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A writer's journal - Muay Thai, My Wife and Thailand

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#61
WaffleNinja

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I don't think I've ever watched the movie through, but I've seen those iconic pictures of Audrey a thousand times:

 

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When trying to find a non-massive version of that picture to post, I was amused when I somewhat ironically came across this:

 



#62
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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5-10

What-Belts.png

Above, ideologically problematic fantasy image put into a meme context to talk about fighting and value. The huge father-who-enjoys of psychoanalysis, here upon a heap of HIS violence, his pliant lady treasure practically a part of the amorphous death accumulation, his sword declaiming a verticality out of the mounting matter, the halo of death cult an atmosphere. The Barbarian, invoking qualities of virility that our current Age longs and lurks for, a harkening back to the thymos of primitive effectiveness in space, how the heart displays itself. 

And then "What Belts?" calling into question the trite trinkets of contemporary measures of what can only be called manliness, even when women pursue it. I can't help but think that in this image and word-set a vortex of ideas descend to a center that is in itself agonistic. Is THIS what men (and women) fight for? Is THIS really the ideal that hides behind so many layers of shimmering achievement? Is this the cage, the ring, the stage?

There is an interesting Thai word - and I am by no means even a student of the language - that comes to me: ittiphon. It is a kind of power ascribed to big nakleng (gangsters), though also to many other types, which essentially means "charm". Charm is no small thing in the ancient world. It was the nearly indescribable, indiscernible power to influence others. In Greek antiquity it is strongly associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and with magic itself. It operated from a distance, and had no explanation. It en-thralled. It spell struck. A great orator would be said to have the power of Influence, his words spellbinding. Anything that charms is not to be trusted because its mechanism is largely unknown and unseen. From what I have read Ittiphon is the magnetism of great men. In the case of nakleng Ittiphon also is accompanied by a second power, Ittiroot. This is the power of perceived magical invulnerability. Cannot be killed. Escapes attack. Lucky. Protected. These are the twin powers of the fighter, the double wings that give him (or her) flight. Even the most grounded, unspectacular fighter is moving to and through these two powers. Charm and invulnerability. However ideologically challenged the image is, this is what it portrays. What is victorious notably localized. It is here, on this heap, with this sword, in this person.

What is expansive is that this is a realm of death. Here the thinnest whispers of an idea spread out like a shadow very far from a candle. Faint. The battle field of the fighter is inevitably one of death. Not to-the-death per se. But the trading of strikes that ever work to the diminishment of the opponent. I once read that the ultimate tone of a Muay Thai attack is one that makes the opponent seem to collapse from his (her) own internal flaws. The theater of defeat is a kind of collapse or breakdown from within, and that the victor only serves as the means by which this is exposed. There is a kind of nemesis nature to this, in the old sense...divine justice. The crumbling of the opponent, rather than the outright aggression of the victor, makes this a kind of theater of Death and decay, out of which a mechanism, the victor, stands as a shining light of something alluring, the charm and power of the untouchable. These are repeated theatrical performances of localized divinity, the shine and glimmer of the thing that ascends through matter, is born of matter in conflict. How grace and violence are married through combat, invoking something else.

Ultimately, the question of masculinity itself arises, and its role in the cataclysm of this kind of arranged apparition. The question...the problem of masculinity though begins to unweave itself a bit when we recognize that masculinity does not inherently belong to men.


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#63
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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5/28

I guess this is a strange follow up to the above entry, and I'm hesitant to even bring this forward. But this is my semi-private space where I just get to talk about things that preoccupy or fascinate me, and this is one of those. And really I write this because I care about Muay Thai, the Muay Thai that we all love, the Muay Thai of the big stadia in Thailand, especially those marvelous fighters of the Golden Age. It's already said by many that Lumpinee belts don't mean anything much when compared to the fights of those eras when the best fought the very best, over and over, sometimes even across weight classes. Now Lumpinee belts feel much more arranged or managed, big mega gyms purchasing lots and lots of talent from around the country, and top talent often kept from other top talent. I honestly don't know enough about the history of the sport and the inner machinations of current Thai arrangements to be firm about this, but you do hear legends just shake their head at the current state of top fighting. This could simply be Old School fighters dismissing modern developments, something you always see in sport. But it's enough to say that at the highest level of Muay Thai, the level at which we all aim our eyes, there have been stories of serious and significant slippage.

Why does this matter? Well, what I have in mind isn't so much Lumpinee or other Thai belts, but the way that we in the west represent our own Muay Thai development and achievement. I read the achievement list of a very well known YouTube fight technique purveyor who describes himself as an International Pro Muay Thai fighter. I'm not sure about this, but I believe he's had only one Muay Thai fight ever (many years ago), in Thailand against a windmilling Thai opponent of very questionable skill, and that is the anchor of the title: "International Pro Muay Thai Fighter". I'm just shaking my head. Ok, I get it. Everyone has to market themselves. There is a kind of built in bloat to achievement claims, and for people who want to make a living instructing others there is a need to establish authority. I'm sensitive to this. But there has to be a limit.

The above is an extreme example. But there are two other conflations that each time I hear them I cringe a little. The first is the claim "Muay Thai at Madison Square Garden". This is such a tricky thing. When Muay Thai fights happen at MSG this really raises the prestige of ALL of American Muay Thai, and maybe a little bit of western Muay Thai. Madison Square Garden is a famed name in the history of western fighting. The greatest of the greats of boxing fought there. This is just hallowed ground. The idea that people are fighting Muay Thai, where the legends of boxing were formed, is just a huge feather in the cap of Muay Thai. But...and everyone who goes to these shows knows, these are not Madison Square Garden fights, in the sense that a casual listener would imagine. These are MSG "Theater" events, in a separate space. Not the Arena. But still they are sometimes billed as "at the Mecca" of fighting.

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I'm not sure why this bothers me. Hype is a big part of the fighting game, and if I were running promotions for a show at MSG Theater I would definitely want to draw heavily on the name, and its history - and even the theater itself is a huge achievement for Muay Thai. It's a big venue right in the middle of Manhattan. But there is something beyond the mere event that sticks in my throat a little. Fighters themselves, and really all of us, try to blur the lines between these kinds of achievements and the hallowed events of the 1960s and 1970s, we participate in the wink and the nod. Something of the same thing was going on when westerners, of almost any skill level, found that they could fight on pre-shows at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern. This is something that still happens, though it seems to a lessor degree in the last year. Fighting at Lumpinnee or Rajadamnern in many of these cases was a bit like having your little league team play at Yankee Stadium in the off-season. These largely were not fights involving ranked fighters. A young western kid from our gym here in Pattaya just fought at Lumpinee, yes Lumpinee, someone with almost no real fighting skill to speak of, in the pre-card. This is not "fought at Lumpinee Stadium" in any real sense of the phrase.

