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With IFMA Worlds just a few months away, I've been thinking about the growth and proliferation of muay thai in America.  It seems that for some time now, American muay thai has been perceived as behind the rest of the world.  Even when compared to our neighbor to the north, Canada, I was always informed that we were just a step behind.  However, it seems that the efforts of the USMF have really been proactively pushing for recognition by the USOC as well as creating more awareness, unification, and opportunity at the regional, state, national and international levels.  

Considering that the roundtable has a lot of international members, I'm curious what YOUR national muay thai scene is like.  How popular is muay thai in your country among the general public?  Is there a lot of government support and subsidy for travel and training for international tournaments like IFMA?  Are there significant efforts on youth development?  Is muay thai a potential profession in your country, or is it more of a passionate pursuit?   Is there a large media presence with fights on television?  How "Thai" is your country's muay thai (technique, scoring, philosophical approach)?    

Feel free to go beyond the questions, or add your own.  I just listed those as a starting point.  

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I'm in Britain, and we're pretty good at it. Not as good as France, but one of the best outside of Thailand.

The biggest domestic fight in Britain for Muay Thai was Liam Harrison vs Charlie Peters.



It was popular, but not outside the hardcore fight fans, there wasn't anyone really talking about it in the local bars. Liam Harrison is the biggest name for muay thai here and he spends a large amount of his time coaching, it's not really viable to make a living solely off of fighting in the UK.

In terms of how 'Thai' the approach is, it looks more like Muay Thai than US-Muay Thai does. A lot of teeps and off balancing. Fights are scored the same way that boxing or MMA would be, in that the fighter who looks like they're landing more will win. 

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I don't know anything about IFMA or any of the other organizations actually. I'd be interested in learning more though. How many organizations are there in the US? Are some of them considered more "legitimate" than others? It just seems like there are a ton of small organizations these days and anyone can start one to try to prop up their gym or lend credibility to themselves as a coach. That might be a necessity though due to state laws/regulations making it difficult to have one governing body for the sport as a whole. I'm not sure about other states, but Washington state has some really weird regulations for both Muay Thai/Kickboxing and MMA.

Is anyone going to IFMA Worlds? It would be cool to try and meet up if any of you are in BKK.

 

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7 hours ago, AndyMaBobs said:

I'm in Britain, and we're pretty good at it. Not as good as France, but one of the best outside of Thailand.

The biggest domestic fight in Britain for Muay Thai was Liam Harrison vs Charlie Peters.



It was popular, but not outside the hardcore fight fans, there wasn't anyone really talking about it in the local bars. Liam Harrison is the biggest name for muay thai here and he spends a large amount of his time coaching, it's not really viable to make a living solely off of fighting in the UK.

In terms of how 'Thai' the approach is, it looks more like Muay Thai than US-Muay Thai does. A lot of teeps and off balancing. Fights are scored the same way that boxing or MMA would be, in that the fighter who looks like they're landing more will win. 

Big fan of Liam Harrison.  Also really like watching Jonathan Haggerty fight.  I think he's the Brit young gun that I've been keeping tabs on.  

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1 hour ago, Tyler Byers said:

I don't know anything about IFMA or any of the other organizations actually. I'd be interested in learning more though. How many organizations are there in the US? Are some of them considered more "legitimate" than others? It just seems like there are a ton of small organizations these days and anyone can start one to try to prop up their gym or lend credibility to themselves as a coach. That might be a necessity though due to state laws/regulations making it difficult to have one governing body for the sport as a whole. I'm not sure about other states, but Washington state has some really weird regulations for both Muay Thai/Kickboxing and MMA.

Is anyone going to IFMA Worlds? It would be cool to try and meet up if any of you are in BKK.

 

I'm not sure I understand what you specifically mean by "organizations" but as far as promotions go, Lion Fight is probably the most recognizable one because they are on television nationally.  Regionally, both coasts have solid promotions with Friday Night Fights and Warrior's Cup on the East and WCK, Triumphant, and Defiant being most prevalent in California as of late (to my knowledge, these are all pro-am mixed shows).  I'm sure there are a bunch of other shows that I'm not aware of, but on the whole I'm told there aren't enough fights to keep everyone active enough to be as experienced as other countries.  

