Published On Apr 17, 2021
Thailand's popular national sport, the martial art Muay Thai, remains male-dominated. Yet as more and more girls and women pursue careers in the ring, the traditions of the sport are being challenged.
Muay Thai is known as the sport of warriors and kings. Said to be one of the oldest sports in the world, "Thai Boxing" is seen as a battle of superlatives, a competition that goes straight to the bone. Muay Thai is as popular in Thailand as soccer is in other countries. It's broadcast on prime time television and high wagers on bouts have elevated the most successful Thai boxers to star status. Women are still not permitted to compete at major, national venues, but barriers are beginning to fall. More and more women train in sport studios and aspire to professional careers in the ring. It all started with the Muay Thai legend Nong Tum. At the height of her success, Nong Tum was considered a male athlete. The makeup he wore in the ring was assumed to be a marketing gimmick. Then he spent his prize money on a sex change operation and became a woman. The surgery ended Nong Tum's career. Today, she trains youngsters in her own sports studio in Bangkok. This documentary visits the young contenders as they go about their lives between school, training and bouts in the arena in Chiang Mai. The filmmakers also speak to Nong Tum about her fight for recognition and equality. She says she has a smile "as sweet as honey" but a punch like the "kick of an elephant."
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