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Asger

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Posts posted by Asger

  1. Hello everyone,

    on wednesday I will be giving a talk at the danish art and sports festival Go Extreme https://www.kunsthalaarhus.dk/en/Exhibitions/Go-Extreme where Kevin has kindly agreed to lend me pictures for the powerpoint presentation. The format is very interesting, I think: I will be providing the theory, and two danish muay thai fighters Frederik Fenger and Mikkel Haahr will be displaying the points physically throughout the presentation, concluding with a fight. The argument will be as follows:

    The classic golden age muay thai dichotomy of muay femeu and muay khao is well established within these circles: the muay femeu is the matador, the muay khao the toro. The muay khao fights with heart, brute force, intensity, relentlessness, violence and strength; the muay femeu fighter is elegant, intelligent, evasive, transcendent, unphased and manipulative. I will argue that the dichotomy of the dionysian and the apollonian as conceived in the work Birth of Tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_Tragedy is applicable and reflects the same dynamics, ideas and intuitions as our muay thai distinction. Following this, I will use Sherry Ortners classic Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture? http://radicalanthropologygroup.org/sites/default/files/pdf/class_text_049.pdf to further the dichotomy, concluding that these dichotomies as historically created reflect the same relation and opposition: male/muay femeu/apollonian/culture vs. female/muay khao/dionysian/nature. With this concessed, we run into an interesting paradox of masculinity: if hypermasculinity is conceived as the capacity for and willingness to use violence, masculinity cannot also be metaphysically defined as an identity that is opposed to (animalistic) violence. 

    From this standpoint, I will be arguing with Judith Butler that a metaphysical conception of masculinity as a moral or identity of masculinity is untenable, and that through the Heideggerian reading of the greek truth-concept aletheia https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heidegger/#ReaRelBeiTim, masculinity is an event of dominance, which does not have an intrinsic and transcendent identity or moral at its core, but is created as art from and in the body of the fighter. The reason muay thai is so interesting as a paradigm for the thinking of gender is that it reveals that masculinity, however, is not something radically constructivist or relativistic, seeing that the fight constitutively has a winner and a loser as its ontological foundation. This implies that masculinity is something that shows itself - or lets the truth of masculinity happen - through the art of muay thai.

     

    I will try to get it filmed and transcribed so that all of you who cannot attend will get to see it anyways, but I can't promise anything as of yet. Either way I'd love to hear what you guys think about the reasoning and elaborate in case any of you have any questions.

     

    Best, Asger

    • Like 1
    • Nak Muay 1
  2. 20 hours ago, LengLeng said:

    This is very beautifully put. And it captures all the risks of fighting on your mental health. I do believe though, at the same time, fighting can be healing and empowering. And it's about managing this double-edged sword that is the real challenge. 

    I can also see why Buddhism plays such a large role in muay thai, non-attachment and acceptance are important mental strategies to manage all this (and of course, the difficult life of growing up to be a fighter). 

    I'm not sure I agree about humans are not built for fighting. I think fighting has always been a part of humanity, although we might not be physiologically built for it. Also when we were hunters and gatherers. A means for survival. We just re-enact this now in an organised manner, while humanity has developed other weapons where our limbs are not our weapons (although keyboard warriors use their fingers a lot obviously 🙄😉). 

    I would never disagree with the statement that fighting can be healing and empowering, I believe it can be just as much antidote to as it can be amplifier of depressive tendencies. Your point about it being a double-edged sword seems to capture it all. Life is a fight, fighters are the artists of life par excellence, and so it follows that they will experience happiness in its fullest aspect just as much as they are at risk of depression. I do however believe that the hunt, although undoubtedly dangerous, is fundamentally different than fighting - most importantly the pack aspect, the asymmetry of hunter-prey (whereas fighting is hunter-hunter), the lack of crowd (I suppose you could argue that the crowd waits for food at home, but they are not immediate witnesses to either success or failure as in fighting) and the difference in preparation (the grueling grind of the fighter vs. the non-training of the hunter) towards the event. I'm sure we've always fought, but I blieve it was likely more a matter of manifestation of power (dominance) than application of killing efficiency, as you would see in a fight betweens animals over mating rights for example. I'm very convinced that the life of fighters is very different than the evolutionary ontology of human beings in a hunter-gather context.

    • Like 1
  3. I'm not very knowledgeable on the physiological side of things, but it seems to me that fighting as a way of life implicates physiological phenomenons with obvious correlations to depression; blows to the head, the extreme fluctuations of the sympathic nervous system, the reciprocity of potential overtraining and malnutrition, the inflammatory injuries etc. What I'm more certain about are the phenomenological aspects of fighting, that as a way of life lends itself to obvious intersections with depressive tendencies - the constant awareness of the upcoming fight, which may cost you your identity, worst case your very life, the constant confrontation with your weaknesses through sparring with better or bigger fighters, the highs of the victory and the lows of the loss, the sacrifice of social life and family time, the relentless grind and repetition in training. As a fighter all aspects of your life converges towards one identity, that of the fighter, and it is an identity that is always to-be-determined in the ring. You can never rest, you are never good enough, you are always fucking fighting. The restlessness of the fighter, the eternal fight within, the making of yourself and your life a fight - that not only means that you either win or lose, it means that you are a winner or a loser, that your life is a victory or it is a loss. And when you lose, which the fighter may do both in sparring, during roadwork or in the ring, how could that look like anything but depression? The human being is not only physiologically not built for fighting (it is built for hunting and warring), but phenomenologically I cannot see how life as a fighter can be anything but temporary, the building of a memory and identity that is the most beautiful but ultimately fleeting, and which leaves a human being broken and in need of healing after the fact.

