Muay Thai kickboxing is Thailand's national sport. The fighters who inhabit the vibrant and colorful world of Bangkok's gyms and famed fighting stadiums are typically from poor rural provinces.
Fighters perform the Wai Khru ceremony before competing to pay homage to teachers and past fighters while sealing the ring from malicious spirits.
Before his entry to the arena, a fighter's trainer spreads oil liniment on his body while an elder prays over his shoulder for safety. Bangkok's historic Rajadamnern Stadium dates back to 1945.
Gamblers communicate through hand signals to place bets on fighters. There is an undercurrent of organized crime in the sport.
The path to the big stadiums goes through Bangkok's talent-rich gyms, filled with promising young athletes who live and train in the city’s cramped gyms.
Young fighters take a break from clinch work.
Instruction is given from outside the ring. Most trainers are ex-fighters. Many of them have little left from years of fighting.
At the highest level, Muay Thai is more than fighting. The "Nak Muay," or Thai fighter, masters rhythm, timing, and speed.
A win in Bangkok's biggest stadium propels a fighter to bigger fights. A select few will ascend from the ranks to find riches and a name.
A young onlooker watches a fighter moments after being knocked out and removed from the ring by stretcher. Injury is a reality of Muay Thai.
Despite the risks, Muay Thai can also rescue athletes from the life-long grinding poverty so prevalent in Thailand. There are no easy answers.