There are things that happen at the gym that are too precious to record, but instead must be lived in the moment. Tonight was one of those nights.
Bpaet had booked another fairly high-profile fight. This is a big deal in and of itself, as it takes a long time to get called in to fight. Many, like the other kids at our gym, will travel for a few years going to match-ups, taking what they can get.
In the ring, Bpaet is known as a fearless fighter with immeasurable heart. But in the gym he refuses to push himself, and often acts out when pressured. After a series of high-profile wins, the time has come for Bpaet to take his training to another level.
Our gym will always be open to the non-fighters. Kids that come to hang out, hit the bag, do some sit-ups and go. We are really proud to offer that. After all, not everyone can fight. But for the kids that do want to fight, they need to take it very seriously; Muay Thai is a cut throat business.
Rotnarong came out to the gym and really pushed Bpaet. He pushed Bpaet physically and mentally. He made him knee, and knee, and knee. He threw him down and told him to get back up faster, told him to kick then swept his legs from under him. He yelled at Bpaet, told him to control his emotions. He told him the secrets to being great. He told Bpaet to respect us, to know how lucky he is and to appreciate it.
It's moments like these that make or break a fighter, and in Isaan more are broken than made. It sounds harsh, but it's done to keep the fighters safe. Muay Thai is a business, and you must perform at the level that is expected of you. Fighting is a full-time job.
I sat nervously on the sidelines. I knew what was happening. This was Bpaet's moment. There was a fifty percent chance he was going to give up, a fifty percent chance he wouldn't. I waited.
Rotnarong taunted him, pushed him even harder. Emotions spilled from Bpaet: nervousness, aggression, anger, sadness. Grit.
Abandoned by his parents, left behind, struggles at school, Bpaet’s story is not a happy one, but it is one that is all too common in Isaan. No matter the adversity he’s faced, there comes a point in time where Bpaet has to take what opportunities he has been given, and work to make himself great.
Sitting in the corner, pretending to stretch as I watched Rotnarong push Bpaet, I saw it happen: The turning point. The moment when Bpaet decided that he was going to be a fighter, and he wasn't going to give up.