Muay Thai, also known as Thai Boxing, is the national sport and ancient cultural martial art of Thailand. It is said to have originated around the 14th century. What separates the martial art from others is that it entails the use of every part of the limb as an attack and defense system. This is the reason why it is also known as the 'art of eight limbs'. The eight limbs that are being referred to are both fists, elbows, knees and shins. In the late 20th century, Muay Thai became very popular and the art form began to spread around the world.
The state of Tripura was also touched by this popularity as a few young men began to take an interest in learning it. Today, the state has achieved much recognition thanks to a Muay Thai champion, Chandrakanta Debbarma, who has brought many accolades to the state. He won the Gold medal at the National Championship held in Mussoorie in 2015, at Gujarat in 2016, and he won the Silver Medal in Meghalaya in 2017. He also won a Gold medal at the North East Youth Festival held in Sikkim in 2019. Seeing all this achievement in national competitions he was selected to represent India at IFMA Muay Thai World Championship in Bangkok in 2019. Sadly, due to an injury received during training, he had to cancel his participation in the competition.
Chandrakanta Debbarma was born on 29th of July in 1994 in a small village of Khowai. He comes from a farming family. His parents, Bidhya Ram Debbarma and Tarapati Debbarma are both farmers. His family consists of 3 more siblings; 2 elder sister and 1 younger brother. He grew up under trying circumstances as there was not enough financial support to channel his interests. He completed his schooling from Birchandra Higher Secondary School.
Chandrakanta was athletic since childhood. He used to learn Taekwondo, Kickboxing and even captained the school team of Volleyball and Football. He came to know of Muay Thai through one of his seniors, Alps Debbarma. Alps noticed that Chandrakanta had a huge talent for martial arts so he introduced him to Sanmilan Sinha, a coach (Kru in Muay Thai term) from Manipur. Sanmilan Sinha was Chandrakanta's first Kru. Chandrakanta instantly developed an affinity towards the martial art and started to join his Muay Thai coaching regularly. His love for the game and hard work showed instant success as he started to get medals, both at state level and national level championships.
Talking about his journey, Chandrakanta says that he was drawn to martial arts because he loved fighting as a child. He was athletic and loved sports in every form. As a fighter, he likes to attack during the game. "Whereas I prefer attacking, it also depends on who the opponent is. Sometimes it is smarter to act in defense," he says. Chandrakanta's skills must be seen to be believed. His biggest strength lies in his ability to kick hard. One time he knocked out an opponent with a single kick in the knee. His stamina is also a thing of legends. It is rumoured that he runs 30 km a day.
Whereas Chandrakanta has made a name for himself in the chosen field, the journey has been full of adversities. He says one of the constraints faced by sportspersons in India is the lack of financial backing. "Being a fighter, you have to take care of your health and diet but since I come from a family of farmers, it has always been hard for me to meet the standards," he says. It doesn't help that Muay Thai is still not recognized by many government sports authorities which means that it is not funded properly. The competitors usually practice and compete with their own money.
Yet, keeping aside all the cons of this game, Chandrakanta, who still is an active competitor, is also coaching future fighters. On being asked why he is doing that, he said "As I was introduced to this beautiful form of martial art and coached for free, I also want to do something like this for future fighters. Those who are poor and unable to get any paid coaching, am giving them a chance to make a name for themselves."
He has a message to young children who wish to pursue the artform, "We know that Muay Thai in India is still not developed in comparison to other forms of fighting, but there is a great future ahead. Recently our President of Indian Muay Thai Association met with Kiren Rijiju, Minister of Sports Govt. Of India for recognition of Muay Thai by the Ministry of Sports and inclusion in Khelo India. Athletes should know the importance of Khelo India and what it will bring for us all. Moreover, UMAI also submitted their official recognition request to National Olympic Committee of India. So a great time is coming for Muay Thai India and it's athletes. So train hard. Remember, the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in ring."
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.