As far as amateur organizations are concerned, the big tournaments are run by TBA (Thai Boxing Association), USMTO (United States Muay Thai Organization), and IKF (International Kickboxing Federation;  but the IKF has all kinds of different rule sets--including something called "point muay thai" which is apparently light contact with DQs for too much power on strikes).  

But, within the past few years, the USMF has been pushing to get some unity among the different orgs by trying to standardize the rule sets (IFMA style) and the reffing/judging.  They are also the driving force behind youth development and making the push for the US Olympic Committee to include muay thai as an official olympic sport (fingers crossed for Los Angeles 2028).  

 

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30 minutes ago, OldBones said:

Big fan of Liam Harrison.  Also really like watching Jonathan Haggerty fight.  I think he's the Brit young gun that I've been keeping tabs on.  

Absolutely, Haggery has been looking really good. 

Generally the best fighters are being put out by Keddles Gym, Double K and Bad Company Gym. There have been good fighters to come out of other gyms of course but those are the gyms that have beaten top Thai fighters at the top of their game without spending months to years training in Thailand to do it, that's the quality of the coaching in those gyms themselves.

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Hahaha I may not know what I mean by "organizations" either 🤣 I think I have seen random stuff/facebook posts by IFMA, USMTO, IKF, WMC, USMF, etc. So many acronyms, its hard to keep everything straight. Are these mostly regional or do they all have real representation across the US? Do they only work with specific promotions, or do they all just compete wherever they can? 

I'm really hoping they will include Muay Thai as an official Olympic sport, but I'm also terrified they are going to dumb it down and basically make it unrecognizable. 

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2 minutes ago, AndyMaBobs said:

Absolutely, Haggery has been looking really good. 

Generally the best fighters are being put out by Keddles Gym, Double K and Bad Company Gym. There have been good fighters to come out of other gyms of course but those are the gyms that have beaten top Thai fighters at the top of their game without spending months to years training in Thailand to do it, that's the quality of the coaching in those gyms themselves.

When my boys are a little older, I definitely want to do a European gym crawl.  Starting in the UK, then over to France and ending in Holland.  

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35 minutes ago, OldBones said:

Also really like watching Jonathan Haggerty fight.

I just started watching him recently on the ONE shows. Seems to have some really good fight IQ. How about Damien Trainor? Is he fairly well known throughout the UK? I love his fight with Tawachai Budsadee.

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2 minutes ago, Tyler Byers said:

Hahaha I may not know what I mean by "organizations" either 🤣 I think I have seen random stuff/facebook posts by IFMA, USMTO, IKF, WMC, USMF, etc. So many acronyms, its hard to keep everything straight. Are these mostly regional or do they all have real representation across the US? Do they only work with specific promotions, or do they all just compete wherever they can? 

I'm really hoping they will include Muay Thai as an official Olympic sport, but I'm also terrified they are going to dumb it down and basically make it unrecognizable. 

As far as I know, IKF and WMC are international (WMC is based out of Koh Samui if I remember correctly--funny story I almost got matched with a fighter training there who turned out to be some Ukrainian killer amateur champ... long story short, after I changed my huggies, I made a hard pass on that one).  

IFMA is world wide and is essentially the de facto muay thai olympics  What's scary is pros like Superbon fight in their A-class and dude is knocking guys out left and right with gear on.

USMTO is mostly known for their two large tourneys (one in New York and another in Arizona I believe).  Promotions work more with state athletic commissions.  And I know, it IS confusing.  

As far as olympic inclusion, I think everyone is afraid that it'll be watered down.  But, a lot of people believe that IFMA scoring is as close to stadium scoring minus the gambling influence.  I can't speak on that with any real knowledge.  But one can only hope for the best. 

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Cool, thanks for all the info! I'll definitely try and make it out to the IFMA tournament and check things out if I have time. It looks like they have a live stream to so maybe I can watch online if I can't actually make it down there. 

I'm surprised that there seems to be quite a lot of fighters from Arizona. Its a bit of a chicken or the egg kind of question, but I wonder if it is more popular because of the USMTO tournament, or if the tournament is popular because they have a good amount of competitive fighters. 

