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Amateur competitions such as the Team Singapore Selection Series has helped to grow the muay Thai scene in Singapore (photo credit: Kristopher Mizoguchi).

There is no denying that the Muay Thai scene in Singapore is growing. In the past few years, the numbers of combat gyms have increased, and more people have started taking up this form of martial art. The Muay Thai Team Singapore Selection Series II is organised by the Amateur Muay Thai Association (Singapore), otherwise known as AMAS, at the Orchid Country Club’s Grand Ballroom to sieve out fresh talent to represent Singapore.

There were 25 bouts that day with categories ranging from Novice Male and Female, to International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur (IFMA) Female and Male Open. 

Amateur competitions like this help to support the growing Muay Thai scene in Singapore. “(These amateur completions) are a very good head start for novice and amateur fighters. This is a very good platform before they move on to having a professional career in Thailand or wherever else their fights bring them to,” says Kelvin Khor, a member of Vanda Boxing Club.

According to Zamri Salleh, a coach from TOP Gym, Muay Thai was not so popular five to six years ago, The martial art only picked up steam when The Contender Asia came to Singapore. The Contender Asia was a boxing reality-based television series based on The Contender, which originated from the United States. The Contender Asia focused on Muay Thai, while its American counterpart focused on boxing. “That’s when our local-bred fighters like “Zig Zach1” started getting attention”, he adds. 


There were many youths at the event as well, ranging from polytechnic students, to fresh graduates. Among them was Koh Xuan Yi from Temasek Polytechnic. The 18 year-old says he started Muay Thai because he liked to fight when he was younger, and he felt that other martial arts like Karate or Taekwondo seemed more performance-based than actual engagement in a fight. He decided to participate in Muay Thai competitions after discovering how much he enjoyed practicing the martial art. Despite concerns about his safety and well-being, his parents are surprisingly supportive of his participation in Muay Thai events.

Every sport and martial art definitely has its own risks. Nicholas Tjoa from Impact Mixed Martial Arts says that he started Muay Thai when he was 17 years old, and seven years later, this well-built 24 year-old fighter says he has “never seriously gotten injured”. Interestingly, he has fractured bones from more common sports like soccer and basketball.

One might think that the risk of sustaining serious injuries from practicing Muay Thai would deter people from practicing the martial art. Coach Zamri Salleh was quick to debunk the myth, saying that, “More and more young boys - local boys, are getting into Muay Thai. It’s usually because of the fitness, the art itself, or for self-defense in general.”

Muay Thai, contrary to popular belief, is not a sport practiced only by males. There have also been a growing number of girls taking up Muay Thai for various purposes. Out of the 25 bouts that day, five of them were specially categorized for female fighters.

Tan Shi Yin from Onyx Gym who competed in the IFMA Female Open said she felt Muay Thai was “different from any other martial arts because of the rituals and culture”. She had tried boxing but fell in love with Muay Thai instead. “Muay Thai taught me not to dwell on negative things, and to always have a positive outlook on things, be humble and down to earth,” she adds.

When asked about what it was like to be a female Muay Thai fighter, she says “(A female fighter) definitely gets a lot of special treatment. They won’t want to hit you so hard, but I don't really like that. I want them to take me seriously.” 

1. “Zig Zach” refers to a well-known Singaporean Muay Thai practitioner whose real name is Kim Khan Zaki.

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