The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Muay Thai Monks on Horseback

E-mails have come in since I posted that we were on our way to the Monks on Horseback in the northern Thai mountains. Readers wanted to hear about our stay.

We live in Asia part of each year. We traveled north to visit our friends and teachers who are relatives and former teachers of the Phra (monk) Kru Ba Neua Chai who heads the monastery. Our friends live in the village of Baan Mai Kom, not far from there, close to the Burmese border. We took the bus north to there. There is no station - the driver dropped us on the road after dark, and we walked into the cool night to the mountain.

Nearby in Myanmar (Burma), drug traffickers from ethnic and government groups move vast amounts of opium and heroin, and more recently, methamphetamine, into Thailand for local and world distribution. For generations they have torn through villages, murdering adults and forcibly recruiting children into their militias. Drug use in the area further damages and destabilizes families and lives through drug illnesses, kidnapping, prostitution, and land control.

Drug wars, shooting, bombings, terror, international involvement and dollars have not stopped the destruction. The Thai monarchy, caring for the welfare of all involved, started a program for poppy growers to have income from other crops and industries beside opium. Thai soldiers in the region asked local monks to combat the drug menace by taking dharma (duty to behave righteously) to the hilltribe villagers. One monk was Kru Ba, a former soldier and Muay Thai (Thailand style martial arts) champion, known to boxing fans as Samerchai, and graduate of Ramkamhaeng University in Bangkok. To serve his land better, he became a monk. Another Thai man who wanted to do good gave the monastery a horse. Kru Ba took in more horses and orphaned hilltribe boys, and ordained the boys as nen (novice monks). Many of the nen had seen their families murdered by drug guerillas. Kru Ba taught the nen discipline, calisthenics, caring for the horses and other living things, the life of doing and saying good, and Muay Thai martial arts.

Soon more fully ordained monks and nuns became part of the monastery. Then Kru Ba started new monasteries. Today he has 10 monasteries in the northern hills. Except during periods when monks observe certain restrictions, they train Muay Thai outdoors, in the jungle, or in their thatched boxing ring each early morning and night.

Khru Ba and the monks and nen ride through local areas to show traffickers and locals they can stop contributing to drug addiction. Khru Ba says, "When we meet the Wa (one ethnic group involved), I try to engage them in dialogue, 'Why do you do this?' I ask them. 'How would you feel if these drugs were being consumed by your own sons and daughters?'"

On occasion, Kru Ba has used his Muay Thai to protect his nen and the monastery. As daily training, they incorporate the discipline of doing good into the physical discipline of their training. Kru Ba says, "Boxing for me is something which frees the body and releases the soul from barbarianism. When I box I use every single part of my body and my mind. Buddhism teaches you not to harm or take advantage of people which some may find to be in direct opposition to an aggressive looking sport like boxing. For me, boxing helps me to become a better Buddhist. I learn to control my emotions. I find beauty and peace and stillness in boxing. I get rid of my animal instincts and control them to the point that they become beautiful, an art form for sport, for education, for the discovery of truth. The word "Thai" means freedom and when I practice Muay Thai I feel free - free from my emotions, from anger."

A documentary made on the lives of Kru Ba and the nen has been called, "a heroic undertaking to create a better world." See more on I will post more in the future about our part there.


Photos copyright by Paul and Jolie

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.