Diary of a Wimby Kid – a 6 year old Muay Thai fighter

Before he became Muay Thai champion. Long before he became Wimbledon Jai. Six-year old Wimby tells his story about how he started Muay Thai.

Life before Muay Thai

Muay Thai kidWhen I was six years old we grew coconuts and mangos on my family’s land in Lopburi. They were really delicious, but there were too many for us to eat. I had the idea of bringing them to my school to sell. I lived about two kilometres from school, and I could fit a few coconuts and about 20 mangos in my backpack and two sacks. I would leave my home early, so I could arrive at school an hour before class started.  I stood at the entrance and shouted: “Sweet coconut just one baht (4 NZ cents). Mangos – two for just one baht!”

My neighbourhood was not rich, but most of the students had at least 1 baht pocket money every day. I sold my fruit cheap, so everybody could afford them. Back then, a bowl of noodles cost 3 baht. So you could save for three days and get some noodles, or spend 1 baht and get one or two delicious things to eat every day!

I was so excited that first day, because I took home 18 baht to give my father. I had never had so much money and I remember the feeling of pride that I could earn so much money for my family.  My father was surprised and pleased, and wanted to give me five baht, but I wanted my family to have every cent.

After that, I sold fruit at school often. I have a scar on my right thigh, and when people ask if I got it through fighting, I tell them a dog bit me. They don’t believe me, but it’s true, and that’s why I’m still a bit nervous around dogs.

I was carrying my fruit to school to sell, when a stray dog started chasing me. I couldn’t run, because my bags were so heavy, so it bit me.
That day I didn’t sell any fruit.

Muay Thai beginnings

I started training Muay Thai soon after that. I’ve always been dark, and Thai people prefer pale skin. At six years old, I was also quite chubby with a round face. My family couldn’t always afford to eat meat, but I loved to eat rice. I didn’t even mind eating it plain, so maybe that’s why I was fat.

My big brother Y was two years older than me, and he had a friend called BL who used to bully me. BL would say: “Hey fat, black man, carry my bag for me. Fat, black man, go get me a cigarette. Hey, has anyone seen the fat black man?”

One day I couldn’t take it anymore and I refused to listen to him. He hit my head.  I got angry and kicked him. And then we fought. Well, he won, because he was bigger than me.

I remember telling my big brother what happened but he refused to confront BL. In fact, he said he was going to stay friends with him. I was so upset I ran home and told looked for my dad. I cried as I told him what happened. My dad got very angry at me. He told me: “You’re a man, you have to take care of yourself!”

Then he made me strip naked and bend over a table, and told me not to move. He went out to our back yard to get a branch from a prune tree. And then he beat me. It was painful, but I stopped crying. It didn’t hurt as much as not being helped by my brother. I think it is worse to be hurt emotionally than physically. Maybe that’s why I became a good fighter. Because I can take pain and push through.

The next day, after I came home from school, I found that my dad had filled an empty rice sack with sand and rags to use as a punching bag. He hung it from a tree in our back yard. The same plum tree where he had got the branch the day before.

My Muay Thai training started that afternoon in my school uniform with my Dad as my trainer. Like most Thai men, he had a few fights, and he liked to watch Muay Thai. But he was never really good at it, and he didn’t know much about training people. There were no mats, just gravel, so it hurt when I fell down. I remember that every time I fell, my Dad would say: “Good. You are getting better.”

We didn’t have Muay Thai pads to kick, so at first, my training just consisted of kicking the bag and running. In the mornings before school, I would go running for an hour or an hour and a half. I didn’t get my first pair of shoes until I was eight and my gym’s boss bought me some for school. So I ran barefoot. When I first came to New Zealand, I was surprised to see many people walking around with no shoes. In Thailand, only people who couldn’t afford shoes did that. Later, my father would tie bags of sand to my ankles before running to make me stronger. I would train every day after school.

Three weeks after I started training, my dad invited BL to train with me. By then he had stopped bullying me. After we fought, he realised how much I hated being called those names. So BL became my training and sparring buddy. But he could still beat me up.

Muay Thai kid

My first Muay Thai fight

A month after I started training, my dad decided I was ready for my first Muay Thai fight. He brought me to an open-air festival. In the middle of the field was the boxing ring, where people could watch and gamble on fights for free. Everybody who wanted to fight went up in the ring to get their weight checked. The promoter wrote my weight on my wrist (25kg) and I was told to look for a boy about my size to fight.

I walked around the market, asking boys if they wanted to fight. The fourth boy I asked agreed. His name was KL and he said that it was also his first time fighting. We fought that night and I lost on points. We were the same size, but he had strong punches and powerful kicks.

After the fight, we hung out at the festival, listening to music and sharing some snacks. Since we were now friends, KL told me that he had actually fought five times, but his Dad told him not to tell me.

The thing about Muay Thai fighters is that when they are good, they pretend to be not good. And when they are bad, they pretend to be good. You see, it’s all about gambling. If you look good, then nobody will make much money gambling on you to win. So it’s better to make people believe you are losing.

