A Husband’s Point of View is a series of my thoughts on watching Sylvie, as her husband, throughout the years. You can click on that link and see the collection of philosophical thoughts, technical thoughts, but mostly my awe and inspiration of my wife, who is doing things never been done before in the history of fighting, man or woman. That’s fair enough. I’m her husband, I loved her instantly and powerfully enough to promise my life to her, and it’s a beautiful privilege and pleasure to do so, but I’m including here below a remarkable text written by Kero, one of the most committed and impassioned westerners I’ve ever seen train in Thailand, and I’ve seen a great number of them. It’s just poetry to read, in the sense that it opens the world up to what Sylvie and what she does, but it does so through the eyes of someone who is actually in the gym with her, watching her every day, and, more importantly – carving her own fiery ascent, round by round, ache by ache, pounding the flesh into submission, and the sword of the soul into sharpness. It doesn’t matter if any of this is true – though a great deal of it is true – it’s that it is imagined, substantively, in the epicenter of a real human being doing real things, and its echo’d back in a real human being, doing real things. This is two swords glinting in the kind of echo when you put yourself out there. So, below, read what Kero says and believes about Sylvie. Note: About a year ago I wrote a post on how Sylvie is possibly greater than Dekkers in her impact on the sport – which is happening right now, in our time – and have held off on publishing my careful argument. What Kero writes makes me feel I should publish it now. Kero is in the gym, full time with Sylvie, and it feels like she is sharing our madness, the wholesale devotion to a transformation that equally transforms the sport itself. In a way, it might seem odd to print such aggrandizing things, but Sylvie is setting sights so well beyond even the most exaggerated version of any horizon that existed before her, part of the telling of the story is things like this. What is special here is that Kero shares other qualities with Sylvie that makes her an incredible keyhole into her achievements. She’s painfully shy and reserved, harsh on herself and demanding, a true introvert who leverages herself through regimes of work, and I think shares something of the cloth that Sylvie is cut from. Just take this as I do, part of the eye witness account from someone in inspiration, deep in action.
For those new to Sylvie, she is attempting to break what has long been thought an untouchable record of the most documented pro fights, aiming for 471 in total. Read about Len Wickwar’s record here. She is already the most documented fighter in history, and has blown away the record for the most fights by a western in Thailand, now over 250 fights (the former record was thought to be around 119 fights). She is the Ultra Runner of Muay Thai and combat sports, very likely no person on the planet has fought more full-contact times than she in the last 7 years, not to mention the substantial and persistent weight advantages she gives up in that volume. complete fight record here
Kero’s Ode to Sylvie
This post is going to be an ode to Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu. Kevin doesn’t praise her often enough so I’m going to help him out a little. This is a joke. He’s her number 1 fan. He’s her number 2, 3, 4, 5… all the way down to 100 as well. He owns the top charts. His first words as a baby were “Sylvie, go left!”.
What motivates this post is my last three fights all getting cancelled. The last one being a very last minute cancellation. I still have my right hand wrapped as I write this haha. These hurdles are annoying for many reasons (like missing training for nothing) but something I wasn’t really aware of is that it is way too common an issue for women fighters. I knew it was an issue we had to struggle with way more than men because they have a lot more competition, whereas we simply don’t. But I thought my case was more complicated just because I’m tall. It’s actually not that true. Turns out Sylvie (who’s as small as I am tall) had to deal with so much cancellation at the beginning of her career that she simply had to stop taking a day off before a fight – too many wasted days.
When I heard that, I was like: damn, the list of obstacles in her path is endless. I feel a bit like crying as I’m writing this. When I say she’s the strongest fighter on Earth I’m not exaggerating or being hyperbolic. Sure I’m biased because absolute objectivity doesn’t exist. Still. Just think about it for a sec…
Take a Golden Era legend like Langsuan for instance. He’s in Sylvie’s Muay Thai Library, go check him out. He is Muay Khao. They’re the HARDEST workers in Muay Thai. He laid out his training schedule to Sylvie during the Library session they filmed together. It goes as follow: Starts at 7am with a 10k run, then padwork, bagwork, sparring, clinch, conditioning until 11am. Then eat and sleep until 3pm where it’s all over again like the morning session until 7.30pm. That’s 8 hours and a half of daily hardcore grind. A Muay Khao daily kind of grind. Take your hardest session you ever had and imagine training like that all day every day for decades – with very difficult fights here and there. Even in your nightmares you wouldn’t train like that. That’s so fucking insane my mind has difficulties grasping it – as if I were trying to measure the size of the universe. These extremely resilient and enduring Muay Khao fighters, as impressive as they were, at the end of the day they were being “taken care of” and they could “simply” eat and pass out. Not to minimize their struggle and their horrible work and the lack of comfort (Lamnammoon used to sleep in the ring with a pad for a pillow). I wouldn’t dare being that disrespectful. Plus I’m not aware of anyone’s personal issues on top of the hellish training they had (some fighters had families to provide for!).
