Help Get Me to Fights – On My Way To 100 Fights in Thailand

  I’ve hit an unexpected hurdle in trying to get to 100 fights in Thailand before I leave. I’m asking my supporters to help me cover travel expenses as...

 

I’ve hit an unexpected hurdle in trying to get to 100 fights in Thailand before I leave. I’m asking my supporters to help me cover travel expenses as I try to get to fights outside of the local areas of Pattaya. I don’t readily ask for help, I’m really a do-it-yourself person – but as my entire mission may be at risk, from a practical standpoint it seems best to invite others to give me a boost to help make it happen. The fact that others have recently been contacting me privately on how they might donate lets me know that there is a desire to help. Sometimes though, opening yourself up to the generosity of others is a personal lesson one has to learn and being open to accepting help from those who want to give it is part of any relationship, including between me and all the people with whom I share this experience. I’m about 2/3 of the way there, just when it can get a little tough – you either push hard or plod along with an increasing awareness that you might not get there.  I’m a “push hard” kind of person.

 

The Situation – How to Get to 100 Thai Fights

Below is my fight rate plotted out to 109 total fights aimed at happening on June 2, 2015. This is my impassioned goal. It would give me 100 fights in Thailand in the 3 years I will have been here, very likely significantly more fights in Thailand than any western woman has fought, and possibly more than any western man (I’m still checking on this). It seemed an impossible dream to even have 50 fights, but once you get 50 so fast you realize that it is just a matter of perseverance, focus and grit.

Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu - Fight Rate - Muay Thai

see the full up to date graphic at page bottom

The reason we made this chart (above) was so that we would not lose track of just how frequently (or infrequently) I’d been fighting. You don’t want a dream to just slip through your fingers through inattention, or by accident. Things can happen well beyond your control in Thailand. Injuries can prevent you from fighting or training, there are seasons where fights might be more plentiful, or promoters who make fights difficult. Mostly, we just wanted to remain objective about it, and see where we are at along the way.  It’s so responsible looking – like a “time budget.”

Why June 2, 2015? Well, that’s when we imagine that in a best case scenario we’ll run out of money. To be sure, if we had enough money I’d stay here and just keep fighting and fighting – it’s everything – but that date looks like when it is all going to end unless big things change. If I want to achieve 100 fights here, it will have to be by then. As you can see from the graphic I’ve fallen below that line, a line I want to stay above.

Further below is a summation of my whole fight rate situation. In short what I really need is help with travel to fights in various locations in Thailand.  Due to fewer stadia, fewer fight nights, and both low-season and a coup affecting tourism in Thailand, it’s proving much harder to find fights here in Pattaya than when I was in Chiang Mai.  It was important to move down to Pattaya for my growth as a fighter in both training and opponents. If you’re not familiar with my mission, check out this short documentary on me (below) when I was just hoping to reach 50 fights, more than a year ago, before I realized that I could possibly fight more times in Thailand than any western woman had before. As I’ve come to experience, fighting heavily in Thailand is a very special experience, really its own world. I feel blessed to have been a part of it so far.

 

The Get Me To Fights Fund

If anything my fight journey has been always fueled by, in fact inspired by, my sharing of it with others on YouTube, Facebook and other social media channels, not to mention this blog. It is kind of suitably fitting that I’m literally asking my supporters to fuel my fighting. More or less I need gas and transportation to get around Thailand to fights that are much farther than I had thought I would have had to travel. The whole story is below.

 

Really even every liter of gas would help. A day of car rental would get us much of the way to a fight in Bangkok.

This goal is at once a personal goal that has driven me forward, and a public goal, hopefully one that will inspire others to surpass, or even obliterate it’s mark. I became inspired to come to Thailand and fight (at first) 50 fights because Sylvie Charbonneau showed me through her own path that it can be done. I’ve then come to show that you can fight in Thailand and fight 30 fights a year, repeatedly. Now others know it is possible and may do it, or something similar. I’ve shown by simply doing it that you can train and fight full time in Thailand for years and also blog a great deal about what you are experiencing, hopefully sharing the details of this rare opportunity to others who simply can’t come, and possibly inspiring others to come. Now others will see that they can blog too, with regular focus and depth, sharing their reality with an eager public.

