About Kaimuay Diaries – The Inside Look Muay Thai Documentary
We wanted to do something different. There are so many incredible but mundane things that happen at a more traditional, family-style Muay Thai gym in Thailand it sometimes feels like you can just point a camera anywhere and capture something special. Something that isn’t a part of everyday lives elsewhere in the world. So we came up with the Kaimuay Diaries concept. The idea was to just pick a topic and have Sylvie just run the camera, letting things unfold. We didn’t want a super edited, “let-me-tell you” film style. We wanted things to just kind of be. Almost home movie like. This style helped save us time in the editing software, to be sure, which is really important because Sylvie’s plate is brimmed full with all the content she puts out, and her 100% nose-to-the-wall training, but it’s more than that. When you are in a Thai gym a lot of the time you are just sitting there. You are exhausted from your rounds on the pads. You are cycling off the bag. You are beat. A lot of the time you are there and you just let the camera roll, so to speak. That’s what these episodes are like.
You can watch the entire Kaimuay Diaries series as a patron. Watch the entire episode 5 here
We make them for our $10 patrons. At $10 you get access to the full Muay Thai Library archive, which is already an insane project. Now nearly 70 hours of techniques from legends and great krus has been documented and voiced by Sylvie, and we add two hours to that a month. This output is just unmatched anywhere on the internet. Even an hour of the Library surpasses anything you elsewhere just in terms of depth and authenticity. But there is now almost 70 hours. Truthfully, the Muay Thai Library is changing Muay Thai all over the world. Not only are instructors studying these videos so they can better inform and lead their students – we hear from lots of instructors – students themselves are cutting their own path forward, discovering techniques and fight philosophies they could never have found locally. There is a radical change in the dissemination of learning, as people become much more in touch, directly, with the rich history of techniques and men of Thailand. And, all over the world sparring partners suddenly are doing shit you’ve never seen before in class!
That’s the Library. But we wanted to bring something more to our awesome supporters. That’s what the Kaimuay Diaries are for. These are long, keyhole documentaries that give insight into the very different world of a Thai family-style camp. These are the previous episodes, so far:
Kaimuay Diaries – Episode 1 | Maintenance Mode (29 min) – a quiet look at the top stadium fighters at the gym in a typical maintenance mode day. With no fights coming up the training is light, communal and playful. watch it here
Kaimuay Diaries – Episode 2 | At the Edge of the Gym (46 min) – in this episode I follow the training of young cousins Gang Gat and Bao, two Thai fighters working their way into becoming fighters for the gym. The oldest one Gang Gat is contracted, the younger Bao is just developing. It’s a chance to see how it is that Thai boys work their way into becoming stadium fighters watch it here
Kaimuay Diaries – Episode 3 | Going To Lumpinee (46 min) – Lumpinee fighting isn’t always what we hold in our imagination. Come with my gym to Lumpinee Stadium and learn what it is like for our Thai fighters, from 4 AM in the morning when we leave, til fighting at 7 PM and back in the van. watch it here
Kaimuay Diaries – Episode 4 | The Outsider (51 min) – I return to Lumpinee Stadium coming to support a fighter I helped push and train for his fight there, this time with a documentary view of my own experiences as being both included and excluded in the process. watch it here
The video excerpts above. One an interview with Pi Nu, the head of the Petchrungruang Gym, and the other a cut up of the legend Dieselnoi, both in the gym training the Thai fighters, and at Rajadamnern, urging the Italian fighter Alex on, are special even for the Kaimuay Diaries series. Usually the camera just rolls, and it rolls in this episode. But, Sylvie wanted to interview Pi Nu for this one, and importantly translate the interview so that you can feel the kind of man Pi Nu is, and feel what it was like to have his humble gym visited by a legendary name of Muay Thai. Bringing Dieselnoi into the gym for a month was huge. But what was also huge was how quickly he folded into the kaimuay reality, because kaimuays in Thailand, the real, Thai-style gyms, all are the same. They have the same ethic, the same pace and meaning. It’s just that westerners do not see them very often. Kaimuay gyms either are cut off from westerners (off the map), or, if they draw westerners they become quickly distorted and very oriented toward the western customer experience. Training westerners becomes their new business, rather than raising Thai boys to fight in the national stadia. Rare is the gym that remains true to their Thai fighter heart, and also allows westerners to be a part of that experience. Petchrungruang has, very likely because of the deep character of the man behind it, Pi Nu. And also because his son, Bank, has been raised as a stadium fighter this entire time. And as a stadium fighter he had to be surrounded by a family of stadium fighters (notably, two of the biggest stars of Thailand were part of this family. Fighter of the Year Tawanchai, who some consider the best fighter in Thailand, and PTT, a star on Thai Fight. Both were raised along side Bank at the gym, before ambition took their stories to other, larger opportunities. Another reason why the gym has been somewhat immune from too much western orientation is that a real kaimuay isn’t super appealing to much of the more self-oriented Muay Thai set that seeks training in the country. The kaimuay process is a very long one. It’s on a different time scale. And because Pi Nu isn’t really interested in making money off of, or through westerners, many of the reasons why many kinds of Muay Thai travelers would want to come to the gym. Westerners are not the star or the feature of the gym. It’s just a slow, and some might feel boring process. That “boring”, the long process, the relationships involved, is part of what the Kaimuay Diaries series hoped to capture. It isn’t exotic. It isn’t “Oh!”, it’s real. It’s the fabric of Muay Thai in Thailand.
