Lo Ma is a thirteen years old girl living near Buriram, in the backward region of Isaan, Northeast Thailand. She has a simple family and goes to school: a normal life. But she has a passion that makes her special: she loves Muay Thai boxing, and she's very good at it.
When I started working on this story dedicated to women in Muay Thai I thought of a more professional approach. Covering clubs and major competitions, visiting large venues and even stadiums. But the family-size experience of Lo Ma is too compelling. The gym, just a hut between the house and the rice field. The father training her every afternoon. The mother, former boxer herself, overlooking alongside grandmother and sisters. The little niche decorated with boxer's posters where she sleeps. It's one of these simple life stories that nobody is telling anymore, but that should be told for it's simplicity in this time of forced complications.
I followed her, the whole family, to a match during the festival in a Buddhist temple. She prepared herself like the other boys in the open ground. Her father spread oil on her body, put on her gloves, and then she was ready to walk to the ring, to the sixth match of the night. The public was as passionate as was with her male counterparts before, and her opponent bigger, and more angry.
She won. But I had to ask if she had indeed. There were no jumps, jubilation, screams. What is fascinating in Lo Ma is the way she lives all of this: the shy simplicity of a thirteen years old girl that punch and kick like she was playing with a doll.
I'll keep looking...