Sandra Hoyn‘s story Fighting for a Pittance, about Muay Thai, was shot in Thailand and is about martial arts fighters who do not make the front pages: children. Sandra, who is from Germany, studied photography and graduated in 2005 from the University of Applied Sciences, in Hamburg. She then started to work as an independent photojournalist for magazines, newspapers and NGOs. Her assignments and the projects she initiated took her, among other countries and places, to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Palestine, India, Tanzania, West Africa. The children featured in Fighting for a Pittance , if they are not pushed into Muay Thai by their parents, have their support in any case. Fights have monetary prizes, and parents will make money out of their sons’ winning fights. Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand, and is arguably the most violent combat sport in the world. Developed over the course of centuries, it is a physical and mental discipline. Also called Thai Boxing, it is referred as “the art of eight limbs”, because the fighters use their fists, elbows, knees and shins.
Sandra Hoyn in her own words:
Muay Thai, the national sport of Thailand, is one of the hardest martial arts worldwide, often connected with fighters sustaining serious injuries. Many people earn their living by it; therefore children’s fights for tourists and Thai bettors are part of everyday life. Two or three times a month, they are boxing for a pittance and they push themselves to their physical and mental limits. Only a few of them may become rich and popular boxing idols. At 25, their career is usually over.
Most children belong to poor families. They dream about being famous one day and hope that Thai boxing is a way out of poverty. For that reason parents send their children to professional training at a very early age; it is common for children to start boxing from the age of 6 or 7.
Normally children have a lot of fun during the Muay Thai training and they are not forced by their parents to do it. But the competition-fights in the arenas are different from the training at home. Enormous pressure is put on these children before and during the competition. They have to win the fight, because their parents could lose by betting a lot of money. Money bets are illegal in Thailand, but hardly anyone cares for that. The stakes are high, a lot of people lose all their money in just one night.
One time I saw a boy lose a boxing match and lay on the ground. His mother shouted very angrily. I asked her if she’s worried because her son is injured, but it was just annoying for her that they have lost so much money because of him.
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