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Why Muay Thai Needs to change

Grand Master Sken Kaewpadung outlines why he thinks Muay Thai needs to change

Published: 17/05/2009 at 12:00 AM Bangkok Post Newspaper section: Sports

While it is vital that we maintain the essence and spirit of Muay Thai's rich culture, we have to adapt to the changed times we live in.

VYING FOR POPULARITY: Muay Thai faces competition from other fighting styles.

I am fortunate to have had the privilege of knowing and working with several devotees of Muay Thai.

They are all in "the business" of Muay Thai. As they have succeeded they have all re-invested so much back into the development and promotion of Muay Thai. But to them, Muay Thai will never be just "a business".

Regardless of whether a "business" is a charity or a commercial entity, unless it is profitable and well run, it cannot create the resources to invest and if it cannot invest, it cannot improve and achieve its true potential.

I believe that the true potential of Muay Thai is far greater than what most of us realise.

Traditionalists and purists need to be aware that inertia and resistance to change have been the cause of many business failures - and that the most successful entities are those that proactively embrace and exploit change.

Muay Thai is today in fierce competition against well organised "new" martial art forms such as K1, MMA and UFC. However, competition is always good as it stimulates drive, innovation and, ultimately, improvement.

If we do not focus on the proper promotion of Muay Thai using sound and enlightened management and business methods - while retaining the core principles of Muay Thai (chivalry, respect, honour and integrity) - then our beloved art may become another "also ran" in comparison with the "new" martial arts mentioned.

We are in a serious war for talent.

This is an undeniable fact. Our most important and pressing challenge is to attract, develop and keep the best talent - be it fighters, coaches, managers or promoters.

To achieve this, we have to be clearer in purpose (vision), strategy, unity and commercial orientation. For example, why should a fighter continue to compete in Muay Thai when he/she can earn a lot more fighting K1 or UFC?

Sadly, I have seen too many great heroes of the Muay Thai arena having to eke out very meagre livings when their ring careers have ended.

People have practical needs.

They need to be able to take care of themselves and and families financially. Noone should be expected to sacrifice their welfare and dignity because of their passion for this great sport.

Sun Tzu cites "methods and discipline" (which includes structures) as being a key to victory. So, even though true greatness can never be attained without passion, passion on its own - without system - will not work.

Indeed, passion may be likened to fire.

On its own - not productively harnessed and utilised - passion (like fire) can burn and destroy rather than create.

Consequently, we must develop systems to unify the sport of Muay Thai and convert our collective passion to create something vastly better than what exists. Something we can all be so much prouder of.

Increasingly, I have come to realise that for Muay Thai to take its proper and rightful place in the world stage, it needs to be better organised and promoted internationally.

Our way of thinking must shift from (sometimes) short-term and (primarily) self-serving to focus on the long-term.

In honour of - and to do justice to - our proud heritage, we need to focus on the future and all its challenges and possibilities.

For my colleagues and me, Muay Thai will never be just "a business". We are committed to re-investing in doing what is right for Muay Thai as we go from strength to strength. The best is yet to come.

The writer is an England-based Muay Thai "grandmaster". He was writing in response to Achara Ashayagachat's "Muay Thai is now just a business" published in the Bangkok Post recently.


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