22 Sep Thailand vs. America Training and Cultural Differences
The world is a big place with a variety of cultures, environments, and ethnicities. For those involved in the ring sport of Muay Thai the biggest differences are those between Thailand and America. Exploring these distinct traits allows for those involved in the sport to navigate the world better.
One of the biggest differences between Thailand and the rest of the world in regard to sport and general culture is the Buddhist influence. There is an underlying belief in karma and people regularly attend temples, or Wats, along with engaging in other Buddhist activities. It is not an individualistic society and there is much higher emphasis placed on the needs and feelings of the group rather than the individual.
Another large cultural difference is the respect that the Thai people have for the monarchy. The past king, King Rama IX, had an almost godlike influence upon the people and was generally seen as a benevolent ruler. His son, King Rama X, doesn’t have the same sway on the people but laws for libel and les majeste are still very much in effect. Talking badly about the monarchy is a considerable insult to the Thai people.
In America Christianity is the dominant religion and because of its influence a different type of ethics has taken hold. For example, there is a much more emphasis on a protestant work ethic which would have people, fighters too, work themselves as hard they can in order to raise themselves up. This contrasts with Thailand where success is a group effort.
Representative democracy also has established itself in America. The president and current leaders are voted for whereas Thailand is currently under a military dictatorship. Elections in Thailand have been postponed for some time. This doesn’t impact everyday life too much but the military has been cracking down on tourism, drinking hours, and other aspects that may affect Muay Thai tourists and fighters from abroad.
Thailand is the home and heart of Muay Thai and for good reason. The sport is derived from the country and there are literally thousands of fighters all over the country – which is roughly the same size as California. The large number of boxers means that they can constantly be sharpening each other and improving themselves through contests and daily gym practice.
Training in Thailand is routine and follows the same format from gym to gym. Running in the morning followed by technical work and pad work and then running, clinching, sparring, bag work, pad work, and calisthenics in the afternoon. There is no set curriculum for fighters in Thailand and the boxers are taught on a “learn by doing” philosophy- if you kick enough and are watched and corrected eventually you’ll get it right.
All boxers in Thailand are professional and will be paid after every fight. Fighters are ranked according to their purse so a fighter who has a purse of 10,000 baht per fight is generally considered to be more skilled and more competent than a fighter that only makes 1,000 baht per fight.
America in contrast is gaining ground in the world of Muay Thai but is still in development. Unlike fighters in Thailand, boxers in America are generally hobbyists and even the most dedicated of fighters must work part time to support themselves. This means that the structure of training is different with Americans having to really capitalize on the time they spend on training. Coaches and trainers will be much more specific about developing the fighter’s technique. However, since many fighters don’t have as much time to train, certain skills such as clinching can fall by the wayside.
Scoring in the states can vary from state to state and region to region depending on the different commissioning body at hand. In Thailand the scoring is very, very consistent. The judges and referees all have thousands and thousands of ring time and experience to hone their craft. This contrasts with the judges and referees in America who may only work one show a month. In addition, there is often not a consensus between the judges, and rule sets may vary making it even more difficult for judges and referees to act consistently.
One of the real strengths of Muay Thai in America is the emphasis on strength and conditioning. The scientific outlook for the sport has boxers train and develop muscles that are not used in Thailand. Diets are made consistent making it easier for boxers to cut weight and extend their fighting careers as well.
The ability to train smarter is especially important as fighters in America don’t fight as often. Regulating bodies make it hard for promoters to have shows and the sport is still in its infancy. In Thailand boxers in the countryside can fight as often as once a week or more. This helps them develop their skills much faster.
The cultural differences and training differences between the two countries doesn’t mean that one is better than the others. Thais have beaten Americans and Americans have beaten Thais. What is important is to understand how the culture and training impacts the performance of the boxers. A greater knowledge of the differences also helps people to navigate the world better.