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Muay Thai – A Controversial Art

Muay Thai, also known as “the art of eight limbs,” is a martial arts form from Thailand that utilizes fists, elbows, knees and feet. This fast-paced sport taxes you aerobically and anaerobically, so you can expect to burn up to 1200 calories in a 90 minute session. On this side of the world, a training gym like Suwit Muy Thai in Thailand may seem like paradise because intensive training is set in the backdrop of major tourist attractions. While many consider it an art form and mixed martial arts fighters pay homage to Muay Thai by incorporating some of its techniques, there is a darker side that warrants attention.

Muay Thai is a highly profitable enterprise, but not so much for the fighters. I have read that a fighter brings home between 6-8000 baht a month, which is about an average of $150. Considering gas station attendants make about the same amount, it hardly seems fair that such a physically demanding and dangerous sport can yield so little. The career span is also very short due to injuries. Children begin training as young as six and will begin fighting as young as 8, often because it is an opportunity to rise out of poverty.

Due to concerns of child labor and exploitation, child rights advocates pushed for change, but change was met with a loophole– the Boxing Act of 1999, which stated that children under 15 would need parental consent to fight. Efforts are being made to further amend the act to require safety gear and prohibit fighting for gambling purposes.

Martial arts has often been touted as a means to learn endurance, flexibility, coordination, mental alertness, and above all, discipline, respect, and self-confidence. Have we strayed from those principles?

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