Dieseloi. Everything worked out yesterday, Sylvie was able to take 3 privates with 3 all-time legends, all in the space of a handful of hours. Pretty insane, slugging it out in Bangkok traffic, trying to get to various gyms across the sprawling city. But for me, everything was Dieselnoi. Karuhat...Hippy, incredible. Karuhat alone is such a pinnacle fighter, nobody moves or thinks like him. It's ridiculous. But every time I see Dieselnoi (and this is the second time he has trained Sylvie), I'm just slammed by the kind of human being he is. YouTube watchers, and other distant experts like to opine about how he was only dominant because of his height. It's not his height. He would have been what he was if he was 4'6". There is just nothing like him, as a man. How can I describe this?
We've been here 4+ years now, and met so many interesting Muay Thai men. And more than our share of elite former (and current) fighters. A lot of them have vast a generosity of heart, or a sweet boyishness carefully preserved. Some are sad, beat down by the churning forces of Muay Thai economics, or hierarchies that do not always afford the dignities that were won in the ring. Some have unfortunately been reduced by drug use, or pickled and dazed by alcohol. A very rare few have become egregiously bitter and brittle, authoritarians in their imaginary kingdom or fiefdom. All of them, and I do mean all of them, are remarkable men. If you love Muay Thai, you love the men who have lived through Muay Thai, and what Muay Thai has made of them, one way or another. But none of them are like Dieselnoi. None.
When you watch Dieselnoi instruct, moving around the ring, there is an intangible quality about him, something like an electricity. But it is not an electricity of his freedom, his liberty of movement, a sparking of something of grace or memorized muscular accomplishment. It's like an electricity that is actively shocking him. It is stinging him, and he just jolts forward and into the beautiful forms that keep him, with a savageness that comes straight out of that shock. It's how he trained, it's how he fought. His height just made him choose a certain set of strategies and tactics, but this shock, this painful jolt is where it all comes from. It's his engine. And it's like the starter is being turned over and over, while the engine is still running.
I tried to talk to Sylvie about it, because I could see that he wants this same thing in her. Some might call it a certain killer instinct, but it isn't an instinct. I called it ultraviolence yesterday. There is what I have to call a desperation to Dieselnoi's Muay Thai. It isn't the desperation of weakness or of self-preservation. It's the desperation of pain, and also I think of love. I think Muay Thai has hurt Dieselnoi. With uncommon openness he sat on the ring the first time he trained Sylvie and he showed her the scars on his arm where he tried to kill himself, he said out of the absolute pain of not having anyone who would fight him once he became undefeatable. He said when his arm was raised in victory, near that time, he knew that meant no more fights. Desperation. It had to be more than this, but Muay Thai is woven in a certain line of pain. Maybe he told this to Sylvie because he saw the scars on her own arm, from so long ago, when she was a sadder person. Perhaps he is just open about that time in his life, and he would tell anyone now. But the desperation, the incredible pain out of which all of it is born, and beautifully born, is still alive, in fact it is as alive as ever. When he grabs the bag he just rips forward with violence, unspeakable desperate violence. When he grabs Sylvie in the clinch, and starts to move into attack he is shaking her: "Wake up!" Sparking. Let the violence spark violence. Fight at this level. Train at this level.
There are certain things in this world that hurt. And Muay Thai hurts many people, not always in a good way. But when Dieselnoi took that burning ember in his hand, when it was forced into his hand, he squeezed it. And he has never stopped squeezing it. It's like he had no choice. When something is so hot, so hot that it sears the flesh right off, you either have to fling it away right away, or just clench down. That's what his Muay Thai is like to me. Like a man who clenches down on it with all his might. And he keeps it warm and burning right there in his hand.
There is also something about how he trains Sylvie that stuns me. He is not only very generous, open and kind. I can feel a certain communication, a connection between the desperate. There are so many ways to connect to Muay Thai. It is a tremendous art and heritage. It is full culture of becoming, a poem with infinite verses, a home with a thousand doors. But those that connect to it with desperation I think are few. I don't mean the desperation of poverty, or the must of life - these are their own intense road. It's a desperation of pain. For some incredible reason I feel that Dieselnoi sees Sylvie's desperation somehow, the thing beneath all the other very real and largely noble motivations that move her. He sees the desperation and he wants her to harness it, express it, give it form. Wake up.
He said to her: "You are strong. BE strong." Referring to the way she stands in the clinch strong up top, but somehow loose in the rest of her body, not on her toes. Every point of contact for Dieselnoi is a point of engagement. "Do not bring your weapons out" he says. "Wait." And then unleash. And you unleash with relentless wave upon wave of perfect, maddening form, incising the air, shredding the space that is trying to keep you. Even though you waited, you now do so with an urgency. You may never have a moment like this again. Dieselnoi's Muay Thai is a painful, unparalleled expression of an internal assault, arched up and out toward an absolute manifestation. It blooms and blooms like a reddening, spike-ridden flower in the soil of Thailand. I've never met anyone like him, in or out of Muay Thai. He is possessed by his art, by whatever desperation that the love of it engenders. What a man.
It's hard to say any of this, to speak about the electricity that shocks within, the ultraviolence that is put on anything in front of it, without in the end focusing on his huge heart, the way he opens himself up, and extends his stork reach to surround and include. There is something movingly protective about him. I wish there were words for this, but there is such a nurturing sense in which he approaches Sylvie, moving her towards a completion. In Thailand everything is clannish. Families, gyms, promotions, everything is overlapping clans, people bonded together in a protective circle. Dieselnoi is a living circle in himself, somehow. A circle of Muay Thai.