DIGC 330 Digital Artifact – Podcast


I decided to produce a digital artefact instead of a traditional research essay. I have found that throughout DIGC subjects I have the tendency to take the easy way out and write a research report. For the purpose of the task I therefore decided to create a podcast.

The following podcast therefore contains the process in which I analysed Ong Bak through an autoethnographic response to the film. In this podcast I explain what autoethnography is, what Muay Thai is, how I recorded my thoughts, then move into my epiphanies and initial thoughts about Ong Bak before analysing three major points. It attempts to discuss the transnational relationship between Australian and Thai culture through two main points discussed; religion and drug laws and outline the global flow of Thai action films which resulted from Ong Bak’s success.

Link to Storify containing tweets – https://storify.com/Andy_Wurf/ongbak-account


Autoethnographic attempt at Ong Bak

Following on from my previous post about my initial encounter with Ong Bak, I have done research into specific aspects of the film that were of relevance to my initial reactions recorded on Twitter. I have watched limited martial arts films and the majority of them were western produced films (I’m talking Rush Hour). The Thai film industry was already renowned for its horror and teen movies and has seen success in the box office since 1997 however research into Ong Bak showed that the Thai film was a worldwide success and started the breakthrough of Thai action films. The prominent type of Thai action movies that are successful are those showing exciting Thai boxing (Muay Thai). Thai films do not use martial arts which aims to chase the antagonists, instead they design the fighting scenes to be beautiful and exciting combining Muay Thai with acrobatic moves and combat which can related to real life and human action (Panyasopon 2012).

There are three main aspects of the movie which I will touch on in this blog. The first aspect is religion. My initial encounter with this movie resulted in numerous thoughts about religion and its importance in Thai culture. Ong Bak has a very limited plot, and the basis of the plot revolves around those that believe in Buddhism and those that don’t. On one side is Ting and his village which have their Buddha’s head stolen and on the other side is Komtuan the evil boss who is stealing Buddha’s from across the country and selling them off shore. Once Ting’s village has lost Ong Bak’s (their Buddha’s) head they are plunged into a drought which I assume is punishment for the loss. Komtuan is portrayed as a non-religious man and refers to himself as a “god”. This is ultimately his undoing in the film as he is ironically crushed by a giant Buddha’s head.


Further study into religion in Thailand concluded that nearly 95% of Thailand’s population is Buddhist, derived from the Theravada school (Kusalasaya 2006). Buddhism has become so integrated into Thai life that the two are hardly separable. Buddhist influences can be detected in Thai life-style, mannerisms, traditions, character, arts, architecture, language, and all other aspects of the Thai culture. The fact that Thailand has become widely known today as the Land of Smiles is due in no small measure to the Buddhist influence on the Thai people. Indeed, the nation as a whole owes much to the religion and wholeheartedly acknowledges her indebtedness to the Buddha’s teachings (Plamintr 2016). It therefore makes sense that Komtuan is killed at the end of the movie because of his lack of faith.


Reflecting on this tweet about Ting becoming a monk at the end of the movie now makes more sense to me through this research into religion. Ting becoming a monk means that he is regarded highly by his village and therefore it is a great privilege for the young protagonist.

The second aspect of the film which I commented on is the appearance of a cultural battle between Thailand and Myanmar.


Ting (the protagonist) is forced into a deadly rope fist fight against the fighter called Saming. Saming originates from Myanmar, however Ting is told to purposely lose the fight if he wants to see Ong Bak’s head. Research into Myanmar and Thailand’s relations brought to my attentions the numerous battles fought between Burma (Myanmar) and Siam (Thailand) during the 16th to 19th century. Relations between the two countries now are strictly focused on economic issues however there is still conflict over the alignment of the border. Ong Bak repeatedly mentions that Saming is from Burma as well as negatively portraying him as a drug cheat with numerous scenes of him injecting steroids.

The use of drugs ties into my final observation of the film. Ong Bak has a very negative attitude towards illegal drugs.

Komtuan the evil boss happens to be a drug lord, Humlae (Ting’s cousin) has ran away from the village and now makes money by ripping off drug dealers, Saming is a steroid user and the culprit who stole Ong Bak’s head (Don) sells and uses cocaine. This negative attitude about illicit drugs is engrained into Thai culture, take for example the statement from the Customs Department of the Kingdom of Thailand (2016) website;

“Violators of laws related to illicit drugs, e.g., having and holding for use, or being a producer, seller, or transporter are subject to the death sentence”.

