The New Kid

It's been almost two weeks since King first showed up at our gym.  His grandma didn't even have a motorcycle to bring him, instead she had to borrow her brother's.  King's grandma works at a restaurant in Phutthaisong where we live.  She's a hard working woman, albeit a little timid.  One day when I was enjoying my sam-tam, complete with fermented fish and much needed probiotics, she asked if she could bring her grandson to the gym.  I said, of course.  But deep down I felt this was just another empty offer. Everybody wants to train, or wants their kids to train, but rarely are they willing to put in the effort involved.

A month had passed and I completely forgot about her offer and then one day out of no where, there she was with King.  Boom grabbed some Booster shorts for him and send him on the bag.  The grandma watched patiently, as if it was some sort of try out, quietly interjecting bits of King's story to me as I sat and watched.

King has no father, and his mother is gone working.  No one is caring for him at home, and there isn't enough money to go around.  King recently ordained as a novice monk for over a year, and when he completed his ordainment decided that he didn't want to go back to school but instead pursue his GED.

For his grandma, what did she want for her grandson more than anything else?

"I don't want people to look down on him."

With no motorcycle at home, and no one to send him to the gym, we told King that he could come live with us, but didn't expect it to stick.  To say I was surprised, when he showed up later that night with his bag, was an understatement.  

So now, here he is.  Travelling all over the region with us as we fight, grow, and pursue dreams together.  He's got incredible promise as a fighter, but what is more is that he's got a chance at a better life.  We are here to offer him guidance, structure, and a safe environment where he can flourish into adulthood.  

And while I am so grateful that we can help him, I can't help but feel a little saddened by the fact that in the past two weeks no one has called or checked up on him.  King's story is not unique to the area; it is more common than not.  It's so humbling to be here; empowering children through Muay Thai.  Through this journey I have realized that one of the biggest things holding children back is the reluctancy of their parents or care givers to push, inspire, and facilitate their Muay Thai journey.  King's grandma did something amazing for her grandson, and I hope one day we can return the favour to her.

We want to again thank our monthly donors and corporate sponsors for the opportunities you are creating for kids like King.  
Special thanks to Abigail Sitmonchai for the heart warming photos.

The Fight Night

It's been exactly one week and I can confidently say: we did it.  We successfully promoted our own show in the village. The permit almost wasn't processed in time, the police tried to shake us down, and an injury kept Bpaet from competing but we did it.

One week before the fight Bpaet fell off a motorcycle; his families only method of transportation. He wasn't hurt, other than a deep gash in his right shin.  We took him to the hospital where they haphazardly stitched him up, six stiches in total but he needed at least 12.  We waited to the bitter end, hoping for it to heal in time, but when it didn't we pulled him from the card.

Getting a license for Muay Thai in Thailand requires two things: approval from the Provincial Sports Authority and gambling and noise permits from the local district.  Because Boom doesn't have a promoter's license we require the help of a local promoter who then files the documents to the Sports Authority in the province the fights will be held.  The approval from the Sports Authority was very straight forward and approved almost immediately, but when we went to the local district it was another story.  It took five full days, when in reality it's only a thirty minute process.  On the last business day before the fight was supposed to be held, Boom handed the district chief an envelop with some money, and it was finally approved just hours before the office was to close.

Fight night started at 5am.  We drove to the gym to begin preparation to have a merit making ceremony.  Friends and family were invited to take part and the monks from the local village came bless both the fighters and the gym.  Bpaet's Auntie and Min and Mo's Mom were there cooking up some of the most amazing food to be shared with the visitors and the monks.  It was practically perfect.

We booked a total of fifteen fights, vendors came from all over region to set up shop.  There were balloon darts, a bouncy castle, wai kru on a tight rope, and countless food carts.  The police also arrived, ten of then, expecting to be compensated for their time.  After a few negotiations, and a few more drinks, they were happy and we were good to go.  

The night was magical.  Fighting at home is something special to any athlete and our kids didn't disappoint.  Mo was up first.  It was one of his best performances to date, everything came together for him, and after five rounds he was declared the winner.  Min was up next.  Her energy was contagious, and her kicks were strong!  She smiled her way to victory.

Nun, a punk kid from the village who goes to a local technical college notorious for gang fights, fought his very first fight!  Through Muay Thai he's found the focus needed to keep on the right track.  Although he didn't win, it was a really close fight and he fought with heart and skill setting an amazing example for others in the village.

Ni has only been training Muay Thai for a year.  She saw her little brother fight a few fights with us and was hooked!  She goes to university in Buriram and trains at Sor. Sawadee during the week and with us on the weekends.  She just loves to fight, and really struggles to find the opportunities to do so.  She won her fight, despite a significant weight difference.

After cornering, and massaging all of our fighters, together with injured Bpaet, Da was the last up from our gym.  It was a long day for him: setting up chairs, and serving food to guests in the morning and now taking care of the other kids.  This is part of being a fighter in Isaan, and for Da just another day.  He knew he needed to win, for the gym, for his family, and for the village.  Like a a boss, Da won his fight,  most beautiful wai kru of the night, and a 14,000 Baht side bet.  Even better, MuayTies was there to film it.

The highlight of the night for Boom and I was golden era legend Rotnarong fighting.  It was such a special moment for us to be able to provide this to the community.  Back when Rotnarong was fighting on TV most of the villagers were only able to listen to his fights on the radio.  For many in the audience it was the first time for them getting to see their local hero fight.

This event wouldn't be possible without the support of so many.  In addition to our monthly sponsors, and corporate sponsors who keep the gym going we want to thank the following people for your contributions to Wor. Watthana fight night:

Stephen Strotmeyer, Amber Marie, Ableen Tai, Ste Watts, Sara Cacchioni, Muay Thai Gram, James Gergory, Seuua Daao Muay Thai, Rosie Lee, Nick de Cock, Jason DeLuca, Patrick McDonald, Steven Moore, Strike Combat, Ting Tong Muay Thai Gym,  & Sok Sai.

In addition to those listed above we want to thank Timo Rogue and Scott Hirano for donating both your time and talents to our event.  Travel expenses for both Timo and Scott were provided by CNEXS Wear who designed a limited edition pair of Wor. Watthana leggings to sell as a fundraiser, they reached their fundraising goal with the support of Round 5 Fitness. Thank you to Thepminit and Abigail Sitmonchai for making the long journey to be part of our event, it meant the world to us to have you there.