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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

The First Female Fight In Lumpinee Stadium Breaking the Prohibition

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[Update edit Nov 8: This fight to have been rescheduled for November 13 see source, it was at first set for November 6th. But with some disappointment, the card which previously held this fight to be a full 5 round fight, now is listed as a 3 round fight, which certainly alters some of the feeling of what I've written below. The fight will not be a traditional full rules 5 round Muay Thai fight.]

[Update edit: Nov 14: The full fight video is posted below. The 3 round fight was changed again back to a 5 round fight, but at least one of the fighters did not know it was 5 rounds until the end of the 3rd round.]

While some coverage of the Sanaejan vs Buakaw fight expressed the idea that it was the first time women had fought "at" Lumpinee stadium, it unfortunately due to COVID restrictions at the time did not occur "in" the stadium, and even more importantly IN the ring of Lumpinee. It was a significant step toward integration yet it occurred in a temporary studio ring in the parking structure next to Lumpinee Stadium, in keeping with Bangkok requirements that fights be unenclosed. What that fight represented as a first really was the fact that the Lumpinee name was attached to a promotion featuring female fighters. A huge first - though there have been unconfirmed claims of female fights at Lumpinee, I believe in an alternate ring in the late 60s - for women to be represented in this way. But, historically the more concrete and stigmatizing barrier to women fighting at Lumpinee stadium were beliefs that surrounded the blessing of the ring itself. Sylvie did a good piece on this prohibition here. The prohibition was not that women could not fight on Lumpinee owned land, or under the auspices of its promotion. It was that they could not physically enter...or even touch the Lumpinee Ring, for fear of pollution. (I suspect that the increased intensity of prohibition from entering the ring to even touching the ring may have been due to western tourists over the decades coming closer to the ring physically, though this is just a guess. In the video record you can see female gym owners in the Golden Age, perhaps in a break with decorum, come up to the Lumpinee apron and lean or pound on it, yelling at their fighters.) In any case, when female fighters actually ENTER the ring, this is the historic moment. This moment confronts the very well-defined and belief bound line that separated the genders. This fight, between Celest Hansen (AUS) vs Nongnook R. R. Gila Khorat (THAI), is the anticipation of that crossing. This will happen without audience present, with some COVID restrictions still in place. Things like fight promotions do change very quickly in Thailand, so hopefully this Nov 6 event happens as scheduled, but it does seem women actually fighting not only in the stadium, but IN the Lumpinee Ring is something that is about to occur.

I would be very curious as to how the issue of the blessing of the ring and the long-held beliefs that barred women have been adjusted to. Is the ring no longer blessed in the same way, with the same practices? Many blessed rings throughout Thailand allow women to enter their spaces, but Lumpinee may have undergone specific more orthodox rites. At the very least we are seeing a shift in beliefs and opportunities, and the way that gender itself is regarded in Thailand's Muay Thai fight culture.

Other articles written by Sylvie on women and Lumpinee:

Women in Lumpinee, Thai Female Fighters in the 1990s

or my earlier thoughts:

Can Bleed Like Man: Lumpinee, Muay Thai, Culture

Navigating Western Feminism, Traditional Thailand and Muay Thai

 

[Edit in a historical clarification: Nongtoom Kiatbusaba, The Beautiful Boxer, famously and historically was the first transgender fighter to fight at Lumpinee stadium in 1998, presenting as male, and Angie Petchrungruang in 2017 was the first, visibly presenting as female, transgender fighter at Lumpinee Stadium. Both were allowed to enter the Lumpinee ring because they were regarded as male by the establishment, under the system of beliefs that prohibited women. The Lumpinee fights of both women were steps to today's integration of cis women in the Lumpinee ring.]

 

If you want the latest in Muay Thai happenings sign up for our Muay Thai Bones Newsletter

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A few extra thoughts and context on this historic moment. Noteably, not only is there a female fight on this card, but also keeping with the modernizing, internationalizing brand of this promotion, so are 3 round fights, somewhat in echo of the Entertainment Muay Thai promotions in Thailand like Superchamp and Muay Hardcore, which have actually featured female fighters like Sawsing and Dangkongfah as headline stars. Which means that this 3 round, action-oriented promotional style is in some degree also entering the Lumpinee ring for the first time. The female fight will be 5 rounds, and one imagines it will be scored in a traditional way, as will the other 5 round fights on the card. The 3 round fights serve as something of a pre-lim. What makes this of interest is how this is a kind of mashup, or integration of trends that are facing Muay Thai, and that it is being done under the Lumpinee auspices, in the Lumpinee Ring. The GoSport promotion seems to have its eye on this more modernizing style, featuring young announcers that speak in Thai, English and Chinese (if I recall), and appears to have plans to stream fights through their website, perhaps with a much greater emphasis on eventual non-Thai physical attendance (part of the anti-gambling aims of Lumpinee). The movement towards opportunity for women in the Lumpinee ring cannot be completely separated out from these larger trends, as promotionally they seek to bring traditional 5 round fighting together with female fighting and 3 round fighting as well. There is no doubt that the Entertainment forms of Muay Thai, including those of ONE, MAXX and Channel 8, have inspired these changes, there is no telling how this might play out in terms of scoring, which is where traditional Muay Thai and Entertainment Muay Thai diverge.

