A Short Bio – Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu
I stand as perhaps the most documented fighter ever, simply by having taken it upon myself to film and write about my experiences and training in Muay Thai from virtually day one. Mostly this was just an act of trying to record and digest for myself the incredible experience of training with a 70-year-old Thai man in his basement in New Jersey. At the time I had no notion that I would fight, that I even wanted to fight, but I understand my world through writing and so a journal (blog) seemed a natural way for me to process these incredible experiences. YouTube was fairly new and recording my lessons to upload was pretty much a way for me to keep track of what I was being taught – it was so advanced, alien and magnificent to me – and to be able to share with whomever wanted to look the rare and beautiful character that is Master K, my first teacher. I didn’t set out to become the westerner with the most fights in Thailand; it was a difficult decision to fight at all and I recall driving the one hour commute back from training with Master K when Kevin asked me how many fights I might want, total. “I think 10 is good,” I said at that time. What did I know? I’ve now surpassed 200. You don’t see a million YouTube views when you upload your first video. You don’t see a thousand blog posts when you write your first entry, not knowing if anyone other than your mom will read it. And you don’t see 200 fights when you leave flushed and exhilarated from your first training session. But you learn to see them as they come into view and you climb toward the summit even if you don’t know where that is, yet.
My brothers: Gabe, John, (me) and Shane at our home in Boulder, CO in 2008
My introduction to Muay Thai was in 2008, when I began training with Kumran Vaitayanon (“Master K”) in his makeshift gym in the basement of his home in New Jersey. The commute was an hour each way and at first lessons were occasional. But the more I experienced learning from him, a man whose love for Muay Thai cannot be fully expressed in words – you have to see him, which is why the training videos are so precious – the more I wanted. So my husband Kevin and I found a way to do more. That simple formula has been the constant throughout my path in Muay Thai: wanting more, finding a way.
In 2009 I had my first fight at an amateur national tournament in Virginia. I lost and it was evident that my training was not organized toward competition, but I loved the experience and knew I wanted to fight more. In 2010 Master K had a health scare that required heart surgery. The sudden realization of his mortality shocked us into action and Kevin and I decided we had to make a journey to Thailand, the home of Muay Thai and the origin of Master K himself, in order to learn a more fundamental base upon which Master K’s PhD-level techniques could find stability. Once we felt training in Thailand, the country, the people, the Muay – both training and fighting here – it was clear we wanted to come back. Wanting more, finding a way.
Above is my very first vlog update back in October of 2009
Above, a short film which talks about my motivations as a fighter, back when I was pursuing 50 fights.
After 2 years of working steadily toward creating the possibility of coming back to Thailand for a longer stay, during which time I had a number of amateur fights in the US that further cemented my feelings that the Muay Thai of Thailand is what I wanted to immerse myself in, Kevin and I packed up everything we owned and drove to Colorado to drop our dog and cat off with my parents so we could move to Thailand for “maybe 6 months.” That six months has turned into 6 years (as of 2018) and in that time I’ve fought very steadily, in fact so steadily it’s more than anyone ever has. My website was created upon our move to Thailand in April of 2012, and it was funded through a Kickstarter campaign where generous contributions of people who believed in this path. This website belongs to the community of people who read it and watch the videos, fights and vlogs, and so my work has been to share as much as I can, which over these years has developed quite a bit.
The first two years and 80 fights were through the Lanna Muay Thai (Kiatbusaba) gym in Chiang Mai. After some serious soul-searching, in 2014 we decided to move down to Pattaya to the Petchrungruang Gym in order to throw a grenade at my progress and development as a fighter. I’m immensely happy that we did and I maintain a close relationship with Lanna Muay Thai, frequently fighting under their name in the North of Thailand. As part of my development as a fighter and journalist of Muay Thai (2x Awakening Journalist of the Year and 1x Awakening Fighter of the Year) I started a Patreon community, which allows me to keep all the content of 8limbs.us free for everyone, while providing premium subscription content for my patrons, which includes a Muay Thai Library of training with legends in the sport in long-form video sessions to not only archive the techniques of the Golden Age of Muay Thai (which in another decade will be lost as these men age out of teaching), as well as archiving the incredible personalities of these inspiring men themselves. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever done, both as something I feel incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to do but also because I find it meaningful and important. It’s a documentary project and in 2017 Boon Sport began sponsoring the project.
As of January 2018 I’ve surpassed my 200th fight, and I’m about to set new enormous, “impossible” goals. My fight numbers something no other western fighter has done in Thailand and I’m very proud of the fact that it’s a woman who holds that achievement. It changes the way people see what’s possible; it has already changed how people think about coming to train and fight in Thailand. My initial goal was 50 fights, which quickly moved to 100 and then 200 as a way to just keep pushing toward the impossible. Now that 200 is achieved the drive is to keep finding ways to change the game and inspire others to go beyond what seems “reasonable.” I don’t know what my capacities are as a fighter and that excites me, so I keep pushing to learn more, fight more, see and share more. I will push to unreachable levels and keep working toward bringing more to 8limbs.us and Patreon. Want more, find a way. Just like at the beginning, you can’t see what any of this will ultimately become, what is ultimately possible. You just keep climbing, even as the mountain grows under you and ahead of you.
Above, in this beautiful short film you can grasp something of the arc I’ve been on, and where I’m headed.