above, how my fight rate changed after my Go Fund Me started
Back in late-July I launched a campaign to invite regular readers of my blog and followers of my dream to fight more times in Thailand than any other western woman (and now western male) to back me in order to help me travel for fights and keep my ambitious fight rate up. There was an incredible response, as it took only 2 days to reach my $2,000 goal. In fact, support kept coming generously in as I received notes telling me how much people believed in my fighting and writing here, as well as my favorite kind of messages from people telling me they’ve been inspired in their own pursuits in Muay Thai. The Go Fund Me operated at that point as a kind of affirmation of 8limbs.us, and the additional funds have been accepted as support for what I am doing. The campaign’s goal of $2,000 was a low estimate of what it might cost to travel to every fight that was offered to me outside of Pattaya (which I’ve been able to do, thanks to the support), and the above and beyond contributions have opened the possibility for me to continue past this goal – to take aim at the next target – as I continue to sink deeper into the fabric of Muay Thai and its innumerate social and cultural facets. And try to share as much of what I can find as possible with the people who follow along with me.
As I’ve just completed my 99th fight in Thailand, the originally stated goal of the Go Fund Me is very close to its completion. I was cut in my last fight, requiring 7 stitches, so my 100th fight in the country has been delayed a bit until the stitches are out. The next fight is now scheduled for March 8th in Khorat, one of the best places on the planet to fight and in many ways the heart of Muay Thai. It’s about 5 hours from Pattaya, so it is exactly the kind of fight the Go Fund Me has made possible.
As the 100th fight stands imminent, I’m still very much in need of financial aid to be able to stay and fight (blog and film my experiences), but when the 100th fight is completed I will close the current Go Fund Me; because the aim of that campaign will have been realized. I’ll very likely establish a new method for accepting financial support as I’m still getting communication from people who want to help me and make sure that 8limbs.us keeps on going. It will be a place to accept the offer for financial support that is offered by those who wish to send it. The first 100 fights in Thailand have given me the foundation of the Muay Thai I hope to one day have. It is no “special” accomplishment that puts me above and beyond others. I only record it as a record so that other women would be inspired to fight, to discover their own “impossible” and have the courage to pursue it. I believe that the best way to grow, and deeply absorb Muay Thai culture is to actually fight as much as you possibly can. And while this goal isn’t shared by everyone, I have noted an increase in the number of fighters in Thailand who are keen to fight more frequently, at a higher rate. So the idea is growing. My endeavor to grow through repeatedly fighting is exactly what Go Fund Me support has allowed me. I’m unrepayably grateful to my supporters, who have awarded me the chance to reach 100 fights in Thailand.
Below is the detail of how the Go Fund Me donations have been used to accomplish this goal:
Go Fund Me Achievements
As a beginning note: critics of Go Fund Me seem to miss a few very important things, but a large one is that family and close personal friends are a major contributing factor to campaigns. People see public totals, but the do not realize that a sizeable portion of these totals are donations that come from very close familiars. It’s not entirely different from a school bake-sale to raise money for supplies or field trips: it’s parents and peers putting in the dollars. In the case of crowd-funding through organization online, these are donations that actually would go further if they were directly sent to the receiver, as Go Fund Me extracts a percentage for their services, so not all the money goes to the cause. My Go Fund Me includes the substantial donations of caring close members of my family and friends, the “extended family” of my Muay Thai community in the US. I am seriously thankful for my donations from family and from readers. They are mixed together in the same pot, something that is to keep me fighting and maybe more importantly writing about Muay Thai in Thailand. Donations came from names I’ve seen on my YouTube and Facebook page for years – people I’ve never met but who I absolutely feel are part of my community – as well as names I’d never seen before but who had quietly been following my journey. It means a great deal to me that there are so many others who find meaning in this.