Somewhat in the same vein, I've seen Muay Thai fighters I really like, I mean people I really like, winning a WBC belt of some kind. And then the excitement flows naturally into celebration for the "Green Belt", a belt that is famous the world over for how it stands for boxing excellence. Muhammad Ali wore the Green belt in his victory in 1974, the Rumble in the Jungle:

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I'm just really torn about this. Fighters find themselves such a precarious position. They fight for promotions, and in a certain way when winning belts of any kind they have a responsibility to respect and promote the achievement. And, there is an overall responsibility to Muay Thai itself to represent it as having champions that have achieved something notable, even something great. You have to rise to the hype in a way. But there is just something fundamentally wrong about this. You - or really with perhaps rare exception, most any Muay Thai fighters - don't have The Green Belt even though the WBC itself pushes the "green belt" phrase in its instagram and twitter accounts. I say this as someone who stared at Chatchai Sasakul's WBC belt as he held it in front of me, somewhat in awe. Even though you might be an awesome fighter and human being Muay Thai itself just isn't there. We can't just be giving out belts left and right, belts with the right letters on them, and pretend that we are simply forwarding Muay Thai by doing so. This is an incredibly inflationary exercise. And it is not just the WBC, its all the sanctioning bodies. Why I'm writing this is that it feels like someone, or some people, have to at least talk about it because sometimes it feels like everyone is forced to be "in" on the deception. We become bad folks who aren't team players, tearing down fighters if we put question marks next to achievement descriptions. We all have to pretend that a "World Title" is because of its name some amazing feat. We all have to pretend that the MSG Theater is more or less where Ali fought. We all have to pretend that fighting at Lumpinee is an epic achievement, no matter your opponent. Everyone in these events, even making these achievements, knows in the back of their mind it isn't the case. Keeping silent creates a kind of group shared guilt I think, which just pushes everyone onto the next hyped up achievement. It's not "The Emperor has No Clothes", it's "We All Have No Clothes". It's only going to stop when fighters themselves speak more soberly about their achievements, for the sake of Muay Thai itself. 

I think something of this same shared guilt is what kept so much of "fighting in Thailand" under wraps. People would come here and be totally unprepared for how dubious, or how haphazard the fight scene was. Some of them would fight only a few fights (no video) and be kind of embarrassed at their opponent, who perhaps they visibly outweigh. For decades "fighting in Thailand" was the mark of authenticity, but many, many fighters did so under the cloak of "what happens in Thailand stays in Thailand". Much of this was fueled by the Phuket scene (which I have no first hand account of, but which I've read about). Fighters would come back from a handful of fights, several months in Thailand, and open gyms, or become instructors, often with that as the rock of their authority. There would be no talk of the quality of those fights. No video. Instead, everyone kind of shared a group shame or responsibility to the image of fighting in Thailand. You could not speak the truth about it without taking away from your own credibility. It feels like it was a similar dynamic to the one we have with belts and world titles. It's just best not talked about, for everyone. There indeed were very hard fights being fought in the country, but nobody really would speak to the reality that very often there were mismatches.

In the last 5 years, or even 10 some of this spell of silence was broken. The image of the "tuk-tuk driver" fight rose up, and in certain sectors fighting in Thailand became quite dubious. People, especially in hearing stories out of Phuket (but also elsewhere), started coming to Thailand fearing a mismatch. We've gotten to I think a mix of feelings about fighting here, especially as fighters have started putting up video of their fights, and western vs Thai matchups have gotten more exposure in the age of social media. This is also why Sylvie has made it a principle to put video of every single fight she's fought. She's had the distinct fortune of being very small, so the usual guilt of being given a big size advantage is something she's very lucky to have not faced. The video is not there to say: "Hey! Look how great I am.", it's to say "Hey, this is what it is really like, fighting a ton in a commercial center like Chiang Mai, or in festival fights, or on tv cards, as a female". All the fight video is deflationary. We have to ground where Muay Thai is, and a lot of what Sylvie has done in her writing and fighting and filming is to sober things up.

Sylvie's also been lucky in the sense that she doesn't have to be part of a western fight promotional world, she does not depend on a system of achievement-marking that reinforces itself. She is not fighting for or winning belts in an ecosystem of inter-related events and promoters. She's just flying out on her own arc. This makes the ethics simpler. She also is not an instructor, or a gym owner that needs to qualify her authority. These kinds of pressures are real financial burdens. It is not easy to make a living as an instructor/gym owner, and so inflating or at the very least self-celebrating becomes a real and serious requirement. If you don't celebrate yourself, especially as a woman in sport, no-one will.

But what I really call for is that we all try to come together in our appreciation of some sort of real Gold Standard. You can't have everything representing "Gold". It is great for business as people strive for intra-gym prajet, or shorts, or for regional belts of every kind. But ultimately this the slippage of meaning is not good for Muay Thai itself. We cannot be blurring the line so badly that an "International Pro Muay Thai Fighter" (with one fight in Thailand) is the same as a "Lumpinee Fighter" (fighting on pre-cards, sometimes with almost no experience), as a "Madison Square Garden" fighter, as a WBC Champion. We have to create a bottom to all this, otherwise we are just making up and printing money. It becomes meaningless.

Right now, in the pro female Muay Thai world, let's just admit that there is no such thing as a World Champion. The reason for this is that there are no rigorous, regularly updated rankings that reflect quality fighters from around the world. It does not exist. World Championship belt fights, at least in Thailand, are pretty much "another hard fight" between two good opponents. Nothing more. And that isn't even always the case. These are really nice promotional bobbles. No ranking system, or string of victories has produced this matchup. At least in Thailand "World Champion" among women just means: Is probably a good fighter in the pool of fighters around at the time. It also tends to mean: trains at a gym with strong promotional contacts. Let's start with the sober view. That is the only way to get Muay Thai to actually develop beyond the "let's hype the next promotion as much as we can" stage. If we are representing things in a way that confuses others, and make Muay Thai seem far more progressed than it is, let's try to deflate it a little, just so we keep our feet on the ground. No, the fight was not at the Madison Square Garden Arena where Ali fought, but it was at the Theater which is pretty fucking good! No, this isn't a WBC green strap anywhere near the famed green straps of historic boxing, but it was against a very good opponent at a wonderful WBC promoted event. Hey, it was just a pre-card Lumpinee fight, not a very big deal, but it was super cool to even fight where the best fighters in the world fight. Let's speak our experiences. Why do this? We do this for the next generation of female fighters (and maybe all fighters), and then the generation after that too. By refusing to blur the hype we might get to a point where real and rigorous professional rankings become a marketable, significant thing to create. Only when we start to want, and really need rankings are they going to develop. If we keep over-hyping our achievements then there is no need for rankings, no way to create a landscape for real, generational greatness. It means we are depriving the next ladies (and men) of what they can achieve.