  4. 33 minutes ago, LengLeng said:

    I don't know...ego issue because I got a lot of punches in and he wanted to put me in my place or I got it wrong and this is his way of teaching. Another trainer told me to not worry, he angry when he spars with him too but he way better so he uses his anger to trick him to make mistakes. When I train with that trainer and I get heated he interrupts the sparring and tells me to kick bag "because you cannot fight when angry you lose easy". From this experience I realize I really need to work on my mental game and not let my emotions weaken me. I'm usually not this sensitive bit the last months, well I feel it affects me. Which I guess is so great with martial arts, you cannot hide from your inner turmoil. It will show. 

    From what you're describing, you seem to have a hard time controlling how your feelings affect you - losing temper with your trainers to the point that they have to send you to the bag, escalating sparring, sobbing. No shame in crying, but if it's a continuous thing that you cannot control your temper when sparring, this may have been a very stark lesson on exactly that, and it's a fucking important one. If your trainers, who make a living training and sparring you, can't trust that they can do their jobs without you getting angry at them for your own incompetence and taking it out on them, I can see why they would act as he did. This doesn't mean that I condone it, but I think you might want to consider if this is the case and how to proceed from there. 

    But if your other trainer has mentioned his anger, maybe he's just a small man who enjoys beating others. Maybe it's a bit of both things. Only you can really be the judge of this.

    • Like 1
  5. 14 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    I let this slide by, but in sitting with me it kept tugging. I'm going to point out something that I think is important. You - I'm going to assume that you are male - are positing really a nearly ontological priority of your own theoretical home in the fighting ring, which would read as more real, more committed, than let's say, that of Sylvie, who has fought in the ring over 260 times. I'm going to assume as well that you have never been in the ring, or at least you have never been in the ring nearly as much as Sylvie, but you position Sylvie, who has been in the ring more than any westerner in history in Thailand, as categoricallly "halfway out the door" (Odyssean), apriori, when compared to you (or any other male) who very likely never have even put your foot IN the door. I don't mean to be rude about this pf course, and yes, maybe you have 100 fights under your belt, and you have put your foot in the ring quite a number of times, but...odds are, not. This really goes to the original subject of this post. That actual lived experiences of human beings are discounted and pre-framed, just along the justified lines of gender. Just as Thai Maechi, who devoted their lives to spiritual development, are put on a lower scale than even men who become monks, symbolically, for only a few weeks, female fighters who have actually put their lives (yes, lives, women have died through the ring) and their social capital on the line, under real violence (Sylvie has taken 211 stitches to the head), are discounted, under some strange logic of the biological capacity to carry a child. Rather than this capacity being something to their super-credit, instead it is to discount them, fighters categorically "half-way out the door". You duplicate the very contradiction which originated this post. I know you don't take this position strategically, but really, naturally. Which is part of the problem. That this division is seen as natural, instead of as constructed. This is problematic.

    You may think that I am pushing a technical point, but it is actually a concrete, real world point. Sylvie, who has several careers worth of fights and fought over 1,000 rounds in Thailand, cannot even touch the ring of Rajadanmern, for instance, because of this same logic. While there are western males of very little skill or commitment, even those who have fought their very first fight ever, at Rajadamnern stadium, because they, supposedly "have both feet in the door", by virtue of imaginary relations within their sexed identity.

    I thought it would be obvious that the odyssean foot was an analysis of the sociological aversion to female fighting and not an expression of my personal beliefs, especially considering my stated affinity for chon and the purity of the force collision of muay thai, which I thought I had clearly described. English is not my native language, so I apologize if I did not make this adequality explicit, but I figured that we were operating under a principle of charity in this discussion. I don't contend nor disagree with your contempt for the sexism of thai muay thai - I'm trying to analyze it. Not only did you mistakenly ascribe me a position I was merely describing as a sociological phenomenon, you went out of your way to discredit my theory on the basis of an ad hominem of pure speculation. I understand that you get sentimental about your wife, but your reply is fucking ridiculous.

    • Like 2
  6. 1 minute ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    You would be very surprised. When all is told Sylvie will be responsible, not only as a journalist, but as a fighter, bringing forth the embodiment of the principles of traditional Muay Khao fighting and it's aesthetic aims. She, in her fighting, her ability to beat larger and larger opponents in the clinch (when westerns habitually and historically have feasted on smaller Thais) has actually inspired a generation of fighting to explore Muay Khao fighting. Perhaps not for you, but we have seen a very definite change in fighting style choices, the acceptability of clinch fighting tactics, the efficacy of clinch nullifying size, as readable, through her fighting example. You cannot separate this out from her research and documentation, because her fighting is also part of the documentation. But I think you are missing a piece of the puzzle. It will become more clear over the next 10 years. When a 100 lb fighter is able to regularly beat the best 120 lb fighters in the world (a goal), through Muay Khao fighting, this will save, preserve and celebrate elements of traditional fighting that otherwise would just be lost.

    You obviously know much more about both Sylvie, the legends and the climate of the muay of Thailand, so I will not contest any of this. I sincerely hope you are right and that the legacy will survive in whatever form. 

    • Gamma 1
  7. 5 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    Perhaps, when talking about "fighting" as a broad category, but Muay Thai, in the classical sense is really at terrible risk, and very likely will just be subsumed by the western "beast mode" ideal. The Golden Age principles of the kinds of "eternal dynamics" you might seek, already are being rather thoroughly effaced, or at least made mute or dumb. The reason why female fighting may actually provide an important role in "saving" Muay Thai proper is exactly because "fighting", more broadly, will be coded as "male", and therefore will be the site of commercialized, "beast mode", hybrid aggro-kickboxing's colonization. It's in the margins that the tradition will be preserved, because the tradition is devalued, and those in the margins are devalued. Exactly in that it took a little 100 lb female fighter in the west, Sylvie, to seriously appreciate the legends of the past, whose lives were already being seriously forgotten, and work to document them. It is not a coincidence that it was a female fighter who did this, and not a male fighter.