At the other end there have been real financial hurdles overcome in developing a network of friends, gyms and promoters that have helped me fight fights across Thailand, far from the local scene in Pattaya. This developed network has been irreplaceable in my goal of 100 fights, not only due to local gym politics but also my increased understanding of the importance of gambling in fight match ups (see my post The 80% Fight). Even though I’ve been fighting a lot since my Go Fund Me started, I’ve fought very rarely in Pattaya where I live because the opportunities here are limited. I’ve fought 27 times since my Go Fund Me started. Only 4 of those fights have been in Pattaya, despite my constant effort to be booked close to home. Without my Go Fund Me support I very likely would have found myself much in the same position I hear other female fighters in currently, having an extremely difficult time finding fights. I get private messages from female fighters frequently asking me to help them find fights, and the only reason I might be able to help them is because of the network of relationships I’ve been able to develop beyond Pattaya, because I was given the freedom to travel across the country, and to create those gym/promoter relationships that can take advantage of that freedom. Without my Go Fund Me supporters, in the 7 months since the campaign launched it is possible I would have only had 4 fights, rather than 27.
In the map above, beneath the yellow, these are fights I simply would not have had if it were not for my generous Go Fund me supporters. Not only did they give me the funds to reach them, having the war chest of funds also gave me the flexibility so that I could dependably negotiate to book these fights, knowing that no matter what, if I promised to be at a venue, I was there. The ability to rent a car also allowed me to book fights very close together. 7 times I booked fights within 2 days of each other (2 fights, 3 days), and 3 of these 7 times these were fights on consecutive days (2 fights, 2 days), often hundreds of kilometers apart, something pretty much impossible to book without the freedom of a car. I would basically fight, get in the car to drive across Thailand and then fight again. In a very real way my impending 100 fight mark would have been impossible for me in any other fashion. I learned in doing this that even harder than the physical and mental accomplishment of such a high fight rate, is actually booking all the fights to fight. It is very difficult.
The car rental from Hertz has equaled $2,225.00
Gas has cost us $1,400.00
Hotel has cost us: $400.00
Travel to and lodging at all my out-of-Pattaya fights has cost us $4,025.00
This is double what we estimated it would cost, but we’d also anticipated much less difficulty in finding fights in Pattaya. We’ve been forced to travel more than we thought.
Some detailed elements:
Unfortunately when booking fights you also have to take risks as you trust promoters and gyms who are promising match ups. This involves spending money to travel to fights that may not be what is promised you. One such unfortunate instance was the end of our relationship with Giatbundit Gym in Isaan in December (a gym we spent a lot of effort supporting, and with which I had some wonderful experiences that I consider myself fortunate in having). This falling out happened because Frances Wattanaya promised us that I would be fighting one of the best fighters in Thailand, Loma Lookboonmee, with the gym, followed by another fight the next night. Frances was speaking on behalf of Pi Dit, the owner of Giatbundit, and had been doing so for our entire time of fighting for that gym, a relationship that had unfolded for months. Pi Dit was in charge of booking the fights, Frances was in charge of communicating to me. In December we spent the money to travel up to Isaan, as we had done previously, and the expense of the hotel. Then next night we drove up to the venue, ready to fight, only to find that we had been lied to, apparently Loma had canceled the fight 3 days prior, before we had even driven up. Our repeated attempts to confirm the fight before we had left had resulted in affirmations that it was on even though it was off. We found ourselves standing outside the venue, my name not on the card, and a fill-in opponent was being sought – a complete unknown. This was actually a part of a string of last-minute Giatbundit match-ups switches that had resulted in some really disappointing opponents. I didn’t want to accept the call-in, who was not yet there, and seemed to not even be coming. Despite the fact that I had come all the way up to Buriram, was right at the ring, and had two fights sitting in front of me, I disappointingly canceled the fight and ended my relationship with Giatbundit Gym. Bookings through Frances and Giatbundit had produced these emergency style opponents every time that I was booked to fight for them (maybe 5 fights?). I’ve gotten a lot of flack from the kinds of opponents I faced in Isaan with Giatbundit. These came about through what I can only call repeated misrepresentation, and the sudden absence of Loma, a much hoped for opponent, was the signal that this just wasn’t going to change. To be told it was confirmed and then be waiting outside the venue and casually informed that the opponent I’d been firm on had cancelled three days ago – before I had spent any of the time (6 hour drive) or money to come up, so it could have been corrected – felt very deceitful. To be sure, things change at the drop of a hat all the time in Thailand, but this was not one of those cases. We had to eat the substantial cost of travel and hotel and just walk away from those two fights, as well as any more future possibility of fighting through Giatbundit Gym, people whom I’d felt positively about on a personal level (I like Pi Dit’s energy, his wife’s enthusiasm, and Pi Dam was one of the best corners I’ve ever had). I had spent months endorsing the gym on my page and on this site, building awareness in an attempt to promote this community gym. It was a shame, really.
