The new feature length documentary film “Girl Fight: A Muay Thai Story”, stars a familiar face on the local amateur circuit in Prairie Rugilo. It documents unscripted reality without the melodramatic tear jerking of “Million Dollar Baby”. CLICK HERE to view the movie trailer. No other sport consumes an athlete so totally in body and soul. Could anyone say it better than Prairie? “I can’t even imagine life without Muay Thai.”
You can infer from this that New York’s statutory definition of “martial arts” │ literally whatever the World Karate Association (WKA) sanctions │ doesn’t even come close. Otherwise we wouldn’t have full rules Muay Thai at Justin Blair’s Friday Night Fights, while the WKA’s Brian Crenshaw makes it up as he goes along, disallowing elbows and knees to the head in Lou Neglia’s house. Neither would the WKA’s brand of “martial arts” sanctioning feature a cottage industry standard Dial-A-Title app. Whatever happened to fighting your way up the ranks?
As a matter of fact, the Middle Atlantic amateur ranks include everyone from brand spanking newbies to Vivek Narkami and Adam McCann, who’ve both been title caliber contenders since 2007. (See “Angel of the Alahambra Commands Palace Guard in South Philly” in the Winter of 2008 edition of Muay Thaimes®, Volume II, No. 1, pp. 53-55.) Now do the math. Operating within New York’s statutory loopholes, the WKA domain registers amateur ↔ professional New York State │ Northeast │ U.S. National │ North American │ and even World titles in every possible weight bracket.
Because it really is a matter of drawing random cards from a deck without any rankings, double the parlay for male and female divisions. Multiply by 4 for titles in K-1/Glory kickboxing rules │ full contact │ low kick │ and Muay Thai │ however Brian Crenshaw defines Muay Thai’s rules on any given night at any given show.
Then tell me whether there’s any plausible reason to believe that these mostly amateur titles are indicative of verifiable (evidence based) superiority rather than cottage industry merchandising to compensate the WKA’s captive show producers with box office boosting wardrobe accessories for the sanctioning fees they’ve got to pay the WKA, courtesy of the New York State Legislature.
It turns out the WKA was hosting Grand Prix elimination tournaments at its annual “nationals” in Richmond and the “worlds” in Europe long before Glory Sports International’s Marcus Luer had the epiphany to copy K-1 in all but name. (See “How Competitive a Sport Is Kick Boxing in the Ring of Popular Sentiment?”) Even though enrollment in these tournaments is open to anyone who can pay the registration fee and afford the trip, doesn’t championship status kind of have something to do with beating the competition │ where the caliber of competition authenticates credibility the way it does in ballistics?
While national branding stretches credulity with such narrow participation – from basically just the urban clusters around NYC and southern Virginia with outposts in Delaware and Maryland – WKA tournament titles are none the less better quality control indicators of pro prospects than transparently promotional gimmickry to crown ticket quota champs.
So it was that Niko Tsigaris (Lions Martial Arts in Brooklyn) veritably dominated the welter weight (≤147 lbs.) bracket throughout his tenure in the amateur ranks. In knocking out Osvaldo Dominguez (Sitan New York) at 1:14 of Round 1 for WKA’s U.S. National Title on the 20th of February in 2010, thus, Niko’s championship belt gave him a tangible measure of the authenticity from having actually fought his way to the top of the rankings. (See “Secrets in the Shadows” in the Summer of 2010 edition of Muay Thaimes®, Volume IV, No. 2, pp. 21-37.) This authenticity, rather than just his tournament title, was the more meaningful measure of Niko’s pro prospects.
A full throttle power puncher, you can imagine how Niko might not be all that enamored with the Muay Thai clinch, where finesse smothers ardor. (See also Mike Fischetti of Team Tiger Schulmann vs. Jeff Brown of World Champion Martial Arts in Ontario, Canada in Combat at the Capitale on September 27, 2013) There is no one size fits all prize fighters, which is also why MMA isn’t for everyone. Muay Thai just isn’t the best style fit for Niko’s perpetual pedal to the metal.
It is exactly such a “martial arts” holistic in Muay Thai’s clinch │ transitioning to knees and/or elbows │ that New York’s statute exempts from the prohibition of (extreme) “combative sport” and that the WKA is loop holed to sanction. So also does the statute’s minimalism mandate the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) to ensure that the WKA’s meals on wheels doesn’t serve Virginia ham, when its legislative menu specifies filet mignon. Never mind who’s lobbyist wrote this loophole into the law.
Brian Crenshaw’s whimsical cooking of Muay Thai’s “martial arts” holistic, thus, makes it a doppelgänger of the very statutory prohibition from which it is legislatively intended to be exempt: “A ‘combative sport’ shall mean any professional match or exhibition other than boxing, sparring, wrestling or martial arts wherein the contestants deliver, or are not forbidden by the applicable rules thereof from delivering kicks, punches or blows of any kind to the body of an opponent or opponents.” (See N.Y. Unconsolidated Law § 8905-a (2), p.5.)