Now let me be clear, I'm not calling anyone "out". In fact some of the fighters that triggered this entry are people I really respect, and in fact I have great sensitivity to the pressures or even pleasures that lead to a certain way of talking. It's not even always talk by the fighter, but talk of their passionate supporters, or by earnest promoters. But I also say: Let's be secure in ourselves enough that we can go forward with less a need to hype, or blur the boundary between where we are and where we would dream to be. Let's not make "Gold" every shiny thing. Let's keep it what it is, Gold. Lets keep it remote and seldom reachable. And let's keep our feet on the ground so we can get somewhere.

Sylvie-Muay-Thai-Belts-e1495967083278.jp

An example from my life. Above are 3 belts that we keep in the apartment. Belts in Thailand, generally, when won are not kept, so you have to pay to have them made for you by official sources, and are pretty expensive. These are a belt given by Master K, Sylvie's original teacher in the US, a belt that he had hung on his wall for many years, representing his gym team, Suriyasak. He had a student bring it to Sylvie, all the way to Thailand, a special moment for her. There is also a Chonburi Buffalo Race annual festival belt, the first "belt" she ever won in Thailand, bench-marking that experience. And then there is the Muay Siam Northern 105 lb belt, which she won, and then was stripped of because she is a westerner, in a bit of politics. The only western fighter to fight for and win such a belt. These are three special belts. Not because they indicate greatness, but rather because they reflect relationships. They are indicators of times in Sylvie's life. They are incredibly valuable, because of all they represent beyond their official titles. Sometimes Sylvie has to send a photo of herself with a belt to a promoter in Thailand because they crave these kinds of images, but mostly these belts just stay hidden. Maybe because they are kind of personal. For me at least there is a slight kind of shame or embarrassment about these belts, because they are somewhat generally shaped like the Lumipnee (or Rajadamnern) belt - a shiny, silver engraved shield with a colorful cloth band. These are NOT Lumpinee or Raja belts. The very proximity to the Lumpinee or Raja belts doesn't really feel right to me somehow.

Below is Namphon Nongkipahuyut's Lumpinee belt. We took this photograph of it while visiting Arjan Pramod, Namphon's old coach and kru, a few weeks after Namphon sadly died very likely of tuberculosis. That is a Lumpinee belt. The two should not be confused. The belts above, and this belt. To illustrate the vast distance between the two, consider this: We asked Arjan Pramod "Who is your favorite fighter of today?". He smiled wryly, his lion-face looking off in the distance. "Namkabuan" he said, letting his smile linger. No, he didn't misunderstand. Namphon's younger brother Namkabuan, one of the very best fighters ever, long now retired. In only one word Arjan Pramuk had said: "There are no great fighters anymore, Namkabuan was the last." He was standing there in the Nongkipahuyut "Hall of Fame". The Hall of Fame is really only a largely lost and forgotten room adjacent to the gym that no longer really trains fighters, part of the house where Arjan Pramuk lives. Its glass cases that haven't been dusted in quite a while still hold silent treasures like this belt, with its waist band tucked behind it to protect it from the dust:

DSC04522-Namphons-Lumpinee-Belt-e1495965

The distinction I feel must be maintained, even while Sylvie and others strive for historical accomplishments. We must not lose our place on the mountain, if we want to really climb the mountain. It is up to fighters themselves to express the relationships that make make certain belts or events special, but also to constantly set the distinction between what they have achieved and what there is in the world. It is up to fighters, I believe, to maintain "Gold".

DSC04540-Arjan-Pramut-Nongkipahuyut-e149


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#64
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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5/30

Foreign gods. I think a great deal about the gods and dieties of Thailand. Not only do they multiple and crest across every commercial incrustation, appearing like ghosts to offerings to every Capital manifestation, from 7-11s (which can have both sleeping dogs in doorways, and food notables to the invisible on the corner) to enormous banks. There is something special about this complete and every expanding panoply. And there is something to bowing to it. Worship to a foreign god invites the foreign within you, it cracks open the hard shell of self-conception, and it also puts you in metronomic tune with the affective consciousness of so many others, with whom you do not share a language, at least to a degree. But there is a shell to these beings, a difficult lacquer to get through. Does one have to dig deep, or skate faster on the surface? They are silent, somewhat cartooned or exaggerated. They contain scripts and turns that have embedded themselves in the minds of childhood, the childhoods of others who are not foreign to them. I cannot - yet - permeate myself to their degree. There is something to the Thai mind that takes on the surface reflection, not as a superficiality, but along the lines of the comic book silhouette test. A super hero or villain has to pass the recognition by readers, even if no light is shining upon them, revealing all the internal detail. The gods and dieties of Thailand are like this. Much of social discourse is like this. It is two dimensional truth telling. We of our excited 3D mappables are missing something in this. And I suspect that I'm missing something here too. It's what keeps the lacquer, lacquer. We must flatten ourselves out for these gods.


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All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare. - Spinoza


#65
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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7/4

n-SOPHIA-LOREN-1950-628x314.jpg

This really caught my eye, "Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Ambassador" Anthony Bourdain explaining some months ago that he was relieved to stop pretending he was in a relationship with his wife, throwing out the complaint/explanation in an email about their separation that “She’s an interesting woman. I admire her choices. But I married Sophia Loren. She turned into Jean-Claude Van Damme.”

“Date night is pretty much going to a fight,” Bourdain joked to Ottavia in a 2013 column for Vice’s MMA section Fightland. “In between we watch tapes of guys wrestling each other. Romantic? Not.”