An additional aborted fight and lost substantial cost occurred around a booked fight in Khon Kaen, about 6 and a half hours drive from Pattaya. It was booked through Yo (don’t know his full name), who is an extremely eccentric and chaotic energy. He’s known for his sudden opportunities and reversals, but I’m usually very glad to be fighting with him as he gives me very tough opponents. So in January we are driving up to Khon Kaen, about 4 hours into our trip, ready to stop at a hotel for the night and continue on to the fight the next afternoon, and the phone rings. It’s Yo. He tells me that he already is in Khon Kaen (with another farang fighter) but there is no fight. Why? Well, he read the flier wrong, or wrote the date down wrong. The fight is actually in one month! Again, a wasted expense of travel. We ended up driving to the big stadium in Khorat, where I’d fought once before and have connections to a promoter, to see if there happened to be a fight that night or the next that we could miraculously squeeze into (I vlogged from there, below), but we were not so lucky.
An additional expense that we took on, one that we would never have done without the Go Fund Me travel fund, was the trip up to Chiang Mai. This involved a 10 hour drive, and 5 days in the city. Our reasoning for the expense was that I would have the opportunity to fight two of the best fighters in Thailand, fighters I might never get a chance to fight again. I wrote about the prospective fights here. I was told that I would be fighting both Cherry Gor. Twin Gym and Thanonchanok Kaewsamrit, 2 days apart. These are arguably the best two 52 kg fighters in Thailand, and Thanonchanok is the reigning WPMF flyweight champion. They won’t fight each other because they are friends, or their gyms are non-competitive, or both. It turns out Cherry pulled out of the fight by the time I arrived, but was replaced by a quality 50 kg fighter in Baifern. I did get to fight Thanonchanok, and fought a great fight that I barely lost. It was such a privilege, and one that resulted in the offer that I’ll be fighting her later this year for the 49 kg WPMF belt. It was an extremely expensive trip, but one well worth it and it opened up more opportunities.
Those that don’t approve of these expenses, those who have fought in very different ways, and who have not shared my goal to fight extremely frequently and all over the country, they can live their own lives. And, to be fair, they do: what I’m doing does not have any adverse affect on their paths. These expenses are what it took for me to fight the highest quality opponents I could find, under circumstances that had duu lae (as explained in this article), and reach the very cusp of 100 fights in Thailand. This is what supporters have offered their support for. And I thank them, deeply. For those who say: “I lived in Thailand for $300 a month!” or “I supported myself by fighting, stop being selfish!” I’m doing something very different than what you did. Your experience is fine and beautiful, but it is not morally superior to my aims. My aims have been to fight as much as I possibly can (averaging 33 fights a year), because it improves me, because fighting expresses my love for Muay Thai, and to record as much of my experience in doing this as I can, sharing it with others, because it (hopefully) inspires others to follow their dreams – be they similar or different. I do not believe that “I never asked nothin’ from nobody,” is a righteous standpoint from which to criticize others. Never asking for or accepting help or support is, perhaps counter-intuitively, a selfish way to be. Perhaps for some the peak achievement in life is to have attained independence; for others, and I count myself among this sort, the ethical path is one that both builds and values community. Perhaps you have “done it all yourself,” but for the most part you’ve also shared nothing. It is a place to stand, but it’s not a morally superior one.
So through the generosity of these supporters there is approximately $3,000 dollars left in the Go Fund Me dedicated to getting me to fights. This is exactly what these funds will be used for. Car rental, gas and hotel. If I am fortunate enough to remain in Thailand I expect, at this same rate of fighting and travel the Go Fund Me fund will be exhausted by August of this year, when I may have reached 120 fights in Thailand, approximately more than any western man or woman has fought in this country. A worthy benchmark to set for others to be inspired to break.