The Pinocchio Principle
By virtue of the Pinocchio Principle in NYSAC’s regulatory mandate, therefore, don’t look now but guess who’s obliged to revoke the WKA’s license to operate a “martial arts” mint for reverse engineering a doppelgänger of the prohibited ‘combative sport’ instead of sanctioning the practice of authentic Muay Thai? Whether fans seek out this kind of cognitive dissonance or Brian Crenshaw thinks that his loophole to operate a mint parses legislative intent, it is unlikely that any state or federal court will abide NYSAC’s deciding which provision in N.Y. Unconsolidated Law § 8905-a (2) not to enforce. U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood has ruled, thus, that “evidence of arbitrary interpretation and enforcement can support a vagueness claim” and “based in part on such evidence, the Court declines to dismiss [the UFC] Plaintiffs’ as-applied arguments” challenging the constitutionality of N.Y. Unconsolidated Law § 8905-a (2) as reported by Justin Klein on The Fight Lawyer.
Stipulating that politics is the art of the possible, consent to be governed through ‘due process’ in administering the rule of law also ought to be possible. Don’t you think? We’ve got less wiggle room, by the same token, in how nature administers the laws of physics and biology. Speed takes a toll on stamina the same way that Niko’s power punching quotient plays off a 3×3 time dependent variable under K-1/Glory kickboxing rules compared with the 5×3 standard in Full Rules Muay Thai. So it was that Brian Crenshaw cooked a fourth round into the WKA Northeast Professional Kickboxing Championship in Battle of the Millennium on May the 15th, because what’s the fun of being able to make up rules, if you don’t get to break them whenever you feel like it?
Doing the Deed
Just like candid self-appraisal is the search engine for a prize fighter’s career development, it is even more axiomatic for corporate enterprise, where creative destruction is the new normal in American Capitalism. If the WKA is NYSAC’s company store in the ‘combative sport’ market space │ where it is mandatory for fans to buy only what Brian Crenshaw feels like selling us │ CEO Dan Hess of Merchant Forecast, a research company for retail investors, cuts to the chase in iconic brand Gap’s closing of 175 stores: “The conversation about strategic placement, the conversation about how many stores they need to keep open and how many they need to close, those are all secondary, in our view, to the fact that they need to offer product that consumers want to buy.” (Key word npr.org’s Morning Edition on June 17, 2015) Now factor net neutrality into this equation: Are the WKA’s captive show producers seeing more, less or flat attendance on Brian Crenshaw’s watch in the exact same market space where a single sports franchise (NYY) is valued at $2.5 billion, according to forbes.com, and where just across the Hudson River, New Jersey’s Athletic Control Board is operating at peak capacity?
Even though the Power Elite in Albany remains hostile to UFC trade prospects in their exercise of legislative prerogative to loop hole regulation of ‘combative sport’, “evidence of [NYSAC’s] arbitrary interpretation and enforcement can support” more than a Constitutional challenge to N.Y. Unconsolidated Law § 8905-a (2). It might also violate the U.S. Code’s prohibition against unlawful restraint of trade. (See 15 USC Ch. 1: MONOPOLIES AND COMBINATIONS IN RESTRAINT OF TRADE in pdf on the U.S. Congress website)
Public policy converges on market dynamics, furthermore, to DQ monopolies in a corporate welfare test tube. Stifling competition operates like a hidden subsidy from WKA’s captive show producers, thus, in their sanctioning fees for licensure to operate NYSAC company stores. It is also the functional equivalent of skimming luxury taxes from their box offices for the WKA to make a business out of income distribution. Now you know why pro purses are so stingy in New York and why promotional gimmickry cheapens the product. If you’re a fan of government sponsoring anti-competitive oligarchs, move to Moscow.
While Americans might be tentative about the most popular sport on planet Earth, FIFA recently made headlines with indictments originating from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, which of all places, operates out of Brooklyn. Beyond the actual 47-count indictment for racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering, there are also “whispers” about bribery in World Cup hosting and even innuendos about widespread game rigging. (See “Everything You Need to Know about FIFA’s Corruption Scandal” by K.M. McFarland, posted on wired.com on May 27, 2015)
It so happens that the FBI’s investigation of FIFA pivoted off due diligence by British investigative journalist Andrew Jennings. He’d previously investigated the Italian Mafia, which got him interested in exploring “the dirty dealings of international soccer” as Melissa Block parsed it June the 3rd on npr.org. The trail led Jennings to recognize that the sport “generates a lot of money. Then you realize it’s unregulated. If there’s unregulated money, then the mob turn up quite soon. They turned up. They took control of world soccer. They privatized it, sold it to the global brands.”
Shielded from the temptation of Midas riches in our cottage industry of ‘combative sport’, we default to aimless shooting in the dark. There’d be a whole lot less issue politics in this country, by the same token, were it possible to be just a little bit pregnant. Fertilization and corruption both play off doing the deed.
If NYSAC does its job, so goes the WKA’s exemption from regulation: an exemption that applies to “martial arts”, not to who sanctions them. Then and only then, do competitive market dynamics get more than lip service in a New York statutory loop hole. Whether Andrew Cuomo covets a promotion to the Oval Office – Spoiler Alert – stifling competition is not how we won the Cold War. Neither does ducking punches count on the score cards. Just as talk doesn’t cross the ropes, there comes a time for our public servants to put up or shut up.