Knock Out! – The Muay Thai Snake Boxer Strikes Again

Bangkok, Thailand. January, 2009. My good buddy Kevin and I were traveling through South East Asia last year. We were staying with a Peace Corps friend who was having some medical testing done and while in Bangkok we decided to check out some of the local sights.

We spent the day visiting amazing gilded Buddhas and temples and while we were strolling along the street we were passed by a man in a wifebeater with bulging knotted muscles and a confident demeanor that seemed to scream: “I can kill you with one well-placed strike!” Intrigued, Kevin and I followed the man for a while and before we knew it we were at a Muay Thai kickboxing stadium. We opted for the cage tickets, further from the ring but brimming with beer drinking, cigarette-smoking locals ready to gawk at the action of 8 fights over the next 3 hours.

Having never watched a Muay Thai kickboxing match, I found the whole ordeal extremely intriguing. At the beginning of each match, each fighter would skip around the ring, performing a series of finely choreographed moves that resembled a cobra, preparing to strike. Pointed fingers and toes would wobble in the air, extend and contract with lightning speed.

Beside the ring was a group of 4 or 5 musicians in a pit, playing Thai flutes and bells with an ever-increasing momentum as the fight gained intensity. During the good matches, the men to either side of me were flailing handfuls of bills to place bets on the next successful blow. Picture that scene in Rambo, this is it. At the climax of the music, with the bet hawkers screaming around me, a precision-placed high kick struck an out-classed opponent’s temple and he dropped, unconscious to the mat. The roar of the crowd was deafening and I was able to snap this shot as the victor was prancing, ecstatic around the ring.

This shot was really hard to take. For one thing, I had to be one my tippy-toes in order to get my zoom lens through a hole in the chain-link fence. I had to elbow my way through a group of Thai spectators, and avoid being touched to maintain a fairly crisp focus. It was tough to capture  a composition I was pleased with, but I think the balance of this image works decently well.


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