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Muay Thai is Not Growing in Popularity - Some Data


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There are some how look to Taekwondo's inclusion in the Olympics (for roughly 12 years as a demonstration sport, and then as a medal sport in 2000) as a model for the kind of leap Muay Thai might be able to make. And yes, Taekwondo has received plenty of criticism for how things unfolded. But, it's worth looking at how Muay Thai fairs against TKD in the world and in the US:

Taekwando-vs-Muay-Thai-2004-present-e151

 

Taekwando-vs-Muay-Thai-United-States-200

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  • 1 year later...

Four years go I started tracking this data which suggests that the popularity of Muay Thai is actually in decline, at least in the share it has in searches conducted on Google. If you browse through the thread above you'll see that the suggestive, but still inconclusive trend is pretty strong in almost all dimensions of search of the subject and its terms. Here's an update on the data now in 2019. Things still looking bleak. As I've argued, we on the Internet with huge passion for the sport don't feel this decline because we are surrounded by like-minded people, thanks to personal choice and algorithms that show us what we like. But, if we really care about the sport and the art, we need to soberly embrace these trends so that we can work realistically to change them.

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Above, as you can see the subject "Muay Thai" worldwide has declined, and has also declined in relation to BJJ. One could argue that the popularity of both sports has been parasitic to MMA and the UFC. Now BJJ has - at least along this vector - clearly passed Muay Thai as a parasitically boosted sport. Both are highly specialized. Both require an educated audience. Both have "home country" elite performer cultural roots.

Below, you can see that Muay Thai as a search term, in Thailand, in Thai language, has continued to decline. This means that worldwide trend issues of popularity cannot be counter-weighted by the health of the sport in the home country. Rather, its relative popularity is in decline both abroad and at home. Long term there are significant issues.

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I wonder what YouTube search trends would look like? I feel like it’s become it’s on search engine with my generation. Also   Maybe it’s just me but I don’t see the Olympics helping the popularity of the sport. I think we need to be on television 📺 n Europe in and America. I wanna see Muay Thai fights on basic cable, like I used to see re-runs of UFC fight night on spike tv. Somebody needs to invest some money in this, and unfortunately it’s probably not a good investment. 

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57 minutes ago, Alex said:

I wonder what YouTube search trends would look like? I feel like it’s become it’s on search engine with my generation. 

There is no way to see YouTube trends, that I know of, but YouTube is the 2nd largest Search Engine in the World.

58 minutes ago, Alex said:

Maybe it’s just me but I don’t see the Olympics helping the popularity of the sport. I think we need to be on television

What the Olympics will do is that it will fill classes with youth, around the world. And youth entry is a huge factor in the health and popularity of a sport. Whether this would translate into long term health is another question. Olympic entry was a huge stimulus to TKD for instance, but that growth also had some notorious deleterious effects as well.

1 hour ago, Alex said:

I wanna see Muay Thai fights on basic cable, like I used to see re-runs of UFC fight night on spike tv.

I believe there are regular Lumpinee fights coming to UFC Fight Pass. Jason Strout (of NYC) I heard is moving to Bangkok to do the commentary. That is pretty cool. It would be nice to have just regular ol' nothing special stadium fighting moving through the media pipeline.

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On 5/19/2019 at 7:00 PM, Alex said:

I wonder what YouTube search trends would look like? I feel like it’s become it’s on search engine with my generation.

Wow, so I just gave it go and did a little query; I was very (!) surprised that it looks like Google updated their trends function, and they DO show YouTube search data (Google owns YouTube). The results, not good, at least in the Worldwide scope. Here is 5 years of YouTube search data for the term "Muay Thai"

326523921_YouTubesearchMuayThai.thumb.PNG.24587ac93d48021fe8263a1722a1a1b9.PNG

 

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More YouTube data, the last 5 years

Looks like worldwide Muay Thai is holding it's own against BJJ as a search subject on YouTube, in all the charts I've run over the last 4 years this is literally the only positive chart I've seen for Muay Thai (if I can remember them all). But still, Muay Thai is downward trending, the same trend I'm seeing everywhere.