Also worth noting, the "first fight at Lumpinee" honor was given to Sanaejan and Buakaw, two Thai female fighters. It was more than fitting that it was two Thai female fighters to hold this technical honor. In that fight as well a WBC World Title fight was put at stake. It seems that promotionally the relationship with the WBC has broken down, and the higher-profile "World Title" plans for female fights at Lumpinee may have been stalled, perhaps to be picked up by new agreements. Not that titles particularly matter, but in the Thai promotional world they are admitted signatures of history and importance, as New Lumpinee is working to position itself authentically, but also innovatively, in Thailand's present day landscape. The WBC had seemed to be running in parallel to Lumpinee developments, developing a researched and frequently updated international ranking system to support those coming title fights. This meant that organized weight classes and rankings would have been at play in deciding which women fought at Lumpinee, somewhat mirroring the tradition of male fighting in the stadium. Interestingly, this concrete 1st of two women fighting in the Lumpinee ring itself, will be accomplished between a westerner and a Thai female fighter.

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On 10/28/2021 at 8:19 AM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

964838092_MyPost(14).thumb.jpg.a9c643f4e12641f7dfd8ec8f84e9bf4c.jpg

[Update edit Nov 8: This fight to have been rescheduled for November 13 see source, it was at first set for November 6th. But with some disappointment, the card which previously held this fight to be a full 5 round fight, now is listed as a 3 round fight, which certainly alters some of the feeling of what I've written below. The fight will not be a traditional full rules 5 round Muay Thai fight.]

While some coverage of the Sanaejan vs Buakaw fight expressed the idea that it was the first time women had fought "at" Lumpinee stadium, it unfortunately due to COVID restrictions at the time did not occur "in" the stadium, and even more importantly IN the ring of Lumpinee. It was a significant step toward integration yet it occurred in a temporary studio ring in the parking structure next to Lumpinee Stadium, in keeping with Bangkok requirements that fights be unenclosed. What that fight represented as a first really was the fact that the Lumpinee name was attached to a promotion featuring female fighters. A huge first - though there have been unconfirmed claims of female fights at Lumpinee, I believe in an alternate ring in the late 60s - for women to be represented in this way. But, historically the more concrete and stigmatizing barrier to women fighting at Lumpinee stadium were beliefs that surrounded the blessing of the ring itself. Sylvie did a good piece on this prohibition here. The prohibition was not that women could not fight on Lumpinee owned land, or under the auspices of its promotion. It was that they could not physically enter...or even touch the Lumpinee Ring, for fear of pollution. (I suspect that the increased intensity of prohibition from entering the ring to even touching the ring may have been due to western tourists over the decades coming closer to the ring physically, though this is just a guess. In the video record you can see female gym owners in the Golden Age, perhaps in a break with decorum, come up to the Lumpinee apron and lean or pound on it, yelling at their fighters.) In any case, when female fighters actually ENTER the ring, this is the historic moment. This moment confronts the very well-defined and belief bound line that separated the genders. This fight, between Celest Hansen (AUS) vs Nongnook R. R. Gila Khorat (THAI), is the anticipation of that crossing. This will happen without audience present, with some COVID restrictions still in place. Things like fight promotions do change very quickly in Thailand, so hopefully this Nov 6 event happens as scheduled, but it does seem women actually fighting not only in the stadium, but IN the Lumpinee Ring is something that is about to occur.

I would be very curious as to how the issue of the blessing of the ring and the long-held beliefs that barred women have been adjusted to. Is the ring no longer blessed in the same way, with the same practices? Many blessed rings throughout Thailand allow women to enter their spaces, but Lumpinee may have undergone specific more orthodox rites. At the very least we are seeing a shift in beliefs and opportunities, and the way that gender itself is regarded in Thailand's Muay Thai fight culture.

Other articles written by Sylvie on women and Lumpinee:

Women in Lumpinee, Thai Female Fighters in the 1990s

or my earlier thoughts:

Can Bleed Like Man: Lumpinee, Muay Thai, Culture

Navigating Western Feminism, Traditional Thailand and Muay Thai

 

[Edit in a historical clarification: Nongtoom Kiatbusaba, The Beautiful Boxer, famously and historically was the first transgender fighter to fight at Lumpinee stadium in 1998, presenting as male, and Angie Petchrungruang in 2017 was the first, visibly presenting as female, transgender fighter at Lumpinee Stadium. Both were allowed to enter the Lumpinee ring because they were regarded as male by the establishment, under the system of beliefs that prohibited women. The Lumpinee fights of both women were steps to today's integration of cis women in the Lumpinee ring.]

 

If you want the latest in Muay Thai happenings sign up for our Muay Thai Bones Newsletter

Will Silvie have a chance to fight there? 

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This is Sylvie and my Muay Thai Bones podcast we recorded a few days before the historic event. We discuss in great detail all the circumstances we have led to the inclusion of women in this historic ring of Thailand:

 

One of the things we talk about in our podcast is that this fight was first scheduled as a 5 round fight, then with some disappointment changed to the 3 round fight. Amazingly, the Western fighter Celest did not even know until she came back to her corner after the 3rd round, thinking the fight was over, that it indeed once again it was changed back to a 5 round fight. Her Thai opponent also might not have known.

 

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