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  1. Background: 31, Male, USA, 185cm, 70kgs - I've been in Thailand for approx. 5-months solo on an open-ended trip through Southeast Asia. Arriving Bangkok early October 2022, I proceeded to spend 2-weeks in Chiang Mai (did not train during this time), 3-months in Pai, 2-weeks in Chiang Mai, and now writing from Udon Thani where I've been for 2-weeks and plan to stay till end of February 2023 when my visa extension expires. On average, I've trained 6x per week at 4 different gyms during this time. It really wasn't until I left Pai and trained at two gyms in Chiang Mai for 1-week each (Santai + Boon Lanna) that I began taking training more seriously. I'm currently training at Siriluck Muay Thai Gym in Udon Thani, a quiet gym in Isaan. My collective training amounts to 35-40 sessions, so I'm still still very much a beginner, but feel like I'm starting to turn the corner. Feeling more competent and capable on the bags, pads and with the general flow of a training session. This gym doesn't have a web presence beyond a few photos on google maps, so I had to go in person to get information. When I rolled up around 3pm on a Monday there were two unassuming men, out front smoking cigarettes watching tiktok videos on a phone attached to an eye level tripod. One of them spoke a little english and told me the other guy is the trainer. A few students trickled in from their run and I introduced myself to everyone. In total there appears to be maximum 5-6 people, all thai, training out of this gym right now, 1 of which is training for a televised fight in Bangkok on February 12th. The main focus and priority at the gym is on this fighter, which the trainer is pushing very hard in preparation and that has been fun to watch. I got the impression that foreigners don't often drop into this gym as they were quite surprised to see me, and very interested in who I am, in addition to being extremely friendly. People in this region are some of the nicest I've ever met. It can actually be a bit startling when you're not used to it. The facility is clean and quite big, resembling a car repair shop type layout with office in the front next to large roll-up door and long open space with mats, 4 heavy bags and weights on one wall, mirrors and more exercise equipment on the other. There are two rings, but only one of them is used currently. In the back there are him/hers changing rooms/toilets. We talked price, $500 full-day or $8,000/month unlimited training. I agreed and we got to training. I'm writing this on Sunday February 5th after training there 5 times last week. The head trainer is very animated, loud, hilarious, and fun to be around. His general vibe is playful and relaxed, but he's stern with instruction/correction and strong holding the pads. We're friends on Facebook now and his page suggests he had a successful fighting career, now retired in his 30's/40's. He doesn't speak much english beyond the basic 'kick, punch, jab', so I never know what he is saying, but he gets me laughing hysterically. It's never clear if I'm 'in on' the joke or if 'I am' the joke, but it doesn't matter, I enjoy it and laugh anyways. If I deliver a bad punch or kick and he corrects me with a light counter jab to the stomach or head and has been challenging me in ways other trainers haven't. My comfort with being hit and hitting back has improved along with the strength and technique of my punches and kicks. I've began experiencing the common small injuries such as knuckle abrasions, bruised shins, knee to knee impacts, blistered feet, battered ankles.. easing off the gas as these things pop up, but going forward I'm going to push through them more than usual. I've found myself placing a lot of pressure to train and perform well, and get disappointed when I slack or am slow to learn or recover. Getting better has become my daily purpose and I feel good about having something to focus on, even though it can be a painful, lonely and isolating process. My goal is to train 10-12 per week for the next 3-weeks, fully committing myself to improving as much as possible in that time. This log serves to keep me accountable and I plan to update regularly.
    3 points
  2. February 06-2023 - Monday Afternoon 15:00 - 18:00 I'm realizing now that it won't be practical or necessary to post 2x or even 1x daily, so my updates won't be as frequent as originally planned. Before the afternoon session I was able to eat lunch, prepare dinner, do laundry, and found an hour to lay down/relax. My favorite snack right now is banana-egg-roti. I ordered two today, one to have with lunch, and another to be saved for after dinner. The roti shop shares a wall with one of the vegan buffets I like, so I can eat at both places at the same time and get takeaway for later. The weather in Udon has been very mild and pleasant up until yesterday when the humidity and temperature got turned up. Today was a bit tough for me because of that. Me and five others went out for a 2km walk and 2km run around the lake. There are several well maintained lakes/parks to run around in this town, and the air quality is quite good by Thai standards. The gym was a bit busier this afternoon, with 8 training, and 4 holding pads. A good 2:1 ratio. After the run, I stretched, skipped rope for 10-minutes, 5 x 3-minute rounds on pads, 5 x 3-minute rounds on heavy bag (kicks and teeps), 15-minutes clinching, air squats, pullups, pushups, situps, neck curls, stretching. Today is the first day I didn't spar. Kik had me doing jump knees again and I about had to tap out from those as my right knee developed a tender lump, and my left quad has deep bruising. I'm learning to push through the pain. He's still not happy with my punch/jab motion, so fine-tuning that continues to be a top priority. Since verbal communication is limited in the gym, I've started supplementing my learning by reading muay thai text books in the effort to pickup ideas to bring into the gym. Currently reading 'Muay Thai Unleashed' by Erich Krauss. and have found it helpful. Anyone have other book suggestions?
    1 point
  3. February 06-2023 - Monday Morning 07:00 - 09:00 Good start to the week. Awake and out of the door at 06:50a, and at the gym by 07:00a. I really should be arriving to the gym by 06:30 to start the day with 30-minute run, but I'll admit, recently have been neglecting this. Instead, I began with my usual warmup of 15-minutes skipping + 10-minute full body stretch. There were 4 of us training this morning with the 1 instructor. After warmup, I sparred for 3-rounds with same person who I had only met briefly sometime last week. Not knowing much about him or his skill level, we felt each other out with light kicks and punch combinations. His idea of light sparring was a bid harder than what I had in mind, which became clear when he landed a roundhouse kick to my temple with a bit of force. I reeled back smiling with a hand gesture pushing to the floor while saying 'Sabai', reminding him to go easy, to which he responded by rolling his eyes. In general, he wasn't very warm to me throughout class. We went 2-rounds with gloves and shin guards, followed by 1-round boxing with gloves only, no kicking. He landed some good combinations on me with a bit more power than I'm used to receiving, which is helping increase my confidence and comfort with standing in a guarded position taking shots. I'm becoming less timid/afraid of being hit and hitting back. Landing a clean jab to his chin felt good in response to a hook he got me with. After sparring, I went 5, 3-minutes rounds on the pads throwing simple combinations. Kik seems to enjoy having me do jump knees. With my hands locked at his neck/traps, he counts to 50, switching pads every 10, shouting suun, nueng, saawng, saam, sii, haa, hok, jet, bpaaet, gao, sib... 1-10 in thai. He has a pleasant high-pitched voice and the melodic rhythm of the counting helps distract from fatigue and soreness as knee/quad become increasingly battered from repetitive smacking against the pad. My leg muscles have become noticeably harder, stronger and thicker from all the kicking/kneeing. Immediately after the jump knees, he'll point at one of the boys standing against the ropes to have him come in and clinch. This is tough for me right now because I'll be gassed from hitting pads and a stronger, more rested person will come manhandle me in the clinch for a minute followed by more kicks and punches on the pads and ending with 10 punching sit-ups with trainer stepping on tops of feet. I'm being pushed pretty close to my limit with each training session and have found the bar moves higher with each session. The rapid improvement from near daily training has been fun to experience, but it's clear I have a long road ahead to reach the skill and conditioning level of my peers. After padwork, I moved to the heavy bag for 3-rounds; push kicks, low/high kicks, hand combinations. Finished session with neck conditioning, pullups, bodyweight squats, cooldown, stretch. Paid 3,000baht for another week unlimited training. My goal for this week is to not miss a session, train 2x/day Monday-Saturday, 12 sessions total. For those wondering about cost of living here, training works out to 250baht/session or 500baht/day, motorbike rental is 250baht/day, and apartment is 432baht/day. I'm eating a lot right now trying to gain a bit of weight, so my food cost is approx. 500baht/day. I don't drink alcohol, but do smoke weed. Main expenses total ~1700-2000baht/day or ~$50-65/day. Therefore, a realistic budget for me is $1,500-2,000 USD/month to live the comfortable, but not excessive lifestyle I have here. If someone was willing to eat less, live at the gym, borrow a bike from the gym, not smoke weed or alcohol, you could train here for much much cheaper. I'm just not willing to make those sacrifices. I'm vegetarian and struggle at times to find good food options in Thailand. They like to eat their meat with a side of seafood here, so it can be challenging at times to add diversity to my diet despite being able to explain myself in thai. Fortunately, there are three buffet style thai-chinese vegan restaurants near each other here in Udon Thani. After every training session I go to one of the three for a meal. I've become a regular at all of them. The food is delicious and people all very friendly. There's also a few western chains like Burger King who has a plant-based burger that I've been a long time fan of as someone who has driven across the USA many times. My daily food budget is quite a bit higher on the days where I have western food. Afternoon training begins at 15:00 and I plan to start with a run with the rest of the crew. In the meantime, I'll do laundry, have lunch, and rest.