Muay Thai vs BJJ Worldwide 5 years (below)

445261324_MuayThaivsBJJYoutubeworldwide.thumb.PNG.fa3fc12be3278bed9877906b6eca0849.PNG

 

On the other hand, in a place like the United States it's completely reversed. BJJ crushes Muay Thai as a YouTube search subject:

390328936_MuayThaivsBJJintheUnitedStates.thumb.PNG.327be10040f2e20eb500c1fa5f0ca3cf.PNG

 

Muay Thai (blue) vs BJJ (red) USA 5 years (above)

 

There is probably a caveat here, in that people on YouTube likely search for Muay Thai fights, and they very likely don't search for BJJ matches much. So a worldwide edge in search subject worldwide is probably already pretty skewed (making the reverse in the USA even more dramatic) just by subject matter. Google web searches include so many other interest factors such as looking up champions, looking for a local gym, etc. Also note as mentioned, the USA Muay Thai trend is the same trend seen elsewhere, downward sloped. This downward slope is important because we see it everywhere.

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Would like to see how this compares to other sports. Are humans becoming less interested in sports in general? Are we instead playing video games and competing in flying drones? How are the trends for boxing, baseball, football, gaming, etc.? 

The internet has allowed us so many options for new and different past times, perhaps just like you see tv shows gaining popularity on a variety of formats where 20-30 years ago your options were much, much more limited. 

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On 5/19/2019 at 10:31 PM, Puny said:

Would like to see how this compares to other sports. Are humans becoming less interested in sports in general? Are we instead playing video games and competing in flying drones? How are the trends for boxing, baseball, football, gaming, etc.? 

This is a very good point. Sports is definitely fighting for eyeball and joystick space. That's why I think comparison with similarly placed sports is important to do. The best comparison is probably with BJJ, because Muay Thai and BJJ were probably bouyed by the same UFC/MMA wave. In charts above I show that BJJ is trending up, and has passed Muay Thai, which instead is trending down. There are other interesting comparisons, for instance with TKD and Kickboxing. Here is a 2 year trend line for all 4 sports:

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BJJ, on the rise.  You can see how far TKD has fallen in this 15 year timeline of the same, catapulted to very high numbers I believe through Olympic inclusion:

1408372345_4sportcomparison15years.thumb.PNG.6ef32b7928f8f5d151815ce93ae0b9a9.PNG

 

 

Of course if you put Muay Thai on the trend line with Football (soccer) you wouldn't even be able to see it. The important thing for those looking to grow the sport and art of Muay Thai is that if Muay Thai finds itself in a relatively small niche of diminishing attention spans, a stressed environment, that fact that it has been trending downward in that environment for many, many years, and is being surpassed by BJJ which is rising, makes its future questionable.

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5 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

More YouTube data, the last 5 years

Looks like worldwide Muay Thai is holding it's own against BJJ as a search subject on YouTube, in all the charts I've run over the last 4 years this is literally the only positive chart I've seen for Muay Thai (if I can remember them all). But still, Muay Thai is downward trending, the same trend I'm seeing everywhere.

Muay Thai vs BJJ Worldwide 5 years (below)

Muay Thai vs BJJ Youtube world wide.PNG

On the other hand, in a place like the United States it's completely reversed. BJJ crushes Muay Thai as a YouTube search subject:

Muay Thai vs BJJ in the United States.PNG

Muay Thai (blue) vs BJJ (red) USA 5 years (above)

 

There is probably a caveat here, in that people on YouTube likely search for Muay Thai fights, and they very likely don't search for BJJ matches much. So a worldwide edge in search subject worldwide is probably already pretty skewed (making the reverse in the USA even more dramatic) just by subject matter. Google web searches include so many other interest factors such as looking up champions, looking for a local gym, etc. Also note as mentioned, the USA Muay Thai trend is the same trend seen elsewhere, downward sloped. This downward slope is important because we see it everywhere.

Not surprised if mt takes a back seat to bjj in popularity anywhere. Id be curious to see what a comparison chart looks like for number of schools in the US. Also, Id like to see how many have both, especially those that started as one or another then later combined. I know a lot of schools that have both but started as either a pure bjj or pure muay Thai school. I also wonder if theres a way to use the youtube info to our advantage. 

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6 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

 

What the Olympics will do is that it will fill classes with youth, around the world. And youth entry is a huge factor in the health and popularity of a sport. Whether this would translate into long term health is another question. Olympic entry was a huge stimulus to TKD for instance, but that growth also had some notorious deleterious effects as well.

 

And this is bigger than people realise. Many gyms, schools have been kept afloat because of kids classes. No joke. Add in things like the ydl (youth development league) and olympics and you could have a new surge of popularity with these kids coming of age in muay Thai. Already, Ive seen a huge surge in a friend's two gym locations in Hawai'i in his kids classes. Hes grown so much using the ydl as a platform, he had to add more class times and hire more instructors. The last video he posted, a couple days ago, had something like 40 kids all in the gym completely filling the space. Basically these kids are influencers for the future of the sport. Get the kids into aspects of it whether its competition, aspects of training, whatever and watch their love of it grow to encompass all aspects. For me, its the clinch that became a big hit for my kids. I expected other aspects to be more popular, but they werent. In fact bag work and even interpersonal strike drilling were boring after a certain amount of time, but I can let them have a full hour of clinch and theyd be happy. So I use the clinch to grow the other aspects and watch their love of everything grow as well.  