What is interesting is how softly it was Anthony Bordain who became the "ambassador" of BJJ, and not his wife, though Fightland did a very nice piece on his wife. Notably, she points out that her husband did not like how muscular her body had become:

It was Bordain, who I'll admit I'm not a fan of as a food show personality, who received the unofficial ambassadorship honor. He was a famous man, well into his 50s, starting BJJ. In this Charlie Rose segment, he talked about it, briefly:

I'm not really to judge the relationship but rather to talk from quite afar. This wasn't a story I was even following closely. It is more that in my media consumption and conversation I was somehow kind of struck by how the aura around Bourdain was of this late-in-life discovered male love of BJJ. Yes, I had heard that his wife had gotten him into it, but what really seemed to resonate with everyone was his story. When Sylvie shot a segment with food maven Andrew Zimmern people would say, wrongly: "Yeah, that BJJ guy."

Bourdain's the famous one, the one with his face on television, and the demographic skews way toward the aging Baby Boomer male, but there is something that feels just not right about the "ambassador of BJJ" saying something like: "I married Sophia Loren. She turned into Jean-Claude Van Damme."

Just as a story being told, looking back on all his video'd statements about how proud he was that his wife or his daughter (one day) could "kick everyone's ass in a bar they walk into" or "fuck someone up" (sorry, insert my eye-roll here), behind it all it feels like..."not Sophia Loren", a joke he apparently repeats and finds perhaps pleasurable irony or humor in. In her words before their separation:

It has been a transformation. My body has changed, dramatically. I have changed. My husband half-jokes that he married Sophia Loren but ended up with Jean-Claude Van Damme. But there's something to that. I'm not the same person. I'm hard now, physically and mentally. The confidence I gained is something I'm proud to share with my daughter, who, like me, has been training jujitsu for some time.

This is what I'm interested in. Bourdain was an ambassador because indeed it was a country of men, older men, that perhaps needed an ambassador, someone to translate things to make them understandable, to open up the door to an art and movement. It seems, he wasn't so much an ambassador OF Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, so much as the older "still virile" Man Ambassador TO Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Yes. And MMA, which seems as if it caught fire in the world because it inexplicably wove artfulness and male rage into a single thing, like a living Kung Fu movie. What I wonder is if the aged powers that found Sophia Lorens growing into JCVDs so interesting (to a degree), with female fighting taking more and more market share and media, will sour on the real powers that female fighting is embodying...the real changes in confidence that reflect that women are not the "same person" they were 15 or 20 years ago, no longer Sophia Lorens.

I think my point here is that these are real transformations. It's important to note that in his humor Bourdain is just passing between one fantasy and another. For his generation Sophia Loren was pretty much THE quintessential beautiful woman, exotic enough as European to Americans, full of temper and emotion, and rich romantic love. And JCVD also occupies a powerful pole to that, the man who brings his manliness to exotic lands, learns exotic arts, defeats exotic enemies, dances...exotically. What happens when, lost in your fantasy space the person you grafted your desire fantasy onto (Sophia), starts to effect the fantasy of what you want to be yourself (JCVD)? When speaking of real female power (confidence, capability, vectors of choice), it seems that that power has found a secret crease in the male fantasy space, that it slipped between the allure of Loren, and the elements that surround JCVD. It has taken advantage of the confusion it produces by its juxtaposition. Yes, rightfully women of the arts and fighting complain about the sexualization of their roles, the repeated re-territorialization of their remarkable flights, but it really is in the confusion that is produced by the juxtaposition that inroads were made. All the virtues (Latin, look it up) of the male fighter became detached properties, qualities that could adhere to other things, effecting a displacement. Lorens could suddenly produce virility, almost by its definition. You see this in sci-fi films all the time when the "hot" android suddenly shows inhuman strength...but always with the warning/fear that the android has its own programming, its own mission...almost insect like. It was this crease between Loren and Jean, into which female power began to express itself, taking on more and more of the attributes of Jean, and leaving Loren more and more behind. But it is really into this crease that female fighting still remains. It's con-fusion.

What is important here is that the qualities of "Jean" are the attributes of power, or at least of those "in" power. They are necessary to signify and also, importantly, to trigger the experiences of power in its cultural braid of meaning and instinct. They are the vestments that in a certain sense need to be put on. But this is no fantasy experiment. These are a program of affective transformation. The symbols act as vessels for a kind of transport. But you must keep your eye on the real thing. The real power. The real freedoms that are being signified and assembled. Love. 


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All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare. - Spinoza


#66
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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7/24

I'm particularly fascinated with the MMA story of Kadyrov, the brutal dictator, Islamic ideologue, war-crime-ish cuddly Instagrammer who has embraced MMA for what it really seems to be, in the form of an absolute purity as extreme. I first ran into the story on Sherdog and here is a cleaner presentation of it on MMAfighting.com  or on Deadspin. I remember my mother, who was a Philosophy major before she became a prosecuting attorney, giving the advisement: If you want to understand the verity of an argument take it to its extreme. I was pretty young then and I wrestled with whether or not this was indeed true. I'm much older now and can see something of that taken up in this example. MMA - not the sport, but perhaps we could say the cultural phenomena - is largely revealed in its purity in Kadyrov. The outlandish fantasy of underground brutal fighting tournaments in martial arts cinema, some of my favorite films, paired with ethnic rage (it's dignity) and ultra-Nationalism, and vast resources of wealth (likely derived from elicit, widespread money-laundering activities) becomes acme'd in the arch-warrior type. Coupled to a carefully sculpted social media persona, and the west finds itself staring into a mirror reflection of itself: "Who is the fairest in all the land....?" It is mind-boggling how many threads of MMA absolutism are drawn together and amplified in Kadyrov who is simultaneously Bond villain and Mixed Martial Artist everyman, seemingly straddling the complete spectrum of the male possible. If I thought Trump was the grotesque but still utterly transfigured apogee of Capital, he is but a demi-urge to this example of manly racial rage and its proposed redemption. And what is even more incredible, the ideology of MMA (beknighted UFC fighters of the commercialized west) will be facing Kadyrov's fighter/warriors, their own hypostasis, in a real cage, in real fights. Not since Jessie Owens torched the field in the Berlin Olympics will there be such a meeting of ideology, political brutality and fantasy as athletic contest. But in this case there is no opposition, there is no nemesis. There is only a question: How deep will you go?