    1 point
  4. A question that sometimes is raised is: What is the religion of Muay Thai? Or probably better put: Is there religious meaning in Muay Thai? Sometimes behind this question are the pictures of spirituality within traditional martial arts like Kung Fu or Karate, an idea of self-perfection which is grounded in a deeper spiritual belief. The martial artist is perfecting themselves both physically and spiritually at the highest levels. Many answer this question in the negative, in a way that seems quite accurate at first. "There is no spiritual meaning to Thailand's Muay Thai." It is a fighting art, a sport, its meaning is in its efficacy. Looking for religious or spiritual beliefs in it would be like looking for them in Western Boxing. Yes, there are important cultural rites & practices which derive from Buddhism and the older form of Brahminism, and even the animism before that, but one does not have to be a Buddhist, let's say, to practice Muay Thai - and often these rites & practices are treated as cultural trappings by observers, a kind of respect paid to the past that could easily be shed without missing a beat. They aren't necessarily active religious practices, some say, while for others within the sport & art treat these as highly meaningful, without which Muay Thai would lose its footing. If one had to give a single religion to Muay Thai it would be its Buddhism, in the sense that it grew out of a culture of Buddhism for the last 800 years, and in many respects has the qualities that it has because of Siam & then Thailand's Buddhism. It's traditional treatment of aggression, the way in which its scoring and overall style of fighting has classically handled with emphasis on ruup (posture), balance & self control, its treatment of the affects of anger and fear are quite Buddhistic. And notably within the culture there have been cultural parallels between between monkhood and the path of the young nak muay. You can read about some of those here: Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail. When we see Thailand's Muay Thai through the lens of Buddhism not only do certain aspects of its scoring and presentation make more sense to foreign eyes, also questions as to how such a violent sport be religious at all finds some resolution. There is an undeniable fabric to Thailand's Muay Thai which seems quite Buddhist, as the dominant religion in region within which it grew. And this is not to minimize that Muay Thai was also fed, perhaps for centuries, by the very high level Muay Thai of the South which has a significant Muslim population. Muay Thai is actually much more of a tapestry than many assume. There are threads in the fabric. We are left somehow with an unsatisfying answer. Yes, Thailand's Muay Thai expresses and comes out of a (largely) Buddhistic culture and holds several rites and practices which are religious in nature - the treatment of the mongkol, the pre-fight Wai Kru/Ram Muay are the most obvious ones - and even we might grant that in the cultural maturation of boys the kaimuay (boxing camp) has stood as an alternative to the wat (temple). Or, we might even imaginatively acknowledge that in its history temples were likely houses that kept Muay Thai and transmitted its form, for centuries (perhaps even in some modest Shaolin sense), a magic-imbued Muay Thai that is likely lost to today (practices outlawed in 1902). But still, what is its religion? Are Muay Thai fighters doing anything religious that is intimately connected to their performance? Is the arduous and obedient training in Muay Thai in any sense a spiritual practice? I believe they are, and there is. "Soul Stuff" and Muay Thai Anthropologists and historians that have studied the history of Siam (Thailand), and Southeast Asian culture in general, have wrestled with thinking about the fundamental nature of its social organization, as it is has appeared throughout the centuries. Mainland Southeast Asia from the 1st century AD went from small settlements and polities to eventual powerful trade centers and then empires, a transformation likely fueled by a connection to India. The great temples of the Khmer, the religious cults to Shiva, the establishment of potent royal figures has largely been credited to what is called "Indianization". The presence of statues to Ganesh, the identification of Thai royalty with Vishnu, even the invocation of the Ramayana in the Muay Thai Ram Muay are all expression of this period of "Indianization" begun nearly 1,700 years ago. This is a very long lineage. A top this layer of pronounced Hindu/Brahminist influence sits Buddhism itself, which transformed the politically Indianized culture further. It's important to realize that these two very strong influences are not (fundamentally) in conflict. The spiritualities expressed in Hindu form, especially in political contexts, were even furthered in Buddhist devotion. The form of its expression are different, but the fundamentals of power and spirituality remained the same. And this is important to understand. Power and spirituality are bound together. We can see that even at a basic level questions about identifiable religion likely have braided answers. For historians the answer to why Hinduism, and then Buddhism, were able to powerfully graft onto Southeast Asian culture lies within the supposition of an older belief, something that lies below these historical sedimentations, the receipt of salvation religions which gave voice and form to this older belief. It is this older belief, which has been called a "cultural matrix" which in a sense glues together the practices, and informs sociability itself, even the secular sociability of today. And this is the belief of "soul stuff". This belief interpretation was first put forward by the preeminent historian of Southeast Asia O. W. Wolters (link at the bottom of this post), but for our purposes this summation of it by Michael Charney in his book Southeastern Warfare: 1300-1900 is a very good entry point Everything in the world has a certain amount of stuff. A potency. And they do not have it in equal portions. Rocks have it, but a particular rock might have a great deal of it. Humans have it, but particular humans may have much more of it than others. Importantly, this is something you can acquire. You can have more soul stuff than you were born with, and it is something that can be transmitted between persons & objects. This can happen through association, physical touch, and a host of magical-religious practices. You can read into Wolter's original discussion of soul stuff here. Because he is investigating the origins of the Indianization of mainland Southeast Asia he is looking at the role of kings, and rulers of polities. For him it was the de-emphasis on lineage, the generational demand for personal performance, proving and acquiring "soul stuff", which kept Southeast Asia from adopting some of the more rigid social forms of Indian culture. Instead, because of the very nature of soul stuff in Southeast Asia political power had a fundamental agonistic quality to it, generation to generation, locality to locality, and (very importantly for our purposes), martial power and spiritual power were expressive of a single thing...soul stuff. He accounts how early kings were defined by their "prowess" and this prowess was expressed into only in terms of martial force, but through religious, aesthetic devotion. Within this under-fabric of Southeast Asian culture was a strong, bonded identity between physical prowess and spiritual prowess...and, the braiding of these two was expressed through "charisma". As Wolters writes: In the beliefs, the under-beliefs of Siam, the "priest" and the "warrior" were not separate. They were brought together in single personage, and this personage could be recognized by their charisma, their aura, which drew people to them. I think its important to realize that this isn't just a description of the rulers of polities. It actually describes how power ("soul stuff") is distributed throughout the entire lived world. Kings are said by historians to have mandala power, which is to say a certain sphere of influence which flowed out like candle-light in a circle. The further away from the center of this mandala power, the less it exerted itself. But lessor nobles, lessor polities also had spheres of power, a function of their charisma. In fact arguably, everything with soul stuff had circles of charismatic power. Some with very little, some with much more. The religious development of Siam can be thought of as expressing this much deeper, older sensibility toward the world and others, something that still persists (quite strongly) even today. It, in a sense, may animate present day Hinduistic and Buddhist beliefs with a particular logic of personal potency. Conquerous kings were also ascetic spiritual achievers who used the charisma of their personal achievement - the sign of their "soul stuff" - to glue kingdoms together. Here Wolters outlines how the much more ancient belief of soul stuff expressed itself in Buddhism through the personal spiritual achievement of Kings. The transmittability of soul stuff found firm expression in the Buddhist principle of merit: I'm now going to race ahead to the subject of Muay Thai and religiosity, in this context, and work backwards from there. When one is training in Muay Thai in Thailand one is training in soul stuff. If you are not from the culture you might not realize or recognized why you are being trained a certain way, or even what qualities are being instilled in you, but if you undergo the process you are training in the acquisition and signification of soul stuff. And this is to some degree a spiritual ascetic practice, even if you approach it from a completely secularized place, and even if your trainers are not consciously expressing religious beliefs. This is the older form of the marriage of the martial and the spiritual, as it has been inherited, and to some degree sublimated, by the culture. And Thais who train in Muay Thai, who are part of the culture, are training in "soul stuff". The art of Muay Thai is developing the "prowess" which will eventually be expressed as a charisma (as it is culturally defined). One of the most subtly cutting criticisms of contemporary Muay Thai that we've heard was in a casual conversation between the legend Karuhat Sor. Supawan and WBC World Boxing Champion Chatchai Sasakul, both prolific fighters in Thailand Muay Thai's Golden Age. "Fighters no longer have charisma (sanae) today" they mourned. This wasn't a complaint about marketing, it was about the nature of the fighting itself. Fighting does not express the charisma that it once did. The reason why this criticism silently cut so deep is that the development of charisma was actually the point of Muay Thai fighting itself. Charisma is the aura one has, the capacity somehow (magically) draw people to you. It is a certain kind of personal gravity, which directly exudes your "soul stuff". It is your ittiphon, your power to influence. And it can be shown or lies in parallel to your ittirüt, which is your invulnerability. The connection between charisma and invulnerability is what lies beneath classic Muay Thai forms. The emphasis on ruup (posture, visible form), balance, freedom, control, and the fighterly aim of not necessarily "damaging" your opponent, as so much as dominating your opponent in a great variety of ways, including physical damage, is about the cultivation of charisma. This literally is the same kind of charisma of ancient kings, within the same scope of