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  1. I've been following this study by Jiraporn Laothamatas for a few years now. The original study, about 4 years ago, seemed to have very few examined young Nak Muay (if I recall, maybe 20, working from my memory) so the results seemed inconclusive when compared to a control of over 200 non-Nak Muay, apparently adjusted for age and socio-economic class. Then from reading various new sources in 2014 she seemed to have more results, and updated her study (I believe with around 100 young Nak Muay). And now in May she seems to have presented a new paper, with over 300 young Nak Muay examined. So while I was predisposed to doubt the application of her original findings, she seems to be on very solid ground here. The problem that I have with the study at this point is that as I can't read the paper itself it's very hard to assess just what she's discovered. The only qualitative conclusions that I've seen drawn are related to IQ tests among the longest range sub-sample (fighting for 5 years). I've seen small excerpts which include brain scans which show neurological changes (including the increase spatio-temporal development), but it is difficult for a layman to judge just what risks are involved, at a qualitative level: ie, what is the Quality of Life (QoL) change reflected in young Nak Muay brain scans? I think this is an amazing ethical question because it pulls on so many threads of social judgement: how middle and upper class Thais view lower class Thais (Muay Thai is a sport of the lower classes largely), how westerners view Thais, ideals of childhood and development. As a westerner who has seen a lot of cultural good coming out of the very fabric of Muay Thai how does one weigh the development of children in the art vs the value of the art itself? There is no doubt in my mind that Muay Thai holds its very special place as the supreme combat art, a living martial art, because Muay Thai is fought at a young age, and has been for many decades if not centuries. It allows fighters a very early inoculation against the fear of contact, something that just cannot be mimiced. And it allows the sport itself (all the techniques, both in terms of pedagogy and of fighting) to develop in the real context of fights. The fact is: it is dangerous. And the Thais are the best in the world, raising a sport to the level of art - a living art - because they are exposed to danger early. If we took it in another direction, by analogy: If there was a (mythical) country which 200 years ago had the best sailors in the world, and the art of sailing was raised especially here because high-sea sailing began at a very young age, exposing young boys to many potential hardships, injuries and even deaths, the height of the art of sailing achieved in that country would be through the risk to children. Muay Thai reminds me of this. It has the best fighters in the world because and through this reason of risk. How does one balance the QOL of living within an art, a woven piece of your culture, with real, but unqualified diminishments? As a natural bias, I am suspect of much of the Western ideology of the Innocence of Children which has grown out of it's own unease with 19th century industrialization: The Victorian Cult of the Child. Which is not to say that motivations for the protection of children are wrong, but insofar as they come out of pictures of childhood like those of Victorian/Industrial motivations, they should at least be critiqued. There is something about how middle classes everywhere project concern for lower class children that gives me pause. The bottom line for me is ultimately found in meaningfulness. How meaningful is Muay Thai? Unlike just blanket poverty, or disease or lack of education (in the general sense) - all of which tend strongly towards meaninglessness, suffering without redemption, arts like the fighting art of Muay Thai feels meaningful. It's an achievement of a people, a culture, embodying high values, praiseworthy states of mind and body. And largely its an achievement by the less economically advantaged of that culture. It's pretty amazing. This isn't to say that there is nothing worth critiquing or plain worrying about when it comes to young Nak Muay. Surely there is. There no doubt are many situations of great risk and injustice within the ad hoc system of youth fighting as it exists today. There are nefarious, cruel realities within the sport at the local and wide-scale levels, but I resist the sense that just because there is risk, or even in this case documented damage, it is simply judged as "brutal" or "bad". I come from a place where I feel that the fighting arts are noble, and their nobility is born of their engagement and ultimate mastery of risk. I do wonder if Muay Thai for Thai children is getting younger (perhaps there is more organized or prevalent gambling opportunity now?). I have no evidence to support this other than it just a question being raised. I see fighters from the Golden Age say that they began fighting when they were 13 (Karuhat) or 11 (Sagat), but I've never heard of legends say that they began fighting at 8, which seems sometimes the case now. This could of course be a difference in description, when people mark the beginning of their fighting, or anecdotal difference. Only people who have lived through it could say. The problem with this issue I think is that most of those who oppose child fighting in Thailand seem to do so from a very powerful, and emotion place. So it is difficult to come to a point of agreement, or a direction forward. I will say this. The sort of motivated resistance to child fighting seems to resemble the long time resistance to females fighting. This is not to equate the two ethically, there are clearly important differences, but only to diagnosis some of the gut-level judgement that may be involved. I'm not a father of a child, and if I was I may be moved to think differently, but I've often thought that if I did have a kid having him/her be raised in a camp like Petchrungruang like I've seen a few western boys experience, seems like an amazing childhood to have, even if there be risks. Of course being able to pick and choose what camp, or which caretakers to watch over a boy (or girl) is not a luxury that many Thai parents have.
  2. Experts fear boxing children risk brain damage link:http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1014717/experts-fear-child-boxers-risk-brain-damage. Some real issues and concerns on this topic ,being a father and muay thai fan I struggle with what is right. thoughts?
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