 

Every Trip to a Fight Will Be Named After A Contributor

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve spend a lot of time blogging and talking about my fight journey. The least I could do for those  who help get me to my fights is give a shout out to those who make it happen. The way I’m thinking of doing this is that when I describe and refer to a particular fight I’ll be mentioning one of my contributors, designated for that fight as the official sponsor. I have 27 more fights before I reach my goal, there will be lots of opportunities to thank my supporters and travel sponsors. Of course if you prefer to be anonymous, I would completely respect your privacy, and you could even donate directly to paypal as two donors have already.

Why Fights are Hard to Find Now and Travel is Necessary

 

The Pattaya Difficulty

One thing is not like the other. For those of you coming to Thailand should know that just because one part of Thailand works in one way, another part simply may go by very different rules. I was fighting at a very nice clip at Lanna Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, about 3 fights a month. It was a very fight friendly gym, and the city of Chiang Mai has fights going on pretty much every night. It is something like a fight paradise. I had assumed when I moved down here to Pattaya (mostly with the idea of training with Sakmongkol), there would be something of the same situation. I had already fought down here in February, and it seemed pretty easy once I’d gotten on one show. The promoters and Thai gamblers in Chiang Mai just loved me and in Pattaya it became easy to get fights booked, even turning one down due to timing, once the promoters had seen me fight. I fight a clinch game that farang women don’t often fight, and in Chiang Mai promoters were happy to pit me against bigger opponents. I thought that once promoters saw me fight down here, the fight opportunities would be similar.

But things are different down here. For one, local fights seem much more dependent upon the tourist trade, and the military coup seems to really have choked off a lot of tourism, temporarily. In Pattaya there is a definite slow season, the rainy season, so this adds to the limitation on fight shows also, making opportunities less frequent. Thirdly, Pattaya has only 2 boxing stadia with shows only 2 nights of the week, while Chiang Mai has 4 or more with shows every night of the week. Total that up and there are simply very few fights happening in Pattaya. It is a very low season, and there are no tourists. Suddenly my 3 or 4 fights a month have fallen to 1 fight a month, and I’ve had to scratch and claw for that.

There have been other extenuating circumstances that also have retarded my ability to book fights. While Lanna was very well-connected and productive in booking fights, I forgot that it took me almost 6 months of begging and begging, and proving it over and over in the gym and ring, before they honestly believed me that I wanted to fight as much as I said I did. On its surface it’s a very western friendly gym, but beneath that it still is quite conservative (it has a “men only” ring). I came to Lanna because Sylvie C. (a fighter my size) had achieved 50 fights there, so I knew they accommodated women and there were opponents to fight. But what I did not realize is that Sylvie had achieved 50 fights in 5 years. I did it in a year and a half. A woman fighting at my rate simply was not something they had seen before – and a man fighting at my rate as consistently as I did for 1.5 years was unprecedented as well. To me it wasn’t unusual – I mean, I’d never done it before either but it seemed reasonable – it is just what I wanted to do. To them, it took 6 months to finally just give in into my goal.

Petchrungruang, my current gym in Pattaya, is in many ways extremely conservative also. Even though PhetJee Jaa trained there for more than a year, there is a strong Old School Muay Thai ethic there, and like it or not, successful or not, women just are not an enduring part of the deeper Muay Thai fabric.  They grow kids into Lumpinee fighters.  I’m already an adult and as a woman I can not fight at Lumpinee.  I don’t fit the scheme.  I have been asked when I’m going to retire more than once, and Kru Nu is constantly adopting a very “protective” attitude towards my fighting, a protectiveness that feels conditioned upon my gender. When I had my face cut back in February, he suggested I stop fighting, not because I’m not good but because a woman with cuts on her face from fighting is just beyond reason. And now he tip-toes around the possible weight of my opponents, even though for the last 50 fights I gave up 3-5 kilos regularly. I sense he has been foot-dragging when it comes to both my proposed fight frequency and my opponent size.

