Since my usual training day changed from Sunday to Monday I’ve been enjoying a lot of sofa time on Sunday afternoons, but last week I bucked the trend by spending most of the day at the local leisure center watching a big Muay Thai event.
I’ve really enjoyed the little Muay Thai I’ve watched at places like Seni/Martial Arts Show, but it’s hard to get into it properly there as you’re stood in deep crowds in a big, noisy environment with lots of distractions. When I got the invitation to watch the ‘Mean Machine’ show I didn’t have to think about it, the chance to watch some more in an event format was far too tempting, especially given the fact that a friend-of-a-friend was fighting in the main event for the British title. Most martial artists in Cornwall are at least aware of Julie Kitchen, her reputation as the ‘Queen of Muay Thai’ precedes her, and I was half-expecting to see her in attendance, but what I didn’t expect was for her to be the one collecting tickets on the door! It’s always nice to meet big names who don’t see relatively menial jobs as beneath them.
I was surprised with the production of the event if I’m honest; the light show, sound system, ring announcer, production – it was all really well-done and professional. Unsurprisingly the majority of the fighters were local, with most of them coming from Touchgloves in Penzance and WAKT in Camborne and Wadebridge, but the quality on show was really high. I was expecting to maybe see five or six bouts and be there for a couple of hours, but when we opened the programme I quickly realised that wasn’t going to be the case – seventeen(!) fights scheduled which took five hours to get through!
As the day went on the quality went up, it was so cool to see something so skillful and intrinsically violent in nature up close like that, but the biggest thing that came through was how well everyone upheld the respect and tradition of the event. Even those who you could maybe argue were a little more ‘freestyle’ than the others were still obviously well-grounded and there wasn’t an ounce of ego on show. The clubs demonstrating full ceremony were really good to watch though, WAKT in particular, with fighters coming in wearing their mongkol (headband) and walking the ropes, praying in the corners.
I was impressed with a lot of the kicking, especially the front leg roundhouse. I was surprised to see the amount of power some of them were generating off a front leg kick at head height. The last few bouts were really impressive at a technical level; the all-out brawls that some of the fights broke down into weren’t on show and the close-quarters stuff in the clinch was really clinical. In fact from where I was sitting it looked like three or four good knees to the head that ended the main event. It’s very easy to see why the best MMA fighters often train in a mix of Muay Thai and BJJ, as far as competitive striking arts go it’s got a lot going for it.
Training for a while in Tang Soo Do gave me a differing viewpoint to a lot of the people in the audience I’m sure, and it was really hard to not compare stance, kicking style and ring tactics. I think training in a striking art made me appreciate smaller things more, like wincing at the leg kicks which looked soft and slappy and didn’t get much recognition from the crowd (there were some purple legs at the ends of bouts, and a lot of limping), and not paying much heed to a good head kick which was obviously blocked and largely nullified, but had the fans cheering. I look forward to future events, I’ll definitely be in attendance again.