was release by the Burmese king. He returned and spent his life teaching the art of Muay Thai. He became known as 'Father of Muay Thai' and really Muay Thai is the most famous sport of Thailand today.

Next day the master is seen Tai Chi style practice on the rock and Jason Chamber and Bill Duff joins him.

The fifth and the last part. Jason and Bill are taught the Thai Boxing in traditional methods. Kicking the banana trees trunk with the shin to toughen the shin. Hanging lemons to improve the accuracy. chop the waters in the river, and practice meditation to clear their minds.

Jason the MMA fighter relates his experience of the tour so far. He says that he feels like a piece of meat, getting beaten by everyone, getting use to the environment and the fighting techniques they use. Running uphill in the forests, he says training is not fun here. Both seems to get and learn a lot from this trip.

After the tough and productive training in the jungle, it's now time for one of these to put against the test and risk of fighting a real fight with a Muay Thai champion. They travel to Pattaya.

Jason is chosen to take on the challenge, far from home and fighting in a new environment and new fighting style make him a little nervous even though he has been part of professional fighting. An ambulance awaits if any of the fighter gets seriously injured.

Time for the real bout of Jason with the Muay Thai champ. The bout starts with traditional ritual. The movements represents the fighter honoring his camp of training. The fighters also bow to the four corners of the ring to honor the four noble truths of Buddha.

The fight starts and the strategy of Jason was to get closer to the fast opponent so that his fast kicks could be avoided and knee or elbow attacks could be delivered. Jason finds that getting closer to a fast fighter is easier said than done. His opponent was too fast, every time Jason tried to get close he was pushed away with a low push kick. The out last for three rounds, the Thai fighter did not meant business as it was not an official fight. The journey ends with much learning.

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