My Sak Yant and Other Expenditures
When my Go Fund Me campaign was first conceived, it was at a time when I was being asked by individuals how they could help support my journey. I didn’t have a organized place to direct them and in designing the campaign to get me to fights I was essentially specifying: this is what I need help with, getting to fights. I was not claiming that I did not have money to live; I was clear about where the help was needed. My cost of living is complicated by a student loan debt that is roughly equal to what it costs to live comfortably for a month, for both me and my husband (taking out this loan was poor judgement on my part, an error of my youth I’ll be living with for decades, it’s something I have to deal with). We have savings, which took us years to accrue, and my husband works online for a small income now, and that’s how we are able to live in Thailand, pay for training, apartment, food, and my monthly debt. For those that think I’m “lazy” or I have been somehow uncommitted to paying for my expenses in Thailand I felt it was important enough to undergo an invasive, very painful process and procedure for $8,000 so to have enough money to be here for a substantial time. It was a medical process that stopped my heart and frankly risked my life, just so I could be here and fight. I’ve been very clear about what the Go Fund Me is for and I’ve been precise in how it’s used. It was to get to fights.
There is a group online that feels strongly about crowdfunding and they are imprecise in their thinking and criticisms. As such, any money I spend at all becomes fodder for their nasty comments, indirectly accusing me of using other people’s money to pay for luxuries, “vacation,” my dog’s vet bills (yes, we rescued a Thai soi dog before the Go Fund Me started), and most recently my sak yant. This is offensive and comes out of the same attitudes that if you ever accept financial assistance from anyone then you are suddenly and forever subject to scrutiny over how you spend any money at all. Because of this asinine scrutiny, even while it’s unwarranted and ridiculous, I have to be aware of every time I share an expense on my page, whether I can get a few more sessions out of my hole-filled T-shirts before I have to think about buying another. All my expenses have become something I have to consider as public image, because of people who are comfortably ignorant of my business but have enough time on their hands to make it public discussion.
After my most recent fight, my 99th, I went to receive a sak yant, sacred tattoo. This is a deeply personal experience, one that I share on my page out of dedication to what it means to me and what it might mean for others. This sak yant is part of a continuing relationship I have with Arjan Pi Bangkating, someone I consider a teacher, and for me is woven closely with what I am experiencing in my Muay Thai. The sak yant is not a frivolous thing, either in the decision to receive one or its meaning. A yant of this size is an expense, but it’s one that comes out of the knowledge that I will lose time in Thailand in order to pay for it. I wrote in a blog post once that before coming to Thailand I was unable to afford going to my brother’s wedding It became obvious that the importance of attending and participating in my brother’s wedding was too significant and the decision to go was made with the knowledge that it would cost me a month and a half in Thailand. There are those who don’t know what that means, who think it’s not a big deal, and those are the people who don’t understand that the importance of the yant is similar. It is a powerful event which costs me time in Thailand, which is of incredible value. And it is worth it.
But of course there are other expenses. I have (twice) bought custom shorts for Phetjee Jaa, who is my hero. Her gym is one that I feel a debt toward, and it seemed like an important thing to do. I’ve have spent a great deal of time trying to make Phetjee Jaa known to the west. Are these kinds of expenses, gifts to Phetjee Jaa and O. Meekhun to fall under scrutiny? I’m notoriously liberal with my fight tip out to my corner. I am often told so, and in Isaan I was told that I should not give so much to a corner who was very important to me. I have tipped out so much money to the gym and corner in Isaan that I was left with literally nothing from my fight pay. That’s okay for me, because I want to pay (financial) respect, but is this generosity too to fall under scrutiny? Couldn’t I save that money and frugally apply it to my future?
I am not a frivolous spender. I have never once gone out drinking in my 3 years here. I’ve been to a few movies, back before we adopted our soi dog. I wear my clothes out to the point of absurd holes, we cook our own food most of the time. But I’m not someone who pinches every single penny either. I might go and get a gelato, or treat myself to a steak on a very special occasion. I might buy a top that is cute (if it is cheap), but not without stress. That’s me. I needed help to get to fights, and I asked for it.