With a death sentence possible for using, selling or transporting drugs it is clear that Thailand has a zero illicit drug policy which is reflected in the movie clearly.

To conclude, after conducting research my initial responses of Ong Bak it seems there are underlying themes present in the movie. To continue with my research into Thai films I plan on watching the sequel to Ong Bak, Ong Bak 2. It will be interesting to see if the main themes which I drew from the movie are present in the sequel or if they take a different approach to the plot.


Reference List:

Iskander D. 2013, ‘Thai Culture Uncovered: A Cultural Analysis’, Intercultural Communications, accessed 17th September 2016, https://diskander1.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/thai-culture-uncovered.pdf

Kusalasaya K. 2006, ‘Buddhism in Thailand Its Past and Its Present’, Buddhist Publication Society Wheel Publication, no.85

Panyasopon T. 2012, ‘The Characteristics of Thai Movies and Factors Contributing to Becoming Widely Known in International Markets’, International Journal of Social, Behavioral, Educational, Economic, Business and Industrial Engineering, vol. 6, no 10

Plamintr S. 2016, ‘Buddhism and Thai Society’, budsas.org, accessed 17th September 2016, http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha108.htm

Thailand Customs Department 2016, ‘Legislation Customs Act (No. 20) B.E. 2548’, customs.go.th, accessed 17th September 2016, http://www.customs.go.th/wps/wcm/connect/custen/legislation/legislation

Ong Bak – An Autoethnograpic account

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.


Reference List

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

Additional Reading:

If you want to know more about the history of Muay Thai


An autoethnographic response to State of Play

When I first heard the term Autoethnography I will admit I was worried such a big word could only mean lots of hard work. Researching more into the word through the readings by Ellis, Adams and Bochner (2011) I learnt that “Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyse personal experience in order to understand cultural experience” (Ellis et al. 2011, pg. 1).

Essentially a researcher makes themselves the subject of research by using their own thoughts, feelings and observations. First analysis comes from observations and then moves internally into thoughts and feelings about these observations.

My first autoethnographic experience occurred in the tutorial this week ran by Chris. We were shown a documentary called ‘State of Play’ which focused around competitive gaming and specifically a popular video game Star Craft. The film followed Lee Jae Dong a professional gamer, ParkYo Han a school student wanting to become semi pro and Kim Joon Hyuk a semi-professional gamer hoping to make a professional career out of playing.

My experience with Asian is not limited as I lived in Hong Kong for a while as a kid. However the South Korean culture especially around professional gaming was quite a shock. For my first autoethnographic experience I recorded notes during the film in my workbook.

  • Professional players live together in a house with up to 14 players under the one roof. Is this to reinforce teamwork or for economic needs (cheaper?)
  • Players train 10-12 hours a day on Star Craft which is an insane amount of screen time surely headaches and RSI play a part in the long term?
  • Players are celebrities – live broadcast on television channel, commentators, sponsors, fans (mostly women), even hairdressers.
  • Big gender difference – men play and women can be involved but only as fans.
  • After tournaments women line up and wait to present gifts to their favourite players
  • Players have their hair cut and styled before every tournament (despite them all having the same bowl haircut).
  • Player carry a keyboard around in a specific keyboard backpack – tools of the trade.
  • Korean culture is very minimalistic players don’t own many possessions and sleep on thin mats instead of in beds – this was very interesting to note.
  • Following Kim Joon Hyuk when he first is inducted into the house as a professional player there is a hierarchy. He starts at the bottom and must clean up and help prepare meals so the other players will accept him.
  • In Korean culture it must not be rude to sleep whilst someone is talking as there are numerous shots of students in the classroom fast asleep and players in the convention centre sleeping whilst being presented to.
  • Players are high skilled in their e-sport and possess high concentration levels and sharp reflexes which is measured in clicks and keyboard actions
  • Players have limited social life this is highlighted by Lee Jae Dong when he says “all my friends go to school and have girlfriends, maybe im wasting my time”.
  • Father figures in Korea similar to Australian fathers. Fathers questions their sons careers in E-sports and don’t necessarily accept it as a legitimate career.

I found State of Play to be an exceptional documentary which highlighted South Korean culture and the rise of e-sports. With e-sports now huge globally it was fascinating to see where it all began.

Reference List

Ellis, C, Adams, TE & Bochner, AP 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol.12, no.1, pp.1-12.