connective beliefs, trained for performance in the ring. Because Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist culture - and has been for much more than 1,000 years, the cultural form of that charisma has Buddhistic expression. In the same way that Buddhist novice monks seek to discipline their bodies, temper the hotter emotions, cultivate a kind of stoicism under travail, the young nak muay seeks to do the same. And great monks, through their ascetic practices, acquire great charisma revealing their "soul stuff". In some sense Thailand's Muay Thai has split off from many of the religious forms of charismatic development, but still expresses the same spiritual reality, even if in practice if falls into a broken, or and much less unreadable state. The ascetic practice, and the hierarchies of respect and rite in the gym are cultural pathways of "soul stuff" development. And arguably, anything you are learning in a Thai gym, whether it's the ability to endless do knees on the bag, or how to stay calm under sparring pressure, or how to properly block, or how to compose yourself under the exhaustion of padwork, are all actually about charisma, a projected invulnerability and magnetic aura, each fighter of which would have their own version. As Wolters emphasized, it is both a physical prowess and a spiritual prowess. Soul Stuff and the Magical Policeman The role of magical beliefs in the history of Muay Thai development is likely quite pronounced. If you would like to read an account which exemplifies the parallels between combat prowess and magical capacities, read the biography of the southern Thai policeman, Khun Phantharakratchadet (1898–2006) whose prowess occurred in the decades of Muay Thai modernization, and Thailand's rise as a modern Nation. It is important to understand that the development of fighting techniques (the knowledge of them, wicha) were historically not divorced from the development of magical techniques (that protected or aided you). Wats, traditionally, were likely a home for both. The tale of Khun Phan, a legendary real figure of Thai early modern 20th century history, recounts his advance as a physically small man who was a fierce fighter, taking on the nakleng gangs of the Sangkla area, and eventually other regions of Thailand, armed with his knowledge of the fighting arts, as well as study of the magical arts at the foot of the famed monks of Wat Khao Aor Or. in Phattalung. He even became proficient in Western Boxing (& perhaps Judo) studying at a wat in Bangkok, as part of his advancement as a policemen. He was a man of a remarkable amount of "soul stuff", much of it acquired through rigorous study and practice. The magical arts of Amulet protection, and sak yant are expressive of this spiritual under-logic of soul stuff. Everything has soul stuff, but pieces of material can be imbued with soul stuff, and because soul stuff is transmittable, it can be conferred to you through proximity or practice. Holy men, through rite and ritual can transfer soul stuff to you, and through spiritual practice you can hold it. Sak yant (sacred tattooing) are often devices of "soul stuff" transmission. They are thought to express/transfer the soul stuff of animals (tigers for instance) or gods, or heroic figures. They are thought to bring powerful energies, and often sak yant specifically bestow powers of charm or charisma (the ability to influence), or the power to command (amnat). In some cases creating invulnerability. Today, in their more commercial form they may be more thought of as one-way transmissions, but originally they involved spiritual devotion and self-transformation through practice. You achieved their powers through a growth in personal "prowess". It's enough to say that in the body of magical beliefs in Thailand we can see the nexus between martial prowess, spiritual power and charisma. These beliefs and practices, based in the logic of soul stuff, developed in parallel to the fighting arts of Thailand. Khun Phan at the age of 90 commissioned a Jatukam Rammathep amulet, believing that the spirit of Jatukam Rammathep had helped him solve a difficult murder case. The creation of this amulet by such an auspicious person, under the blessings of the Holy Pillar of Nakhon Si Thammarat, thought to be invoking spirits of great personage and Buddhistic merit created incredible demand. The substance of the Holy Pillar, the legendary policeman Khun Phan, and the proposed spirits Jatukam Rammathep, were put into physical objects, which then could transmit soul stuff to you. This is a logic of soul stuff. My brief detour into the magical arts is not to ascribe them or their complex beliefs to the spirituality of Muay Thai in particular. One is not to exclude them either, as still there are amulet practices of blessing and transmitted soul stuff, including those of the mongkol and prajet, or the invocation of dieties in the Ram Muay to begin every fight. More important is not to locate any set of beliefs and practices as necessarily religious, but rather to look at these beliefs and practices to understand how the logic of soul stuff transmittability expresses itself in Thai culture...and in Muay Thai itself. Magic is part of its heritage, but that heritage is founded on much deeper, metaphysical ideas on how power works in the world, and between humans. And this belief, I would suggest, is embedded to this day in even the most secular-seeming aspects of Thai life. There is a Buddhist perspective which may say that because of karma and reincarnation everything we do is spiritual practice. Everything we do is an attempt to alleviate or ease the suffering of existence. In this spiritualization of the world and culture, the belief in the transmittability of "soul stuff", of unequal souls, also can be seen as universal and pervading every practice. Much as a Western philosopher like Foucault may see all our interactions transpierced with discourses of power, all sociability in Thai culture can be seen as practices of soul stuff. It's development, its preservation, its signification, and the ways in which everyone takes position in society in relationship to powerful personages (whether they be local persons of aura, or National) who exhibit soul stuff. It is a kind of religion of existence. Soul Stuff and Muay Thai We can leave aside magical practices for now, and think about how soul stuff and Muay Thai relate. The first and obvious way is that because Muay Thai is a public performance the job of the fighter is to express "soul stuff". That means knowing the cultural signatures of "soul stuff", being practiced in displaying them, including aspects of command and control, invulnerability and of course charisma. Perhaps no fighter in history displayed soul stuff more than Samart, who expressed a very Rama/Vishnu quality, a potent equipoise. You cannot thoroughly understand Samart's greatness without seeing just how much (read here:) he signified "soul stuff" within the culture. This photo of him with the vanquished and bloody (aggressive, Muay Khao great) Namphon, gives some sense of it. But the signatures of soul stuff in Thailand's Muay Thai, and even kinds of personal charisma are not only of one kind. A great, unrelenting knee fighter like Dieselnoi will have tremendous soul stuff. A great pressure fighter like Samson, or a complex style fighter like Chamuakpet (naming legends of the Golden Age). There are various expressions of soul stuff. And, unlike in Western conceptions of "great fighters", soul stuff includes many things beyond the fighter. Samart for instance did not fight up very much in his career. In a Western mind this may be something of a demerit when compared to other great fighters who did. But because soul stuff is transmittable, and governed by association, the fact that Sityodtong gym was so powerful to be able to dictate favorable matchups (or at least avoid unfavorable ones) actually goes to Samart's soul stuff. He is part of a local nexus of power. Sityodtong has soul stuff. Master Tui has lots of soul stuff. Samart has soul stuff. As much as we want to think about fights as being between two isolated fighters in the ring, the truth is that there is much more in the ring than that. All the soul stuff that brought these fighters into being, that is poured into these fighters, is in combat. (This is a big reason why many Westerners do not fully grasp the role of gambling in Muay Thai. It seems to them to be just a corrupt interference in "pure sport". But in fact it is a layering of the contest of competing powers, men with soul stuff outside the ring...for better or worse. Under the spiritual logic of soul stuff fighters are never just "them". They literally invoke deities with their Ram Muay. In their Wai Kru they evoke their teachers. All of their skills and ascetic practice in training is summoned, publicly, into the ring. Fighters represent and embody.) This is not fundamentally different than the spirit-logic of cosmic battle that governed warfare in the great Ayutthayian Empire 500 years ago. What has changed is "who" is seen to have soul stuff, fundamentally a question of changing culture and values. As to the practice of Muay Thai itself, in the training kaimuay, and in the ring, one has to grasp that the fighting art and the fighting sport cannot be completely separated. Traditional kaimuay are technical houses of the inculcation in soul stuff. One is learning the practices which will give you power in a physical contest, but a contest which ultimately is also a spiritual contest. The techniques of a particular kru, the styles of a particular gym name, are a practical knowledge of Thai combat power. And the conditions of its practice are necessarily those of discipline and ascetic self control. The fundamentals of posture (ruup), timing and balance are meant to create liberty in the fighter, and its presentation to the judges and audience. Specific techniques, ways of blocking, attacking, avoiding, punishing or damaging, controlling, frustrating, overwhelming, are a kind of complex grammar of soul stuff. You display that you have more, and in defeating your opponent, in some sense you take some of their soul stuff as your own. And, as fighters share the ring with you, they too can gain soul stuff through proximate association (if you have a great deal). For deeper dives into this here I write in some detail about the social conditions of Thai training practices through the thinking of the sociologist Bourdieu: Trans-Freedoms Through Authentic Muay Thai Training in Thailand Understood Through Bourdieu's Habitus, Doxa and Hexis, and here I write about how the philosopher Agamben's study of 13th century Franciscan monastic practices help explain the rule-following power of Thai gym training for Westerners: Thailand's Muay Thai Gym, Authenticity and the Escape from Capitalism | Agamben on The Highest Poverty The importance of this insight into soul stuff and its transmittability is I believe that it unlocks much of the question about the religiosity (or spirituality) behind Thailand's Muay Thai. Often it is simply dismissed altogether because it does not seem reducible to the few obvious, formal rites that surround Muay Thai fighting. And, the magical practices of its past do not seem to embody most, or even much of any of Thailand's Muay Thai as non-Thais experience it. I suggest that the logic of soul stuff is so prevalent, so shoots-through Thailand's Muay Thai, even in its most secular and commercialized expressions, its so omnipresent it is almost impossible to see by Westerners (and others) who can carry different cultural view of power. It though is something that is much closer to a Chinese metaphysical concept of Yin and Yang, a base assumption which explains many diverse practices, whether they be spiritual or quite secular, woven into the perspective of a culture and how it bonds together. And, as the historian O. W. Wolters argued, these beliefs lay at root beneath very diverse cultures all across Southeast Asia, spilling well over any particular country's barriers. And...if you kept the logic of "soul stuff" in mind you would get a better sense of what the difficult training in Muay Thai is truly focused on...the melding of the spiritual and the martial going back perhaps 2,000 years, as it is expressed and conceived in today's contemporary culture, and as the art of Muay Thai itself has come to embody it over the past 100 years or so. For a the primary source on O. W. Wolter's concept of "soul stuff" read here:
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  5. One of the first things to appreciate when thinking about how Thailand's Muay Thai fighting itself expresses, or involves spiritual values is that in the history of Southeast Asian warfare war was seen as a cosmic battle. And the King in battle was regarded as possessing not only physical prowess, but also spiritual prowess. Cosmic forces, "soul stuff" was in conflict on the battle field, and the King, or which ever champion of a martial force was the acme of that side's soul-power. Historians Michael Charney and Anthony Reid tell it that the fall of the leader could end the conflict altogether. First Charney on Southeast Asian warfare: And Reid in his study of Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce: Just as the kings of mainland southeast Asia held "soul power" charisma due their martial prowess and their earned spiritual prowess, and used that charisma to create far reaching alliances, strengthening his mandala of power, battle itself was lead by the charismatic leader who melded physical prowess and spiritual prowess together, and brought them to what was a battle of cosmic (read "soul stuff") forces. This singular champion logic of charisma is not only found in Southeast Asia, for instance we see it in Homer's Iliad in various figures, but especially in Achilles, who was not only a formidable martial force, but also was a poet, musician and elegant speaker, not to mention spiritually half divine due to his mother. citation for previous comparison photo Above King Narsuan's famous elephant duel and Achilles' duel vs Hector. (As a note, these were both trade-oriented maritime cultures whose wealth was depended on a slave economy. There may be a socio-economic relationship.) In any case, because battle was seen as expressive of spiritual prowess it is simply wrong to put fighting in the category of physical prowess, in some kind of antithesis to the spiritual. It can be argued to be fundamentally the meeting of charimatically imbued champions, who posses both physical and spiritual prowess, the results of which lie with forces beyond the ring (battle field) itself. And, these charismatic figures represent and express the "soul stuff" of their affiliations and attachments. When they win, something much larger wins. When Karuhat tells us that 2 busloads of fans and supporters would drive down from his hometown Khon Kaen in Isaan for each fight of his, loaded with gambling interests, monies pulled together from communities, he in a certain sense spiritually (at least in terms of "soul stuff") represented them in the ring. His soul stuff was added to by their presence, and his victories flowed down threw and into them. We can see this very same logic of representation in the West, for instance in Nationalism in combat sports, or in terms of race or ethnicity, or other subset groups, but in Thailand it becomes much more sharpened, and pervasive, because of how they regard power relations themselves, in a world of "unequal souls" and of transmittable "soul stuff". We start though with the notion in Thailand that fighting is necessarily to some degree spiritual. And thus, training for fighting involves spiritual training. Not only are there magico-religious practices that surround and structure training (& fighting), the training itself focuses on the disciplining of many affects & dispositions which have qualities which are in concert with more overt traditional spiritual training by monks & holy men in the culture. However small a fight may be in Thailand, one's training consists of rigorously learning how to properly take that place of spiritual (soul stuff) champion. What differs from similar imperatives in other fight cultures elsewhere in the world is the degree to watch this still is thought of in spiritual (even if unconsciously spiritual) terms.
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  6. The above is a far-ranging, quite theoretical take on the spiritual foundations of not only Thai culture, but also Muay Thai, and its claims to a kind of underlying metaphysics of power, and a practice of power to some degree remain opaque. The thinking is imagined to be continuous in mainland Southeast Asia from long before the rise of Khmer power in the 9th century, covering belief systems sometimes called Animism. Let me bring things back to earth with a very mundane example. When we first visited Thailand we found ourselves living along a market street near the Chiang Mai university, near Lanna Muay Thai camp where Sylvie trained morning and afternoon. We lived in a kind of inexpensive hotel with floors dedicated to foreigners and other floors to University students, and we were but a 5 minutes walk to the camp. Every morning we would walk to the camp and pass a fruit truck which had parked at the mouth of the market row, where other various businesses sold fruit, flowers, meat, prepared snacks and desserts. The street was a kind of cornucopia of things to buy and sample. Every morning we would pass the fruit truck and the kind older lady in the back of the pick up, where she did business, would cheerfully smile at as as went. And when training was done each morning, on the way home we would load up on delicious cold pineapple (and watermelon), neatly sliced into bags. It was so nice to see her smile on the way to the gym, and to get that fruit on the way home. After several days of the habit we decided to be more adventurous and try a few other things on the market row. It seemed so full of life, and there appeared such a sense of community among everyone. I'm not sure what we got to snack on, but we ate in on the way the hotel and didn't think much of it. It was just more of bountiful Thailand. When we got up the next morning and began our walk to the gym we passed our cheerful older lady in the back of her fruit truck and she completely iced us out with the coldest of shoulders. We had, accidentally, broken our alliance. This is soul stuff. Our patronage, our community of commerce, our money, her preparation, all of it increased her soul stuff, the soul stuff of her family...however slightly. When we took our business, however mindlessly, to another fruit vendor deeper into the market row we gave soul stuff to them, and not her. This is part of what I mean when I talk about the essential logic of soul stuff pervading Thai culture. As Westerners who are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as consumers with the power of choice we view our choices outside of consequence to a large degree. We pay for services or products and we consider the relationship "even" to a large degree. If something more appealing comes along the next day, or the next month, we make a different purchase. In the conception of soul stuff, soul stuff is always being portioned and passed around, and soul stuff is also always under contest. It is agonistic. When historians describe the orbs of power that defined great empires of mainland Southeast Asia they specifically do not speak of territories. Rather kings exerted influence over others through charismatic (& sometimes martial) power, expressed through networks of alliance. Very large palace structures, solemn religious rites and royal displays would anchor the charisma of a king, giving them aura to stabilize those networks (which historians call mandalas), but a king's sphere of influence was made up of other smaller spheres of influence (mandalas of other smaller polities and their rulers), many of which would overlap. There were zones of overlapping sovereignty, as shown in this graphic: What I suggest is that this concept of overlapping of zones of sovereignty, mandalas made up of other smaller mandalas, which are made up of the same, is the fundamental struggle of contested, agonistic "soul stuff" that makes up the social world. It describes how Kingdom power operated in the 16th century Siam, and it describes how street vendor power operates in Chiang Mai in 2010. It is the ability to exercise influence and grow alliances, and to do so in ways that you signify your sphere of power to others. And, those within your sphere of influence are themselves seeking to grow their own networks of alliances, express their own acquired soul stuff, so the fabric of alliance is always tensioned. This is something that Westerners who stay some time in Thailand within a Muay Thai community in a city, or even a district will come to realize. Like politics of the fruit truck, each commercial Muay Thai gym exists within a sphere of influence which is larger than itself. It's part of a series of alliances with promoters, its own fighters, with other gyms, and at the same time is in struggle against other gyms who also have spheres of power. It's not that it is one gym vs another gym. It's that there is an entire fabric of power relations, networks and alliances, that is always in tension. And any one move or shift in alliance in that network has an invisible domino effect. Fighting at one promotion, training at one gym, these are "soul stuff" alliances. Western fighters who have chosen to move to another gym within the mandala sphere of the influence of their own gym may very soon discover that they are caught within a power-web. You are affecting the "soul stuff" of the gym you are attempting to leave, you could be changing very delicate balances of power, however innocently or blindly. This is because power is a function of "unequal souls", and each person is continually acquiring the signatures of "soul stuff", the ability influence, the capacity to charismatically attract others into their network, and gaining "soul stuff" through the alliance with more powerful figures beyond their own sphere. This interwoven, overlapping, sphere upon smaller sphere fabric is how much of Thai cultural social power expresses itself, and that is arguably due to the deep spiritual conception of soul stuff itself, something at least 2,000 years old. I suspect that this fundamental agonism between spheres of influence is what gives Muay Thai its special societal relevance as an art and sport. It acts out in a bold, theatrical way the more widespread agonisms of authority and influence, and it taps back down into the original union of spiritual and martial power, as it was expressed in political charisma. When fighters are fighting they are assembling and putting at risk the "soul stuff" of themselves, their families, their gym, and in some cases their community, in a wager hopeful of increasing that soul stuff through not only victory, but also through their physical display of that shine in the ring, through the language of muay.