Yet I can’t help but think about how Sylvie, at the end of her grueling day of training, her work was far from done. She was the sole master of the intensity and length of her training. She dug out the old school ways of nak muay grinding and MADE HERSELF follow it – while everyone else, coaches and partners alike, thought she was insane. Because she didn’t have to train like that… Who would choose such suffering on purpose? She alone (with Kevin though!) had to take care of eating, of finding fights, of documenting her own journey (fuck ton of quality writing and vlogging and journalism), of keeping in touch with people (friends, family, fellow Nak Muays, trolls, etc), of learning Thai, of dealing with her own mental lows and heartbreaks, of going alone to her fights and having to learn to wrap her own hands and sometimes asking random people at the venues to corner for her, etc etc etc… I’m probably forgetting stuff. Any of these things is exhausting on their own, but she’s doing them all, some of them daily. Remember: she’s not just training Muay Thai, she’s training Muay Khao. When people says they train hard I’m not impressed. I want to say what Morpheus said to Neo: show me. I personally never say I train hard. “Hard” is like belts and world champion titles, it’s thrown around everywhere all the time it doesn’t mean much. I put in my head a standard of hard work and it goes like: “Today I trained a little like Sylvie” or “today I trained 1/10 like Dieselnoi”. Sylvie’s training is Golden Era Muay Khao type of training, no less. Even nowadays where she’s had to implement more rest and sleep into her training as for years she was so under-rested (I don’t even know where she found the time to sleep seriously), she’s still training hardcorely (yes it’s a word, shut up). When I see her on pads with Kru Nu I’m speechless. Well, I’m always silent so it’s like I become speechless in my speechlessness. Lol. She doesn’t take those walking breaks like everyone does (Thais included). She doesn’t slow down even when it’s 5 rounds of hell and you can see on her face how pissed she is at being tired (which I find funny, sorry Sylvie). And Kru Nu is an absolute nightmare. He doesn’t give a damn how tired you get. Also his charisma when he holds pads is particularly intimidating. He loves and acknowledges Sylvie’s power so much he gives her the most work when he’s focused on her. Some days she gets more love than others days. I’m watching from a distance feeling half envious and half “thank God he likes me less” hahaha.
Anyways. The structure of this post is sort of messy but I don’t really care. I want to mention that I’m not forgetting Kevin’s priceless and completely necessary assistance in Sylvie’s journey. They’re like the Moon and the Earth, one cannot function (exists, even) without the other. They’re the most beautiful fusion I’ve ever seen and they’re both incredibly gifted and hardcore in their own crafts.
Even with his immense help, she’s still doing so much more than everybody else I can think of. I’m not even dwelling much into the emotional and mental aspect of her work which is incredibly exhausting. She’s an altruistic soul. She helps people whenever she can – even as introverted as she is and with the little time that she can spare. She answers so fast on social media it’s mind-blowing. Having to be social is so, so, soooo exhausting. She’s fighting so often and booking her own fights she has to be social and interacts with people and do networking stuff ALL THE TIME – while being a fucking Muay Khao fighter.
And at the beginning when she was learning Thai, when she didn’t have a solid social circle and knew no one and was ignored and shunned and cancelled and looked down upon as this crazy tiny farang hello kitty, it must have been unimaginably depressing and hard.
That’s what came to mind after being cancelled a few times in a row lately. My situation is not really hard. My fights are being booked for me. People actually want me to fight. And when I’m in the ring I’m not the smallest so that’s a fear I never have to deal with, not really. I haven’t mentioned this yet even though it’s one of a colossal obstacle: Sylvie being the smallest nearly always means she’s walking around with a natural fear I her heart that makes everything she does even that much scary and hard. She’s had 258 fights against mostly giants. On top of fucking everything else. Fucking hell.
It’s cliché to say people just don’t think about the behind the scene heart wrenching work of amazing fighter like Sylvie. But people really don’t. Even me. I keep being slapped in the face because the layers of struggle she walks on are legions, and constant. Like having a sak yant drawn on her body non-stop forever. She’s the strongest, don’t even argue. Don’t even talk. It’s pointless. You couldn’t get close and neither could I. But that doesn’t mean we have to settle for a low standard. We don’t have to stop running up the Olympus just because the Summit will never appear. We’re blessed we can follow her. We just can’t get weak by honestly and respectfully following her standard.
Now if you went into the trouble of reading this whole messy tribute for Sylvie and you’re not a patron of hers already, well, what the hell? Do yourself a favour and go be one: patreon.com/sylviemuay