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2 hours ago, OldBones said:

When my boys are a little older, I definitely want to do a European gym crawl.  Starting in the UK, then over to France and ending in Holland.  


If you want to go to Holland I'd definitely recommend Lucien Carbin, who's an acquaintance of mine! I've been meaning to go to his gym to train with him but I've been lazy! Mousid Gym is another great place to be! Just be aware that sparring in Holland is VERY hard. The British spar quite hard too but they're more likely to go at your pace - the Dutch smash really hard to the body and legs at all times. 

It'd be a great escapade though, you'll have a blast! If you ever get to do it I'd love to see you blog it!

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I'm from Germany and while I'm not knowledgeable enough in the topic to give you the run down of organizations here my impression is that we are one or even a few steps more behind than you guys in the US.

The name "Muay Thai" or "Thai Boxing" is used by some but quite often what is trained there is more kickboxing (light contact, K1, ...) than actual Muay Thai.

We have a few notable fighters on the international level like Pascal Schroth or Enriko Kehl, both of which I think have trained outside of Germany quite a bit (Schroth actually lives in Thailand).
Personally I guess I'm kind of lucky to be in a gym run by people who have at least fought and trained actual Muay Thai in addition to other forms of kickboxing and actually DO teach elbows, clinch, etc BUT even there the focus is more on K1-style Kickboxing as that is what has a much bigger scene here. In Kickboxing you can actually find fights here while this (from what I've seen so far) seems much more difficult in Muay Thai.

As an example: My gym recently organized a "Fight Night" including a 4man tournament and about as many other fights. It was all Kickboxing (from kids with shinpads and headgear to adults with just 10oz gloves) and one boxing fight, no Muay Thai. This seems to be the common sight when it comes to those small shows.

As far as I'm aware there is only one big kickboxing show on German TV and that is run by a promotion that seems to be largely regarded a corrupt joke by kickboxing fans outside of it. I think they even have "Thai Boxing" rules but as far as I heard even those are different from actual Muay Thai.

Actually I watched it for the first time last weekend. Only saw 1 fight and was amazed that I, being a beginner who only has been into this kind of stuff for like 2 years or so, had a better grasp on the rules than the TV commentator who couldn't figure out why on of the fighters got "another warning, for what ever" when she actually got demoted a point for repeatedly catching her opponents leg which the ref had warned her about several times before.

Needless to say... I was kind of unimpressed

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5 hours ago, OldBones said:

But, a lot of people believe that IFMA scoring is as close to stadium scoring minus the gambling influence.

I don't want to rain on any parades, but this is profoundly not the case. I know the IFMA groups do push this messaging, but no, no and nope - huge differences like how aggression is scored, backward fighting and narrative vs non-narrative (10 point must) put them in different universes. I think it's important to not blur these major differences, it's not necessary to the promotion of IFMA/Olympic Muaythai to claim it is like stadium scoring, though this is often stated.

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Very tough to talk about without people getting pissed off.

Like....OK, let's do this another way. Ya know how disgusting coffee usually tastes outside Europe, especially outside Italy? Every single tiny shithole cafe on a back alley corner in Italy does gorgeous, smooth tasting espresso with a beautiful crema for 1 euro or something. Like pretty much everywhere. There are other European countries that do it to a similarly high level as there is such a thing as European coffee culture.

But Britain and the US.... 80% of the time (and that's being generous) you're given burned, overpriced, liquid dog shit in a paper cup. A lot of people are even delusional enough to think they know and appreciate what good coffee is, because they're ordering from a menu of 200 flavoured options with 5 different sizes written in 3 different languages.

Or some will say stuff like, "yeah but yeah but yeah but.....umm....  there's like this cafe in this town in X country that actually does it amazing and imports their coffee beans from Italy and the owner actually learned his roasting technique in Naples etc, so there..." - OK that's all fine and good...but.... as soon as people start saying that kind of shit to defend their country's coffee they lose all perspective and don't realise they're talking about the exception. 

 

 

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^^^ Lol I'm not sure why, but this whole post cracked me up Oliver. Honestly I'm not entirely sure I even understood your point, but the whole thing was very entertaining to me. I think I understand what you were saying though and I like all the coffee references!