Add to this – and I want to write about this stuff in detail because it isn’t written about much – there are a sensitive politics to fights in Thailand. Kru Nu primarily trains kids for Lumpinee, booking only the occasional fight for farang at his gym. His promoter network is geared to that progression. He has no Bangkok connections other than in the Lumpinee path, and the local promotions also fall within that scope. His network is oriented around his gym name and the boy fighters he produces. Me fighting at a high rate locally just isn’t supported by the usual gym process – kids fighting at very high rates is more of a rural phenomenon and maybe one that is snubbed by classism. It’s not “how things are done” here and “how things are done” is a big deal in Thailand. The Phetrungruang gym just doesn’t make money on farang fights, unlike the Lanna gym in Chiang Mai, so I’ve run up against a kind of procedural limit. Additionally, when I first moved here I allowed WKO and Petchrungruang to both book me fights, and that ran into hot water, and the conflict is part of the reason I had to leave WKO. Everything is about relationships. I somehow had to fit my elevated fight ambitions into the process of a gym that just isn’t geared for it, without breaking the respect I have for the gym and Kru Nu.  Wanting to achieve 100 fights here is met with the same enthusiasm as saying you want to work 60 hours of back-breaking construction per week without additional pay.

Fortunately, Kru Nu on some level really recognizes my intensity and ambitions. He sees me in the gym every day, far out-training every Thai, and understands that I don’t have the time to develop and gain experience that a kid has. He also recognizes that he just isn’t situated to give me what I need, so he was generous enough to give me permission to find fights by other means outside of Pattaya. I could still achieve my dream if I supplement my 1 fight a month with 2 or more fights elsewhere. So that is what I’ve been attempting to do for the last month…unfortunately with very limited success.

O. Meekhun Gym – PhetJee Jaa

Because the Phetrungruang training regime just isn’t to the work standard I set for myself (only one session of padwork a day, for instance), I’ve supplemented my training every day by going to PhetJee Jaa’s family gym after I’ve finished at Petchrungruang for a session of padwork, and 30-45 minutes of extra clinching. This method of training with multiple sources has been my way since my early days of training in the US. As much as it would be great to live and train in one gym, for me if I’ve needed something else or more I’ve always gone and gotten it rather than simply being sad that it’s not freely offered. Some trainers can handle this, some can’t. Luckily O. Meekhun has a close, somewhat friendly relationship with Phetrungruang as the kids lived and trained there for over a year. So I asked Sangwan (Jee Jaa’s dad and the head trainer) to see if he could find me fights outside of Pattaya. As much as people want to see Thai gyms as a kind of Kung Fu movie Dojo, with strong Master/student traditions, there is also a parallel itinerant Muay Thai reality of fighters (often with connections to their family) moving about, fighting in circuits, even moving between gyms. I saw a lot of this secondary “shadow” Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, and I see it here in Pattaya as well. These fighters and ways do not achieve the important respect that established gyms do, but it is a part of the Thai Muay Thai picture. PhetJee Jaa and her family have been a part of this independent wandering Muay Thai. So it is my hope that through the circuits they have fought in, and their alternate connections, I’ll find fights outside of Pattaya to supplement my more modest options in Pattaya itself, and fighting on cards with PhetJee Jaa and her brother are a very real possibility. I should help pay for gas when we travel together, as their gym is just starting out and money is in short, erratic supply.

The Help of Friends: Emma and Frances

Emma Thomas - Frances Watthanaya - female Muay Thai Thailand

I’ve also reached out to my friends for help to find fights. Emma Thomas of Under the Ropes has been kind enough to ask Master Toddy to find fights for me around Bangkok and Hua Hin. Master Toddy is one of the great promoters of the sport, and through him I’ve been offered the incredible dream-come-true opportunity of fighting in the Queen’s Cup in Bangkok for Her Majesty the Queen’s birthday.   Because fights are hard to come by, I’m not in a position to turn any down, so unfortunately this huge opportunity comes only 4 days after my fight booked through Petchrungruang gym in Pattaya.  It’s not ideal, but I can do it and I’m excited for both fights.  Because my Queen’s Cup fight was booked through Master Toddy, I had no corner and no way to get to the fight.  We’ve managed to work out renting a car and paying a friend of Kru Nu’s (and a former champion) to come corner for me. It’s an expensive fight – I’m basically financing this fight with the purse from my fight right before and will still take a financial hit.  It’s worth it, of course, but it eats away at the time I can afford to stay in Thailand.