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I'm never sure how to view this. I see the statistical decline; I'm experiencing the decline in interest here in Thailand, but I'm also in a bubble where I see more women coming here to train, more promotions showing up abroad, more kids, more more. I certainly don't want an artificial swell like Mall Karate in the US and it just dikutes and disappears. But with genuine interest waning IN THAILAND and promotions changing things up so much, I don't know how to read this.

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On 5/19/2019 at 4:31 PM, Sylvie_vonD said:

I'm never sure how to view this. I see the statistical decline; I'm experiencing the decline in interest here in Thailand, but I'm also in a bubble where I see more women coming here to train, more promotions showing up abroad, more kids, more more. I certainly don't want an artificial swell like Mall Karate in the US and it just dikutes and disappears. But with genuine interest waning IN THAILAND and promotions changing things up so much, I don't know how to read this.

I have the same issue. I see what I believe to be heavy interest but its got to be my bubble. Because I have a lot of connections in the mma and bjj world though, I definitely see the difference in interest. Whats crazy to me is how a video I shared on ig of Sage getting crushed by Cosmo ends up being the highest viewed post Ive ever had. Its a reposted video too, so the viewership on that video worldwide has to be bigger than any bjj video ever posted. Theres some sort of disconnect we are missing between people liking seeing striking (and muay Thai in general) and the decline in interest (in training in it?). 

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18 hours ago, Coach James Poidog said:

I have the same issue. I see what I believe to be heavy interest but its got to be my bubble. Because I have a lot of connections in the mma and bjj world though, I definitely see the difference in interest. Whats crazy to me is how a video I shared on ig of Sage getting crushed by Cosmo ends up being the highest viewed post Ive ever had. Its a reposted video too, so the viewership on that video worldwide has to be bigger than any bjj video ever posted. Theres some sort of disconnect we are missing between people liking seeing striking (and muay Thai in general) and the decline in interest (in training in it?). 

I think it may be as simple as they don't want to be punched in the face. People may also be under the false impression, if they train at a fight gym, they in turn must fight. The idea of sparring also scares a lot of people as they don't really understand what sparing is about. The general public may view bjj as a safer pastime.

I teach 4 classes a week.  2 at my local gym and 2 in my shed. I get on really well with most people at my gym and heaps of people want to try muay thai, however they don't make the leap. I have been asked whether or not I teach mma, which I don't.  All of the people seem content to stay with their 10am boxercise class.

I have even made it clear, that I am not a fight gym and above all I just want people to come and enjoy the classes, raise your heart rate a bit ,learn a devastingly beautiful martial art with skills that are way more beneficial to them than boxercise. My classes are also aimed at people 45 and over, so they don't feel inadequate amongst the younger set. I could blab on ad infinitum, but my only guess as to why people don't train, is fear of the unknown.

Edited by Jeremy Stewart
Left out a word
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5 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

I think it may be as simple as they don't want to be punched in the face. People may also be under the false impression, if they train at a fight gym, they in turn must fight. The idea of sparring also scares a lot of people as they don't really understand what sparing is about. The general public may view bjj as a safer pastime.

I teach 4 classes a week.  2 at my local gym and 2 in my shed. I get on really well with most people at my gym and heaps of people want to try muay thai, however they don't make the leap. I have been asked whether or not I teach mma, which I don't.  All of the people seem content to stay with their 10am boxercise class.

I have even made it clear, that I am not a fight gym and above all I just want people to come and enjoy the classes, raise your heart rate a bit ,learn a devastingly beautiful martial art with skills that are way more beneficial to them than boxercise. My classes are also aimed at people 45 and over, so they don't feel inadequate amongst the younger set. I could blab on ad infinitum, but my only guess as to why people don't train, is fear of the unknown.

I think thats a dead on assessment. I think thats exactly it. It looks good to view, maybe even from a morbid fascination, but to be on the recieving end is just a no. I think this is why its so important to market to hobbyists and make them really understand the safety. In my time around mma and bjj (over ten years) Ive seen way more serious injuries there than in muay Thai. Sure bumps and bruises, but not the limb and finger injury frequency from bjj/mma. Educating potentially interested but cautious hobbyists has to be a priority I think. 

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Sorry for the late post!