    Very beautiful. I definitely agree. However this is not female fighting saving the art, but a female historian and journalist that also fights. The fighting of Sylvie did not reinvigorate the legends and the art, hers and yours colossal work on documentation did. This is an important distinction. 

  8. 45 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    The only point re: Achilles and the Nak Muay Ying, is this:

    Like Achilles female fighters do not find themselves alienated from Being, but rather only from their contingent moment in history. Like Achilles they must find a language, I would argue an aesthetic language, a fighting rhetoric, in which to express themselves, within the heroic code. As might anyone need to do so, creatively, when their voice cannot be heard.

    There are other interesting pathways, in regard to feminine and Achilles. The occult story of the time he spent disguised as a maiden before he went to war, for instance, the role the feminine might play in the warrior spirit, etc. But that's aside from this main point.

    Very interesting observations. I can't help but think that the fighting of muay thai is not historically contingent however; what I've been trying to get at with these thoughts is the display of the eternal becoming that is theatralized and performed in muay thai, which can't be reduced to a patriarchal-historical phenomenon. I see plenty of the feminine in muay thai; the ''eternal mother of genesis'' in the relentlessness of the muay khao for example, but I don't see female fighting as having any relevance pedestalized role in the future of muay thai. To the contrary, I suspect the domain of fighting will always see male fighting as the apex of the art. Both because more is at stake in the violence of the male physicality, and because of the odyssean ''foot halfway out the door'' of motherhood that is always latent to female fighters. 

  9. 7 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    I think there are some parallels. Achilles is the complete man, the archetypal man of war. Not only is he the most skilled, most unbeatable, but also is portrayed as coming from a time, a Golden Age of men and gods, in which the arts of speech, song and performative oath are high. Odysseus is the "modern man" who uses his intellect and cunning almost like a villain, in comparison. There is a sense of fallen-ness. At least that is the juxtaposition in the play Ajax. I'm not sure that it all matches up, but when we talk of the heroic, the charm of Achilles feels like the same kind of charm of the yodmuay of the Golden Age, in a very rough sense. Like, there are no fighters like this any longer. And I think for fighters like Dieselnoi, there is a generation before that, when Wichannoi and even perhaps Suk reigned, which feels like another kind of man who no longer exists.

    Ha. I don't know about that! Authority in such cases is never too good. But, it is cool that you have read into my past essays of life before Muay Thai when I took such a deep dive. I'm glad to have them connected. I find it super fascinating how deep the art and sport of Muay Thai is when seen through the philosophical lens.

    This was a very informing article about Old World masculinity in Thailand, and magic, which I really enjoyed. It helped shape my perspective on some of these things, including Thai concepts of magic, and a kind of old sense the West:

    383302309_KhunPhanOldCowboy.jpg.ae84ae01b75deeb3affd7c5dda312675.jpg

    Rural Male Leadership, Religion and the Environment in Thailand's Mid-south, 1920s-1960s

    by Craig Reynolds

    Rural_Male_Leadership_Religion_and_the_E.pdf 141.88 kB · 0 downloads

    1750701400_Annotation2020-04-19065428.jpg.7306a4ec436f032983a0be227b7e486a.jpg

    Ancient Greek Love Magic and studies such as these helped ground my sense of magic in the roots of Western thinking. I think that any perspective taken on Thai masculinity and Muay Thai that does not incorporate a perspective on magic is maybe incomplete. I was talking about this with Sylvie after my last post and I realize that my own view of Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu has maybe missed out on this dimension some. Muay Femeu is not just a negating power of deflection, or evasion, but ultimately is about - I think - asserting a positive kind of power, a magic (where maybe magic is read as a more powerful technology, a technos) over the technos of the other. I seem to recall that in the original poem lines that captured the fighting superiority of Naikhamtom before the Burmese, it was accredited to him the enchanting power of his Wai Khru/Ram Muay, which bedazzled his multiple opponents, not just his skill. You also get the coincidence of magic and masculinity in the story of Kuhn Pan, a story Sylvie has really fixated on, the great warrior/monk/mage/Don-Juan of the epic. I think you also get a sense of that magic in the nickname of Karuhat, Yodsian, which is really untranslatable. The Great Master, the High Guru, the Superstar, maybe even Midas Touch, not too far from some of the Hong Kong movie fighting masters who possessed magic powers and spiritual powers, in those wire-fu movies.

    This was a really good book in understanding the relationship between magic and masculinity, and spirituality in Thailand:

    925612025_TheLovelornGhostandMagicinThailand.jpg.896ef28c62a400dc53f52606175bc39c.jpg

    The Lovelorn Ghost and the Magical Monk: Practicing Buddhism in Modern Thailand

    by Justin McDonald

    It does a really good job of outlining the kind of syncretism that we mentioned above, the old animistic beliefs, and the overlay of State Buddhism. If I recall the author suggests that this is Thailand's capitalism and commercialism's way of digesting multiplicity in a postmodern world. But, the figure of Somdet Do, one of the great monks of the 20th century, embodies some of that magical/man masculinity.