This is the fascinating thing. As Kadyrov harnesses the image and ethos of MMA to fuel the warrior caste fantasy, and thus his own political objectives -- and he is not the only power in the world doing so, perhaps most notably the recent rise of fighting spectacle in China, seeking a performance counterpart to real world potency - what it makes clear is that sports matter...that what is being done in the ring, the cage, the field, is not just distraction or pastime, but it draws on and banks affective powers and meanings for change. As otherwise fairly sage observers have wrongly guessed, they are not just bread and circus designed to keep the eyes of the People off of the real mechanisms of power. They are also the stuff of political meaning. It is theatricized but socially proven Good. And the Good is always tested withing the agora, both by speech and by price. To switch gears just a bit this is, in my view, what makes what Sylvie is doing in Muay Thai far more combustive than many if not all realize. There is a groundwork here, a bedrock built in gym spaces, in rings across Thailand, in digital sedimentation that goes very deep, that supposes a possibility far beyond sport in the typical sense. Fighting is where art meets flesh. And in the case of gender - and let's not lose track of how the greatest recent western outcry against Kadyrov has not been against the wider spread accusations of human atrocities, but rather specifically against his anti-gay "purifications" and denials of sexuality - fighting is where art meets flesh meets caste. Values are fighting.

Here is a good Vox video piece on Kadyrov:

The HBO experience of covering his story.

A very good 20+ minute radio interview of the Kadyrov MMA story, Karim Zidan:

And a 20+ minute radio interview of the Kadyrov MMA story, David Scott:


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#67
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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8-31

I finally have done it - I have given into my love of Muay Thai. I'm not young. I'm 50+ (you would not believe it, but I actually do not know my age...I started calculating it out and got flustered for a minute and just gave up, because it doesn't matter)...but I've finally given into my absolute love of the sport. To talk about why it's taken me so long - my Lord, I've lived here in Thailand the motherland of the art, for 5 years! - borders on criminal, if you could commit crimes against yourself, but it's an intricate weave of problems and carefulness that is telling in its own right. What this really is about, what it has to be about, is my weight. For these 5 years I've lived an almost complete and total expat's life, locked in rooms with a keyboard, making sure that we can survive financially, with clients, and with Sylvie's own social media roots growing, just pushing for new vistas in that draining world, my mental acuity, my attention span, the circuit of my creativity growing tighter and tighter, living on refresh cycles and experimentation as a consultant, all as my body ballooned, and I lost awareness of my flesh. All while I watched one of the most incredible devotions to the sport that is possible, my 100 lb wife beat her way towards 200 fights. Jesus. It's incredible. At first I cocooned myself in the apartment because I just did not want to impact Sylvie's training experiences in a Thai gym. The trainers would speak to me, not to her, when I was around. And honestly I was a very harsh influence on Sylvie herself, as she attempted to ascend in her art. It felt best that I stayed away, and let the culture of the gym, the constellation of trainers just make the most of what her heart was. I did pad Muay Thai work maybe 3 or 4 times in our first 2 years at Lanna. I took maybe a month of boxing lessons, scheduled when the gym was empty and full of heat, in the early afternoons. But mostly I just languished, and grew more and more stagnant. More and more unhealthy. Examining a digital world, as westerners feasted on the beautiful training that was only 5 minutes walk from my door.

When we moved to Pattaya, it was more of the same. It just seemed best that I let Sylvie evolve in the cultures of her gyms. I'm a strong force, I send things into orbit, so largely I have just stayed away. And cost too was a reason/excuse. I didn't want to upset the delicate balance of friendship that long term stays, and what money can mean for Thais, by including myself in that relationship. And in truth, I just became frozen. I say it was my weight, which had swelled to an incredible 278 lbs (126 kg) in these 5 years, that drove me to finally give in. But it really was my health. There is a saying: You don't see many seriously overweight old people. In the last 6 months my eyesight began to dim. My circulation grew sluggish. The climb up the stairs to our 4th floor left me breathing hard for 10 minutes or more. I was literally starting to fall apart. It could see the future. I could see that as Sylvie just now is breaking into truly uncharted territory, as a human being and a fighter, as she was poised to just rocket ship to a level that people can't even see, the foundation of these 5 years of self discovery having been laid...I simply was not going to be alive to see it. I wasn't going to be there. I wasn't going to see the person I love really doing the thing she loved, at an incredibly high level. All the excuses (nerve damage in my leg), all the reasons (what would it cost!?) they just suddenly melted away. They were but whiffs of thoughts, not even real thoughts. I was going to die, and probably sooner than anyone else thought. It was time.

Kevin-and-Sylvie-day-1-e1504173046161.jp

278 lb ginormous me, with my lovely, incredible wife Sylvie, first day in the gym on Monday, above

I'm going to say this. The first day in the gym, just standing there in the weight room, kind of milling back and forth waiting for Pi Nu get his things together for my first pad work with him, I started to cry. The tears came, exactly as they are coming as I am writing this in recollection, out of happiness. I was finally there. I was finally going to touch Muay Thai myself, seriously. The stated aim really was to lose weight, to save myself and by time, maybe even decades, to be with my wife, but right then and there it felt like something else. The real reason I'm doing this felt like it was because I love Muay Thai, and I was finally giving myself permission to touch it myself. With my own hand. It didn't matter if I was good, if I ever was going to be good. But I was going to walk up and touch it, like how you've seen an elephant 1,000 times, images of elephants, but it isn't until you touch that dusty, leathery, hair-prickle of skin, you don't know what an elephant is, or feels like. My tears maybe would make more sense if you knew that for these 5 years I've projected myself, physically ---- I say "physically", but I really mean affectively ---- into an incredible amount of Muay Thai. Not only have I been ringside for Sylvie 190 or so fights, and seen all the associated fights surrounding those events, and all the tv and youtube we have watched, so the two of us could get a handle on this incredible art, I also have affectively imagined, and recorded, endless virtual movements, affectively, in my heart, watching all of that, so I could feel my way closer to it. I've been with Sylvie when she has been with the incredible legends she has been filming with, one of a kind human beings and fighters, and I have been silently, and adoringly been downloading the shapes and forms of everything I witnessed. I put it in me. Now, this is going to sound perhaps a little strange, but despite being a very verbal, abstract philosophical, systems oriented person, everything starts for me with the body. So while I've been putting on the endless pounds, stuck behind screens, I've also been processing everything affectively....physically. Ostensibly, I've been doing this for Sylvie's good, so to find out innovative ways around the unique roadblocks she's encountered, but viscerally, and honestly, I've been doing it for love...a love of Muay Thai. I've been kind of locked away, by a screen of sorts, from something I really loved, and which I've seen my wife love, first hand. So I cried, just a few joyous sobs, before that pad work would begin.

