Jump to content

Gambling, Scoring and Refereeing in Thailand - Ongoing News on the Shape of Muay Thai


Recommended Posts

There has been repeated criticism, for years really, about the outcome of fights in the main stadia of Bangkok: Lumpinee, Rajadamnern, Omoi, and Channel 7. Everything is usually brought into shorthand as being sullied by "gambling" and those betting on fights having too much influence over the wins and losses. Sometimes it is pretty blatant; sometimes I don't see why there's an argument, other than maybe from people who lost money themselves. 

That argument isn't particularly interesting in that it will always be present, always has been present, and isn't particularly fixable. What is interesting is that there are a few strings that attach to this criticism that make it "modern" rather than just the same old squeak on the same old wheel. Firstly, gambling is under serious attack ever since the first wave of Covid in March of last year. You can hear me and Kevin discuss this a bit in our newest Muay Thai Bones episode, but the first big "cluster" of Covid in Thailand stemmed from an event at Lumpinee and was blamed on gamblers. As a result, as Thailand has employed shutdowns and soft re-openings to deal with the pandemic, Muay Thai has been hard-hit by the restrictions and the start-and-stop approach to promotions has made promoters very sensitive, very eager to obey rules and regulations, and Lumpinee's head "Big Dang," has gone hard after the aim of eliminating gambling from Muay Thai shows at all. More established promotions like Petchyindee, Giatpetch, Chefboontham, Omnoi and Channel 7 have not aligned their voices to this aim of eliminating gambling, but they have enforced rules at their promotions (most of which are taking place outside of Bangkok, whereas normally they all would be within Bangkok) which limit the number of audience members permitted to attend the live shows. This is meant to be a measure to reduce public contact, but it's also painted as a means to control gambling as well. (The audience is mainly comprised of gamblers, anywhere.)

This is a piece of news in the form of an announcement from Sia Boat, the head of Petchyindee Academy and co-head of the Petchyindee promotions (his father made the name as one of the major promoters in the Golden Age and is probably the biggest promotion now, alongside Giatpetch, who also goes back to the Golden Age but at Channel 7, not Lumpinee and Rajadamnern). Sia Boat basically took the helm when Covid locked down Muay Thai last year. He is very famous, his family is very wealthy, and as legacy promoters he has a lot of authority beyond his age (early 30s). He acts as an ambassador between the "Muay Thai community," which is gyms, fighters, promoters... everyone who makes Muay Thai actually happen... and the Sport Authority of Thailand, which is government power making decisions but not necessarily making any of the wheels actually turn. Sia Boat proposed that a way to solve the criticisms of corruption in Muay Thai is to codify and make uniform scoring and refereeing across all stadia. This is something that Muay Thai fans outside of Thailand may not be aware of, that there are codified rules - like no plowing, what's a foul, the rule that a referee who suspects a fight is being thrown can stop a fight on those grounds and send both fighters out of the ring, etc. A recent discussion is about referees stopping a fight if the fighters are not engaging enough in rounds 1-4, for example, which has recently gone into effect. But the scoring between stadia is recognized and known among Thai fighters, gyms, trainers, cornermen, etc. And it's been this way for a long time. It's not written out, it's just tendencies because referees and judges don't tend to cross between the main venues, just like fighters didn't cross between promoters in the Golden Age, or very much now. 

Arjan Surat once explained to me and Kevin that Rajadamnern favored fighters who demonstrate technique, whereas Lumpinee favors fighters who "dern" or are more forward in their fights. So, a fighter like Silapathai would do great at Rajadamnern and maybe struggle a bit in Lumpinee, against the same opponent and fighting the exact same way, simply due to how those judges and referees look at a fight. In this recent rule change about fighters being warned and then thrown out of the ring if they don't engage, the venue most affected by this standardization of governing fights mostly affects Channel 7. There were meetings held about whether they need to fire all their officials, referees and judges in order to elimitate corrupt players, but ultimately this "engagement" rule has thrown that possibility into the future. Sia Boat's proposal to the Sport Authority of Thailand has been accepted by the head of that committee, although what it will entail remains to be announced and or seen.

Personally, I think it's a dubious card on the table. If they make their standards in line with the Muay Thai that's fun to watch, in line with traditional practices and scoring, maintaining "Thai" Muay Thai, it's great. If they standardize it more toward the "international" and "entertainment" models, it's terrible.

1575470512_announcement1.PNG.348612da4ab8bc0b8832af6f54d9494b.PNG

 

If you want the latest in Muay Thai happenings and things to inspire: sign up for our Muay Thai Bones Newsletter

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu changed the title to Gambling, Scoring and Refereeing in Thailand - Ongoing News on the Shape of Muay Thai

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Most Recent Topics

  • Latest Comments

    • 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. 
  • The Latest From Open Topics Forum

    • 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
  • Forum Statistics

    • Total Topics
      1.3k
    • Total Posts
      10.9k
×
×
  • Create New...