     

    For me, this is why Aesthetics matter in Muay Thai, and they should matter. Aesthetics, like notions of magic, enable one to draw on the pre-rational affective forces of "Man" (in the humanity sense, put in the figure of a man). Spinoza's maxim: We do not even know all the things a body can do. The affective powers a fighter draws on, through aesthetics, go beyond the rational of exportable techniques. It's all the connective, inspired tissue that makes it a living art, a magic, and that magic is what transports and raises up the audience outside the ropes. The question is, starting back at the beginning, why cannot women also possess those powers and position of transformation and control? There is no doubt a great genealogy to this question's answer, but I sense it is not foreclosed. That it is possible. And maybe that the future of Muay Thai may depend on it.

     

     

    Thank you for the recommendations, those will be my priority when I finish Deleuze! I agree about the femeu, it is at least as much an establishing of a positive, an assertion of power and display of self affirmation. There's both the dynamic part: They aren't deer escaping wolves, they're the lion playing with its prey. But there's also the performative part: When Karuhat fights, he radiates; you aren't watching two fighters, you're watching Karuhat fight against this or that fighter. He's always the protagonist of the fight through his sheer presence. I don't know what to make of that philosophically yet, but I can't help but feel that is what happens. Very fascinating thoughts on the technos and magic of the femeu, I will definitely have to consider that. Maybe there's a correlation between the evaluative/interpretative character of the will to power, technos and the question of the clearing of enframing, which is not directly a negating phenomenon, but which does compromise the aesthetic and magic of the fighter dominated by the femeu. This may be far fetched, I'll have to think some more about it.

    Interesting points about Achilles and his other attributes than sheer force of fighting (Probably his rhetorics, music and charm are derivative of the same thing that makes him the greatest fighter.) There is also the question of his immanence against the transcendence of Odysseus. The man purely conditioned by his immanence is absolute against the man of many turns, who can go in any way, who always has his foot halfway out the door. Of course one the same beauty and strength is never channeled in the case of Odysseus, because the stakes are never as high as they are with Achilles. The totality of his being is determined at every moment, he is always active becoming (You write beautifully ''He was something like a direct radiation of Being''); Odysseus however responds to the world, he survives, he begs. He lives in the end, but at the cost of becoming the first man of negation, ressentiment and reaction. The self-affirmation of Achilles is what is at stake constantly, be it on the battlefield or in the tent of Agamemnon; he is uncompromising in his dominion. What it always at stake with Odysseus is his survival (his bare life, as Agamben would put it.) Albeit understandable, this compromises the aesthetics of human life which according to Nietzsche is the only justification for life and existence as such. There is no doubt in my mind that Dieselnoi is the reincarnation of Achilles, then.

    I'm sorry I cannot engage on the topic of female muay thai with you; I don't know enough about it to have any qualified opinion or thoughts on it. 

    • Respect 1
  10. 1 hour ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    This brings up a very interesting parallel. One of the characteristics of yodmuay, especially femeu yodmuay, is their charm. Karuhat and Chatchai complained that the superstars of today no longer have charm. What empowered Samart, perhaps more than anything else, was his charm.

    The-qualities-of-Monk-and-Nak-Leng-in-Nak-Muay.png.6ca05b9216586178066723999fb7e3c8.png

    This is a list Sylvie and I compiled from Peter Vail's article on the hypermasculinity of the Muay Thai fighter, borrowing from the image of the gangster and the monk. You can read about that here. I want to bring out that the "art" of femeu fighting isn't just a pretense, but it also has a kind of mysterious power that is like magic. You get this in Ancient Greek thought as well, where the artfulness of a person's speech contains a kind of magical control over you. Persuasion is magic. This is why seductive women are not to be trusted. Or someone who could make elaborate plans. Odysseus was "the man of many turns". On the nakleng side above you have "Ittiphon" which is just this kind of artfulness, the "aura" of someone, their power, and it was linked to their unkillability, their Ittirut. Klaew, Dieselnoi's Godfather manager was shot with endless machine gun fire with his magical protective amulet in his mouth, for just this reason. I would suggest that the aura of the femeu yodmuay contains this kind of magical sense of power. The reason why Samart can just dangle his arms and float around when Namphon is rushing at him, is not just because he is displaying self-control, in a Buddhistic sense, but also because he is displaying that kind of Ittiphon and Ittirut, his charm and invulnerability, which strongly partakes in that polytheistic/animistic tradition of beliefs. He is jai yen like a monk, but he is also magical like a monk (the great monks of Thailand in the early 20th century were known for their magical knowledge and powers). So you touch on something really interesting in the dichotomy. The artfulness of the femeu yodmuay is not just a kind of rarification of the Self, but the skill also creates a positive (effective) aura of magic, which draws on the older beliefs.

    You've helped me work towards the positive assertion of the Muay Femeu fighter, the assertion of power. But not physical power.

    This is incredibly interesting! I haven't paid much attention to magic ever, but it lends itself incredibly well as a description of what we're trying to get at, that je ne sais quoi of the greats. I fell over this performance which to me expresses this masterly display and expression of self that almost surpasses the human: 

    The beauty of her body, her eye contact, the voice, the lyrics and images, the moves, the sovereignty - it all comes together to just fucking blow you away. What is expressed and created here is made of the same stuff as that which is expressed and created in the Yodkhunphon - Namtaotong fight (my all time favourite - that fifth round elbow!) The modalities are very different, but the magic is the same, the ecstasy, the force and self-affirmation and exteriority. You can't not be seduced and taken, you can't help but affirm that power which overpowers you and still raises you. It is really an aura of magic. 

    I'm interested in your point about Odysseus, because I love the essay of yours that treats the immanence/transcendence dichotomy of Achilleus and Odysseus, and I'd think that Achilleus would be the hero that functions as the paradigm for the active forces that we are investigating, whereas Odysseus seems to me the reactionary of the two. What do you think?  