And the pad work is amazing. Pi Nu is incredibly patient, incredibly intelligent as he starts to build you, and with me he was working with a body that was badly broken, like an old pick up totally rusted out in the field with the grass growing 6 ft in all directions. But, because my mind was so attuned to everything Sylvie had been learning, and doing, and watched the legends of her instruction so closely myself, I had and have a kind of deep understanding of what the art is supposed to be, or can be. A virtual understanding. So, here I was, a non-functioning body, a very active mind, being escorted through the powers of the art, through their forms...the very BASIC forms, seeking balance like a ship taking on water and that wants to turn and sink, the captain carefully turning its wheel to keep the course, letting the steel work its structural magic. And that was the first day. Fuck. It was unbelievable. And still is. I'm actually touching the thing I love. First week is over and my mind is blowing up. It's just the mornings, I'm making sure I don't injure myself and set myself back, but I'm moving through the gym, as a person. As a human being. Not only as a mind. All the parts are there. And it means a terrible lot.

above, a little video essay on the upper corner of the gym

So, there's a just elating romance about this. The Petchrungruang Gym is...it's hard to describe...it's just about the truest "Thai" gym that there is, that fundamentally allows and includes westerners. But, I think you'd have to know Thailand, and Thai gyms, to see why that's the case. The video above, from this morning, maybe gives a clue to how I think about the gym, this beautiful ad hoc architectures that physically grow out of a house, a family, to explode (the opposite of 'implode') in the slowest of motions around the possibilities that Thai boys might one day be stadium fighters. And, I'm in this space, right in the middle of it. I feel like as I've finally made a motion toward saving my life, I've gifted myself something unexpected. The indulgence and necessity that I touch this art. And I wish I could send it to you, whatever reader who may find this, this bottled emotion that is come from now many years of neglect, an elixir of belief, that makes the art, any art, possible. And I truly feel I could not have done this at any time prior. The stagnation, the stasis really, was a part of the love, as I just watched on, projecting myself into it. Not that what I chose was right, but it was right for this path, this creation, this possibility. Let's see what happens...


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#68
Kaitlinrose

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Kevin - This is so awesome. Looking forward to hearing about your journey. 



#69
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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9/1

I've added the Farmer's Walk to my basic Muay Thai development. I've never been a "work out" guy, even when I was very athletic in my youth, but there is something very reassuring in the Farmer's Walk, the core naturalness of the movement, that just speaks to me. It has to do with something that I love in Muay Thai, and in particular the Muay Thai Pi Nu teaches. Very basic, balanced, efficient moves that come out of a frame. This is something I really, really love, and it feels nice to add an easy movement that has global strengthening elements that somehow mirror the ethos (please, no recommendations :).

In an odd contrast to all of this, I've already begun developing my own fighting system/style, principally on the bag, but mostly in my mind through experimentation. I know this probably sounds ridiculous, but I've been thinking theoretically about Muay Thai tactics and styles for about 7 years now, and it just tickles my brain to start building something I've been imagining out of my own un-trained flesh. So, there is a complete fascination with the pure simplicity of efficient responses contained in Pi Nu's Muay Thai, and really the Muay Thai of pretty much any fighter-oriented gym, AND also already a kind of rigorous experimentation, a creation of something that might really be new, at least to Muay Thai. What I'm working on his a ground up application of what Sylvie is calling The Armadillo Guard, a boxing guard used by some legends. Because of Thai clinch, I think the potentials in this boxing guard are quite undeveloped in Muay Thai, because at closer range a host of latches and strikes contained in it become suddenly available (against the rules of boxing).

You can see the Armadillo Guard here, in Kaensak's example:

I don't know if Sylvie will follow me on this, though she does like the guard just for what it is, a max protect flash position. But...for me it is the introduction of pure enjoyment, just spinning my mind through new angles that are not often common in Muay Thai (and some that are). It makes me really happy to play with this on the bag, and maybe it will become something one day. In research I have found some of the positions to be similar to Muay Chaiya defenses, but just a little bit.

What is interesting is that the play gives me respite for the ways my body feels weak or un-controllable as yet. My mind can play along a line of possibilities that really haven't been explored much before, in parallel to my earnest efforts to just get the basics in my body at the same time.

And Pi Nu has been incredible.


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#70
threeoaks

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GET IT KEVIN!!!
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#71
Ben

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Kevin, I replied briefly on facebook but really felt like I needed to say more, because I think I can relate in a way that many of the younger folks maybe cannot. I think I can understand how hard this is, not just physically but maybe emotionally as well.

I started training when I was 45 and dropped around 35 pounds over the years, and have even fought a bit. Sylvie has provided me a lot of inspiration to try to do this because it seemed doable to me (and frankly not doable in the opinion of many others in my life), her Everest-quest for 200 was crazy 100 fights ago and now its within reach. I am fighting at 50, which is great. But the flip side of drawing that kind of inspiration is that its an impossible standard to live up to, my handful of fights at a relatively low level are slightly embarrassing to even mention in something she might read. Even in comparison to my youthful buddies, my "fight career" seems somewhat quixotic, so my mental game is about my mental game, about my Muay. Staying focused is my goal, no matter how tempting it is to dwell on the desire to be younger or to have started earlier or on some other externality. And I think a lot about something Pema Chodron wrote:

“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”

I take this to mean, be real with myself but don't be cruel with myself. Hang tough, work hard. There is only your road ahead. This old guy is cheering for you. 


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#72
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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9/2

Today in pad work I figured out a little trick after getting the pads smashed down onto my cross, sometimes twisting my wrist a little. I know pad holders do this just to counteract the force, and build strength, especially with big guys...and I'm a big guy...but I gotta keep my wrists going. So I just started targeting the top part of the pad, where the logo happened to be. End of pad smash, and it gave me a nice refined target to sharpen my eyes. For me, what I'm really trying to do, as my body fails me in so many ways, it's about trying to control my space, my environment. Checking the smash down was just part of that.  Mostly it is pace. Pi Nu is incredible at just drawing you into a cardio world where you cannot recover, or breathe. I've watched him do it to Sylvie so many times, and she is a cardio monster. I do know this is good for me, health wise, but I want to from the beginning be measuredly focused on controlling small elements. This is fighting. Taking control of all the small things. So I do not jump for bait when strikes are called for, I take the extra beat to be more on balanced.

But I'm in love with the ways Pi Nu is pairing strikes, how he is already teaching me the flow between natural knees and elbows, on the same side. And I'm loving the cross grab on those knees, so the elbows just right out of a very protected position, the subtle way that you can either claw down or push, as you knee, and how that becomes an elbow. Just love.