Driving to Phutthaisong District - Muay Thai Sylvie

And I’ve also asked Frances Watthanaya of Giatbundi Gym in Isaan, who has been looking for fights for me. I really look forward to that possibility. But Frances also says that the coup has negatively affected the number of fights out there where she is (seeming to do with the licensing of events and gambling, which seems to be the main source of profit for all involved in fighting), and that she is finding it difficult to even book fights for her own local fighters right now. The fights will be coming from both these friends, and potentially very soon, just not yet. But those are two very strong avenues for fights at a distance. Bangkok is about a 2 hour drive from here when you add it all up, Phutthaisong (Buriram) about 6 hours. I’d largely be using any help I get from you to travel to fights both of these kind friends can arrange.

Transportation – Where I Need Help

Thailand Gas Station - Prices

So what it really comes down to is transportation. I’ve assembled a really nice network of friends who will be looking to find me fights from Bangkok to Buriram, and everywhere in between. Gone is the fantasy of just being able to fight 3 or 4 times a month in Pattaya, just driving down the road to the local stadium. Instead I’m going to have to be traveling between 2 and 8 hours to get to fights, and this just takes money I don’t have in my budget to make it here until June. In Chiang Mai I pocketed about 2,000 baht a fight ($70) after giving the gym a cut, in Pattaya it’s about 1,000 baht ($35). Now, at the extreme end, when I fight in Buriram I could possibly lose over $200 just to fight ($60-90 car rental, $200 gas). Fighting with frequency could prove unsustainably expensive, and really just end my time here in Thailand before I’ve reached 100 fights, possibly putting an end to this blog as well.

We are working hard to overcome these financial limits. Any fight in Isaan we are trying to dovetail with fights for PhetJee Jaa and her brother so we would not have to rent a car – if there are a few of us on the card it’s financially reasonable to drive out as a gym with the kids’ dad in his truck. This does complicate the fight booking process, but it is a possibility. We are even thinking about buying a very cheap car, the Fight Car, if we could find one, to negate the need to rent a car and allowing me even more freedom to fight pretty much anywhere in the country.

The Jai Dee Complication

There is the further complication of Jai Dee, the puppy we rescued from the garbage dump more than a month ago. We did not think of it at the time – I didn’t even ask if dogs were allowed to live in my building, I just wanted to get him out of living in a garbage pile in the rain – but he really makes the whole fight process complicated. Almost no apartments allow dogs, so we were very fortunate to convince ours to allow us to keep him. With this in mind we simply can’t leave him in the apartment for long periods of time, as he’s a puppy and will likely ruin (EAT!) the furniture, not to mention that he could start barking (he stresses pretty hard if we are gone even 20 minutes). Jai Dee will simply have to travel with us to any fights, and sit ringside. Oh Lord, what have we gotten ourselves into? This pretty much excluded the cheaper option of riding on buses to fights – buses do not allow dogs in the upper compartments and I’m not willing to force him to ride in the luggage compartment under the bus and in extreme heat for the 8-10 hours of a bus ride out to where I might have a fight. If you can help with my travel to fights you’ll be helping with our adoption of Jai Dee, which was totally worth it, despite the unexpected complications.

 

 The Money

So what’s with the money? Yes. Everyone has money problems, right? My particular situation is a case of an enormous student loan that is the bulk of my monthly expenses and won’t be paid off even in a decade. It isn’t the most terrible thing in the world, so many people have student loans or mortgages and many have it worse, but it’s where I find myself. It shapes what is possible. We saved up for 2 years to be here – one day I will blog about some of the more extreme methods I chose to make it here – and we didn’t even think we’d last 6 months on what we’d saved. More than 2 years later, despite my husband’s online work we are stretching to the very limit of year 3, and trying to make small bit of history in doing it.  Ultimately trying to change what’s possible.  And while I don’t make money off this site, I do make meaningful connections through it.  I’ll continue to share my experiences – you don’t have to donate – but if you want to donate it will absolutely shape what’s possible in the experiences that I do share here.  In any case, thank you.

This presentation by Amanda Palmer (below) on how asking for help makes you vulnerable, it opens you, is part of what convinced me that I should ask. Aside from the question of this donation I urge you to watch it. It says really cool things about life, and what it means to rely on others.

 

 

my current fight rate progress

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A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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