I want to answer by voice recording as I have a whole lot to say about this topic!!! I know I can't, so I'll do my best to type it out here.

Very interesting data that Kevin has provided for sure.  it's something I've suspected for a long time but this confirms it.  I've been saying this to many for years now.  It was quite obvious over the years of the decline of the sport in Thailand, superficially it appears that it is growing worldwide but like Kevin stated above--it's probably that was because we associate ourselves with the same like minds.

Since I can remember, promoters in the U.S. of local, regional shows as well as national tournaments have all fought each other to get fighters on their cards or in their tourneys.  The  problem, of course, is that there is a very finite amount of fighters to participate in the number of shows that are available.  One promoter will host a show 1-3 weeks away from another and tournament soften are scheduled close to each other. This creates an issue as the fighters can then choose which promotion they want to fight and often times pull out last minute---thereby creating financial losses for promoters.  Lots of people argue that the sport isn't growing due to the lack of shows.  My argument is that there is a lack of athlete participation!

Even looking at one of the biggest Muaythai tournaments now in the world: The TBA World Expo.  Even though this year they will have a record number of participants --probably 900 or so-- (with the help of adding the YDL--more on that later) it still has only grown incrementally in recent years.  Yes, the inaugural tournament had 100 competitors --so that is an 800 % growth rate in 12 years!  Seems very impressive indeed!  However, I would like to see what the last 5 years numbers were to get a better understanding of the growth.  My belief is that  it is only growing by maybe several dozens of new entrants per year.

Also, I think everyone is super hyped about Muaythai possibly becoming a full medaled sport in the Olympics and there are some that think that there will suddenly be a flood of new Muaythai students rushing to fill their local Muaythai gyms with the thought of possibly becoming an Olympic Athlete.   That cannot be furthest from the truth!   As Kevin has showed, TKD is on a decline despite being an Olympic sport.  Judo certainly hasn't grown and Karate is included in the 2024 Olympics--Karate Dojos all over the world aren't seeing massive enrollments either!

The absolute KEYS to growing the sport are several initiatives that the USMF-United States Muaythai Federation under my direction have implemented and we are already seeing TREMENDOUS results!  The YOUTH is where the future of the sport lays!!!  To me, NOTHING will grow the sport faster than the following.

1)  USA Muaythai Youth Development League (YDL):  A "Little League" of Muaythai, if you will.  Allows the Youth to have a competitive outlet but with a clear ascension model that is safe and developmental with direct feedback to grow and improve.

2) Muaythai Youth Academy (MYA):  A program that teaches teachers how to teach and work with kids so that they love learning and building confidence through the martial arts.  

3) Muaythai Business Academy (MBA):  Fact--Muaythai is a sport.  Fact: Muaythai is a Martial Art.                                        Fact: Muaythai is a BUSINESS!   This program helps educate gym owners and potential gym owners on how to run a successful business so that can possibly devote themselves full time to teaching and giving their students and athletes 100% of their time and energy.

I just got home from a YDL in Hawaii yesterday.  East Coast last week for the Delaware YDL.  Dallas the Previous weekend. Denver before that.  Phoenix the weekend before and Dallas again before Phoenix!  Living for London and Paris on Friday (not Muaythai related lol).    I'll try to elaborate more later but I need to get some rest for now!   

 

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10 hours ago, Patrick VALOR said:

The absolute KEYS to growing the sport are several initiatives that the USMF-United States Muaythai Federation under my direction have implemented and we are already seeing TREMENDOUS results!  The YOUTH is where the future of the sport lays!!!  To me, NOTHING will grow the sport faster than the following.

1)  USA Muaythai Youth Development League (YDL):  A "Little League" of Muaythai, if you will.  Allows the Youth to have a competitive outlet but with a clear ascension model that is safe and developmental with direct feedback to grow and improve.

2) Muaythai Youth Academy (MYA):  A program that teaches teachers how to teach and work with kids so that they love learning and building confidence through the martial arts.  

3) Muaythai Business Academy (MBA):  Fact--Muaythai is a sport.  Fact: Muaythai is a Martial Art.                                        Fact: Muaythai is a BUSINESS!   This program helps educate gym owners and potential gym owners on how to run a successful business so that can possibly devote themselves full time to teaching and giving their students and athletes 100% of their time and energy.

I just got home from a YDL in Hawaii yesterday.  East Coast last week for the Delaware YDL.  Dallas the Previous weekend. Denver before that.  Phoenix the weekend before and Dallas again before Phoenix!  

