This was a tough assignment, photographing child boxers in the poor outskirts of Bangkok. Not tough because of access or subject matter or anything like that. Tough in a different way. Tough showing what it was really like without falling into classic cliches of poor youths quite literally fighting to survive in a harsh unforgiving environment. Because while it was certainly that to a certain extent, it was also so much more. Muay Thai is for all intents and purposes a sacred sport and art in Thailand: graceful and disciplined and beautiful and savage, much like the country itself. It’s an honor to fight, and while it attracts poor youths much more so than those born with gilded golden spoons in their mouths, it isn’t only for their dreams of making it big and getting out and all those other big words and phrases that have captured the world’s imagination on more than just a few occasions. It’s also done out of the pure love, the sheer joy, the absolute simplicity of it all. Muay Thai is Thailand as much as anything else. From youths onwards. And so really, this is just the beginning.
It’s probably time to take a deep breath and break from the Agent Orange work. At least for a post or two. Hopefully by the beginning of next week I’ll be able to complete the first two of three stories at the village. One or two more days of shooting should round out my final edits.
The image above is for a story on Kendo, a modern Japanese martial art that is, from what I can tell, based primarily around extremely awesome samurai-style sword fighting. The writer could probably go into more details. I just want to wear one of these outfits and get a bamboo sword/stick. I think I might go back to the practice studio on Sunday morning to check out one of the beginner classes.
For those in Hanoi, the gymnasium is at 91 Chua Lang and beginner classes run on Friday evenings from 7-9 and on Sunday mornings from 9-11. The advanced class meets one additional night on Wednesdays. Tuan Le, who is something of the group leader and who is also holding the shinai in the above photograph, is extremely friendly and willing to speak to anyone interested in the martial art.