Sunday, March 15, 2009

1500 baht

My sleep was restless. My anxiety came not from worry about the fight, which I tried not to think about, but sleeping too late and missing my weigh ins. Before my fights a nearly overwhelming fear overcomes me of fate thwarting my time in the ring. I see myself getting smashed in by a car, sleeping too late and missing weigh ins, or falling in some pothole to my demise. My nervous sleep had me rise in time for my 7am weigh ins. I went with Khun Suzuki via cab to Rajadamnern.
Rajadamnern is located in the northern part of old Bangkok. It is one of the two largest stadiums in Bangkok and a renown venue in Thailand. The order to build the stadium was given by the Prime Minister in 1941 but the completion of the project was halted due to construction shortages. The stadium was completed in 1945 and was originally an open air amphitheatre. In 1951 a concrete roof was added to make the stadium weather proof. The stadium holds fights four days a week, on mondays, wednesdays, saturdays and sundays.

As a physical presence the stadium resembles a beaten, worn, high school auditorium. The sweat soaked ring stands in the middle of the auditorium and to the rear are the offices for management, a small doctor's office, a changing room for the blue shirted referees, and a changing room for the fighters. Khun Suzuki and I went in the side entrance which was littered with young thai boys and older thai men. We did an unofficial weigh in and then began a rather quick paper work process. My passport was copied, I signed a few unidentifiable papers and was checked by the doctor. The official weigh in happened within 30 minutes, far quicker than the grueling ordeals that happen in the state. A few boys were ahead of me and I moved into the scale area. The scale is huge, standing over 6 feet. The scale head resembles a gigantic clock but instead of telling the time it tells one's weight. I stood naked on the scale as the official called out my weight. A check mark was made, I weighed 67 kilos, or 147 lbs correctly at my fight weight.

Khun Suzuki made motions to me to dress and then to eat. We went outside where we ate. I brought out a Styrofoam container of pad thai jai and a banana, while he ate rice, eggs, and a pork stew. Khun Suzuki, a japanese ex-pat, has what I understand to be, a typical Japanese exterior. His face is blank and stoic most of the time. Nothing seems to pass by his face. He told me that we'd be leaving for the stadium at 8pm and that I would be the main event for the evening. I nodded and finished eating.

We took a taxi back to our respective abodes, parting ways at Thong Lo where Khun Suzuki took a motorbike to Ingram. On coming home I went to bed. I had seen my opponent at the weigh ins. He was slightly shorter than me, and around his middle was a thick pad of fat. He seemed nervous and was maybe 17 years old. I sighed with relief when I saw him shirtless. An easy fight. "I've had enough tough fights," I thought to myself. My slumber was comforted with confidence.

I slept and slept, when I woke I went with my English asiaophile housemate Kev to get some food. En route he swore at a man making a u-turn in the narrow soi screaming out that he was a "Flat nosed Isaan fuck." I laughed, not at his racism but at the absurdity of the situation. Being around his rampant racism is often annoying but I wasn't phased by his social faux pas, it seemed like nothing could touch me. We ate and Kev dribbled on about the copious amount of rice on his plate and lack of meat. My eyes went on roller coaster rides around and around as his complaints seemed endless. When our meal ended I went home where I laid down until it was time to go.

I got Ingram at 7pm, an hour before we were supposed to depart for the stadium. The boys (Sagapet, Daosaming, and Bpee) were sitting on the sofa talking with half an eye on the television. Bpee brought out his school book. He's been taking classes on the weekends to further his grade school education. His mathematics book looked confusing not only for its advanced algebraic equations but also for it being completely written in Thai.
I flipped through the book while the boys laughed at my shorts.

"Team Coke? Tham mai? (Team Coke? Why?)
"Khun Chanaa chai mai?" (You're going to win right?)
"Pom dii mai?" (Your hair is good huh?)

