Find Photographers & Directors
Muay Thai - No Surrender
A journey through Northern Thailand

Duncan Nicholls by Duncan Nicholls on April 17, 2019

I arrived at the arena as the warriors were in their final pre fight preparations. Surrounded by all the noise, activity and anticipation, they exuded an energy of calmness, control and focus. Visualising perhaps how they saw the fight playing out. Many with an aura of certainty of a victorious outcome ahead.

Each of the five fights had its own rhythm and flow, each fighter their own unique style and game plan. The tempo often slow and hypnotic - each warrior waiting patiently for the right moment to strike. Human chess pieces, moving gracefully from position to position as part of carefully orchestrated master plan. Out of that calm, brutal moments of raw power, aggression and athleticism exploded into life. The decisive blow only ever a split second away from being delivered or received. Momentum often amounting for nothing.

Throughout the contests, I felt a deep sense of honour and respect amongst the fighters. Respect for their opponent, and for the artistry, history, and tradition of their sport. The victor, after the elation and emotional release of victory immediately showed that respect and empathy for his defeated opponent. An acknowledgement perhaps of the courage and dedication required to go toe to toe in that ring, and a respect for their shared experience.

What I was witnessing, and experiencing myself whilst photographing these fights, was the sensation I believe is at the heart of our species love for sports - and beyond that at the core of happiness itself. Being fully immersed in a Flow state experience. Total present moment awareness. No distractions, no thoughts of the past or future. A momentary taming of our restless minds, as time appears to stand still.

In sports like Muay Thai or say mountain climbing or skiing, where the physical dangers are higher, I believe this flow state to be even more profound.

Photographing the fights, I felt immersed in this beautiful Flow state. Guided, never over thinking, and moving with the heartbeat of the fight itself. Happily allowing the thousands of hours of being a photographer take over. Total presence with the experience and my love for sports photography.

The Fighters

All images above ©2019 Duncan Nicholls. All rights reserved.

More About Duncan Nicholls

Duncan NichollsThose with the dedication to reach the summit of their craft inspire him greatly. This curiosity plays a big part in his love for sports and movement, and why the aesthetic and emotion of his work often contains strength and passion. He loves to shoot close in, immersing the viewer in the emotions and mindset of the athlete — and also ultra wide, using negative space and dynamic lines to craft narrative through his work. Specialising in Athletes, Lifestyle and Landscapes Duncan's stills and motion clients include Nike, Under Armour, New Balance, Adidas, TAG Heuer & The North Face. Duncan is also a strong advocate of social responsibility, and creating the Our Vision Project raising funds to tackle avoidable blindness around the world.

See more work from Duncan Nicholls