He lives a life of solitude.
There can be no outside distractions to avert his attention from the grueling training that has become his life. Alone he focuses on his destiny, with only his Master and Trainer as his mentor and close companion. Born of greatness, from his moment of birth his fate has been decided. Emanating the life of a Gladiator, a Spartan, a Trojan or that of a Samurai, he is an enigmatic warrior of descended breed. No weapons but those that have been naturally bestowed upon him will guide him to victory. With a shroud of brilliant colours swirling about his body like a cloak, he perfects his Ninja-like movements that will decide the fate of his next battle. His Trainer bates his temper, spraying water into his face and driving him into such fury that he resembles a Berserker from the ancient battlefields of Greece; those who would tear off their garments and run into the heat of battle knocking down every enemy that stood in their way. As with a Muay-Thai boxer in the corner of the ring, the Trainer pushes his student to the mental limits. He flares his fins to their full extent, and stands dead still as the water flows through his frame. Poised, on the brink of rage, he prepares himself to attack. His enemy is only his reflection on the glass bowl that confines him for the moment.
He is the Siamese Fighting Fish.
Siamese Fighting Fish, or Betta Splendens, of the Labyrinth fish family, have become a favourite in aquariums around the world, with their prolific colours and distinctive features amazing owners new and experienced. The Siamese Fighting Fish originated in Thailand, found living wild in small ponds or rice fields, and over time have spread into other countries in the region throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. Within Thailand this breed of fish has been raised in households since the Sukhothai Period, more than 700 years ago. Records from the reign of King Lithai of Sukhothai allude to fighting fish, even then, being reared for sport.
Betta Splendens are indeed great fighters. In nature, the male species of this fish will compete in battle until one is able to escape, which often is impossible due to the size of their environment. Some of the fighters never come to understand the weight of defeat, but only know of death or victory. The Fighting Fish, if confined with another male, will fight to the death, but this is not what this sport has become about. It is about the art of breeding, the attention to detail of training, and the sport of victory through battle.
There exist some misunderstanding regarding the legalities of Fish Fighting in Thailand, like Buffalo Fighting and Cock Fighting, specific restrictions apply to such events, however are in fact legal. A permanent Betta-fighting house called a ‘Betta Betting House’ can be set up, as long as it adheres to bylaws. Licenses can be obtained through Municipality Offices, and limitations to operating days are set, such as no activity on Buddhist religious holidays or on working days, leaving only Saturday and Sunday for these activities. It is relevant to note that betting is illegal in these houses.
Raising these fish to become not only good fighters, but also victorious champions, is an art form that has been practiced for many centuries in Thailand. Styles of training and methods of preparing these fish for battle have been some of the best-kept secrets of Thai people who yearn to produce a winning strain of breed. There are two major factors that must be dominant within your breed to make your fish win. One is the strain of the fighter and the other is the core training methods utilized in practicing with your Fighting Fish.
The Thai term for Fish Fighting is ‘Plakat’, and from this ancient tradition of Thailand comes great honour and esteem for a champion fish and its trainer. Decades of work have gone into cultivating the perfect fighter by many breeders and trainers, and countless hours of training dedicated to enhancing the natural fighting abilities of these born-to-fight Marines. Unlike the Buffalo or the Cock Fighter, one of the more interesting traits, or features of the Betta Splendens is that if one spawn triumphs over a fish from another spawn, the whole spawn of descendants from the winner’s spawn will prevail over the whole spawn of the loser. No exceptions!
This genetic fact keeps trainers and breeders constantly developing new species for battle, reaching further and further to perfect the ultimate warrior.
The Fight Club Secret Society
In Thailand, there is a society that prides itself as the masters of the Fish Fighting Ring. They have secret meeting to discuss tactics and breeding techniques, sessions to show training rituals and feeding formulas, and they greet each other with special names they have created to establish their pecking order or relationship within the society. Like all fighters, they have been given nicknames to indicate their status or their infamy.
Within these societies members often will never know the true names of the other members. There are some special names that will be given to players as they establish themselves within the society, a tag that reflects some character of the player. Most of these names represent a Thai or Chinese metaphor.
Some Fishy Facts for the Amateur
- Depending on your individual Betta, your fish may enjoy being permitted to see another Betta or a mirror for short periods of time daily. This will encourage aggressive and territorial behaviours natural to Bettas, and will normally inspire them to patrol their tank, flare, bubble nest, etc. Just be cautious not to overdo this, as too much flaring can be stressful and harmful.
- Seeing other fish and other animals from the safety of their own territory is a good way to keep a Betta interested in the environment. If you have a big community tank, see if your Betta can be kept next to it without too much stress; the constantly changing movement will allow them to be visually stimulated without the stress of another Betta, or another fish in the tank that they feel they must actively patrol against.
- Bettas tend to enjoy interacting with their owners, and by simply spending some time up at the tank, perhaps having them follow your finger or something of the like, can keep them occupied for short spurts of time.
- Bettas are highly intelligent and can be trained to perform simple tricks in a matter of weeks. Activities like swimming through hoops and tunnels, pushing a small ball into a plastic net, and even taking food from one’s fingers are all wonderful ways to interact with Bettas in a way that is challenging and rewarding for them.