At quarter to 8pm we, Petdam, Khun Suzuki, Bu and I, left the gym for the stadium. We got to the stadium after 8pm and Bu wrapped my hands in the fighters room. The room is dirty and worn. It has a dozen wooden benches for fighters to lay on and a few chairs. Alongside one of the walls is a series of bathrooms and showers. The showers are thai style, a bucket of water and a bucket to dump water on your body. The toilets are thai style as well. Small holes in the ground and water to flush away the excrement.
One of the great things about Thailand is the lack of regulations in that regard. In the states an official hovers over you and your trainer as your trainer wraps your hands. Bu finished taping my hands into casts and then had me lay down on the wooden bench. He and Petdam slathered me in vaseline and nam ma muay. I felt like a waxy peppermint. When I was finished being candy coated in lubricants I warmed up and then waited.

I was the main event of the night, myself versus Fasatan Lookhinon. Bu and Petdam would occasionally give me advice, reminding me to keep my hands up, to straight knee his stomach, and to keep my chin down. I began to mentally go over my fight, the things I expected to do, my strategies. I rehearsed and foresaw the fight in my head. Jab, cross, left knee into the solar plexus. Right knee, right elbow into the left temple. Block and kick back. My mind honed my body and made my physical weapons sharper.

The fifth fight ended with a first round knock out and so we rushed into the ring. I did the wai khru, competently if not beautifully. I wasn't sure if I would do the whole thing but as I kept wanting the fight to be done and over with and I was also a little nervous about my performance of the ceremonial dance. In the back of my mind was Coke telling me how at his first fight in Lumpinee he didn't do the wai khru as he was too nervous. I felt if I should go through with it. At least I would show more confidence than Coke at my first major fight. Its important to me to show respect to my trainers, who have helped me to get where I am, the gym for providing a place for me to practice my sport, and to show that I respect myself, that I take this fighting business seriously. While I was doing the wai khru a handful of Americans in the front started screaming. I tried not to make eye contact with them and shuddered inwardly with embarrassment. Why are so many foreigners that come to Thailand such idiots, I thought to myself."Go Team America! Kill him," they cried. I tried to ignore their drunken screaming and to perform with elegance.
When my dance was over Fasatan and I were brought to the center of the ring where we were given last minute instructions in Thai. I pretended to understand and moved back to my corner where Bu took off my mongkon, gave me one last prayer and inserted my mouthpiece. The bell rang and my bout began.
Most fights in Thailand build. The first round starts slow and the fight gains momentum into the fourth round where it apexes and then plateaus (or falls off usually) as a winner is determined. Fasatan came out strong. I teeped him in the leg to begin the fight and he left kicked me which I didn't block. He moved forward into the clinch and so began the four rounds of clinch work that would comprise our bout.