 

This I absolutely believe to be true. Just watching the growth here has been shocking. For those of you who dont know, this man has almost single handedly brought youth muay Thai in the the US back (check him out online, fb/ig and his page usamuaythai_ydl on instagram.). Yes there were classes before but now theres a level of structure based on specific competition. I dont have any competitors...yet. The important word is yet. They get taught with the idea of ydl competition in mind (whether the goal is to compete or not) and eventually a few will fit and want to compete. Either way its win win.  

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On 5/28/2019 at 1:04 PM, Patrick VALOR said:

I think everyone is super hyped about Muaythai possibly becoming a full medaled sport in the Olympics and there are some that think that there will suddenly be a flood of new Muaythai students rushing to fill their local Muaythai gyms with the thought of possibly becoming an Olympic Athlete.   That cannot be furthest from the truth!   As Kevin has showed, TKD is on a decline despite being an Olympic sport.  

There is so much good in your comment Patrick, but this really stands out as worthy of discussion. There is a strong sense - from afar - that the USMF and related activities have been inspired by the path that TKD has taken to become a world wide sport. Some of this may have simply been that some passionate about Muay Thai are passionate because of their experiences with TKD in America as a youth. I believe I've read some talk about this connection explicitly. There seems to be the hope to create something like what happened with TKD, but without all the huge organizational and political problems. Basically: Let's do what TKD did, without fucking up so royally. And that includes Olympic inclusion. But you are right, Olympic inclusion does not automatically create robust growth, at least along the lines of the data I'm looking at. Here is TKD since 2004, World Wide search data, compared to Muay Thai:

1570646872_TKDMTworldwide.thumb.PNG.1a1981f9fc2827ac6c05e10a6a472c27.PNG

 

You can see the huge spikes during the Olympics (blue), but that the decrease is basically not interrupted. Now, the big question is: What is this decline and what impact did the Olympics have on it? Has corruption and inefficiency at the organizational level just lacked any way of building off the wave of interest during those Olympic peaks? And, what didn't help was that the 2008 Beijing Olympics were marred by the accusation of TKD match fixing, adding to the already problematic image of TKD as "not real fighting". I personally suspect that this "not real fighting" brand is perhaps the largest factor in TKD decline, because combat sports the world over have grown pretty much with branding in the opposite direction. TKD has a limited brand reach that goes against existing trends, it's going to experience value loss. Olympic inclusion kind of complicates that picture, promoting it but also confirming a difficulty.

In the US it's a slightly different picture than the one above:

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Same Olympic bumps, but I don't know if it is concidental, but in 2004 and 2008 Muay Thai seemed to get a bump during Olympics as well, suggesting a possible wave to tap into. I think it would be crazy to think that Olympic inclusion would not create a surge in class sign-ups in Muay Thai. There would be. The huge question would be whether there is enough infrastructure in place to absorb it, and be fueled by that surge. That is what the (perhaps) deeper value of what you are doing, it's putting in place the structures and relationships that they could absorb the influxes that will happen with Olympic inclusion.

There is of course another component of Olympic inclusion, which must be thought about under TKD, which is that Olympic inclusion provides a tremendous influx of money into the sport. The stories of corruption at the organizational level are well publicized. You don't get sweeping corruption charges without sweeping money. What it seems is that the influx of attention and money into the sport simply was not transferred to broad scale growth in terms of world attention. But kids all over the United States, for instance, found themselves in TKD classes. All that energy was absorbed, but not translated into productivity. These are the things that concern me when thinking about the TKD model.

The truth is that I don't know enough about the Taekwando development history. It feels like a really important thing to understand. Because I care about Muay Thai I think this is something I'll be starting to read up on, I've already got a book downloaded on Kindle!

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  • 8 months later...

Popping in to update some of the data, as I've been following this for 5 years now.

BJJ vs Muay Thai World Wide, holding steady since BJJ surpassed Muay Thai in the Winter of 2018

1858925442_BJJovertakesMuayThai.thumb.PNG.cc777e4efdc3a8021e804f6fa074d0c3.PNG

 

In the United States, the separation is holding

669186724_BJJvsMuayThaiintheUSA.thumb.PNG.1ed690de40f02cc26c27bdbefaf1b6b9.PNG

 

The argument goes that BJJ is a pretty interesting sport comparison as both it and Muay Thai are niche fighting disciplines parasitic on the UFC and MMA in general, which both require specialized knowledge with some sense of cultural celebration of origin.

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Oiii. This really hit me hard, as an American. In terms of digital search footprint in the United States Muay Thai is essentially Krav Maga, which is really incredible...and disappointing.

