MUAY THAI MY JOURNEY
I cut my teeth on karate, It marked my foray into the martial arts. I, however ,took it seriously only on the completion of my tenth. Prior to this it was but a sport to me… a way to expend my excess energy without getting my ears boxed at home for my efforts.After the tenth grade, I practised until the sport became more… it became a passion. Competing in karate was a thirst I could not quench. I put my hat in the ring several times and for various tournaments. I competed in the club level , state level, National level and slowly started testing the international waters too. I decided to push myself and even competed in the Pan Kration which is more popularly known as the Greek Martial Arts and was the origin of Mixed Martial Arts. At this point winning become secondary. Competition was an addiction that I did not want to quit.In one such Asian championships, I came across the Muay Thai Fighters and the experience was a much needed eye opener. They were so spirited yet disciplined, aggressive yet showed no lack of humility. They carried a quiet dignity around them that is born out of being soaked in rich culture. Long after I returned home, this coloured my thoughts and fuelled my ambitions.In the year of 2009, few bitter experiences and relentless inner demons chased me into the welcoming arms of Muay Thai. I decided to move to Thailand to learn it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak .Though it was a financial struggle, I put together everything that I could and with a substantial help from my Mother and Grandmother, I left to Thailand… hungry to learn.Even as I touched the soil of Thailand, my parochial view that it was all about the competition and the next fight, bit the dust. It was more. It was much more than me, much bigger than my limited dreams and my yearning to compete, to fight. From a sportsman’s point of view it was a discipline, a culture and an opportunity to earn a livelihood. But for most, it was a way of life. It was a huge industry.The country Thailand majorly flourishes on two things- Tourism and Muay Thai. And I was a part, a small part, but a contributing part nonetheless of the second. This microcosm of martial arts was giant in its own right. There were instructors, fighters, referees, judges, promoters, manufacturers and equipment dealers all adding to the consonance. To add to this they have international tie ups and leagues which from a huge industry.During my stay there and throughout my journey as a student and a fighter in Thailand, I noticed that the discipline and passion was lacking in India. Which made me ponder as to what endless possibilities it would bring to India when introduced.This lead to the momentous decision of me becoming a promoter of Muay Thai in India owing to its global impact. I returned to India in 2010 full of hope and enthusiasm. I pored over their promotional strategies, I taught myself by watching documentaries and planned and replanned to open a promotional company of my own.Much to my dismay, I soon realised that opening a promotional company without having home-grown fighters or without educating my people was futile. This lead me to changing Xtreme Muay Thai, the promotional company into an institution for teaching the uninitiated into the nuances of the culture called Muay Thai. Towards the same purpose I organised stage shows to educate the masses. I even invested in making videos. It was yet again a step in the wrong direction as it was not reaching the intended audience.In one of the documentaries that I was watching made by Rorian Gracie, I studied his method of inviting different fighters to his club for fights. I decided to use this strategy and called it an Art Exchange Programme where I invited people of various other forms of martial arts to observe our way of training, fitness, discipline and fighting. The end of these programmes usually witnessed a casual bout of fighting where my students fought with students of other clubs and I fought with various masters. The casual fights soon gave way to competitions.Around the same time, Muay Thai made its way into the movies which played a huge role in educating people. Muay Thai made greater strides when kick-boxers added a lot of Muay Thai moves to their art.I advanced the Art Exchange and soon called it Club Wars. It was a platform where various clubs were invited to compete against one another. I later hosted the Open Pro-Am championship where professional fighters were invited to showcase. I soon realised that the amateur fighters did not have a similar rostrum. This lead me to create and host Pro-Am Championships which was designed to give amateur fighters the necessary push towards the professional levels. I remodelled some of the WMF, WPMF and IFMA rules and designed rules wherein I said that any elbow is permitted, any knee is permitted and clinching goes just like the professionals as long as the shin guard and gloves with elbow guards were on. In the Pro-Am Championships, the qualifiers and semi-finals used to be the length of 3 minutes in each of 3 rounds and the finals used to be 3 minutes in each of 5 rounds similar to those in professional events. I removed the third and fourth places choosing to honour only the first and second places. I was considered a pioneer as this was a hitherto unheard of move. It ensured that only the more serious of the fighters entered the competition.To bring in a feel of the professional to the fighters, I awarded a cash prize to the winners in the first Pro-Am Championship. During the second, I introduced the title belt along with the cash prize to give them a taste of professional fights which I hoped would help them understand the sport – its spirit, pride and culture.The third Pro-Am could not be hosted as I had some unforeseen financial troubles but it was heartening to hear from fighters, coaches and club managers calling from all over the nation to enquire when, where and how of it. My home city also witnessed the birth of various Muay Thai clubs which gave birth in me the pride of being a part of the revolution.As I have not hosted a event in more than a year, I am sure that many of you have thought that I have reached a stage of complacency. I assure you thought that it cannot be farther from the truth. I am not done yet. My vision for Muay Thai remains as strong as my passion for it.As I realised that the sport had reached a certain level in India, I had to take my next step and further the cause and ensure that it reached the heights that it could… that I dreamed and envisioned that it could. Hence, with immense pride I have decided to shoulder the responsibility of hosting an International Championship.The journey I embarked on has spanned across events that have led to me being a student, a fighter, an ardent believer and promoter of this experience- MUAY THAI.