Isaan, the rural northeast of Thailand, is still undiscovered territory for western Nak Muay. Many foreign boxers are just too timid to go off the beaten path. However, most Thai Muay Thai fighters come from this region. Petchboonchu, Buakaw, Lamnammoon, Jongsanaan, all top rank fighters, all come from Isaan. But why go where the greats came from? Here’s 5 reasons why.
1. Isaan is the birthplace of Muay Thai. Many of the most famous fighters in the stadiums come from Isaan. Because of its agricultural based economy and remoteness Muay Thai is a viable money making opportunity for many. Fighting on local shows will pay more than a day’s wages. For adults and for children this can be a way of supplementing much needed income. Kids will begin to fight early developing skills and character to go on to make big money in Bangkok. Fighters that show discipline move onto bigger gyms in the capital but it’s in Isaan where the seeds are planted. Fighting in Isaan is learning Muay Thai from the ground up.
2. Fight Frequently. There are many small accessible shows in Isaan. The rings will be in corn fields, outside of temples, or on school playgrounds. There are small stadiums in the cities as well. Wherever they are, fights are forms of entertainment and community for the Thais. Many fighters in Isaan will fight multiple times a month. The frequency of bouts will help a boxer get much needed in the ring experience. This can be especially important for nak muay that come from countries that don’t have many shows. Most of the fights will be low level, although competitive fights will occur, making it a great way to create a root base of experience.
3. Simple life. The rural nature of life in Isaan is in many ways more simple, especially for boxers. There is training, eating, and sleeping. Everything else is secondary. The pace of life is slower giving boxers plenty of time to become accustomed to the culture. It also makes absorbing the valuable lessons instructed easier. In a fast paced world taking time out to stop and appreciate life is more important than ever.
4. Food. The food in the northeast is not for the faint of heart but is loaded with flavors. Isaan food is very regional including intestines, blood, sour sauces and of course copious amounts of fish sauce. Dishes include the classic som tum (papaya salad), sai grok (sour sausages), pork neck, laab (raw meat salad) and of course sticky rice. Food is communal and everyone will eat together. Getting to know the food is a great way to learn the culture.
5. Thai Culture. Isaan is one of the largest regions of Thailand. It is a melting pot for Thai, Lao and Cambodian influences. The dialect reflects this. The language differs from central Thai. Strong family ties and a sense of community also links the region together. Respect and hospitality go a long way in Isaan. The economy has many Isaan residents emigrate out of the area. They will send money home to family but will bring parts of their culture with them. Knowing Isaan is knowing the heart of many Thais.
Going to Isaan isn’t easy. It is far from the major cities and life can be harder. For foreign fighters the distance and hurdles creates internal fortitude. Overcoming problems is part of the journey of a true Nak Muay.
Take the first steps on your path. Join us at Lamnammoon Muay Thai. Contact us here.