There’s a wonderful quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” While this conjures, for me, an image of brazen women steeling themselves against injustices to act out in defiance, this also includes any women who pushes against limitations. Even quietly. Even in secret. To behave means to do what is expected, to obey the rules and color inside the lines. Some women make history not by trying to make history, but simply by trying to take part in what makes them happy, before history has decided that was the right thing. That’s what Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb did when
One of the biggest challenges for visiting female fighters and students is knowing how to navigate the very complex, very male space of a gym in Thailand, and the culture of Muay Thai as well. In these articles I have covered a wide variety of subjects, from personal experiences to general observations about how the female gender is perceived in Thai culture, in the art and sport. Each article is perhaps a facet in very incomplete perspective, but hopefully a spectrum of tales and observations that will help foreign women better understand their Thai environments, and get the most out of their experiences. I am both a committed feminist, but also in many ways a traditionalist, so there is a running critical tension between my championing of female opportunities, but also the embrace of the way that things have been.
photo credit above: Paula Bronstein at Getty Images Guest Post – A Husband’s Point of View There’s been some of recent conversation about the bottom rope, and the Thai custom that women not only pass under the rope when entering the fight ring, but also less well-known, that in some more conservative camps, that they enter training rings this way as well, so as to not disturb the protective powers of magic that consecrate the ring and everything that happens within it. One western coach took to Facebook to present a defiant rant that his female fighters would never go
When Taking Pity Takes Too Much We have a new woman at the gym. She’s only trained a handful of weeks, ever, and will have her first fight at the end of the month. So Pi Nu is really putting her through the trials to get her ready and I suspect that part of his Draconian directives that she clinch everyday comes from him watching me have success with clinch over the past 1.5 years that I’ve been under his instruction at the gym. He watched me go from unable to unstoppable, so I think he’s become a real believer
Earlier in the day I had fought on the day reserved for honoring the 18th century Father of Muay Thai, Nai Khanomtom, amid the sacred ruins of the former halcyon capital of Siam, Ayutthaya. I was cut in the fight and bled profusely in late rounds, and the fight came very close to being called off by the ring doctor. As the doctor inspected me, during a timeout forced by the ref for my own good, the fight was held in the balance; with blood streaming down my face, I begged in Thai for the doctor to let me continue: “I
We pulled the car around a corner in a maze of suburban small streets and panned the lane in an attempt to locate the Dejrat Gym – this is an out-of-the-way gym which we could only find with GPS and a map location (below). At the far end of the street there was a pile of colorful equipment laid out in the driveway in order to dry it in the sun – a sure sign of a gym if I’ve ever seen one. So we park the car and I get out to greet the three older men who are
At Petchrungruang, there is sparring going on at any given moment in the afternoons. The little kids fly around the smaller ring with abandon, sparring for hours until they get tired and just stop. The older kids will match themselves up and play for a few rounds, or if they’re getting ready for a fight the sparring might be a bit more serious. Occasionally, my trainer likes to match two fighters up and put them in the center of the ring for a “mock fight.” We wear shinguards and gloves, but someone is assigned to be time-keeper and they ring an
my interview of Chocolate at Petchrungruang in Pattaya (above) Chocolate lets out these “oh-hoy!” exclamations when I land a good knee or give her a quick turn in the clinch. They’re similar to the “oi!” of calling out a point in the Thai habit, but there’s a small hint of protest in the sound as well – it’s joyful, but it’s got this wonderful, “oh no you didn’t!” hint to it as well. And she’ll get that point back, no doubt. Chocolate doesn’t stop. We were in the smaller ring at Petchrungruang, where the kids tend to gather and just
I wrote this post a few years ago, probably in the first year that I was training and fighting out of Lanna Muay Thai in Chiang Mai. At the time there were a lot of cultural differences from the west, that are perhaps more emphasized in the conservative North, that were eye-opening to me. The superstition and downright fear of women’s undergarments was a big one, which is illustrated by this story I’ve called “the panty incident.” Enjoy. A few days ago I noticed a rogue sport-top bra (style, not really supportive) hanging on a drying rack at the gym.