With the ever increasing awareness of martial arts including Muay Thai, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), Hapkido, Taekwondo and many others I decided to focus this autoethnographic account on the martial arts film genre. Martial arts films generally fall into the action film category and usually contain one or more martial arts fights between characters. The first martial arts film which drew attention for the Western audience was ‘Enter the Dragon’ starring Bruce Lee.
A popular strain of Mixed Martial Arts is Thai Boxing or more commonly referred to as Muay Thai. Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and was developed several hundreds of years ago as a form of close-combat that utilises the entire body as a weapon. Muay Thai is referred to as “The Art of Eight Limbs” because it utilises eight points of contact and the body mimics weapons of war. The hands become the sword and dagger, the shins and forearms were hardened in training to act as armour against blows, the elbow to fell opponents like a heavy mace or hammer, the legs and knees became the axe and staff. The body operated as one unit. The knees and elbows constantly searching and testing for an opening while grappling and trying to spin an enemy to the ground for the kill (Tiger Muay Thai 2016).
With an interest in Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts mainly originating from the popular fighting promotion company UFC, I decided to review a popular Thai film called ‘Ong Bak: Muay Thai Warrior’.
(This is the English dubbed trailer – I watched the original Thai version with English subtitles)
I have visited Thailand and have been to a Muay Thai fight before so I was keen to see if the film depicted the same skill level and respect for the sport as the real fighters. For the purpose of using this as an autoethnographic response I will refer back to Ellis (2011) in the aim to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis et al. 2011, pg. 1). I will watch the film and at the same time live tweet my initial thoughts. I will also incorporate Denzin’s (2004) theory that the ideas of the ethnographer is a public intellectual who produces and engages in meaningful cultural criticism.
I was originally going to compare the difference between Thai martial arts films and Chinese martial arts films however after watching Ong Bak this may change depending on the concepts I can draw from the film. My thoughts and observations have been recorded below in storify format.
Denzin, Norman K 2003, Performing [Auto] Ethnography Politically,The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 25:257–278.
Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1
Tiger Muay Thai 2016, ‘History of Muay Thai and Muay Thai Training’, tigermuaythai.com, accessed 25th August 2016, http://www.tigermuaythai.com/about-muay-thai/history
If you want to know more about the history of Muay Thai