The other part of this particular episode is that it IS Dieselnoi, and that is exciting. There is a coming Part 2 which revolves around Pi Nu’s son Bank, and Bank’s fight at Rajadamnern. A few compelling things come out in Pi Nu’s interview. For me the first of these is that Pi Nu, even though he was raised as a stadium fighter, and he was forced to change his style from Muay Femeu to Muay Khao (because OneSongChai wanted a forward, more exciting style), and even though he was told he should then fight like Dieselnoi, he had never seen Dieselnoi fight. He had seen lots of pictures in magazines, but he had never seen him in the ring, or on video. We think to ourselves how lucky Thais were to watch legends like Dieselnoi or Samart in the ring, but largely if you weren’t at the stadium in Bangkok at the time, you may have hardly seen them. And in Dieselnoi’s case you probably never saw him. So, for Pi Nu to have Dieselnoi in the flesh, in his gym for a month, teaching his own son, grabbing his own neck, was kind of insane. It’s like a myth, even a myth that you had been told to emulate, had come to life. And that is cool.
The other moving aspect is that in this episode you get to see Dieselnoi at the Rajadamnern apron, where he has been for decades, urging on a western fighter who has been raised at the gym, Alex. And you get to feel that intensity, unique to Dieselnoi, contrasted with the personality of Pi Nu in the interview. Dieselnoi has been a cornerman since his early days at Hapalang Gym. He cornered for Fighters of the Year, after he himself could no longer find opponents to fight. This is a fish and his water. It was a beautiful thing to put him in touch with this again, connecting to the training ring, and then back at major stadium fights, with fighters he helped shape. This could only have been done through our Patreon, and the Muay Thai Library we’ve been building. But it’s more than this. In the episode its also about the contrast between these two men, Pi Nu and Dieselnoi. The kinds of masculinity that makes up stadium Muay Thai. The unicorn of a man, Dieselnoi, and the focused, dignity of a man who is just raising his son to one day become champion. One of the more beautiful moments in the interview above is when Pi Nu talks about the possibility of his son becoming champion. Pi Nu himself came very close to a belt. In fact it was widely felt in the family that he was robbed of a victory in an important that would have let him fight for the Lumpinee belt, in a decision so bad that the promoter ended up giving him a copy of the belt from the tournament, but without his name on it. There is, despite so many of the beautiful things that happen and that are possible in Thailand, deep inequities too. The truth is that when you see a Lumpinee Champion, or a Fighter of the Year, you aren’t just seeing a great fighter. You are seeing a great (or sometimes not even great, but good) fighter with connections. You are not put in that place where you can win the belt unless you are connected. Pi Nu lost future Thailand stars Tawanchai (who fought at Jatukom with the gym) and PTT, whose contracts were forced out from under him, because he more or less refuses to become “connected”. He avoids the power games, and remains loyal to local or small time promoters who have always been with the gym. It’s part of the fabric of his character, and it’s also why the gym stays small. Humble. When Pi Nu talks about whether his son could one day become champion he says yes, if Dieselnoi came to the gym regularly, and injected it with his intensity and authenticity Bank would no doubt have the power. But, he would need a sponsor. A sponsor. Which means, really, a connection. This is what brings you the belt. It’s beautiful to see the gym, and Dieselnoi, both caught in this no-man’s-land of excellence. Bank is coming up into his stadium champion years, where he has matured to the point he could make a serious run at the belt. Dieselnoi floats in the aftereffect of his great career, many years removed, but still passionate about the sport. He’s cut off from living, Thai fighter Muay Thai. And Pi Nu lies in the balance, between the hopes that his son might one day have the belt opportunity that was taken from him, balancing the costs of becoming connected, having a sponsor. This is beautiful, real Muay Thai.
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