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  7. SJC74 - Here's my recent January 2023 experience training for one-week at 'Santai', and one-week at 'Boon Lanna', both gyms located outside/south of Chiang Mai city center. TL;DR, I'd pick Boon Lanna Muay Thai for one-month dedicated training with minimal life outside of training, eating, recovering, sleeping. Context: I spent early October 2022 to early January 2023 in Northern Thailand; 2.5-months in Pai, 1-month in Chiang Mai. I learned Muay Thai basics at Wisarut Gym in Pai at a relaxed pace. I wasn't killing myself during that time, but was able to develop a baseline foundation for the sport and improve general fitness. After leaving Pai in second week of January 2023, I went to train at two gyms outside of Chiang Mai, Santai and Boon Lanna. I did not train at Hongthong, but I did stop by in the midafternoon to see it. Here's my two cents as a beginner. First thing to note, and arguably the most important consideration is how far from old town Chiang Mai you're comfortable being. The best gyms in CM are a ways away from the nightlife/tourist action happening in the city. You'll need to plan logistics accordingly. Having a motorbike, accommodation, quick food/grocery options, social life requirements, touristic desires etc. are all considerations that need to be made. There are a lot of gym options in and around Chiang Mai. Hover over the greater city on Google Maps and search 'Muay Thai Gym', and you'll see many of the options. Most have websites and/or facebook pages to glean information from to get general vibe of the gym, while others have a sparce internet presence that requires an in-person visit to get the scoop. I visited four gyms in total, but only trained at two. Santai: I trained here 6 sessions total, once per day monday to saturday mostly in the afternoon. This was the busiest gym in Thailand that I trained at thus far, with an average 30 students per session, and 6-8 instructors. This is a good gym if you want to sleep, train, and be social with other students and not have too much of a life outside of training. People spend months living and training there together, so naturally the "family" like feelings evolve amongst students and trainors. Everyone was friendly, but I kept my head down and didn't socialize too much beyond basic pleasantries. A months time is long enough to develop stronger relationships if that's what you're seeking. English was common enough amongst students and trainers to make communication easy and clear. Despite the gym being a bit small for the large number of students, it's equipped with three rings and many bags. Because of the many people, it was lacking in the sanitation department; it felt a bit dirty for my personal standards, but keeping in mind that I've been a long time mild germophobe so learning Muay Thai has been an exercise in acceptance for me. Standards and personal comfort vary of course, I'm just saying it could use a good powerwash and mop. The general class routine was: run/skip rope, group stretching/shadowboxing technique, padwork, bagwork, clinching, stretch/cool-down. While you're going through group stretch, the woman who handles office/paperwork affairs and the two old-head instructors list names on the whiteboard for padwork assignments. Each pad holder had 3-5 names underneath them and each student would get 3 5-minutes rounds with them. It seemed like the newbies were assigned to go first and each day you'd be with a different pad holder who would work you in different ways, while evaluating your skill level. The two old-head instructors would walk around with their sticks whacking stick correcting form of folks working a bag. You're sort of on your own after padwork, so you'll want to come prepared with a few combinations you want to practice on the bag, otherwise you might be a little aimless and unfocused; at least that was the case for me as a newbie. Overall, this gym was a 6/10 for me. I'm grateful I went and experienced it for the sake of gym comparisons, but I wouldn't return here. Keep in mind I'm rather introverted and would prefer to train with Thai's than foreigners. It was 70/30 foreigners to Thai's training there. I stayed 10-minutes down the road from the gym. There's a main street near gym with accommodation, restaurants, and locals-only night markets. Odds are the only other westerners you'll see around that area are also gym goers. I think someone could quickly improve their skill level dedicating one-month to training here, just don't expect to do too many tourist activities outside of training, eating, recovering, sleeping. Students and trainers fight out of the gym and seem to be in different promotions weekly. If you want to fight, that's definitely possible here. Boon Lanna: The monday after Santai I moved accommodation down the road 20-minutes to a place near Boon Lanna Muay Thai where I also trained for 6 sessions total, once per day monday to saturday mostly in the afternoon. This is the former Lanna gym Sylvie trained at. She mentioned it's a different gym now than it used to be, so I can give an update to what it is like now. This has been my favorite gym to date. The new owner, Master Boon, sponsors Thai fighters from the Hilltribe, so when you train here, you're mostly training with them. It was 80/20 Thai to foreigner ratio and an amazing experience. Sylvie recently wrote about gyms having golden years where there's a bunch of people training/fighting out of a gym an times are good, and other times when the same gym has dried up and it's a shell of it's former self as people move on. This gym seems to be in early stages of new golden period as Master Boon and his female partner seem motivated and have a good thing going. They are currently having new student housing built on the property attached to the facility. The existing facility is very nice, very clean, wide-open-air facility. There was only one non-thai living there, a Canadian, the rest were Hilltribe boys/men. My technique, confidence, and general understanding of the sport improved significantly in only a few sessions as they paid a lot more attention to me. After light conditioning and shadowing boxing, every session began with light sparing where Master Boon selected matchups, randomizing opponents for 3-4 round. Sparing against the Thai boys was very helpful, but at ~185cm (6-foot) felt strange punching and kicking a literal child. These kids were tough and strong though, and I saw in advance pictures of them online bloodied up smiling after a fight. We both knew that I couldn't hurt them, and we both knew they could wreck me any second, which actually helped me feel relaxed in a way I've ever never felt before. After sparing, padwork, then bagwork. Both of which I felt like I received ample and helpful guidance for improved power and technique. Everyone was patient with me which was appreciated. I'm a slow learner. Classes end with 45min-1hour clinching, which I did not do, opting for strength conditioning with a few others instead, concluding with abs, stretch, cool-down. Sit Thailand MT Gym: This gym is closer to old town, next to airport. Has accommodation nearby, I dropped in mid afternoon just to see it, no opinion. Lookup 'joelxthewolf' on instagram. He documents his training/fighting out of that gym and you can get a sense of things from him. Looks legit. Hongthong: Drove past. A bit closer to old town, but still outside a ways. Fighters often on local promotion. Sizeable open-air gym. No opinion. Like I said, there are many others to choose from. Get a motorbike on arrival and spend your first day dropping into several to get a feel before commiting. Manop. Buakaw's Banchamek Gym, Chiang May Muay Thai, Santai, Sit, Hongthong etc. Be prepared to be on the road all day for that, Chiang Mai is surprisingly quite big and spread out. Here is the average weather forecast is for July in Chiang Mai: "This month is known as a warm month. The average maximum daytime temperature in Chiang Mai in July lies at 31.7°C (89.06°F). The average minimum temperature is 24.0°C (75.2°F) (usually the minimum temperature is noted at night). The amount of rain during this month is high with an average of 145mm (5.7in). It rains an average of 19 days of the month. The sun will occasionally show itself with 121 hours of sunshine during the entire month." Something to consider. I should have taken better notes during my training, but didn't, so these are just some of my recollections/feelings. Ask away with any questions, I'll be glad to give my two cents. I am now training at a small gym in Isaan and plan to be more diligent and methodical with documenting my progress and experience. I'd like to post and participate in this forum more. Thank you Sylvie and Kevin for the platform and second hand push to do so, and all the info you've provided over the years- it's been very helpful for me on this journey and I'm having so much fun.