    PS: It is very much an honor to have helped you, considering you are my absolute authority on all things philosophical, poetic and artistic concerning muay thai. Your articles, photographs, texts and videos have been a massive factor in the development, aesthetic and philosophy of my muay. So thank you very much. 

    • Gamma 1
  11. 5 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    I would be wary of the opinions of the East from a 19th century European, who had his self-centric problems with race and stereotypes, to be sure. This does sound pretty reductionist to take his lead, but it certainly is a line of thought as well. Nietzsche probably knew very little of the lives of actual Buddhists, and all of it filtered through the prism of ideology. There is an ascent being performed in the Buddhistic ideals of self-mastery I would insist, which are reflected in the scoring asethetics of Thailand's Muay Thai. The artful matador is ascending over the bull, in one way or another. The bull of the Other, or the bull of oneself. The bigger debate seems to be about the bull. The bull is both blind instinct, in the cul-de-sac of its circuits and drives..."dumb", and also the progenitor of its own brilliant, un-guidable Becoming (...perhaps).

    This Self-Mastery, owned in the Buddhist ideal, is a potent path. I remember talking about Samart with Krongsak (a powerful, forward-fighting, Muay Maat fighter who drew with Dieselnoi). Krongsak nearly spat out disgust over the very accomplished femeu fighter Robert of JockyGym. All he does is run. He's not even a fighter. Its as if he was saying, he's not even a man. But, when he turned to Samart his eyes melted. For Thai fighters of the time nobody moved like Samart. Nobody existed in the space like Samart. He just shook his head in awe. (He also humorously said, when asked who would win between Somrak and Samar, "What promoter would book that fight? Who would pay a ticket to fall asleep!"). I'm just saying that if we are really going to get a handle on this dichotomy you can't reduce this incredible beauty of Samart, the femeu ascension, to just a "civilized slave morality". This is a performed transcendence that was very real in terms of violence in the ring. We have to account for the effect of Samart...or, you can replace Samart with someone who is even an more interesting aesthetic fighter, Karuhat.

    I realize that you are just free-wheeling in associations and ideas, which is, after all, where lots of good perspectives can come from.

    You misunderstand me. Reducing the beauty of muay femeu to slave morality is in no way what I am arguing, which should be clear from my previous ode to muay femeu above. I am speculating on the origins of the cultural glorification of muay femeu over muay khao, and am trying to localize that in the negating nihilism of buddhism and the taboo of the uninhibited (or even un-controlled) force of the muay khao. But yes, I am definitely free-wheeling at this point. 😁

  12.   

    4 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    This. Totally. What is so interesting is that for decades now, with the fight lost to history, Samart losing to Dieselnoi was but a blip in his career. But when the actual fight video surfaced you see Samart being basically destroyed by Dieselnoi, totally overwhelmed in a way that had never been recorded before. Samart's sheen of the undisturbed fighter completely fell off. Before that video surfaced it wasn't even questionable who the GOAT was, but then it became questionable. Yes, you see the size difference, but you also see the art in Dieselnoi. And you see that Samart performed much worse than, say, Chamuakpet did facing even greater size differences like Sangtiennoi. The entire "story" of femeu inherent superiority falls away a bit, like a myth, because honestly the only people who saw that fight in the stadium, actually saw what happened. The aftermath of that fight, one would think, would have catapulted Diesenoi into GOAT status, the Muay Khao becoming proved itself, it won the eternal battle. But instead Dieselnoi said "No one would choose to have my life". Samart went into further glories, then movie roles, singing performances. The princely becoming continued its ascent.

    One cannot also, in this dichotomy escape the real sense that the poor and rural lay on one side of the Becoming divide, and the educated, urban, cosmopolitan on the other. It feels as if a myth is at work. An eternal myth? Or a particular ideological one?

    I mean there's no doubt that Samart was fucking destroyed and in my mind no doubt about the superiority of Dieselnois self-assertion in the plurality of its meanings. And yes, you see the exact same thing in the Chamuakpet - Sangtiennoi fight (A former thai fighter of Sangtiennoi happens to be the Kru that introduced me to muay thai, actually). If you will allow me this almost autistic focus on the Deleuzean-Nietzschean framework to explore the movements of muay thai, maybe one could argue (which Nietzsche certainly did) that the buddhist Thai culture is essentially nihilistic and thus reactive, negating and thus slave moralistic. I have also learned from you and Sylvie that there are strong animistic and polytheistic forces at play in thai culture, that might signify the (now taboo) self-affirmative master morality which still seethes under the established buddhist framework and which is let out and appreciated in muay thai, but which must always be sublimated the femeu as strong representative of buddhist values. In this manner Samart remains the posterboy of the civilized slave morality of thai buddhism and Dieselnoi is the publically frowned upon - but undeniable - manifestation of the self-affirming dionysian force and becoming.

     

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    There is a very interesting gendered quality to Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu, in how fighters (and probably fans) think of it. Dieselnoi will joke and giggle, saying "Samart hits like a girl" (they are very, very good friends). I recall Samson Isaan, when he filmed with Sylvie with Karuhat present, would imitate a Muay Femeu fighter, dancing away like a girl, waving goodbye in an effeminate way. The "art" of Muay Femeu can contain strong feminine overtones when parodied. While Karuhat would then make fun of Samson, pretending that if they fought Samson would just keep stumbling and falling, tripping over Karuhat's deftness, like a dumb man. There is an amazingly gendered quality to this. But, going back to the original point of the post, women, female fighters, do not have access to this "feminine" (or maybe androgynous) ascension, by virtue of their sex.

