By Galen Okazaki
American Muay Thai has experienced a huge growth in popularity over the past few years. As this has been happening, our stature on the world stage continues to grow as well. American fighters have fought top international talent and held their own. What we continue to see though, especially with the Thai fighters, is the huge disparity in levels of experience. It is not uncommon for an American fighter to take on a Thai fighter who has been fighting since childhood and has ten times the fight experience. The physical talent levels may be equal, but it’s hard for American fighters to compensate for the experience. How do we solve for this? Well in California, Bryan Dobler and others are leading a grass roots movement to develop a program for young Muay Thai practitioners to safely get experience in the ring. It is their hope that this program can be grown and eventually adopted on a national level.
In the case of California, amateur level Muay Thai fights are currently governed by the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC). Many would argue that these amateur level Muay Thai fights actually resemble kick-boxing versus real Muay Thai. No elbows, prajioud or mong kol are allowed. However the CSAC’s reach does not go beyond athletes 15 years of age or younger. This leaves an opening for holding fully sanctioned amateur bouts for youths 15 and younger to be done without the involvement of the CSAC. Bryan Dobler believes that if this is done in a highly organized manner, a universally recognized sanctioning organization, and most importantly with the safety of the participants in mind, young American nak muays can have their chance to safely gain experience in the ring.
On Saturday, November 19th 2011, Double Dose Muay Thai in Rancho Cucamonga held such an event. This American Youth Muay Thai (AYM) event was set up by Dobler through the Thai Boxing Association Sanctioning Authority (TBA-SA). Working with TBA-SA ensures a uniform set of rules and it also provides many of the organizational logistics necessary for holding a sanctioned event. The event was fully insured and there was a ringside doctor, nurse, and paramedics present. There were 12 fights with fighters ranging from ages 8 through 15, representing 15 gyms.
By all accounts, the event was a great success. There were over 300 in attendance with heavy support from the fighter’s families and gyms. Tradition was on full display as prajiouds and and mongkols were worn and Wai Kru’s were performed. The best Wai Kru of the show was recognized with an award. Fully padded elbows were also allowed and all fights were closely officiated with very high levels of technique being demonstrated. In the end, no injuries were sustained by any of the participating fighters.
Future events, using the same sanctioning organization (TBA-SA) and a strict focus on safety are being planned, with the next event scheduled for January 21, 2011 at (George) Valdez Gym. All fight results will be recorded with an eye towards maintaining unified youth fight records at a national level which could eventually support regional\national rankings and competition.
If you’d like to know more about the AYM program, please contact Bryan Dobler at Double Dose Muay Thai 14189 Foothill Blvd #105 Fontana, CA 92335 (Phone): 909-574-8424 or e-mail: email@example.com or TBA-SA at www.tbasanctioning.org
All pictures courtesy of Nakia Wright Photography