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  8. Tbh I was set for Manop gym, but after doing some more reasarch and talking with the kind people on Samart gym I decided to go for Samart. Boxing is quite a weak like in many muay thai gyms and I really think that as you said it would benefit me the most due to a good blend. Muay Femur + Boxing. I've looked at some people training there and they all seem very friendly. Only concern I have, how Is his and his brothers English? Is it enough to understand correction of technique, pads etc?
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  9. Glad things are better. Im interested in what the more experienced MT people have to say about your vids
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  10. First of all, apologies if this subject has been raised before, couldn't find it. I recently had a discussion with a Western coach teaching at a gym in Cambodia. His background as a fighter is Western Boxing but he has practiced muay thai and Khun Khmer and had a good approach on how to combine the sports. He himself had to stop fighting due to a head trauma that happened outside of fighting. We ended up talking about how boxers getting "chinny" ie not being able to take strikes to the head anymore and we were puzzled about muay thai fighters having so many fights but yet, seemed to avoid the notion of getting chinny. My take on it would be the focus on play sparring, smart fighting without the focus on strikes to the head. Yet, CTE and depression etc seems to be something plenty thai muay thai fighters face. But I would be interested to know if there's another explanation for this. Especially in the context of a more Western-focused style dominating some promotions in Thailand right now. Whether that might increase the risk of getting 'chinny'?
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  11. Sylvie's made a very good comparison to food, to a nation's cuisine. You come to other cultures to eat their food. You don't come to eat your food. Yes, big business tourism will rely on giving visitors the food they are accustomed to, in hotels, in busy streets even. Hell, I am happy to find a good Hamburger after 10 years here, to be sure. But to have the cuisine literally be replaced, so that it no longer exists, so that it fits the tastes of foreigners feels like quite a loss, and actually undermines the long term potential of the culture, as an invested tourism destination. You can get that food in any country. The comparison to fighting styles is not out of place. I remember some fighters who have come to Thailand to learn "real", "authentic" Muay Thai, so to speak. They wanted to get away from the Muay Thai of their countries, where promotions are just "brawling". There was a kind of snobbery (in a good way) about coming to Thailand to fight...and then a few years on I see those very same fighters fighting almost exclusively on shows like Super Champ which are basically Western style shows. They came all the way to Thailand to escape brawl, only to find brawl. It's the same sort of thing. We bring with us our culture, often unconsciously. And we are comfortable with it, just as we are with the foods we like. I've seen this importation of Western training mindset not only in promotional rings, but in gyms too. Gyms as they hybrid between being commercial tourism houses, and as places that train Thai fighters end up absorbing some of the Western oriented training patterns and values. Thai fighters literally end up being trained more like Westerners. The entire fabric of Muay Thai becoming strained.
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  12. This is exactly how I see it (mainly based on yours and Sylvies explanations and take on what is happening right now). And it's sad and so hard to explain to people. "They've turned fighting into what they believe fighting should be." Tbh...breaks my heart. I hope it will evolve differently and Sia Boats perspective will gain traction. It's like travelling nowadays....you barely see a difference between countries, same franchised shops and restaurants everywhere. Making it easier for the visitor...sacrificing local culture and traditions that can be hard to understand.
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  13. This is a really interesting point. As Westerners (and other non-Thai cultures) import their values into fighting promotions, the kinds of things they want to see expressed and embodied by fighters, then I think it does also stand to reason that meaning of the training and fighting of children and young fighters also changes. The point of Muay Thai, traditionally, is not violence. It's not even aggression. It could be said to be about self-control, and the control over your opponent. If you change the point of fighting, then you have to ask whether this legit is something you would even want children to learn. You don't want to train children or even young fighters to be violent. Right? This is really the source of a lot of the Western misunderstanding of young fighting in Thailand. They've assumed that the purpose of fighting is what fighting is like in their culture. They miss the value-system of Thai fighting. In many ways its the opposite of what they assume. But, once they succeed in changing the Thai value system, so that fighters express different values...then their criticisms start to have more traction. They've turned fighting into what they believe fighting should be.
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  14. Thank you very much for this reply, Kevin. I had a sense this would be a logical explanation, but I could not put it into words. What you say about the GOATS is very interesting and comforting. Westerners have always had opinions about Thai children fighting as they have seen it through their own cultural lens. I guess now, everyone will view it that way if children will be encouraged to fight differently. And then...there will be need for protective gear etc that will increase costs/change who can train or increase the age of fighters (?).
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  15. I think CTE is going to go way up, due to the influence of these promotions. Way up. A few reasons why: 1. Defensive excellence is being downgraded in terms of score, so fighters literally will not learn it. 2. There is going to be a lot more head hunting, which isn't the traditional form of fighting. 3. Thais learn to fight at a younger age. To some degree this is mitigated by the strong emphasis on control and defense oriented scoring, the lack of head hunting. But put 1 and 2 together, and bring it to younger fighters, its going to be epidemic. It's really hard to speak now about "Muay Thai" because even within 5 years the sport has significantly changed, and maybe more than once. Fighter skills have devolved, generally, over the past 15-20 years, but now with Entertainment Muay Thai driving the sport you are seeing very different fighting skill sets (less fluent). And, one imagines its just going to get worse, unless there is a backlash in Thailand. Traditionally though, the knockout wasn't chased in the sport, and the defensive awareness and boxing acumen of most fighters kept everyone pretty safe. We've met and known many, many high fight veterans and legends of the sport and almost none of them exhibit obvious signs of CTE. And most of those that do, that I've thought to take note of, have also fought in other combat sports after their career.
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  16. The more "play" you can do, the better. If you can spar, great. If not, feel rhythms amd timing in shadow and on the bag. The most unpredictable aspect of fighting is that the opponent thinks differently than how you or your training partners do; or their nerves make them even unpredictable to themselves. So try to find opportunities to FEEL your way around movements and strikes, rather than thinking so much.
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  17. Make a lesson or program exclusively for women. Fear of judgment is the main deterrent for women from using the gym. You can create a welcoming group of women who welcome new members with positive energy by providing a women's class. I hope you choose to put all of these suggestions into action, but at the very least, consider the needs of the women who frequent your gym and do your best to accommodate them by fostering an environment that is upbeat and encouraging so they can concentrate on feeling strong.
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  18. I believe most coaches and gym owners want women (and all students) to feel comfortable and safe during training. It’s very important to set good behavior in your gym. How do you know if your gym is both safe for and accepting of a woman? How can you attain female students? This doesn’t require speeches and pronouncements. It doesn’t mean social media posts. You just simply ask, watch, and talk openly. Don’t assume a woman will speak up if her environment is uncomfortable or if something has happened. It’s not an easy thing to talk about. Most women have had uncomfortable or inappropriate experiences throughout their lives. For instance, we’ve heard that we are too sensitive, we need to relax, or we’re misinterpreting someone’s behavior. It is imperative that a coach watches all interactions carefully, especially with females. Over time, the cumulative impact is silence. Because women are not always heard, we often tolerate it and keep it to ourselves. Pay attention to what’s going on in your gym and reach out to us. This can feel awkward or strange if you aren’t used to it so here are some suggestions.
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  19. My buddy shot some footage of us training last year, and i editted it. I gave it a sort of dark vibe so i thought it might fit here . I havent done much video work since school but ive started up again the past couple months.
