You squeeze into the back of a pick-up truck and commute for six hours to support your fellow fighter. You then agree to fight as a last-minute replacement at 2am in chilly, outdoor conditions without knowing anything about your opponent. You fight the next night whilst injured without complaining. You do all this for sustenance and the faint hope that someday, hundreds of fights later, you will earn enough money to retire.
That is the life of a fighter in Thailand. It is the life that I spent five years documenting across all four regions of Thailand.
Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport. Sit in any social spot with a television, and you’re sure to catch a stadium fight filled with gamblers oscillating cryptic hand gestures. Commonly referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs,” strikes using shins, elbows and knees are permitted. The sport is a brutal one, yet simultaneously graceful. Often compared to Western Boxing yet requiring added creativity, it is a sport that is steeped in ancient tradition and laced with Buddhist beliefs.
Having been granted full access, I was privy to the inner workings of the industry, enabling me to delve deeply into a world of betting, grit and rituals. Having chronicled the day-to-day life of fighters, I was struck by their humility, courage and lighthearted way of confronting destitution. Ultimately, Muay Thai is seen as a way out of poverty, courtesy of the gambling industry who sustain the sport.
Photographing for the World Muay Thai Council and International Federation of Muay Thai granted me access to all areas within the industry.
Muay Thai — Lord K2
Fighting for Hope: An Insight into the World of Muay Thai