1 hour ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

narrative vs non-narrative (10 point must) put them in different universes

This is such a massive difference that so many from the West can't seem to wrap their heads around. I actually wish more fights in all combat sports were judged using narrative or complete fight scoring. 10 point must totally changes how fighters approach things and it allows people to "steal" rounds. 

 

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2 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I don't want to rain on any parades, but this is profoundly not the case. I know the IFMA groups do push this messaging, but no, no and nope - huge differences like how aggression is scored, backward fighting and narrative vs non-narrative (10 point must) put them in different universes. I think it's important to not blur these major differences, it's not necessary to the promotion of IFMA/Olympic Muaythai to claim it is like stadium scoring, though this is often stated.

Definitely appreciate the contrasting viewpoint.  And I'd venture to say that I side more with your perspective as my fear of IFMA/Olympic muay thai becoming something completely different altogether.  All said, the prospect of muay thai inclusion into the Olympics is still an exciting proposition.  The question is, at what cost?

But, looking at things a layer deeper, WHY do you think IFMA scoring has taken the approach it has as opposed to just educating and spreading current (or even closer to Golden Age--fighting hard from 1st round to 5th round) scoring practices?  Is there an element of giving non-Thais a "level" playing field?  Or is it akin to what you and Sylvie have discussed with the changes you see with Maxx Muay Thai and other promotions like it?  

Lastly, do you feel that IFMA scoring is still better or "more Thai" than what we already see in the US and/or the West in general?  

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46 minutes ago, OldBones said:

But, looking at things a layer deeper, WHY do you think IFMA scoring has taken the approach it has as opposed to just educating and spreading current (or even closer to Golden Age--fighting hard from 1st round to 5th round) scoring practices?

Really looking forward to Kevin's answer on this as I know his will be much more thought out and accurate than mine. Imo though, the 10 point must system is just easier to score and gives fans a clear cut/easier way to look at things. Even guys/gals who have fought out here for long periods of time don't understand the scoring because narrative is subjective when one fighter doesn't completely dominate the other. I suspect this is why Thais bet in between rounds and sometimes change the fighter they bet on as they fight progresses. 

Edited by Tyler Byers
My brain is stupid and apparently very tired.
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12 hours ago, OldBones said:

WHY do you think IFMA scoring has taken the approach it has as opposed to just educating and spreading current (or even closer to Golden Age--fighting hard from 1st round to 5th round) scoring practices?

IFMA had to translate Muay Thai to the rest of the world. It's a very difficult mission, having the graft it onto basically kickboxing. I think they did an excellent job.

12 hours ago, OldBones said:

Is there an element of giving non-Thais a "level" playing field?

Definitely the case. A major reason for this is that Muay Thai cannot be a definitively "Thai" sport and be accepted into the Olympics. Notice, they changed the name of the sport from "Muay Thai" to "Muaythai" de-emphasizing the Thai definition. It has to be a world sport. The rule sets are likely in part designed to create a kind of equity of wins. If the Thais were wiping out the rest of the world it would be very hard to win inclusion. I think this is a fair assessment. It has to be a world sport. The world has to understand what is going on when they watch the fights, and world participants have to win a fair share. 

12 hours ago, OldBones said:

Lastly, do you feel that IFMA scoring is still better or "more Thai" than what we already see in the US and/or the West in general?  

I'm not super familiar with what goes on in the US, other than I've heard complaints about it being kind of brawly, and that the scoring criteria is very inconsistent. The USMF under the general direction of IFMA has probably made huge strides in both of these areas. It's not stadium style scoring at all, but stadium style scoring is very difficult to export because of its narrative structure. I think its been very good for everyone, speaking only from afar. 

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  • 2 years later...

For 3 years I'm living and training out of Finland already and have been really surprised to see them finish in the overall medal-table of IFMA WC as 6th (behind THA, RUS, UKR, TUR, AUS) - pretty good for such small country.

We have a bunch of Thais running gyms all over the country and as well people who stick to real Muay Thai seriously. That's why I think, compared to Germany f.e., the quality of the training over all is really high!

For me it was definitely helpful and positive to have a Thai-gym close to where I was living and working. 

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