Ask any experienced Muay Thai fighter and they will tell you it is normal to pretend to be losing for the first three rounds. Then in the fourth round, they get “lucky” and manage to pull off enough to win. But you had to be careful that the crowd ouldn’t tell you were faking it, or they would get angry. You also had to be careful not to leave your “come back” until too late, or you might actually lose. This has happened to me a few times, and I lost. My opponent didn’t even realise what I was trying to do.

One time this went bad for me was when I was letting my opponent win in his hometown. I was a lot better at everything than him, so I let him punch and kick me for three rounds. In the third round, I even purposely let him elbow me above my right eye. Unfortunately, it was a really bad cut and blood was going everywhere. My corner managed to use a lot of Vaseline to stop the blood from going into my eye, so I was allowed to continue to fight.

I knew I had to finish the fight before the blood started coming out again, so in the next round I came out 100% power and KO’d him with an elbow. Unfortunately, the crowd realised what was happening and weren’t happy.  I had to rush out of the stadium. My opponent had a lot of friends watching, and they weren’t happy about what happened. They found me, and smashed a beer bottle over my head while I was waiting for someone to stitch up my eyebrow. To this day, I still have the scar.

Although I have “accidentally” lost a few times, out of over 200 fights, there were only three times, I purposely lost a fight. I really hated those times when gangsters were controlling the matches.  When they bet a lot of money against you, they will try to make sure you lose.  I’ve had a gun pointed at my head twice. One time they threatened to kill one of my little twin brothers. I felt bad losing on purpose, but I didn’t have a choice.  I have a friend who won a fight against their orders and he lost an eye.

Anyway, after my first fight, I got paid 250 Baht and my big brother who fought the same night got 450 baht. My father gave us 50 Baht each and the rest went to our family. I remember buying so many sweets and toys and I still couldn’t finish the money – I had never had so much! And my family – well, we went grocery shopping and we ate really well for the next month.

After seeing how much I could earn from just fighting, and how much happiness I could bring to my family, I decided I wanted to be a professional fighter.

My father was a farmer and ran his own business. But when the crops were not good, he would have to go away and work as a labourer. I’d miss him a lot when he was away, but when he came back, the whole family would be really excited because he always brought lots of food.

At that age, my favourite hobbies were hunting and fishing. I would catch fish and small birds and give them to my mum to cook with basil leaves and chilli, or make tom yum soup for the whole family. I loved hunting, but I hated going home empty-handed, so if I couldn’t catch anything, I’d at least bring back some bananas or a melon. Looking back, even though we didn’t have much, I had a really happy childhood.

Joining a Muay Thai gym

The next holiday was Songkran (Thai New Year), and we had a three-month break from school. My Dad told my big brother and me he was going to bring us to  Bangkok – which was four hours away by bus. We were going to look for a real Muay Thai gym to train at.

We went to three gyms, and they all rejected me because I was too young and inexperienced.  I was seven by then, and my brother was nine.  The fourth gym only took me in because they felt sorry for me.  But none of the trainers wanted to waste their time holding pads for me. As usual, my dad supervised my training, and I assumed we would stay there until school started again.

About a week after we arrived at the gym, I woke up, and found my dad was gone. I asked the fighters at the gym where he was, and they said he had gone back home. We didn’t have phones, and we had no money or way to get home. My brother and me cried every day for a week.

I saw my dad six months later, when he came to see me fight in Bangkok. I wrote letters to my mum every month, but I didn’t hear her voice or see her again until I was 12 years old. Now I’m in New Zealand, I talk to her every week.

There were up to 40 fighters at the gym and being the youngest, I would run all the errands. This included helping prepare meals, washing plates and massaging the fighters before training. In exchange, I got free food and lodging and I would go to school at the nearby temple, which was free.

Even though nobody held pads for me, I would train twice a day. I was responsible for keeping the time of rounds, so while the fighters trained, I would copy them while keeping an eye on the time. Then after the round, I would yell: Break! And give everyone water.

Muay Thai kidI would go running with the fighters (or at least try to keep with them). The first few times they were too fast for me and I got lost! I would also spar and clinch with them. After one month, I stopped being homesick and started having fun. I made friends at school and at the gym. The food was good – better than at home. You just had to be quick, because everybody eats at the same time.

One thing you must know about me. When I was young, I was a very slow learner, and I was slow in taking food. I only became a good fighter after I had more than 30 fights.

I was lucky that two of the top fighters at the gym – Chay Yai and Chay Lek felt sorry for me, and they always took food for me first.  They would also tip me when I did errands for them, otherwise I had no money. They helped me a lot, and until today, I call them my big brothers

My first fight came a couple of months after I joined the gym, and it was by accident. There was a 10 year old boy having his first fight for our gym. He had arrived before me, and it was his first time fighting in Bangkok. When it was time to fight, he refused to leave his corner – he was scared. Even though his trainer yelled and shouted at him, they couldn’t make him fight. So his trainer put his shorts and gloves on me, and I fought instead, without a mouthguard or wraps. I was 26kg and the other boy was about 32 kg, so there wasn’t much difference. But experience-wise, he had about 30 fights and this was my second one. It would be a while before I won my first fight.

To be continued?

 

 

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