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  20. Think about the Javenese description of "the gambler" in the Anthony Reid citation above: "The gambler has the spirit of a great nobleman, who gives away money and property without considering the amount". This feeling of largess and plenitude, of the man with powerful nobility who caretakes for those aligned with them, is found in Thai social status as well, in and out of gambling. Consider this - at least to me - touching moment when the Petchyindee patriarch Hia Now climbed into the ring and gave a 39 year old Sam A a 100,000 baht bonus. This was, I believe, an "injection" (money offered during a fight to propel a fighter forward. What makes this somewhat touching in the larger context. Sia Boat, the son of Hia Now, had just come off a personal (status) battle with Chatri Sityodtong who runs ONE Championship (a nouveau-style Muay Thai promotion inspired by MMA). Sia Boat had pulled all Petchyindee fighters out of ONE Championship in what looked to be a power struggle of social status within Thailand itself. Sia Boat, who has become something of a defacto spokesmen for promotional stadium Muay Thai, received a lot of blow back for the move, criticism that he was not looking out for the financial benefit for his fighters. This was the first fight involving a significant Petchyindee fighter following the pull out, and it featured a very Old School femeu, 39 year old Sam A, fighting in an old style of Muay Thai (not favored by ONE ruleset), vs a powerful, much larger, younger, aggressive PK opponent. Samingdam Chor.Ajalaboon. Sam A pulled off an unlikely win, demonstrating traditional femeu Thailand tactics, and Hia Now climbs into the ring and hands him the injection. It's a symbolic moment, more than it is a financial one. It goes back to that Javanese description of the gambler. The man of largess. The nobility of care out of prosperity, answering through the fight itself and this moment, the social media currents that may have turned against Petchyindee. Hia Now has been promoting fights for more than 50 years.
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  21. Following Sylvie's recent post on Facebook, encouraging people to share their experience with Muay Thai gyms in Thailand, here is our experience. This spans from September 2021 to May 2022. September 2021 was when the lock-down slowly eased in Thailand and gyms started reopening – so we had good luck with the timing. We mainly trained in Bangkok and Pattaya. I had been watching Sylvie's videos and reading her and Kevin's articles for a couple of years, so having this information and knowledge was very helpful, knowing where to start and what to expect. While I had been doing western Boxing and some Kickboxing in the past, we only started with Muay Thai in Thailand. We are in our mid-30s & mid-40s, and train as a hobby, once daily, about 3 – 5 days a week. As it turned out, we either were in „group classes“ with few or no other students, or we chose to do private sessions (if not too expensive). So we always had a kind of „individual experience“ and often had laid-back classes, without 5 – 7 mile runs, „300 knees on the bags“ etc. Gyms in Bangkok Jaroonsak Muay Thai Gym – this is where we started our Muay Thai Journey and we continued to come here while we stayed in Bangkok. The gym is located in a neighborhood in western Bangkok, easily reachable by MRT or BTS trains. Training is Monday to Saturday from 5.00pm onwards. We found this family gym to be perfect for us. We got solid tuition and Kru Jaroonsak is a dedicated teacher who ensures a safe and fun experience. Over time, the pad-sessions slowly turned into „light-sparring“ rounds, which we enjoyed tremendously. A lot of locals train here, as well as some regular „farangs“. We recommend this gym highly, for the no-frills, authentic experience. Muay Thai Academy MTA – this gym was fairly close to our apartment, and it's easily reachable from any central area of Bangkok. The trainers and fighters here are all high-level and you can book private sessions here for a very good price. Current fighters include Fani Peloumpi and Mariana Scombatti, both quite well known. We did a few private sessions with a Thai Kru, which we enjoyed. We later trained with Fani Peloumpi who is calm, friendly and has a pleasantly structured approach to training. She taught us new, useful techniques, gave us tips for sparring and adjusted her teaching to our level so that we got a lot out of it. Fani lives and breathes Muay Thai, and is a dedicated, patient and very knowledgeable trainer. We also watched her fight at Lumpini Stadium. Luktupfah Gym – this gym is a bit outside of the center of Bangkok, but – you can rent a room in their gym, which is what we did. We stayed 5 days in total. This is quite a unique gym, because you can also learn Muay Thai Boran & Krabi Krabong here, in addition to the two daily regular Muay Thai sessions. The curriculum is very well structured, and because of the Muay Boran knowledge at this gym, students will be exposed and learn techniques that go beyond „stadium muay thai“ techniques. We only watched the Muay Boran lessons, and we were fascinated by the awesome techniques, wishing we could have stayed longer to also learn them. The gym also certifies Muay Thai teachers, foreign and local. We saw some very famous former Muay Thai fighters come to this gym to get acquainted with the curriculum and get certified as teachers, which will allow them to teach abroad etc. Master Woody, his team and his trainers are caring, professional and the training was excellent. Chatchai Sasakul Boxing Gym – because Western Boxing was my main sport, I was especially keen to visit this gym and had watched Sylvie's videos with Chatchai many times over. The gym is located north of Bangkok, about 35 minutes away from the center, but getting there by taxi is no problem and affordable. The package includes accommodation which is about 3 minutes away from the gym by foot. The gym is also next to a huge food market, so every day after training we would go there for delicious food and juices. The accommodation is great and spacious, and the whole set-up (gym, food, accommodation) made it very easy for us. In the gym, there are several current and former regional Boxing champions as well as world champions, either training for their next fights, or working as trainers. We mainly trained with Kompayak Por Pramuk (former WBA interim flyweight champion and former WBC light flyweight champion). He was great, as was his wife, who helped with training on a few days – she is such an amazing pad-holder – here is a video of them together: https://web.facebook.com/sasakulboxinggym/videos/508005613187338 In the mornings, you can run with the professional fighters and then do a conditioning session. In the afternoons, the focus is on technique and pad-work. It's great to train amongst such high level fighters, and had we been more advanced, I'm sure that we could have sparred with them as well. My private session with Chatchai was very good, and he has a very good eye and throughout our stay, he corrected us whenever he was nearby and saw us do something wrong. Again, this is a very friendly place, that easily integrates visiting students. But it is of course mainly a fighter's gym, that seeks to create world champions in boxing. From my limited understanding, Sasakul gym is also very closely linked with Petchyindee Academy, so during our stay, the Petchyindee/Sasakul fighter „Kumandoi“ (current Rajadamern champion) was preparing for a fight in Japan. So, on top of all the awesome western boxing fighters, we also watched a top Muay Thai fighter prepare and do round after round of sparring with different opponents. Gym in Buriram Yodwicha Gym – as with all gyms, we contacted them via Facebook, which is almost always the best way to get in touch with them. We thought that the gym was in Bangkok, not knowing that just a few weeks earlier they had relocated to Buriram, which is in the east of the country. We communicated with Yodwicha's wife who was very responsive and nice. So we decided to go there, despite the distance. Yodwicha picked us up from the train station and we drove south to the location, which is about 30 minutes away from Buriram city. It is very, very remote. But – we loved it. We had escaped the noise and pollution of Bangkok and lived among farmers, with not a care in the world. They had a lady who cooked for us daily (vegetarian even!), and this was by far the best, tastiest and healthiest food we have had in Thailand. On the weekend we also visited a famous Khmer temple together, which was a lot of fun. The training! Two sessions per day. Yodwicha focused on the basics with us. Balance, good basic strikes and good conditioning is what makes a successful fighter, and this is what he wanted us to understand and emulate. Before us, a young and more advanced, amateur fighter from Sweden had been at the gym, preparing to go professional. We believe that with Yodwicha's tuition, those looking to fight and get to the next level in their Muay Thai will get fantastic training! Yodwicha's wife is also very well connected, so if students want to fight, I think that they would be able to help with that. The accommodation is comfortable but basic, so don't expect any luxury here. We initially wanted to stay for a week, but did extend our stay. For us it was more than just a training camp, but a totally new experience of life in rural Thailand, with very hospitable and warm hosts. Gyms in Pattaya (there really are a lot of great gyms here, so a) we could not visit all of them and b) we had to limit ourselves to just a few of those that we visited. In addition, there are big gyms like Fairtex and Venum Training Camp, but these did not attract us at all. If you are into BJJ, I believe that „Sudsakorn Muay Thai Gym“ has twice daily BJJ sessions with a very good teacher) Petchrungruang - Sylvie helped us set up private sessions with Yodkhunpon Sittraiphum, the „Elbow Hunter“, which took place at this gym. We often trained in the mornings, during which the regular classes took place - these also looked very good, with great pad-work, clinching and a relaxed but serious atmosphere. Training with Yodkhunpon is really unique. He is very friendly, and a dedicated teacher. He will explain and practise a technique as many times as it takes until we finally „click“. To our