The definitive origin of Muay Thai is open to much debate by scholars due to the destruction of much of its documented history by the Burmese during the 14th century. Muay Thai, or Thai boxing as it's more familiarly known, is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. Referred to by some as 'The Art of Eight Limbs' it's a practice that acts to mimic weapons of war – exploiting the hands as the sword and dagger; the shins and forearms as armour against blows; the elbow like a heavy mace or hammer; the legs and knees becoming the axe and staff. The body ultimately operating as one deadly unit.
The Muay Thai Grand Prix took place on Saturday June 20th, at the prestigious Indigo venue at the O2, London. It's considered to be one of the best fight venues in the UK. This event was the result of a collaboration between Double K gym (Nak Muay) and Gymbox's own Team Tieu (Super Muay Thai championships). In an interview on the Gymbox blog before the event, Phillip Tieu of Team Tieu told us to expect: "fireworks, action, drama blood and tears". He was not wrong, I saw it all!
I hadn't expected to see any female bouts – It was a good surprise. Two of the most unthreatening and demure looking females you could ever observe entered the ring. The old adage, 'never judge a book by its cover', couldn't have been more true. The ladies gave the most awesome display of athleticism and true sportsmanship, as did the other competitors. The tournament showcased athletes of all ages, weight and ability from all over the country – in fact the world. Competitors came with their own entourage of supporters adding to the phenomenal and charged atmosphere in the O2. We even saw the delights of an over Fifties charity boxing – true carnage! Veteran fighters Andy Benouali and Dave Thomas, in the 35 plus category, had never fought before. They had undertaken a free eight week course at Gymbox to fight on this show and raised over £5000 each for charity. Utterly amazing to watch.
I am by no means a veteran in the art, but I fast realised that Muay Thai is a game of strategy. To the untrained eye you could be lulled into a false sense of security, placing odds on the opponent that came out in the first round executing and connecting blows with precision. This it seems was part of a very cleverly constructed strategy to physically exhaust. Many times over I saw the technique of the early favourite failing by round two, and the underdog coming back full throttle to take the victory. Whether competitors won by points, knock out, or technical knockout, the competitors attitudes and reactions were all the same – respect to their fellow opponents – displayed by bowing – quickly followed by handshakes and hugs. Truly refreshing. This was not something consistently observed in sport these days.
This was a unique, entertaining and well organised event. A huge amount of work went into hosting the impressive number of fights that took place. I left feeling truly inspired.
For Muay Thai classes at Gymbox, click here.
Anyone 35 plus interested in a once in a lifetime chance to fight at the next 02 show to raise money for charity, please contact Teamtieu@hotmail.co.uk.