Monday, December 12, 2011

2011 Holiday gift guide for the muay thai enthusiast

It's been a couple years since I posted a muay thai holiday gift guide...whoops.  I'm back at it, and that's all that matters, right?

So, you want to get a gift for someone in your life who either trains muay thai, or is a fan of the combat sport, but what the hell is muay thai, and where do you start looking? Perhaps you train, and you want to give your girlfriend or grandma some ideas of what you want for Christmas. My grandma Baker would get me corduroy pants every year without fail. Let's avoid that happening to you.

Muay Thai Hoodie

Its hard to go wrong with this gift that can be worn year-round. carries a fairly good selection of muay thai logo hoodies and crew neck sweatshirts. This yellow hoodie is a little pricey at USD49.99. I found a version in black for USD21.90 and and I love it. You can find the yellow sucker here.

Twins Pro Boxing Gloves

I've been training and teaching muay thai for half my life. I've used pretty much every brand of boxing and muay thai  gear imaginable, and when it comes to boxing gloves nobody, and I mean nobody, beats Twins. The prices are fair, especially when you compare them to brands like Everlast. 

For North American shoppers I recommend going through - you'll pay around USD60.00 for them. Twins can be found for about half the price on sites like, but chances are slim you'll get them by  Christmas as all orders ship from Thailand and take minimum 3 weeks to get to the USA.

The Ong Bak  DVD Set (Kinda like the Stars Wars trilogy for muay thai fans)

If you're not sure exactly what to get the muay thai fan in your life, this is easily your safest bet. There is no way you can go wrong with the box set of all three Ong Bak films that delivers the best demonstration of the older muay thai systems (except for Ong Bak 2 where Tony Jaa tries to cover practically every martial art in existence). But seriously, you're guaranteed to make the recipient of this gift happy (I'll take a copy please).  This link is for my readers in the UK, I really appreciate your loyalty :)

 Namman Thai Boxing Liniment

Thai boxing liniment is a great stocking stuffer, and is the fastest way into a muay thai practitioner's heart. It's true value is known only to those who've been initiated, but once you understand it's benefits it becomes a general cure all for all aches and pains. You have to be careful from who you buy Thai liniment as it is largely overpriced, considering a 120cc bottle sells in Thailand for less than 2 dollars, however online merchants will mark up the price to as much as $15 for the same product that may be past it's expiration date. Here's a site that offers decent prices, and their online store is protected by Thawte SSL, so you can be sure your data is secure.

Competitive Ace is the official North American dealer for Namman.  This liniment is about as fresh as you can get it, however, the prices are little higher than other resources, so you'll have to weigh the benefits for yourself.

Thai Pads - A must for muay thai trainers

Alright now, among muay thai purists, there are really 3 camps of opinion as to which brand manufactures the best thai pads:  Twins, Windy and Fairtex. Pretty much everything Twins makes is of very good quality, their thai pads are no exception.

What makes a good thai pad a good thai pad? Density, thickness, material quality, and restraint assembly. I love Twins with exception of the thai pad line which uses Velcro strips, which eventually fray and can come undone during intense pad work sessions.

You want leather pads with a thickness of at least 4 inches of padding thickness with a buckle restraint system. In my experience, the most durable brand, the thai pads that last for 10+ years of extensive training has been Windy. Ladies, this is a sure bet way to make your man incredibly happy this holiday.

Muay Thai: The Most Distinguished Art of Fighting

If you ever get one book on the subject of muay thai, this one is it. The hardcover book is viewed by many as the textbook on muay thai. Transcribed from the bedside of aging Master Ket Sriyapai in 1978, this book is humble in layout. I swear most of the book was photocopied from notes, but don't let that fool you. This book is filled with incredibly usefull information, tips on training for a fight, techniques, and serves as an enlightening history of the transformation of the modern sport muay thai in the twentieth century.  Due to the dry reading, I suggest holding off on purchasing this for any muay thai student under the age of 18.  I'm generalizing here, but most teenagers won't want a book for Christmas. You can find it here.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I'm sure I missed a few other 'must haves'. There are a number of online resources for muay thai training gear and accessories across the Internet. The common brands for muay thai gear include Twins, Windy, Thaismai, Kombat Gear, and Fairtex.

 What do you think should be on this year's list? Add it in your comments!

Happy holidays!

Donnie Baker-

Saturday, December 10, 2011

As muay thai gets more popular, what will happen to the older muay thai systems?

For me, it started with a bootleg VHS tape of fights at Lumpinee Stadium in 1992. Then, a couple weeks later I caught Paulo Tocha in Bloodsport on HBO, and in my teenage mind I was convinced. I didn't know what they called it, but whatever this fighting system was two things were certain: i. the style looked both brutal and at the same time elegant, and ii. those shorts with the writing on the front looked really, really comfortable.  Hence begun my search to learn what was to be introduced to me as muay thai.

For the better part of the 1990's (and even today to a large extent) I'd get blank stares if/when I tell people that I train muay thai. Top three typical responses are "What's that?", "Mai tai?", or "Is that like kickboxing?". The system has been on the outside of the stable of popular martial arts until MMA came along and has made the name muay thai more common (I would largely disagree with the application of muay thai being used in MMA as an accurate representation of muay thai). K-1 popularized muay thai in Europe and Asia in the early part of the twenty-first century, but the USA has football and the NBA, oh well, call us late adopters.

Outside of the occasional episode of Human Weapon on the History Channel, or the occasional documentary about the exploitation of children through muay thai in Thailand (which I agree and yet, disagree with), mainstream media never covers the Thai national sport, and its official martial art.

This is beginning to change, however. CNN  recently did a little spot on the growth in popularity of muay thai on the international stage. It's good to see this kind of exposure for the sport version of muay thai. Watch the short segment below.

The History Channel produced the series, Human Weapon where the two hosts traveled around the world receiving crash courses in martial arts from various masters or well known practitioners.What I did like about this episode is that they touched on a few of the various branches of muay thai. They trained for modern ring style muay thai, the covered lerd rit, the militarized application of muay thai, and they also went up north and got some exposure to one of the older system, Muay Chaiya.

Here's the full episode, but the commercials can get annoying.

 I'd still like to see more exposure of the older systems such as muay chao cherk, lerd rit, and chaiya  - which BTW, are lumped under the umbrella of muay boran. If someone opens up a muay boran school in your area and markets it as a single martial art, they're simply marketing it to you. Tony Jaa has done a great job of including the various subsets of muay thai in his Ong Bak and The Protector movies.

If you're lucky enough to find and train at a school that covers one of the older systems, be prepared to have others in the outside world (retail thai boxing gyms) say that your techniques are wrong. Not to worry, I've been training and teaching muay chao cherk, lerd rit and a subset of the Burmese system (boar bando) for 18 years (half my life, ugh I'm old). Just know that what's taught at the typical modern muay thai gym is a watered down version of what only scratches the surface of what a muay thai practitioner would have learned over a hundred years ago. You are among the lucky few burdened with the responsibility of continuing a dying tradition.

Hopefully the continued growth in muay thai's popularity will bring about a renaissance for the older systems used for the purposes of combat instead of sport.