delight, not once has he held pads for us, but instead everything is practised in a sparring sort-of-way. I really like this because it makes me stay focused and sharp. He will not mollycoddle us, and go „hard, but not too hard“, also with my wife, who appreciates this. Of course, this is not full-on sparring, and he takes very good care not to over-challenge his students. But, this type of training, is as close to „real fighting“ as possible, which we find awesome. We also do a lot of clinching, which does not come naturally to us, but Yodkhunpon is always patient and will find many different ways to teach us, until we finally „get it“. He never "watches the clock" and makes every session memorable. Rusich Club Pattaya – Sylvie did a „tour of the gym“ video, otherwise we would not have known of this gym. We have been a number of times now and we like it a lot. On the one hand, there are „self defence / jiu jitsu“ classes for children and adults, as well as Muay Thai & Boxing training by Yodsanan Sidyodthong and his trainers. We visited mostly to the morning classes, and trained with the two excellent Muay Thai teachers, Kru Manop and Kru Den. Kru Manop is a „teep specialist“ whose many different teep variations will stop and frustrate any incoming opponent. We mainly trained with Kru Den whom we can recommend to anyone, young or old, beginner or pro fighter. He is probably in his early 30s, has had about 250 fights, and even one MMA fight in Russia. He moves as light-footed as if he were on springs, and can evade shots like „Lerdsila“. But, unlike some very highly skilled young(er) trainers, he is not a show-off, nor „uninterested“ - instead he will enthusiastically share all his techniques with students. He is extremely well rounded, and although he says he barely ever clinches in his fights, he showed us many great techniques, trips, sweeps etc. My wife noticed that some Thai trainers can be a bit uncomfortable with/unwilling to clinch and/or spar with female students – this is not the case with Kru Den who has no problem with this. He is a very dedicated and encouraging teacher, who will go above and beyond "what is expected". The gym is brand new, has lots of indoor space (and a huge ring), as well as an outside ring. The price for training is also very competitive. Other notable mentions Baan Rambaa – very good, training. Rambaa is super nice, funny, a great character. He takes good care of his customers and his co-trainer, Kru Beer(?) is also very good. The gym has a great atmosphere, and the children who train there also also very sweet and funny to watch. We were not the only foreigner who trained there. Definitely worth going there! Eagle Gym Pattaya – another gym we would not have known about, without Sylvie's videos (thanks again!). We find that Western Boxing is less taxing on the body than Muay Thai, and unless you do sparring, you also get fewer bruises etc. Plus, boxing is fun. And this gym is great. „Den“ is a former 2 times WBC champion. still in perfect shape. Everyone is very welcoming, the padwork at this gym is awesome and great fun. His co-trainer Sam (Samson?) is also great, he is very motivating and will adapt to your level. His padwork is demanding, fun and always fresh. We always look forward to going to this gym for a class. You can also train Muay Thai there, everyone is catered for. „Yoga Pattaya“ (near Jomtien Beach) - no Muay Thai here. We wanted to include this Studio and especially the „stretching classes“, which offer a different kind of workout, which may help the Muay Thai training and general fitness. Although not heavy on the cardio, these are quite demanding classes - you sweat and ache quite a bit in these classes. The instructor „Sofiya“ takes good care to prevent injuries, and is therefore quite strict, but in an amusing way.
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  22. Hey everyone I've been lurking for sometime and i decided to share my experiences with you all, why not? Intro I have trained at quiet a few gyms all over Thailand except Northern (Chaing Mai) and the southern islands excluding Phuket. All of the gyms I mention besides most in Phuket and Pattaya I have trained at for at least 2 months. For some gyms my girlfriend who trains but has no intentions of fighting was with me so ill give you views from that perspective as well I'll list gyms and give some info working down the list. Gyms Lamanmoon Sor Sumalee (Ubon) 2 trips 3 years apart 5 months each. Sitmonchai (Kanchanaburi ) 2 months Sitjaopho (Hua Hin) 10 months Venum (Pattaya) few weeks Petchrungruang (Pattaya) 2 weeks Sinbi (Phuket) Rattachai(Phuket) 2 trips 1 year apart 1 month and 3 months Phuket top team (Phuket) Kingka Muay Thai (Phuket) Lamnamoon Overview: Lamnamoon was the first camp i trained at in Thailand and I'm so happy for that. I think being in Ubon/Isasn set the tone and helped me understand Thailand and Thai culture a lot better than if a more popular city was my first destination. My first trip i was lucky at having good timing at the time i was surrounded by lots of high level foreign fighters. Sean Kearney, Jordan Coe and others and How they work The training is very traditional. We never did drills or practiced scenarios, repetitive bag work both sessions (LOTS of teeps knees and More Knees) . The coaches especially Kru Yo pay very close attention to your training it may seem hands off but you many not realize hes spoken to your pad holder. In the course of a week sometimes you will have clinched everyday sometimes both sessions and spar a few times as well. Feel free to ask any questions about technique you wont be chided, i once asked a question about skip knees in the clinch which turned in to 10 min knees on the bag both sessions supervised for two weeks. Gym vibe The gym is very family orientated Food is cooked by Kru Yo's parents who live behind the gym with the thai fighters. Plenty of laughing but also very forward instruction. No one will hold your hand and make you, run, jump rope or do bag work but they pay attention especially for fighters. My first fight in Thailand and all my favorite fights are through this gym Plenty of fight opportunities in temples and festivals all through Isaan occasionally Laos and Cambodia via Buriram. It can be harder for larger fighter to find matches in festivals sometimes. Location There isn't much to do in Ubon holiday wise (my preference), Movies,temples, markets festivals. Accommodation: If you choose to stay with the camp it will be with Kru Yo's family separate apartments on a small complex hot water laundry across the street and small shops for coffee etc down the street. The gym and rooms are different locations. Temples: Many of the temples are of the forest style Including Wat Pah Nanacha the temple for foreigners , Wat Nong Pah Pong who grounds are a beautiful and forest like. Last words I think Lamnamoon is a good gym for the disciplined even if you're a beginner. Small class attention to detail Always seem invested in my progress Ubon great city to avoid distractions(but some people will find them anyway) The Isaan cultrue music and food is great. Temple, festival and Air Force base fight opportunities. Ubon is Cheap cheapest part of Thailand i Have ever stayed Most people dont speak English in Ubon but great place to start learning Thai and Isaan most locals support it. So let me know what i can do with upcoming reviews to make them better or ask any questions. Ill try to get better at this sorry for typos also I have got a weird setup here.
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  23. Hey Guys! I know it has been a long time since I posted, but I am now back from my trip and I AM GRATEFUL. I ended up at Yokkao and was kind of aiming to wing it for maybe a week, 10 days if it was really good. Well, I ended up staying for almost 3 weeks - the gym is great, the people are even better - so welcoming and playful. It was an amazing experience. I even ended up having food and beers with the man himself (Saenchai). I then heard bad things about Banchamek, so went to Manop Gym in Chiang Mai. What a hidden gem! This was easily the best muay thai instruction of the trip, and my life. Manop is such a youthful and caring individual - it's like being with an uncle who drives you around and is all-round badass. Sylvie was even due to turn up while I was there but then couldn't make it. I then went to Diamond MT, which wasn't bad but was very western compared to the former two gyms. My thinking was to wind down the intensity so I enjoyed the islands and safe to say I spent time in paradise. Sapphire beaches, powdered sand, great food and drinks and cool people. I also went to Vietnam but that isn't MT related, albeit being breathtaking. Overall, thank you so much for your help and advice. I could never have been as comfortable without you guys or Sylvie's website. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Alsooo, I decided to start creating videos from my time there, centred around MT & food. Please check it out and let me know what you think! http://tiny.cc/o0ijdz That's a link to the channel - please subscribe if you like it and you'll be able to see what I've described above. Chok dee and peaaace!
    1 point
  24. I know this is an old post but I wanted to suggest something that has worked well for me. I too suffer from knee injuries(breakdanced for 20yrs) so now with muay thai it is so important for me to protect my knees because I also have flat feet so it adds to the stress put on my knees and back. I stopped running!! I switched over to riding a road bike, which allows me to cycle in a way that not only keeps my knees working smoothly, but allows me to tailor my cardio workouts which is awesome. I usually ride 90+ miles a week 25-30 mile rides and I do sprints and hill climbing and everything in between. I also add deadlifting to this and between the two my cardio and leg strength go through the roof, my knees get much more stable and stronger and I don't get the impact and wear running can give you over time. I am only 155 lbs but I can deadlift 250-300lbs. but even with moderate or light deadlifts my muay thai training is so much stronger and balanced. there is a reason dead lifts are used by every single sport, they work!!! just a different angle worth looking into to help you reach your goal and save some wear and tear on your joints:)
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