    Yes man, and the muay femeu/muay khao gender dichotomy is very obvious in this way, but under the surface I believe there is a reversal of this. The anonymous feminine, the raw, pure, sexual, natural dionysian force (the dionysian is illustrated as the great mother, the matriarchal in The Birth of Tragedy) against the ''cultural'', the identity and individualized, the named, male of the femeu, the civilized caesura in the fabric of nature. In this layer of the dichotomy, which now reveals itself to be a dipolarity, the roles are changed and the muay khao is the feminine and muay femeu becomes the masculine. Put somewhat poetically; the muay femeu is the volcano, but the muay khao is the sea. And so the feminine and the masculine energies or forces intersect and cross and divert in the specific muay of the fighters in a zone of indistinction. Maybe that is also why the muay khao are shunned; what we at first glance consider masculine in the muay khao fighter might actually be the feminine.

     

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    That's a really interesting thought. Maybe? I mean, they definitely appreciate the comeback, when it happens and succeeds, but there is a certain stench of desperation in even the attempt. A sense of shame, I think. Part of this though is that, for instance, in America and other mythologies of the Self, social mobility is highly encouraged and celebrated. The individual is cut free from the fabric of his/her conditions. Whereas in Thailand and the karma of community and rebirth, there is no such thing as the "self made man". Social mobility is quite rare on the whole. Facing a 5th round where you find yourself well behind in a fight, is a condition you have made for yourself, and I think there is a kind of embrace of that that creates a dignity, at times.

    Yes man! Thank you! Exactly what I was trying to get at. It is a dignified accept of the superiority of the opposing affirmative force without compromising the original self-affirmation that made one enter the ring at all. Deleuze would probably say of the losing fighter in the fifth round that he isn't giving up (which the not-knowing would see), but instead joyously affirms the difference of the forces. Maybe, haha. 

  13. 8 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    What is interesting is that the classic pairing Muay Khao becoming and Muay Femeu becoming are in tension with each other, but also rest on a hierarchy of ascension. What is one to make of this really ideological and even politicized hierarchy? Is the Muay Khao fighter necessarily "lessor", and if so, on what anchored basis?

    And also, what does this ideological and politicized hierarchy represent? Why does it resonate with us so profoundly? Because muay khao and muay femeu speak not only of thai culture, but something universally human. Which two forces are these paradigmatic fighters allegories of? Some part of me can't help but think that there's deep gender connotations to the dynamic; the ecstasies of the primordial masculine and feminine, their zones of indistinction and overlapping, the life of them. The arena of forces within a closed unity, the collision of becoming and becoming of collision. 

    And is this ascension of the victorious not always a disappointment and an aporia in some way? In muay thai we don't care for the comeback, because comebacks imply a kind of personalized attachment (a sentimentality) to the identities of the fighters, rather than an appreciation of their clash. Rather a dignified accept of the dominion than a desperate attempt to shortcircuit the fabric of being. The comeback is essentially an act of ressentiment and thus reactive I think. 

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  14. Fantastic thoughts Kevin, thank you! I am in no way up to par in either knowledge of golden age muay nor thai culture as you, and so I will try to respond somewhat nondirectly to some of your points through this deleuze-nietzschean framework. I am still reading and so don't claim to master this work at all yet. I have thought a lot about the active/reactive dichotomy and its relation to the muay khao/muay femeu dichotomy these past few days, however.

    One of the main premises I believe is that one can't draw a parallel between muay khao/active and muay femeu/reactive. Since the dionysian ontology of becoming operates with a multitude of forces, we have a world of constant confrontation. Deleuze defines force as that which can (La force est ce qui peut) and thus has an element of potentiality to it (I must investigate the ontology of Agamben with regards to this at some point).

    All force that interacts is in a relation of attempted dominating/dominated. The internal element of force is the will to power, which is what allows the determination of the clash, the confrontation; ''Thus it is always through the will to power that one force prevails over others and dominates or commands them.'' The becoming of the muay of the golden age is always both a clash of forces (chon) and an evaluation/interpretation (victory or dominance of the participating forces) of this clash. 

    The last point I want to establish before going further stems from these two quotes: ‘’It is clear that there is affirmation in every action and negation in every reaction. But, on the other hand, action and reaction are more like means, means or instruments of the will to power which affirms and denies, just as reactive forces are instruments of nihilism.’’ These thoughts establishes the modalities of force as subordinated to becoming itself; ‘’Affirmation and negation extend beyond action and reaction because they are the immediate qualities of becoming itself. Affirmation is not action but the power of becoming active, becoming active personified. Negation is not simple reaction but a becoming reactive.’’

    With this established, I believe we have somewhat of a framework to consider what is the ontology of the (dominating, victorious) muay femeu fighter. At first glance they appear as the angels of reaction, the negators of the bull of the muay khao and the establishing of order, civility and as you write, intelligence. They are the human answer to the violence of nature, the sheriffs of muay thai. But I’m not sure that is what is at the core of the victorious muay femeu. I believe the muay femeu to be just as much affirmation and becoming, just as much force and will, as the muay khao, albeit in another aesthetic and narrative.

    The muay khao challenges the muay femeu (‘’agresses’’ a relation of force) who in turns engages (affirms his own becoming in the face of an aggression seeking to dominate this) towards the clash. Although chronologically secondary in the chain of events preceding the clash, the muay femeu is not reduced to reactive becoming, since a clash of forces necessarily presupposes an answer to an aggression within the ontology of force-pluralism that Deleuze operates with. What is important in this view is not the chronology of the events, but the modality or quality of the force-expression (active or reactive).