Fighting is always a unique experience. Real life falls away for a surrealness. Often I describe it as being in a gel, a liquid movement where time, space, and will all become convoluted. While the body is engaged in action, reaction, and copious amounts of pain the brain will become focused, and unfocused. Often I've had random passing thoughts while fighting. Images of people that I know come into my mind. Perhaps the blows to the brain bring up these subconscious visuals.
We kneed each other tons in that first round, and in the second and third and in the fourth. The breaks in the clinch were when the referee pulled us off each other. When we were broken up we would exchange a kick or a punch and then fall back into the knee battle. His knees were much better than I had expected. He gave himself a fair amount of room but wasn't terribly accurate. My knees were lighter and more plentiful but lacked knock out power. In between rounds my corner screamed at me to attack faster and sharper. In the third round I was able to pull Fasatan's head down into my knee for a light knee attack into his skull. While in the clinch he had repeatedly made space and slammed my left temple with his right elbow. The elbows made my jaw shudder and my mouth piece become loose. I feared losing it and clamped down on it after the elbow strikes to my temple.
Being elbowed made me think about how difficult it was to actually elbow someone while fighting. I was able to sneak in a couple badly positioned upward elbows to his grill but most of the time I was hitting him with the bottom of my forearm. In the fourth round I began to see blood. The blood was splattered everywhere as though the stadium ceiling had opened up and a red rain was falling upon us. The word AIDS flashed through my mind as I saw my opponent become more and more speckled with blood. I was pretty sure that the blood was mine. I thought that I would have to fight harder to make sure that the fight didn't end with me getting cut.
Halfway through the fourth round the referee called the fight. I thought it was just a temporary reprieve so Fasatan could be checked by the doctor, but Khun Suzuki came up to the ring with a smile and said that I won. I smiled and went over to Fasatan to give him my respects. He had an inch long gash within in his left eyebrow. I was somewhat surprised by the length of the cut. Perhaps I was able to do some damage with the pointy parts of my joints after all. We left the ring and moved to the back area.
A shit ton of foreigners came back and congratulated me. Many of them wanted pictures with me as well. I stood around for a while as the foreigners took pictures with and of me. I was slightly dazed from the fight. While fighting you have so much adrenaline pumping through you and then when its over, its all dumped. I felt shaky and worn, slightly sick. The americans came back and heaped praise upon me and kept asking me to go out drinking with them that night, their treat. Part of me wanted to take advantage of their hospitality, the more sensible part knew that it would destroy my body.
I had my gloves taken off, my wraps, and I showered quickly. Bu looked at my nose and brought me to the doctor where Fasatan had just completed his stitches. I was told to lay down on a blue raised table while the doctor scrubbed my face with iodine and a cleanser. The doctor put three stitches into the left bridge area of my nose. The sensation was pinching and sharp as the doctor didn't bother to put in a local. He used a needle and thread. It was like something out of Rambo.
On the car ride home I was given my fight purse. I made a little extra for winning but that money went to my trainers, Bu and Petdam who recieved 500 baht each. I took home 1500 baht (about $50). When I got home I looked at myself in the mirror. The left side of my face was bruised, the center covered by a large bandage. My hips hurt from being kneed into. I wanted to sleep, to get drunk, to be massaged, to never fight again, to get back in the ring, to eat, to go home all at once. I had two beers and thought about what I would do the next day.

This fight was big for me. It was big because I fought at a major stadium here in Thailand. I remember standing outside of Lumpinee last year and thinking to myself; "That, that building there is the dream. Fighting inside of the building is my dream!" Maybe I didn't fight in Lumpinee but I fought in Rajadamnern which is basically equivalent as far as I'm concerned. Fighting there was a bit intimidating too. Far better boxers have been there and I was trying to come up to their place. I was the main event and I fought a tough opponent, despite my previous hopes of it being an easy fight it wasnt. I'm not really sure how I feel now, there's a sense of relief, but also there is still the ever present pain of the fight itself. Maybe in a week or so I'll want to do Muay Thai again. I'm not so sure before that.

"Whoever has reached his ideal transcends it precisely at that point." Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil

"What makes one heroic? Going out to meet, at one and the same time, one's highest suffering and one's highest hope." Nietzsche The Gay Science


James said...

good job!

Nathan said...

I've been following your blog for a while and love both your writing and training updates. Just curious, how long have you been in Thailand on your current trip?

Nathan Brown said...

Well done + congrats m8, you've inspired me :D

Only 1500.- for the fight? How come it's so low? The guys who fight down here in Phuket get about 4-5K.- even for their first fights... 1.5K.- seems so low for a high profile place like Raj!?

I know it wasn't about the money, so again, congrats!

Tom said...

Nice post mate. Much better than "AHHHHHH! I WONNNNN".
Thanks for the insight!

m. said...

It's good to know my doppelganger is out there kicking ass.

mlucas said...

I've been here in thailand for a little over two months. This is my second trip. I came out here last year for about 3 months, trained for 2 and a half months.

Yeah I made shit money for the fight. I'm not sure why. Maybe my gym owner took half off the top? Then it would have been a gross of 5k which makes more sense.

dad said...

I don't know if i am prouder of your writing, your fighting or your heart. But I am damn proud!