Action Movie Stars Admires Muaythai

7 Sep

by Bangkok Post (2005-09-07)

What have Angelina Jolie, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris all got in common? Apart from being action movie stars, Hollywood’s big four have a deep passion and respect for muaythai, Thailand’s cultural tradition and fighting art that is fast rising as the world’s number one glamour martial art.

Last year Jolie paid two visits to Thailand – to attend a United Nations conference on AIDS and to get a tiger tattoo encrypted onto her lower back.

While in Bangkok Jolie said she had a fascination with tigers, and she was interested to learn about the Siamese “Tiger King�? – Phra Chao Sri Sanpetch V111, the 29th King of Ayutthaya.

The Tiger King – otherwise known as Phra Buddha Chao Sua – became famous for his skills as a Muaythai fighter. And during the reign of the Tiger King, Muaythai had its golden age.

Jolie had two of her tattoos needled in Thailand. She believes that her newly acquired tiger tattoo drawn onto her lower back keeps her safe.

Jolie’s megastar status makes it difficult for her to be a normal spectator at major events – sporting or entertainment. And that’s one of the reasons why she can identify with Thailand’s famous Tiger King who traveled in disguise, from village to village, to fight the best in muaythai. He reportedly won every time.

A lot of Jolie moves in her action scenes are similar to the muaythai style that goes back more than two thousand years when a manual of warfare known as the “Chupasart�? was written.

The manual showed how to fight with knives, swords, spears, battleaxes, pikes and crossbows. More importantly though, the manual shows how to use all the physical weapons. The shinbone became the staff of the pike to block and strike. The arms became the raised twin swords of defense. The fist the jabbing tip of the spear. The elbow, the battle axe to cut through; the knee to break open the defenses. While the flashing foot, a pike, arrow and knife.

But it’s not just the body weapons that captured Jolie’s interest in the Thai fighting art. She says she is lured by the philosophy of Buddhism, the teachings of transformations of life energy and the impermanency of everything.

The daughter of actress Mirchjeline Bertrand and Oscar award winning actor Jon Voight, Jolie declares “there is something about death that is comforting. The thought you could die tomorrow frees you up to appreciate your life now.�?

Jolie relates to the muaythai combatants who wear sacred amulets into the ring for protection. Her body wears several tattoos which include a box design on her hip, a Chinese dragon on her left arm, a Celtic rune on her left wrist, two tribal inscriptions on each of her buttocks, the Japanese symbol of death on her left shoulder and the Latin words on her stomach which translates to “what nourishes me also destroys me.�?

Her latest and proudest body marking is, however, that of a Siamese Tiger. As well as the sign of the great Tiger King the tattoo is designed to open the gateway of protection to enable life’s energies to flow freely.

Steven Seagal is another celebrity who’s become a fan of the Thai fight culture. Although 54 – and 24 years older than Jolie – Seagal, an eminent martial artist and 7th dan Aikido, has a deep respect for Muaythai.

Seagal enjoys holidaying in Thailand and when he’s not working out enjoys having a long Thai massage. A Buddhist adherent and teacher Seagal says he likes watching the rituals of muaythai particularly the focused spirit of combat.

“My roots are with my Japanese master and my martial arts teachers in Japan. But when I look at muaythai I can see and appreciate that this is the real thing. It’s not staged. Who wouldn’t respect the Thai fighters? They’ve kept their traditions for thousands of years and they deserve all the recognition they are now getting.

Sylvester “Sly�? Stallone is a declared fight fan who loves muaythai.
When he came to Bangkok to star in Rambo 3 he had two rooms – one for sleeping and the other for his own private gymnasium. At the time he was on a strict diet of chicken consomm?.

“I came to Bangkok to make a movie and I discovered muaythai.�?

According to Stallone muaythai at the time (1989) was one of the world’s best-kept secrets.

“We have this kick fight scene that had all the movements of a Thai fight. We did it for impact and movie appeal. But when I saw the Thai guys kicking off the set I couldn’t help but be impressed. They really can kick.

“I said to the producers…how come the world doesn’t know about the skills of the Thai boxers?�? Today the star of the Rocky boxing movies declares to all who’ll listen that muaythai is “tops.�?

Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme are two other action movie stars who have been impressed with muaythai combat. Norris, who teaches martial arts says that muaythai is “the great ring sport�? while Van Damme admits that he was “more than little impressed�? when he saw real muaythai while making the Kickboxer mover in Bangkok.

There is little doubt that many celebrities appreciate and admire the Thai fighting skills and technique. The legendry Bruce Lee reportedly adjusted his kicking style after coming to Bangkok to make the movie Big Boss.But while glamour grows with muaythai at the movie theatres and on videos worldwide hundreds of martial artists and sports enthusiasts come to Thailand every year soley to learn Muaythai from the Thais.

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