Our Sports photographer / director Duncan Nicholls recently captured this beautiful new personal project in Northern Thailand. Here’s more from Duncan about that experience. No Surrender…
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 a 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.