802466124_KravMagavsMuayThai.thumb.PNG.09af76a4ff4abb7babe28e52757f0500.PNG

In the last 3 years Krav Maga has slipping in popularity, but in terms of overall level of popularity, surprisingly, not that much difference.

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I love Muay Thai and i would love it if that became worldwide known sport, but at the same time i think if it would be known more rules would change 100%. Scoring would prob become same as in Kickboxing, balance wouldn't matter that much and i think overall Muay Thai would change...i mean even when you watch max muay thai, It's Muay Thai,  but it's not the same . I wouldn't like Muay Thai to change even more and it def would , but i wouldn't want Muay Thai  to disapear either... Plenty of things to think about to be honest. 😕

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3 hours ago, RB Coop said:

Plenty of things to think about to be honest.

This is one of the dilemmas of what we are thinking about. Muay Thai is actually dying off, in a way, in Thailand. It no longer is the case where we can just insulate, and not worry about whatever versions of Muay Thai are out there in the world because Muay Thai is safe and sound in Thailand, thriving. Like you say, MAX, Superchamp, or whatever other hybrid show in the country are powerfully undermining and in fact erasing much of what Muay Thai is, in Thailand. There seems to be some sense in which non-Thais might play an important role in actually preserve Muay Thai, as passionately interesting outsiders...simply because they care about Muay Thai, in a historical sense, while the Thai marketplace really doesn't. It's westerners who attend these large Muay Boran, or Nai Khanomtom Day respect events (whatever we make of them), not Thais. The question is: What role do westerners, or just non-Thais, have in preserving Muay Thai...and are their modes of popularity that could work towards its care.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Can't think of a perfect analogy world sport that's the other way around, where its decline in the west could be saved by an uptake in the East. Skateboarding might be the closest to mind, over 50% of the market from the US and an originally a US thing. But the stable participation rates and rises now are in Asia, and possible growth areas look like Japan.

Where would skating rate on your graph relative to the Krav Maga and Thai for popularity? Like the UFC boom that carried Thai up in its tide along with BJJ and stuff, skaters had Tony Hawk video games in... damn...late 90s? Early 2000s or something? Caused a spike in popularity, first major events, TV, and inspired tonnes of kids to take it up. Even funnier, it might be the only sports video game in history to actually get young people *off* a couch. But like your Thai popularity, it flattened off over time - heard some say that the key demographic of 9-18 year olds is down to half of what it was 15 years ago.

But it will never really die. The fact that stuff like jazz music, stamp collecting, theology etc..  even still exist should convince us that pretty much anything should survive with effort. Even though skating is down, they're making it to the Olympics for the first time now. 

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6 hours ago, Oliver said:

Can't think of a perfect analogy world sport that's the other way around, where its decline in the west could be saved by an uptake in the East. Skateboarding might be the closest to mind, over 50% of the market from the US and an originally a US thing. But the stable participation rates and rises now are in Asia, and possible growth areas look like Japan.

Where would skating rate on your graph relative to the Krav Maga and Thai for popularity? Like the UFC boom that carried Thai up in its tide along with BJJ and stuff, skaters had Tony Hawk video games in... damn...late 90s? Early 2000s or something? Caused a spike in popularity, first major events, TV, and inspired tonnes of kids to take it up. Even funnier, it might be the only sports video game in history to actually get young people *off* a couch. But like your Thai popularity, it flattened off over time - heard some say that the key demographic of 9-18 year olds is down to half of what it was 15 years ago.

But it will never really die. The fact that stuff like jazz music, stamp collecting, theology etc..  even still exist should convince us that pretty much anything should survive with effort. Even though skating is down, they're making it to the Olympics for the first time now. 

Skateboarding (blue) vs Muay Thai (red) 5 years worldwide

1031640483_skateboardingvsMTpopularity.thumb.jpg.b39bd1fca6cdd1f7a6b9827c9be4dfc2.jpg

 

As to something like Muay Thai dying, because so much of at least Thailand's Muay Thai is dependent on an entire ecosystem of fighting culture and tens of thousands of fights a year, it may not "die", but it may either become indistinguishable from something it is not, like Kickboxing, or worse, could one day become something preserved in kata-like captures, quite divorced from real fights.