    I believe this reciprocal affirmation of the fighting parts is what plays out aesthetically and narratively throughout the entirety of the fight. And so the muay femeu, albeit playing out the part of the accepting the challenge (which manifests in the aesthetics of the technical, controlling and elegant torero), is not in a state of becoming reactive but always in a state of becoming active. Maybe what makes the femeu so esteemed in Thailand is that he not only dominates and affirms his own force through the mastery of his muay, but even affirms and dominates the force of the opponent through the manipulation, control and nullification of the attempted domination. In this manner he would be the conductor of the clash of forces, immanent within this very clash. He does not overwhelm his opponent, he absorbs him - and so increases the quantity of forces in his becoming for him to affirm. 

    One must imagine the muay femeu happy. His work is not the negating of the opponent, but the affirmation of his own becoming in the face of an attempted domination of his own. Where the affirmation of Dieselnoi is a tsunami of becoming, the affirmation of the femeu is laughter. The muay femeu not only fights to express the superiority of his becoming, he turns the domination of violence into music, and so dances and laughs.

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  15. 19 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

     really don't mind the turn to metaphysics here! And I like how you picture "beast mode" as a negation, while traditional Muay Thai as an affirmation. There is something genuinely Dionysian I think about Thailand's traditional celebration of the art (and I suppose something of Apollo of course). It is that ascending spark, through the hierarchies of Being, or at least it feels like that. It is no accident that a Muay Thai fight begins with a dance.

    Agreed! I always pictured Dieselnoi as the archangel of Dionysus; this massive embodiment of pure, raw, ecstatic force of overwhelming (becoming!) that upon his inability to express the fabric of his being ceases to want to exist. No one rivals the active force of Dieselnoi; he is just undeniable in a way that has epistemological implications, as the dionysian does in The Birth of Tragedy. His body is the articulation of that truth that is active force and of which science and consciousness knows nothing: ''What happens is that science follows the path of consciousness, relying entirely on other reactice forces; the organism is always seen from its petty side, from the side of its reactions... The real problem is the discovery of active forces without which the reactions themselves would not be forces.''

    This discovery (discovery is always epistemological) is possible within a dionysian framework, and the body of the fighting Dieselnoi would be the domain of that undertaking: ''The body's active forces make it a self and define the self as superior and astonishing.'' Dieselnoi is the agent of the kind of nature that Nietzsche conceives as dionysian in BoT, this active force. Dieselnoi in the ecstasy of his fighting lets us see the truth of the active force; this bodily self is expression of pure force that is just irrefutable and which is all Dionysus. 

    I always thought a lot about something Sylvie has told of Dieselnoi, which is that he despised weakness of his opponents in the clinch, as if that weakness was something despicable in itself. To me this is also a declaration of his dionysian nature. The ''beast mode muay'' would welcome this as a break, a breather, a hole in the armor and thus an end to the burden of the fight and the reciprocal negation. But Dieselnoi hates this end to the chon, he hates the result; he wants the fight in its non-finality, in its becoming - the potentiality of the fight, the never ending waves of affirming life and active force. That is truly dionysian to me. 

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  16. On 4/13/2020 at 3:01 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    Thailand has a Fight Culture which celebrates fighting, or "chon" (clashing) in a pure sense. For this reason men fighting, children fighting, women fighting, chicken fighting, and even beetle fighting all participate in the same essential thing, the chon of spirit. You can check out Sylvie's articles on Bettle Fighting in the North to see aspects of this:

    ...

    These transcendent views are really part of the way in which Thailand can be very freeing for western female fighters. There is a real sense in which female fighters are just part of the chon of a universal spirit of battle, and that as long as the spirit is exhibited, it is celebrated.

    ...

    A nexus point in a possible comparison between Thai Maechi and Thai Nakmuay Ying is the way in which there is an operative transcendent, gender-less apex of celebration, something which unites all participants, but also, a hierarchy of laddered social striation which can lead both also unreadable, or at least very hard to read. 

    These reflections and the concept of Chon are at the core of what I love about muay thai. I believe it links to some of the ontology of Nietzsche that Deleuze lays out in Nietzsche and Philosophy. It is what separates the buddhist-traditional muay thai and the vulgar western beastmode muay thai, I believe.

    The beastmode fighter commits himself to a burden that is negation of both men within violence, and the winner only stands out as the ''least losing'' of the two. It is a scene of pure survival that reduces men to dying animals. What is at the core of this is negation, which is the opposite of affirmation. 

    The nak muay of tradition could be said to embody the tragic of Deleuze; ''a logic of multiple affirmation and therefore a logic of pure affirmation and a corresponding ethic of joy. The tragic is not founded on a relation of life and the negative but on the essential relation of joy and multiplicity, of the positivity and multiplicity, of affirmation and multiplicity... Tragic - frank, dynamic, gaiety.'' What is at stakes in muay thai is the competing of two positives for the truth of their self-affirmation, and the result is determined by the excessive, overwhelming, truer, more beautiful and stronger nature of the bigger positive of the two.

    This does not mean that the ''loser'' is negated at all, however, for even the act of commiting oneself to the chon is indestructibly self-affirmative; 'In its relation with the other the force which makes itself obeyed does not deny the other or that which it is not, it affirms its own difference and enjoys this deifference'. Here violence, the most extreme of human phenomenon, suspends itself as the negating totality of the beastmode arena, wherein humans can at most survive, and is forced into an ontology of medium for the showcase of self-affirmation in the fighter. This muay is not the destruction of man, it is never animalistic survival. It is a competition of dance, joy and song where the negating force of violence reveals it's true poverty in the face of the joy of man. That is why muay thai is the most beautiful art of all, because it expresses the unity of aesthetics and ethics that is at the core of mans ontology, and this unity reveals itself as beauty and joy.

