On Saturday December 14th the mood was electric in Easton Training Center Denver. The semi-annual in-house Muay Thai smoker is always an exciting day, with coaches, competitors, and spectators filling the Denver academy for a day of fights. The smoker is one of the most anticipated events in the Easton Muay Thai program, and this year about 600 people came to the academy to cheer on their family and friends. It was amazing to see the number of people filling the mats and chairs surrounding the Denver academy’s raised octagon. Coach Sean Madden said it best: These events get bigger with every passing year, and as the program grows, the competitors display increasing levels of skill.
This year the Winter Muay Thai smoker included 22 exhibition Muay Thai fights, a new record! These 44 Easton competitors are advanced students from all the Easton academies. They have all spent the last two months in intensive training, preparing for their smoker bouts. This means working out five-to-six days a week, including hard sparring, lighter technical sparring, and tons of work on the Thai pads and heavy bags. Not to mention lots of supplemental running to get their cardiovascular system ready for the hard work of a fight. Though each fight is over in about seven minutes—three two-minute rounds, with a one-minute break between each—it requires some serious endurance, and the adrenaline dump is a real challenge.
For many of these students, the Easton smoker is their first-ever taste of competition in Muay Thai. The goal of the Easton in-house smoker is to give these fresh competitors an opportunity to learn about the process, preparation, and nerves that come with competition, and to showcase their skills in a safe, accessible setting. So there are no winners and losers, just growth and learning.
If asked, many of Saturday’s competitors will even say that when they first started training in Easton’s kickboxing classes, they had no inclination toward becoming a fighter. But for some, that changes as they become more advanced, and eventually get a taste for sparring. Other students come to Easton already sure that their goal is to compete. In the Muay Thai program, a motivated student can go from zero experience to fighting in the ring in under a year.
The day went off without a hitch, thanks to the passionate staff of Easton Muay Thai instructors, who served as the corner coaches, ring officials, emotional support, and assessment providers. The fights were exciting, and the match-ups were very well done. Pairing the competitors is a difficult task because in an exhibition fight, coaches must take into consideration the students’ height, weight, experience, and intensity.
Easton BJJ student Anthony Hamilton returned to the event as the MC extraordinaire, lending his booming voice and signature pizazz to announce fighters entering the cage. The Euro Crepes and Tocabe crews provided everyone with warm, delicious food for a chilly Colorado day.
Halfway through the fights, Chino Dean and Joey Nitura stepped into the ring to perform a demonstration of the Wai Kru Ram Muay, the ceremonial pre-fight dance. Chino and Joey are competitors on the Easton Fight Team, who participate frequently in national tournaments and sanctioned local fights. They both got their start in the in-house smokers.
From the World Muay Thai Council:
“Wai” is an action of Thais to show respect to others by putting the hands together like in prayer. Kru means teacher. Ram means dance in the old Thai traditional style. Muay means boxing.
The fighter performs the Wai Kru by circling the ring three times before kneeling and bowing three times as a sign of respect to God and man. He also bows to Buddha (traditionally) to ask for protection for himself and his opponent and for an honorable fight.
The practitioner may wear a headband called a Mongkhon and armbands known as Pra Jiad during the ceremony, and the Ram Muay may be accompanied by music. The Mongkhon is unique to Thai boxing and not worn in Cambodia or Burma.”
When the fights were over, the event wrapped up with a rank shirt promotion. The Easton coaches promoted sixteen blue shirts and two purple shirts. There is no internationally recognized ranking system for Muay Thai, so the Easton Muay Thai ranking system is set up to mimic the belt system used by the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). Blue and purple shirts represent a significant investment of time and effort, and we are proud of our students’ dedication!
Thank you to everyone who came out to watch the fights, and congratulations to all the competitors on a job well done! We’ll see you all at the next Easton Muay Thai Smoker!