An Answer to the Critics
For some reason, and honestly I don’t get it, the surprising Go Fund Me support I’ve receive has deeply offended various people who seem to feel that how they personally live their Muay Thai life, and their Muay Thai journey is the morally superior way. And that those who do not live the way that they do are somehow morally inferior to them. Aside from any attempt to critique the lives of these critics, there is one major difference between myself and pretty much any critic out there who feels that they are a better person than me, and a better person than those who found it meaningful to donate to my efforts. Unlike these hateful people I have been blogging my journey for over 6 years now, long before I even dreamed to come to Thailand. I have written (free of charge) over 400 blog posts on both my experiences and on Muay Thai itself, to the absolute limit of my abilities (as I am also aided by my husband who is passionate about the sport and art). I was community voted the Awakenings Female 2014 Muay Thai Journalist of the Year for my coverage of the sport and the sharing of my experiences. The reason why I made this donation of time and effort is that I find it very meaningful to crawl out of my shell of shyness and connect to others (principally women – sorry guys, you’re important too, but my focus is women). My world is made less small when I do so. I don’t do it for money. I don’t do it for attention. I do it to connect to women who also find themselves fairly isolated in their circumstances in Muay Thai. But there is a reason why nobody has written about Muay Thai to this degree or quite in this way, while living as active fighters to boot: it is incredibly hard work. Muay Thai blogs come, they flourish, and then they die, as will this one. Most of them flourish for a very short time. The reason for this is that this is difficult to do. It basically is a full time job, added to my full time devotion to training and fighting. People who rail about how selfish I am (and my supporters), and about how they live in Thailand doing x, or living y, have not been giving themselves to anyone in any substantial organized way. What I’ve been doing all these years is investing in a community, a community of readers and friendships. Additionally, what internet critics do not see is that a large portion of my time is spent answering questions privately sent to me, practically everyday. I answer at length, and when they are questions of support to women who are suffering or lacking in some way, I am very devoted to the communication. You don’t see it – it’s not for you -, but it is constant, hidden work toward a community I believe in. When I turned to my readers for support, it was at a time that I had no other option as far as I could find, and I certainly didn’t anticipate an outpouring of support (I hoped for maybe $500, which would help). But people responded to not only the public work I had been doing, but also to the efforts I’ve been putting out personally, to them. Who are critics to question these relationships? But when men (and the vitriol is almost always from men) who consider themselves the keepers of “authentic” Muay Thai, and apparently authentic community support, forget the fact that I’ve been attempting to share Thailand how it has not been shared before, writing hundreds of posts, publishing thousands of videos, and keeping up heavy correspondence when people reach out to me, we come to realize that the Internet is just a hateful, and largely misogynistic place – this forgetting is not accidental. I don’t matter to them because my readers don’t either. I’m frankly shocked that there have been so many people who have seen it in their hearts to pass a piece of their economic freedom (money) to me so that I could do this with that small piece of freedom, but to demean the intelligence and spirit of donors is very unkind, and I guess in the end not surprising.
And for those critics who feel that my endeavors are somehow superficial when compared to other problems in the world and in Thailand, I just don’t get the reasoning. Crowdsourcing is an umbrella under which a number of endeavors fall – it is not strictly, or even largely, reserved for charity rather than personal pursuits. In fact, women benefit from the broad intentions of crowdsourcing in a global climate where business loans and personal loans are more difficult by gender. There is no Law of Donation that says that you can only donate to absolutely dire situations, and be a good person. We all the time donate (time, energy, money, emotion) to a whole spectrum of circumstances. Some of them are profound on a global or local scale, some of them are just plain meaningful to us. The idea that one kind of donation actively takes away from another is not only ludicrous, it is factually inaccurate. I have been told repeatedly that through reading me my donors have found other people, gyms and events in the Muay Thai world to donate to. Donation, in fact, promotes donation. There is not only one kind of worthy cause. There is simply caring. And when you start caring about one thing, you find that you can care about others.