“Do you want your kids to be fighters?”
“Oh yes, of course.”
I had to interject.
We had three international students visiting the gym; they were studying Muay Thai as a way to alleviate poverty and currently were based out of Khon Kaen University. Along with interviewing the fighters, they wanted to talk to my father-in-law about his thoughts too. He wants his kids to be Muay Thai fighters? I’ve been married to his son for nearly ten years and have only heard the opposite from him.
“Wait, Dad…what about Boom? You wouldn’t let him leave home to fight and you used to always tell me to stop fighting.” He gave up on me, I don’t know why. We are both very stubborn people and have an interesting relationship to say the least.
“That was back then, this is now. I want all my (grand) kids to be fighters. The sport has changed so much,
it is better for fighters than it used to be.
My first son ran away from home to work when he was ten years old. I didn’t hear from him for years. There was no post back then, no phones. Nothing. I thought he was dead. Finally Dam showed up and told me that he was at a gym in Rayong.
He was just a kid, no one asked him what his Dad thought, they just kept him and made him fight.
I made the journey out to pick him up. He cried when he saw me.
He was broken, they had broken him.
He made it to Bangkok and fought for Sor. Thanikul but he was already into drinking by then. He would come home and fight occasionally, just following the money. No plan, no future. He wasn’t average; he was a really good fighter.
No one took care of him. If there was a gym at home, and I could have watched over him. My son would have been a champion.”
The students weren’t able to follow what he was saying. He spoke fast in his native dialect; Thai Dueng. They waited patiently, listening attentively as the translator translated for them.”
I asked him to tell them about Boom, and why he didn’t let him go to Bangkok.
“Boom is my youngest. I wanted him to get a government job, I wanted him to focus on school. He was really athletic. Hard working, good at all sports but the school didn’t support him. He had no opportunity.
Someone came from Bangkok after seeing him fight at a temple fair, they asked me if they could take him to their gym. They told me he would be looked after and they would send him to school. Bullshit, that is what I told them. How do I know you aren’t going to make soup out of him?* I kept him at home, even though I knew I was holding him back.”
Boom’s Dad turned to the fighters who had already started their afternoon training.
“Now we have a gym at home. We can take care of the kids like family. They can fight internationally, and work as trainers too. There is a future for them.
Fighters are more educated now, most can read. You can call your kids on the phone too, make sure they are okay.
If they are fighting in Bangkok they’ll will most likely be on TV. Gym owners are held accountable, there are better laws and it is easier to access them. I want all my (grand) kids to be fighters.”
*Make Soup is a common expression used in Muay Thai. It refers to when a fighter is brought to the gym as a body to spar, clinch, and fight on short notice. Wherein the fighter is just left to ‘boil’.
After receiving a Muay Thai scholarship to train at a prominent gym in Northern Thailand, Watthanaya packed her bags at 19 leaving home with a one way ticket. She ended up however at a Bangkok street gym affiliated with Sor. Thanikul and married one of the fighters. They took off for Khorat and Watthanaya fought her way through Issan. Now, with a degree in tote, a four year old daughter, and a passion to fight again, she is back. Connect with Frances Watthanaya on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook .