Special for the Armenian Weekly
Gabriela Murg, the senior legal advisor of the World Muaythai Federation, said that she “could not be more proud of the Armenian delegation, and the team serves as a model for what other teams should aspire to.” The Armenian team was not only one of the strongest competitors at the World Muaythai Championship in March 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand, but the five-person delegation was “extremely professional, well led, and well liked,” according to Murg. Two fighters, Davit Hayrapetyan and Armen Grigoryan, medaled at the tournament.
Muay thai is an ancient art of fighting in Thailand that dates back to the 16th century. The sport has gained worldwide popularity and is one of the skills used in mixed martial arts today. Muay thai is known as the “art of eight limbs”; besides the fist and foot, it also incorporates the elbows and knees when fighting.
Armenia has extended its passion for boxing to muay thai. The Armenian Muay Thai Federation is supporting and training fighters throughout the country, in addition to Nagorno-Karabagh. The federation was reinvigorated in 2011 by Aram Abramyan, the president, and Armine Khachatryan, the general secretary, when they took over. They are a husband and wife team. The federation boasts 20 clubs with 25 trainers supporting more than 500 fighters.
Khachatryan proudly shared the Federation’s objective: “The goal is simple. We want to take kids off the street. We want to instill the values of discipline and honor. My heart races when I see the Armenian flag raised in the rings of these other countries.”
Abramyan shared one of the biggest challenges for the federation: “The federation is 100 percent self-supporting. Despite our success, the Armenian Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs has not partnered with us. We only can imagine the success our young fighters would have representing Armenia with some financial support.”
As I spent time at the famous Muay Thai Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok during the championship, I noted how small the Armenian delegation was. Only two fighters. Even war-torn Afghanistan was represented by three fighters.
Russia had over 25 fighters. Armenia is small in size and limited in resources, yet whether in chess or science or the arts, Armenia always seems to excel beyond expectations. The two fighters of the Armenian Muay Thai Federation embodied that spirit when they both medaled.
Davit Hayrapetyan, 16, was born in Nagorno-Karabagh and grew up in the capital of Stepanakert. His father fought in the Karabagh War, protecting the border from Azerbaijan. His father trained in karate but the war interrupted his passion. He passed that enthusiasm onto Davit. Davit joined a local muay thai gym in Stepanakert at the age of 12. He trained daily with Garegin Aghabalyan, the fifth member of the delegation to Thailand, at the club in Stepanakert. Davit shared, “When I do something, I commit to it 100 percent.” This was demonstrated with his four wins at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok. He won the gold in his weight class of 71 kg. He dreams of one day becoming a professional athlete and representing Armenia.
Armen Grigoryan, 24, is a Yerevan native. Armen is a true patriot and is a professional soldier in the elite Spetsnaz unit, the Russian equivalent of the Special Forces. He is frequently called to the border of Nagorno-Karabagh and Azerbaijan. He believes in “protecting his family and his country.” Armen developed a passion for martial arts as a grade school student. For the last couple of years, he has been training with Abramyan, the president of the Armenian Muay Thai Federation. Like Davit, he has a goal of becoming a professional athlete. He shared with me “that competing in Thailand is bringing me one step closer to my dream.” Armen also medaled in Bangkok. He won the silver in his weight class of 71 kg.
The Muay Thai Federation and its staff and fighters represent the best of Armenia. They deliver beyond expectations with limited resources. The federation brings pride to all Armenians with their success of winning and their outstanding character.