The Fairtex clip is a great little documentary on an area that can sometimes be overlooked. Actually those fighters in the clip are the lucky ones. Fairtex gym is very wealthy and basically the 5 star hotel Thai Muay Thai gyms in Thailand as it caters mostly for foreigners these days. 99% of gyms are pretty rugged affairs with very little in terms of basic amenities, the bare bones. The kids at Fairtex are also lucky because they are constantly surrounded by foreigners so hence tend to develop some language skills, which is rare in Thailand. Many of the kids do still go to * school, but a lot don’t depends on the kind of gym owner you have.
As the video highlights a common practice is for some very young kids to live at home and get dropped off at the gym after school even up to their early teens. Although a lot are bought on contracts. The kids that stay in the gym in the basically enjoy themselves and are very happy kids although they do get homesick sometimes and need some affection and attention which the senior boxers always give. In the gym I lived in we all basically slept together on a raised floor sharing covers and pillows, the younger fighters like this as it makes them feel a little more secure. Once you’re part of a gym it really is a close knit affair like a family and everyone really does look out for each other, they basically grow up together, hence the reason you’ll never see to guys form the same stable fight.
Flea and Yaca both make fair points about their future or lack of it if they didn’t become boxers. I’ve mentioned this before so I’ll stay brief, but Thailand is very structured society according to class and if you’re a boy and born poor and rural most often you’re either gonna become a farmer, a soldier, a small stall food vendor or involved in the drug trade. Take your pick……. One pays reasonable but your chances of living a long happy life are pretty slim and the others pay between 3,000-6,000 baht a month. So as you can see the lure of getting apiece of that giant gambling pie that’s Muay Thai is probably a good bet if you’ve got what it takes, or that’s what the parents think anyway.
In terms of child abuse never seen it. The kids enjoy the training and the fighting, don’t worry too much about the girl in white you have to remember kids are very supple and they don’t take much damage because of it, although they do occasionally get tears around the eyes and forehead from elbows that do leave scars. The only time I ever saw anything that bordered on child abuse was the way one of the more successful 14 year old fighters was treated by his father his trainer. His dad was an ex fighter that worked for a sanitation company who would spend most of his salary on alcohol, he was a nasty when on the booze and a foolish idiot when of it. He would meet his son everyday at the gym mid-afternoon after school unless the kid had lived in that week. The son (his name was Boy) was a hard trainer, good fighter nad great all round kid who loved Manchester United football club with a passion. The truth is he was mostly trained by the usually trainers in the gym that developed him well, but his dad insisted on taking him on the pads nad this is where things got pretty nasty. The dad having finished work was often drunk nad he’s take life’s stress out on his tough little son, I’ve never seen such vicious pad work ever, he’d really smash him with the pads, counter kick him with power (his dad was a big fat ****) and while this is going on be constantly shouting at him telling him how **** and useless he was. Sad sad stuff, but no one would ever intervene which frustratingly is very much the way in Thailand.
But whenever his father wasn’t about we’d all do our best for him some happy solace, I remember taking him for lots of small meals and taking him and some of the other youngsters to see Bang Rajan the movie at Samlong cinema. You can only image his training sessions when he lost, very sad.
I’ll never forget the first time I was taken to a kid’s fight night, it was super exciting. I was taken there by the guy that started Rompo gym an old ex-fighter called Bak or Beak can’t remember, who had a habit of spotting foreign talent and trying to recruit them. He sidled up to me whilst I was in Lumpinee watching the fights and made arrangements for the next day for me to try his gym and take me to a kid’s fight night. The next day I trained in the gym, which was new then it was in a car park underneath a load of condos, only had a handful of fighters mostly foreign so I never went back, not traditional enough for me but a good gym, a lot of foreigner fighters such as Dzhabar Askerov first learnt their trade there. Anyway, after training he drove me to the government housing in Klong Toei an area that doesn’t have a great rep but does have Bangkok’s biggest slum and in the green area between the apartment blocks they’d rigged up a ring surrounded by a crowed of around 200 Thais. I got the same kind of exciting buzz as I get when I go to the big stadiums it was really weird, but the night wasn’t an anti-climax, the fights were full on.
The kids ranged in age from about 6? to 12. The quality and above all the spirit on display were second to none all things considered. It was basically like watching a great fight card in Raja or Lumpinee but on a mini scale with giant gloves. It really taught me a valuable lesson; whatever you bring to the ring against a Thai it’s never ever ever going to phase them. They are veterans by the age of 16, so what can any foreigner fighter bring to the ring to get them troubled, absolutely nothing. No country ever is going to produce better fighters than Thailand, sounds obvious I know but it really hit home and had never seemed so clear to me than on that night.
By the way Yaca I’d never heard of that documentary so thanks and let me know if you can track it down. It looks like those two brothers are from the south judgeing by the Sampot nad the rubber trees, you know how I love southerners! I do a similar thing with this documentary Buffalo Girls, I constantly check but it never seems to get released:
If you wanna see young check these mini warriors 4 years old and 1 YEAR OLD!!!!