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Martial Arts Games : On February 11th , 2009

Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) bosses might have too much time on their hands, so they have initiated a number of multi-sport tournaments.

Following the Asian Games and the Winter Asian Games which are in line with the Olympic versions, there are the Asian Indoor Games and the Asian Beach Games and now the Asian Martial Arts Games.

Not many Thais know that their country will host the inaugural Asian Martial Arts Games in Bangkok in April.

The event features nine martial arts - karate, judo, taekwondo, pencak silat, wushu-kungfu, kurash, jujitsu, kickboxing and muay (Muay Thai or Thai boxing).

The tournament proves how powerful Japan is as there are four Japanese martial arts - judo, karate, jujitsu and kickboxing.

In the future other Japanese martial arts may be included in the Games such as kendo, sumo and samurai.

As host, it is understandable why the Thai martial art of muay is included in the first Asian Martial Arts Games.

But one may wonder why the tournament also has kickboxing which is basically the same as Muay Thai. In fact, the Japanese created kickboxing from Muay Thai.

The two sports are similar and often cause confusion.

The only different rules are in Muay Thai, kicks below the belt are allowed as are strikes with knees and elbows.

The Thai organisers know too well that fans could become confused with kickboxing and muay at the Asian Martial Arts Games so they have decided to organise the two disciplines at different venues.

It is a shame that Muay Thai has now become simply "muay" in multi-sports events - the SEA Games, the Asian Indoor Games and the Asian Martial Arts Games.

This only shows how ineffective Thai officials are in dealing with promoting Muay Thai on the international stage.

The parties to blame are the two "ruling bodies" of amateur Muay Thai which have fought each other for years with mudslinging and legal action.

In the red corner, it's the International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur (Ifma) chaired by Sakchye Tapsuwan.

In the blue corner, it's the Amateur Muay Thai Association of Thailand (Amtat) led by Santiparb Intarapat.

Each has its lethal weapon but has yet been able to knock out the other.

Sakchaye's organisation is recognised internationally and Santiparb's association is the legitimate amateur Muay Thai ruling body in Thailand.

Ifma is member of the General Association of International Sports Federations (Gaisf) and Amtat is under the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) which does not recognise Sakchaye's federation.

Amtat is assigned to supervise the muay competition at the Asian Martial Arts Games and this reportedly upsets Gaisf.

It is also reported that Gaisf and the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) are at odds.

Gaisf has informed its member associations that it will not accept results of the Games as governing bodies of some sports are not Gaisf members.

Gaisf has threatened to punish the governing bodies of the sports of the countries that take part in the Games. They could be banned from international competitions for at least one year.

The hardest hit body is the Taekwondo Association of Thailand (TAT).

If it faces suspension, it could affect its athletes' preparations for the 2012 Olympics.

The best way out for the TAT is ignore the unpopular Asian Martial Arts Games to avoid any punishment.

One may wonder why Thailand had to bid to host the Games as it seems that we will have little to gain but a lot to lose from organising the event.

It is also a waste of money as we have to spend around 300 million baht for organising and athletes' preparation costs.

The government may have to pay millions of baht in bonus for medal winning athletes as a gold medalist could receive up to one million baht from the National Sports Development Fund.

The agencies that joined hands in bringing the Asian Martial Arts Games to Thailand were the Tourism and Sports Ministry under the previous government, the SAT, the National Olympic Committee of Thailand and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

They apparently did not learn anything from the country's hosting the inaugural Asian Indoor Games in 2005 which proved unpopular and a waste of state funds.

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Suwit Gym ( Muay Thai camp ) 15 Moo 1 , Choa Fa Rd , T. Chalong , A. Muang , Phuket , Thailand , 83130   
Tel . (66) 76 374313

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