Is Muay Thai Dangerous
In my 3 years that I’ve learned Muay Thai, my instructors place great emphasis on safety. To learn the skills safely and to execute them safely on another.
Is Muay Thai Dangerous? Muay Thai is dangerous. Created for survival and war, Muay Thai is a human invention intended to kill another human. This violence began when tribal feuds were common in the past. Every life was in danger as tribes fought for land and power.
One popular tribe was the Siamese. Presently, they are called the Thai.
The Siamese understood the need to be well-armed. Rather than relying on a weapon or shield, the body itself becomes the weapon to strike or protect. For example, with training, the feet of a Muay Thai fighter can strike with vigor and also withstand hits well.
This fighting technique had worked well for the Siamese. Gradually, as tribes rise and fall, the Siamese were able to amass great power and land to become a country of its own. This country is called Thailand.
Dangers of Muay Thai to Fighters
After the 1930s, Muay Thai had lost its original purpose; to fight for survival. With peace being attained, like most martial arts, Muay Thai was relegated to a competitive sport. But its dangers persist. This is exemplified in deaths among young boxers in Muay Thai sport matches.
One such case took place on 12 November 2018 with 13-year old Anucha Tasako. Dying of brain hemorrhage, his death was due to a knocked out in a fight that took placed 2 days prior. It was his 174th match in a career that began at age 8.
But his death was no accident. As some said that the referee did not stop the fight soon enough. Also, there was no doctor to validate the severity or deliver medical assistance at the point of time.
His death and many others caught the attention of Dr. Witaya Sungkarat. A doctor from Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok, he spent five years studying the brain development between young boxers and children without involvement in the sport. He published his 5-years study in 2018. Witaya said.
“If we keep letting children box and injure their brains without implementing measures to protect them, their futures are predictable.“
The study shows that boxing can cause irreparable brain damage to a young child’s brain. He added that with greater time spent in the sport, the health condition of the individual worsens. In sum, the individual experience greater health risks in his lifetime. Nevertheless, Witaya understands the appeal of the sport.
“People like to watch children box because they don’t lose on purpose and they genuinely fight each other.”
In an article written by Lindsey Newhall on ‘A Female Thai Fighter’s Guide to Life’, Nong Am, a female Thai fighter, grew up fighting with both foreign and Thai fighters. She gives us greater insight into the appeal and dangers of the sport.
As a fighter, she understands that some fighters can prize winning over the person's life. Reasons vary from person to person, but when faced with foreign fighters, the odds of sustaining an injury is higher. This is because foreign fighters may come with experience and goals, unlike most Thai fighters. They may have learned other techniques on top of Muay Thai, such as Brazilian Jiujutsu or ballet. With added experience, they make the sport more unpredictable and riskier for Thai fighters.
Compared to Thai fighters, these fighters are mostly poor and had taken up the sport in hopes to make a lucrative livelihood out of it. They would have been trained in a similar fashion and in traditional ways – starting young and fighting untii they no longer could.
Nevertheless, in many of the Muay Thai fighters’ lifetime, they would have competed in the hundreds and made friends along the way. Hence, there will be compassion in the ring too. But, this is dependent on the fighter himself or herself.
MY TAKE ON DANGER AS A MUAY THAI STUDENT IN A GYM
The dangers are there. But, with proper rules in place, everyone can safely learn Muay Thai. For myself, my instructors take notes of personal welfare first and foremost. Anyone can stop their training mid-way if she or he feels unsafe or unwell. Reasons like being unwell (e.g. due to skipping breakfast or period cramps) to feeling unsafe towards other trainees in classes.
Nevertheless, even with precautions in place, dangers can come in all forms. Sometimes, it is just unavoidable.
- A common danger is the inability to exert one’s strength. When a student first learn Muay Thai (or any combat sports for that matter), there is an unfamiliarity in unleashing her/his strength within. Punching hard when the technique calls for it. This restrained may be done consciously or unconsciously. With good intentions, the trainee doesn’t wish to hurt anyone. However, this leaves the trainee at risk of learning any attack or defense skill. In turn, they may end up hurting themselves or others in ways like sprains and bruises.
- On the opposite spectrum, trainees can go too hard. This overbearing strength may be due to reasons that are personal (e.g. ego or releasing personal unhappiness/anger) or from previous experiences (i.e. hand strength-trained from learning netball or leg strength-trained from learning taekwondo). With motivations or muscle memories created from previous experiences, the trainee can unleash great strength without sparing a thought for her/his partner. Often, the trainee is unconscious about the problem. And again, the damages are often hurting themselves or others in ways like sprains and bruises.
Still, everyone has to start somewhere. Weaknesses and dangers are unavoidable. Be it too much or too little strength, the problem will improve with the constant feedback loop created between training partners, instructors, and the self. In due time and practice, a trainee will learn how to control their strength power.
Another point to note, I find that Muay Thai employs a straightforward approach to techniques. For instance, techniques of the feet to trip, strike, or create distance against a charging aggressor involve 2 or 3 points to note. All these are attainable under the care and guidance of an experienced instructor. Hence, with techniques that are simple and straightforward, the danger of hurting yourself or others is minimal, even if practicing alone (i.e. practiced with a suspended heavy bag or through shadow boxing).
In comparison to sports like wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), these sports require more mental energy to comprehend and execute. Besides the need for a great memory and visualization skills of the techniques, these sports are better practiced with a training partner (i.e. difficulty in practicing alone). If practiced alone, these sports can be more dangerous when techniques are executed by inexperienced trainees. For myself, I’ve been hurt in ways like sprained neck and back.
To sum it up, I find Muay Thai techniques to be straightforward and logical. With that, the only obstacle is the effort made by the student to excel.
Writing as an outlet to express myself as I learn things about life. And, Muay Thai is one of them.
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