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    • Just very briefly I want to take up one of the most interesting aspects of the fighting art of Thailand's traditional Muay Thai, an aspect that really cues for me how I watch fights and weigh the skills of fighters. Managing distance. Many people watch "strikes" and look for "points", but there is an under-fabric to strikes, a kind of landscape of them, no less than how a topography will influence how a battle is fought between armies. Even the most practiced strikes rise and fall to opportunity, and in Muay Thai a significant determination of opportunity is distance. Above is a quick edit of Sylvie's last fight up in Buriram, bringing out all the significant moments of engagement, telling the story in about a minute. (The full fight should be up in a few weeks with Sylvie's commentary, as usual.) I'm going to start with Entertainment Muay Thai as presenting an negative can often be the best way to bring out a positive. Entertainment Muay Thai (and there are many versions of it, so we have to be very broad here), is largely principled by eliminating the importance of distance. What is sought, again being very broad, is a more or less continuous trading in the pocket. The quest is for an easy to follow, by the casual eye, "action". Everything is about the distance of the pocket. Setting up outside of the pocket can be regarded as anti-action (so, if you do, you should regularly charge into the pocket...and trade). And fighting through the pocket, to clinch range, is also devalued by very quick clinch breaks, scoring biases (changing traditional aesthetics). Clinch, which historically is featured in some of the most technical fighting of the sport, in Entertainment Muay Thai is more and more understood as a stall of the main goal. Pocket trading. Much of the art of Muay Thai is actually organized around all those distances that border "the pocket", controlling distance through length, or through grappling. In this fight Sylvie is giving up between 8-10 kgs (perhaps more than 20% of her body weight). Now, imagine it being fought under Entertainment aesthetics. What would it be if she just stood in the pocket, bit down, and just traded over and over with Phetnamwan? Would there be any point of such a fight? Yet, as the Golden Age legend Hippy Singmanee once said when criticizing hyper-aggressive, pocket-trading Entertainment Muay Thai, "Muay Thai is the art where small can beat big." Hippy was one of the most renown undersized fighters of the Golden Era. He knows of what he speaks. This fight, in the broad brush, illustrates some of that. More and more we've come to realize that as traditional Muay Thai evaporates slowly from the urban stadia, the only traditional Muay Thai still being regularly fought is in the provinces of the country. It is there that fights are scored in keeping with the art, and fighters retain the all around, multi-distance skills that make that art happen. Clinch is allowed to unfold. Narrative fight arcs are told as principle to scoring. Ryan, a knowledgeable commenter on Twitter and a very good writer on the sport, right away noticed how the ref let clinch flow. You can see some of our discussion there. I recall a conversation I overheard when attending the funeral of the legend Namkabuan in Nongki. It was the passing of one of the greatest who ever fought. During the day-before cremation a casual conversation arose between other legends of the sport, and very experienced news reporters, people who had been a part of it for decades. One of them insisted, Muay Thai no longer existed in Thailand. Others knowingly nodded their heads. But a Muay Siam reporter objected. "No...it still lives in the provinces." And the others agreed. It still was there. We in the English speaking world tend to think the substance of something is what has been presented to us. The Muay Thai of Bangkok is the real Muay Thai of Thailand because that is what we see...and, historically, many decades ago, it did represent the highest skills of the country. But what largely remains unseen is that more and more of the sport is being designed for our eyes. It is less and less for Thais, and more and more for "us", so we can become quite disconnected from what is real and authentic in a cultural, and even efficacy sense. There rhythms and values of provincial Muay Thai, as it is fought, coached and reffed, are part of the rich authenticity of the sport which falls into the shadows when we just look at what is being shown to "us". This fight, how it is fought, shows "the art of where small can beat big", and it shows why. It's through the control of distance. If you are small you just cannot stand at range. You either have to explore the bubble outside of the pocket, too far, or at its edges, and fight your way in to score...or, you collapse the pocket, smother the strikes, and possess the skill to control a much larger bodied opponent. Clinch, historically, is kryptonite to the striker. Muay Maat vs Muay Khao battles are legendary in the sport.  Classic. Who is going to impose the distance which is best for them? It's a battle of distances. And, for this reason, Muay Maat fighters of the past were not experts in trading in the pocket. They were experts in managing clinch fighters, or even high level clinch fighters themselves...and they were experts at hunting down evasive femeu counterfighters as well. Muay Maat fighters were strong. They had to have so many tools in their tool box. In versions of the sport where both fighters are forced to "stand and bang" repeatedly, we have been taken quite far from the glories of Thailand's Muay Thai fighters, and that is because Muay Thai is an art of distance control. This goes to a deeper point about the sport. It isn't really a "sport" in the International, rationalist idea of a sport. Muay Thai is culture. It is Thai culture. Thousands and thousands of fights occur on temple grounds, far from Western eyes. It has