Why Muay Thai is Only in Thailand – Huge Elbow Round 50+ Elbows Thrown

Above is the entire fight video ดูคลิปมวยไทย 7 สี ย้อนหลัง วันที่ 23 สิงหาคม 2558 มวยไทย 7 สี อาทิตย์นี้ คู่ พิชิตศึก ศิษย์นายภัฏ vs ดาร์กี้ ลูกมะขามหวาน Pichitseuk Sit Naipat (red) vs...

Above is the entire fight video ดูคลิปมวยไทย 7 สี ย้อนหลัง วันที่ 23 สิงหาคม 2558 มวยไทย 7 สี อาทิตย์นี้ คู่ พิชิตศึก ศิษย์นายภัฏ vs ดาร์กี้ ลูกมะขามหวาน Pichitseuk Sit Naipat (red) vs Dahkee Lukmakawan (blue).  Or you can watch the whole fight here.  Click the photo below to see the elbow round I’m writing about here.

click to watch the 50+ Elbow Round

click to watch just round three on my Facebook page, the Elbow Round

Why Muay Thai is Only in Thailand

I remember when I first started watching actual Thai fights in Thailand in 2010. I thought I’d seen Muay Thai – of course I had, I watched Buakaw on Youtube and I loved Tony Jaa… these are Muay Thai. Yes; and no. Buakaw fought K-1, which isn’t full Muay Thai rules and Tony Jaa is a Boran-infused, choreographed action star. Muay Thai, yes, but not ring Muay.  It’s like thinking I’ve seen boxing when I watch Rocky and then seeing Sugar Ray Robinson and thinking, “holy fuck, this is boxing.” I had been to a fight card, and a tournament in America as well. What at first struck me about the ring Muay of Thailand was how the men just stood in front of each other, challenging each other’s space by standing right in it.  It is incredibly similar to watching “fighting fish,” or Beta as we call them, suspended in a small bowl of water in a face off where they’re just eyeing each other, then there’s this rapid explosion of aggression in an exchange and then they’re floating again. That’s what the Muay Thai of Thailand looks like, at the top level, but even at the lower levels. It doesn’t look like that anywhere else in the world.

Siamese Fighting Fish - Muay Thai-w800

This can seem boring to some. The stillness before the explosions of movement can look like “nothing.” To me, it’s filled with suspense. When I watch MMA, there are fighters who dance around a lot, just out of range or way out of range and to me this is boring. Watching a guy move a whole lot without doing anything is exciting to some – Master K loves it – and terrible for others; if the same dude were standing still within range of his opponent I’d find it interesting… I’d see the suspense. It’s just a different aesthetic, born out of the ethos of the culture and people from which it springs.

One element in the Thailand’s Muay is this tit-for-tat game, where one fighter will answer a strike with the exact same thing. A right kick begets a return right kick. A leg kick for the exact same leg kick, but stronger. It’s a “I can do that, too,” game. And, quite frankly, it’s a pissing contest. That’s what’s happening in this round with over 50 elbows exchanged. I used to think elbows were “saved” for later rounds or that they meant bad blood in some way. This is true in that it happens that way often, but it’s not a rule. Basically, once an elbow is thrown, elbows are going to keep being thrown until the fight moves on and develops. The round just before this one ended with a couple elbows thrown by blue that weren’t answered by red. So he answered them in this round and blue kept up with him, not willing to be bested. In these kinds of exchanges, which in most fights are usually much, much briefer, you can’t really not answer back without conceding a little something. They’re trying to settle the tit-for-tat score and here it basically becomes an all you can eat elbow buffet for two.  The referee is incredible. He jumps in only when they stagnate for even a split second; he knows how to both allow and drive the action.

This round could happen only in Thailand. Not only because elbows aren’t permitted in some realms, but also because they aren’t used the same way elsewhere.  These two fighters are expressing something about Thai-ness (and masculine Thai-ness) in this exciting and nail-biting exchange. They’re standing right in each other’s space and saying “you fucking move!” Neither fighter will back up. While there are other strikes that can be thrown at this range, they aren’t so much part of this conversation. Elbows don’t even score very highly (unless they cut), so throwing a knee in instead is a better choice on a theoretical “scorecard”. But it’s not about points, it’s about answering the strike. This is why Thai scoring can be a bit confusing for westerners who are trying to count up points. Thai judges take into account the context and expression of strikes, not just hitting numbers on a calculator because a knee equals this many and a kick equals this many. A fighter’s pride and resolve count, too. Imagine a boxing match where the two fighters decide that it’s just going to be jabs – only jabs – for a full round because they’re trying to best each other in one-upmanship in this one way. Surely a right cross or body hood could settle it, but that’s not the point. Failing to agree with this ethic, or even recognize it, is what makes this kind of round impossible outside of Thailand (at this point in global Muay Thai).  This is why I love Thai Muay.

Lastly of course, one can’t talk about such battles without mention the immense composure of the aggression, and the fluid transitions, the combination of balance and power that only comes out of the fabric of Muay Thai in Thailand, a poetic element that the west has yet to reach.

I’ll add a note the channel 7 fights like this one are consistently the best televised fights in Thailand. They not only match up fighters great, I’ve also heard they also incentivize aggressive fighting, so that fights feel very contested. Channel 7 fights stream live Sundays at about 12:45 pm (1:45 am EST) http://www.ch7.com/live.html – you  may need a VPN to watch out of country.

You can support this content: Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu on Patreon
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Muay Thai

A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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