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#73
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Thank you Ben and Dana. :)


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#74
radarjam

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Great read - best of luck Kevin!
 
PS. I wished I had your height LOL... I'm a little shorter than Sylvie; its amazing to have a height advantage! 

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#75
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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9/29

Me-and-Sylvie-1-month-in-e1506669024657.

above, me down to 269 lbs, with my sweet

Okay, I'm resolved to not turn this into a weight loss journal, though of course it can risk becoming that. This part of my writing is really about my love of Muay Thai and that I finally have a portal to it, even though I've lived in Thailand for 5 years and have always been close to it. This month, my first, was pretty difficult. Not in terms of work, but non-work. I was coasting along really nicely in the first week. There was a real sense of groove where Pi Nu was pushing me, but not just physically. He was beginning to shape my rather crude and off-balance Muay Thai. The way he works in rounds is that he just keep drawing you out, like putting threads. A knee naturally in followed by a same side elbow, a teep follows a jab. He works his rounds pulling you through natural Muay Thai strike pathways, but also trying to drain you. If you start jumping to his next called strike you'll find yourself in Cardio Hell. I noticed this a long time ago, watching Sylvie on pads. So for me that week was just feeling those progressions, like trying to hum a tune that someone else is humming, but also staying on the right side of cardio, making sure I had my balance before striking, making sure I wasn't busting myself too far from center. Yeah, it would be great if I was an animal right off, but I was nearly 280 and not used to movement. Plus, I feel like part of being a fighter is finding your tempo sweet spot, imposing your rhythm a little. If you just chase your padholder you are mirroring. I'm not sure that is a great habit to build. So, that week was awesome. Burning my lungs a little, finding/feeling Muay Thai (I was loving the cross arm neck grab on knees, and the feel of how that connects to elbows). It was good. Then we had to go. One of the difficulties of this mission is that Sylvie and I hit the road for at least one week out of the month. This time it was 4 fights in 2 weeks, so there was a real sense of disruption. Honestly, one of my difficulties is that I'm kind of OCD about regularity. If I'm set to do something everyday, over and over at the same time I have relentless energy and commitment. A juggled schedule fucks me. I'm going to have to figure out how to work this out at a personal level (no suggestions necessary). My joy is working with Pi Nu. It makes me go.

So, there was a lot of disruption this month, and I really didn't get right back on the horse until today. We have maybe 6 more days of uninterrupted Muay Thai before Sylvie's next fight so I'm set for more digging in. I'll make this work, it's just a matter of focus, preparation and planning. The good news is that this month I did lose at least 4 kilos to find myself below 270! (122 kg, 269 lbs). Hey, that's pretty awesome. A big part of this was not only the first big week of training, it was also that Sylvie and I both took a big turn in our diets. No processed carbs, no big GI Index carbs. We noticed that carbs of all sorts were putting Sylvie in a bad frame of mind, and it made perfect sense that I should follow along with this as I'm probably per-diabetic. Yeah, it was hard to reformulate our menus, and sometimes it feels like there is nothing I want to eat, but it certainly has helped with the weight loss. Now if I can just buckle down and put my Muay Thai right along side my diet change, we'll be getting there.

As for my Muay Thai I need to get into bag work way more. I'm lacking focus (and joy) there. I gave up playing with the Amardillo Guard, which I'm still theoretically way excited about - I believe there is a whole Muay Thai fighting system buried in that guard, something no one has thought to work out because it's a boxing guard. But I also have to work on my lead leg teep which is horrendous and comical at the same time. Geez. That teep says a lot of where I'm at physically. I should make it a mission to take that teep as a symbol of my possible transformation toward the love of Muay Thai that I have. Maybe in a year I'll be writing about how incredibly my lead leg teep is. I like that idea.


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#76
bbf3

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Love reading about your journey, Kevin. You really capture that "everything is amazing but SO hard" feeling you get when you start muay thai, learn something new or when you work with a new padholder who challenges you.


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#77
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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10/5

Okay, a great week of just pushing through the pads with Pi Nu. It’s so strange to be doing this physically when I’ve been watching it first hand, so closely, for 5 years+. I’m really adept at physically imagining movement, so in a certain sense I feel that I’ve been “doing” Muay Thai for all these years…all the movements are so familiar to me. But it also feels like I’m in rehab after a spinal injury, and my body parts aren’t doing what I know they are supposed to do. It’s like a virtual knowledge trying to map on physical capability.

First Realization: This is something I think I knew, but today it hit me like a ton of bricks. Like I suddenly really knew it. Pi Nu is just an amazing padholder. It struck me today just how much he is teaching rhythm, really his own little style of a kind of music. Techniques are like notes, and yes, you need to play them right, but what is really important is how you play them together. Certain notes belong together, and there are common melodies that can be played within any particular natural group. And yes, the tempo can be changed to produce expressions, and qualities of experience, but it’s the rhythm that holds it all together. And he teaches this rhythm over and over and over, pulling knees and elbows into percussive beats, teeps to jabs, checks to kickbacks, uppercuts to hooks, and back. And he runs you through this music, over the fatigue, until you just start to hum it…you can’t help but hum it. That’s why he was so puzzled when an enthused westerner once asked him: What is your favorite combo? It’s not like that. It would be like asking what are you favorite musical bars? Yes, it’s something that might be answerable, but it isn’t the right level of description. It’s not the level of music.

And, as I climbed out of the ring this morning, armed with my new and weighty realization, I realized another thing. Sylvie often gets the question: How do you not get confused when legends all train you different, sometimes conflicting techniques? She usually answers this by saying she just takes the things she needs or feels attracted to, and leaves the rest. But what struck me was how Pi Nu’s music, which is a certain basic structure of Muay music, is sympathetic to for instance Karuhat’s music, which at surface value is quite different, more lyrical, more sudden. But they kind of harmonize together. It struck me how all of these legends, men who feel Muay Thai in their bones because they have warred it out at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern with huge pressures in the Golden Age, each have a music. And they are all different. What Sylvie has been doing is a kind of DJ-ing these musics into a style she is finding herself, ultimately toward her own music. So creatively, strains of one might sample into another, one harmony might morph into another, beats may syncopate across others. Yes, some music may be jarring to mesh with another, but not really. Not if you really feel the qualities of each. All music can be joined to other music, given the right transition and context. And this just blows my mind.