grown up within the culture, but also expressive of that culture. And it is a culture unto itself. The more we try to extract from this rich fabric some kind of abstract "rule set" and "collection of techniques" that can be used in other cultures, expressing their values, favoring their fighters, the more we lose the complex art of what Muay Thai is...and in the bigger sense move away from the value it has to the entire world. It's value is that it has a very highly developed perspective on distance management and on aggression. It has lessons upon lessons to teach in techniques of control and fight winning, woven into the DNA of its traditional aesthetics. And these techniques embody the values of the culture. It's all of one cloth. Sylvie has chosen the path less traveled. She's fought like no other Westerner in history (a record 271 times as a pro), and she has devoted herself to the lessor style, the art of Muay Khao and clinch fighting. There are very, very few women, even Thai women, who have seriously developed this branch of the art in the way that she has. And she's done it as a 100 lb fighter, taking on great size disparities as she fights. Because Muay Thai is "the art where small can beat big" there is a long tradition of great, dominant fighters fighting top fighters well above their weight, and developing their in style the capacity to beat them. Fighting up is Muay Thai. Sylvie's entire quest has been to value what may not even be commercially valued at this time, the aspects of the art which point to its greater meaning & capacity. The narrative of scoring, the control of distance, the management of striking through clinch, in the heritage of what it has been. I'm not saying that this is the only way to fight, or that Entertainment Muay Thai has no value for the art and sport. It's not, and it does. But, we should also be mindful of the completeness and complexity of Muay Thai, and the ways that those qualities can be put at risk, as the desire to internationalize it and foreign values become more and more part of its purpose. If we love what we discover when we come to Thailand, we should fight to preserve and embrace the roots of Muay Thai, and the honored aspects of the culture/s which produced it. photos: Khaendong, Buriram, Thailand (temple grounds)    
    • Hi, this might be out of the normal topic, but I thought you all might be interested in a book-- Children of the Neon Bamboo-- that has a really cool Martial Arts instructor character who set up an early Muy Thai gym south of Miami in the 1980s. He's a really cool character who drives the plot, and there historically accurate allusions to 1980s martial arts culture. However, the main thrust is more about nostalgia and friendships.    Can we do links? Childrenoftheneonbamboo.com Children of the Neon Bamboo: B. Glynn Kimmey: 9798988054115: Amazon.com: Movies & TV      
    • I really appreciate your wave patterns analogy; it applies to a lot of interactions. 
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    • Hi, this might be out of the normal topic, but I thought you all might be interested in a book-- Children of the Neon Bamboo-- that has a really cool Martial Arts instructor character who set up an early Muy Thai gym south of Miami in the 1980s. He's a really cool character who drives the plot, and there historically accurate allusions to 1980s martial arts culture. However, the main thrust is more about nostalgia and friendships.    Can we do links? Childrenoftheneonbamboo.com Children of the Neon Bamboo: B. Glynn Kimmey: 9798988054115: Amazon.com: Movies & TV      
    • Davince Resolve is a great place to start. 
    • I see that this thread is from three years ago, and I hope your journey with Muay Thai and mental health has evolved positively during this time. It's fascinating to revisit these discussions and reflect on how our understanding of such topics can grow. The connection between training and mental health is intricate, as you've pointed out. Finding the right balance between pushing yourself and self-care is a continuous learning process. If you've been exploring various avenues for managing mood-related issues over these years, you might want to revisit the topic of mental health resources. One such resource is The UK Medical Cannabis Card, which can provide insights into alternative treatments.
    • Phetjeeja fought Anissa Meksen for a ONE FC interim atomweight kickboxing title 12/22/2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu92S6-V5y0&ab_channel=ONEChampionship Fight starts at 45:08 Phetjeeja won on points. Not being able to clinch really handicapped her. I was afraid the ref was going to start deducting points for clinch fouls.   
    • Earlier this year I wrote a couple of sociology essays that dealt directly with Muay Thai, drawing on Sylvie's journalism and discussions on the podcast to do so. I thought I'd put them up here in case they were of any interest, rather than locking them away with the intention to perfectly rewrite them 'some day'. There's not really many novel insights of my own, rather it's more just pulling together existing literature with some of the von Duuglus-Ittu's work, which I think is criminally underutilised in academic discussions of MT. The first, 'Some meanings of muay' was written for an ideology/sosciology of knowledge paper, and is an overly long, somewhat grindy attempt to give a combined historical, institutional, and situated study of major cultural meanings of Muay Thai as a form of strength. The second paper, 'the fighter's heart' was written for a qualitative analysis course, and makes extensive use of interviews and podcast discussions to talk about some ways in which the gendered/sexed body is described/deployed within Muay Thai. There's plenty of issues with both, and they're not what I'd write today, and I'm learning to realise that's fine! some meanings of muay.docx The fighter's heart.docx
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