How children grow up with Muay Thai in Thailand
Many children who learn Muaythai in Thailand usually start at a very young age, a number of them growing up in a Muaythai fighter family. Thus, toddlers (4-5 years old) usually spend a lot of their time in the gym, playing, taking in the atmosphere and gradually picking up the training.
Usually it doesn’t take long before they have gloves on for the first time and can be found doing their first rounds of padwork with the trainers. From around the age of six, most children train daily and from then on, Muaythai becomes part of their normal daily routine. A little like playing with other children in the park for other kids. At the age of 8 or so, many are already fighting full contact at smaller local events. From the age of 15 these fighters can now take part in official Muaythai events. It is the goal for every child (and their parents) to attend and win on major events as soon as possible. It is not uncommon for children as young as 15 to have had well over 100 full-contact fights to their name.
For those who didn’t grow up in Thailand and are not really familiar with local customs here, this is pretty hard to imagine and many questions arise as to why children are allowed to fight full-contact.
Muaythai has a very long (1921) tradition here in Thailand and is embedded in Thai culture. Unfortunately, the development of Muay Thai with protective gear for children here is slow, but we too hope to see it grow and become more popular in Thailand. The safety factors are very important to us also of course.
There are however, also further points to be considered. Children who fight at the local events receive a fee. The money is usually essential for families and the gym’s to survive and pay for their normal day to day needs. That also sounds harsh for non-Thai people, but one must not forget that Thailand is still a developing country and there is no or very little social support from the State. He who has nothing has truly nothing and often goes hungry.
The second important point is that if you start Muaythai at the age of 15 or have little experience, there is almost no possibility to show off your skills in Bangkok at Rajadamnern or Lumpinee Stadium. Most talents get discovered and promoted there. Many of them are very well known by the age of 16-18, and shortly thereafter often amongst the best fighters in Thailand. Those who then fail to make the leap to the elite or stagnate in their success will usually only be able to fight at smaller events. For many, this is still interesting and can be rewarding too but we will go into this in more detail in another blog.
So how do boys train? Actually, quite simply… just like the adults! It is often the case that they are a bit overtrained and that they have enormous stamina at a very young age, usually training 5 to 6 times a week, twice a day for 2-3 hours per session.
The difficult part of the story is that in Thailand school starts at 7:00 a.m. and runs until 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and there is no compulsory education. Also, all school fees must be paid by the family, difficult for a lot of Muaythai families.
The result is a lot of children grow up without a good school education and only have Muaythai as a career choice.
That is the reason we founded the «Punch it Young Fighter Foundation» through which we support young athletes between 15 and 18 years of age with our own english school in the gym. The project is scheduled to begin at the end of 2021. In the next part 3 of this blog, we will take a closer look at the training schedule of Muaythai fighters and their tough daily routine.