Second Realization: This came earlier in the week. I was truly struggling with my front leg teep. Being substantially over-weight didn’t help one bit. Being fairly immobile for this half-decade certainly was no boon to my balance. But somehow I was just all wrong about. Nothing made sense. Come on Kev, what are you doing? You know what a teep looks like. But then an interesting thing happened. After several more very confused teeps Pi Nu demonstrated how it should be done. I don’t have to explain how beautiful his was. But, what is interesting is that he didn’t pull the teep. He made it jab right into me. And then again. I’ve seen him do this to Sylvie. Not pull the teep. He doesn’t rocket it, but he makes sure that it has a pointed sting. Now she’s only 105 lbs so she regularly is knocked back, and I’ve noticed that she kind of has gotten into the habit of becoming really passive to this slight bit of aggression, like: If I just melt and fall away…submit…maybe he’ll stop. And he usually doesn’t. I’ve got more than 150 lbs on Sylvie so I decide to take the teep (my gloves were a makeshift pad), in fact after two, I’m going to lean into it, crowd the space. I’m basically not going to be teeped off, at least not effectively. And this changed the whole lesson. Pi Nu felt my resistance, so when he then called for me to try, once again, he resisted. He leaned into it. Suddenly I was banging my foot into his pad, trying to move him. I was no longer teeping “to the pad”. I was actively trying to use my weight against him. And given my size I sent him flying a few times. It’s enough to say Pi Nu was really happy. It wasn’t just that I was able to move him. It was suddenly I was using much better technique. I wasn’t a complete spaz about it. Such a big deal. It made me realize that “copying” or “imitating” a technique really can send you down the wrong alley. You might very well get to a very nice approximation, but if you aren’t using the technique to do what the technique is for, first and foremost, you are kind of wasting your time. Since this moment of realization I’ve had mixed results. Isn’t that the way that it is. Your epiphany is never as clear as when you first have it, but it fuels me, and my teep is definitely working towards a fun and meaningful technique. Now I try to pop him back, let my weight do the talking, and let Pi Nu do his magic and complicate the task with context.

Third Realization: There are two basic footwork patterns in Muay Thai. Not to oversimplify it, but there are two. In one weight goes to the opposite side foot when striking. In the other weight goes to the same side foot when striking. I had gotten into a bad habit during my few months of hitting the bag at Lanna (I didn’t really take an instruction then), years ago. I got pulled into the Dempsey jab which involves a deep “falling step” sending your weight forward onto the lead leg. This set up a basic weight transfer for me, same side weight transfer on all hands, and it kind of got into me somehow and hibernated all these years. This is the exact opposite of the weight transfer Chatchai Sasakul taught Sylvie. I don’t want to go too far into this with examples, but I can feel that these form two different kinds of “walking”. So, in shadowing elbows in a really informal, light way I started experimenting with walking with the opposite side weight transfer. It took me a couple of days before I really started to feel the way that this kind of transfer creates a twisting, elephant-walk-like, basic rhythm. I also realized that it’s really important not to blur these two kinds of walking, at least when distinguishing them in your body. It’s the reason why in the classic right cross you are told to nail your back foot to the ground. You don’t want to slur them. Yes, there are moments when you want to walk with same-side weight, but this holds it’s own purity. It counts as a counter measure. Of course there are many way to blend footworks, but this, at a basic level, felt like a profound element. So, I’ve been working to make sure my weight transfer is opposite, slowly growing to that rhythm. Today I realized how this kind of weight transfer can have a big effect on elbows, allowing them to be married to the basic “cutting off” gallop of a fighter like Yodkhunpon. Each gallop holds it’s own elbow at the ready. Side to side one can move, taking elbows off the typically linear, right in front of you elbow striking practice that is common. It opens angles.

Fourth Realization: This is also something I kinda knew, but as with all these things experiencing it really made a difference. Contrary to some fears of those who have not yet been to Thailand to train: It doesn’t matter how good you are to be taken seriously. No honestly. Yes, a lot of things do matter, and yes, this applies to what I might call “true teachers” of Muay Thai, but you can be the worst example of an athlete – look at me, vastly overweight, in his 50s, almost no training experience – and you can still be pretty interesting to a “true teacher”. The reason for this is found in Sylvie’s 2 part article on Beetle Fighting. In the Muay Thai world there is just an elemental – I’m tempted to call it pure – love of the battle, of the clash. In beetle fights it doesn’t matter how good or bad your beetle is, or how likely he is to not be good, the whole game is to find someone who might be a good match…and to have a battle. At any level. There are champion beetles that may be worth thousands of dollars (I’m assuming), and there are beetles you just find on trees. All of them battle, or can battle. If you find one that doesn’t really like the fight, won’t engage, no problem, he probably isn’t made for the clash. I think, after watching Muay Thai for these 5 years, this is a fundamental grounding ethic of Muay Thai.

There is another part to this though. True Teachers are a bit like Real Mechanics. Real Mechanics are fascinated by any kind of mechanism. How to make it work better? You see this with car guys. Guys have the car up on blocks trying to make it better. It can be a rare model, or it can be a Pinto, its the same ethic. What can I turn this Pinto into? Teachers like Pi Nu are exactly like this. All their students are like projects. They are thinking: Hmmm, what can I turn this into? Yes, the main business and pre-occupation is building Thai boys into stadium fighters and even champions, but deeper, below all of that, there’s a deeper morality. Everyone can be improved. What can I make this fighter into? Humble beginnings don’t really matter much at all. In fact, in some ways it’s more interesting. Pi Nu took Angie, a trans Thai woman with zero Muay Thai experience in her 30s and through matching effort and focus help turn her into the first trans-woman to fight at Lumpinee. Not because that was any kind of aim of his, but because he looked at her and said: What can I improve? I say all this because I can see in his eyes that he’s thinking the same thing when he’s holding pads for me (and really probably anyone). I have no intention of fighting, but already he’s thinking of possible opponents for me, starting to joke about them. When my teep sent him flying he thought: Hmmm, we can do something with that. When he felt how I kind of love knees and elbows together he thinks: Hmmm, we can do something with that. For these kinds of pure teachers everyone is like a stock car whose engine he wants to work on, and that he’d like to maybe race. Not on some amazing, famous track, but on the neighborhood drag strip against another car around it’s same capacities. See what this can become. Of course not every kru is like this, and some gyms have real bottom lines or business aims, but I’ve seen this in several krus in different camps and it’s a beautiful thing.


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All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare. - Spinoza






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