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  17. 21 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    Very, very much so. The Homeric depictions of warfare, characterizations of figures and personae fit very closely with what I intuit here. And the Ancient Greek concept of Thymos (which you sound like you would be familiar with, but for others this is a pretty decent breakdown of) I think presents a very productive mapping point between Thai traditional Self and maybe traditional/archaic western Self. I think for the Thai (ideally) and for the Homeric Self/ves, you have an affective self, but also the privileging of external "face" or appearance as Real. Not sure if you know the work of Giambattista Vico, but his notions of pictorial language, or the realism of figuration, at least for me, helps decode Thai sensibility toward performance, and Ruup. In Thailand's Muay Thai you have the regulation of the passions through affective balancing (Buddhistic) and symbolic presentation, instead of turning all those passions over to the rule of the Cartesian Subject.

    Very interesting. I'm very intrigued by thymos, and have studied the first third of Sloterdijks Rage and Time quite diligently. I am unfamiliar with Giambattista Vicos work, as I've only heard his name in passing, but it seems very interesting. What I'm trying to weave together, I suppose, is something of a thinking of masculinity-affirmative ethics of the self. Muay thai aesthetics and ethics seem to be the nexus that for me unites thinkers such as Butler, Homer, Agamben (specifically his thoughts about the self in Use of Bodies), Nietzsche and Sloterdijk in what I'm trying to get at. And you have very much been a catalyst for this thinking through all of your work, so I would like to express deep gratitude for that. 

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  18. 3 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    It think this is something I put forward, and I think I kind of disagree a little with Sylvie's take here. I definitely put forward that we are talking about centers of the Self, which may not be Buddhistic in concept (ie, you would not teach "this is where the Self is"). I am describing where people in a culture locate the sense of Self, and this is reflected in the way a combat sport is scored, I argue. When you slap someone in the face, you are in a way "striking their Self". The face represents the Self in many symbolic ways, varying between cultures. A slap in the face with feel like it is insulting or injuring the Self differently in Japan than it will in Saudi Arabia than in California (I suspect), also depending on who is watching. And in the 18th century, perhaps much more so. It's not wrong to say that the Self is in some regards located in or on the Face. It's where we get phrases like "losing face" or "gaining face". There are other locations of the Self. The Heart for instance is widely regarded as a Self center point. Punches to the heart don't really seem to mean that much, but spikes driving through the heart, for vampires for instance, are seen as penetrating the core "Self" of the monster or person. And of course pangs in the heart, "heartaches" are some of the firmest centers of Self we talk about. I assume that this also varies between cultures. We have other centers of Self like the brain, or the head. Cutting off someone's head is in a way severing their Self from the rest (the face is up there too). But all this is to say is that in the arrays of Self centers, it strikes me that the Thais retain a more traditional location of Self in the gut. In English we have things like "gut feeling" and "you've got a lot of guts!", but traditionally this center of the Self in the gut, the spleen, was much stronger. In Ancient Greece this was a very strong location of Self (not the only one, but a core are vital one). My arguments about Thai Muay Thai scoring are that knees and kicks to the torso score higher because they culturally are read as hitting the Self, and injuring or weakening it. And that this is a traditional way of looking at the body. And that Thai audiences literally, affectively, experience such hits much more powerfully. They can "feel" the blows there in a way probably westerners don't. In the West it seems that these senses of Selves have migrated higher. We've lost the gut center more or less (a good gut punch and double over will still mean something severe, but on a daily basis we don't deposit our Self there much), and experience our Selves much higher. In the heart sometimes, but almost always in the head. We in the west lead with our head. And, it corresponds, it's why blows to the head and face (hey, we have a whole app that rules the world called Facebook), are scored so highly. We empathetically connect to fighters, and as audience experience blows or even touches to the head with more impact. I think we've lost some of the body mapping that allows Thais to experience lower torso strikes as much more substantive. 

    At least that's my thinking on it.

    Very interesting, thank you for your reply Kevin. This corresponds to what I was hoping to ''get from you.'' 😁 This is very interesting to me, since if we accept that thais have a much more prominent notion of the self as located within the torso, I believe it opens up some possible thoughts I was hoping to get at.

    One of these would seem to me to be the fact that this is tied much more to an affective than a discursive or cognitive notion of self, compared to the west. If the head and face parallel the abstract notions of identity and thoughts, then the torso would parallel the affective and emotional. In this sense the poorly articulated description of the human being from Plato (with exception of the stoics I suppose) until at least the 20th century and the rise of phenomenology would find a much more adequate articulation - in muay thai. This specifically refers to the buddhist conception of the ''passions'' or affects as intrinsically constitutive for the human being, and the way this is highlighted through the scoring of body strikes. 

    I believe that the homeric warrior was quite much closer to the richer phenomenology of the nak muay compared to the later cartesian subject (which it seems to me we still very much are) of the west, and I do believe that this change in in-der-welt-sein is one of the most important ways in which muay thai has enriched my life. This only comes from the study of the thai aesthetic in muay thai and the attempt of integration into my own muay.  

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  19. Im certain that's the point I was referring to. Thank you for clearing that up for me Sylvie! I was hoping to draw some parallels between the homeric thymos & self and this idea, but it seems that would be inaccurate. I guess there's something to be said for your linguistic points about the heart as locus of emotions that is comparable to the homeric self though. I'll have to think about that. 

  20. 5 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    There is a tale that as Dionysus walked from India to the West his adornments gradually fell from his body, until he stood as Apollo, in Greece.

    That...is super cool and more or less amazing. It's a beautifully written response, and observation too. Very happy to have read it. It sounds like you are on an amazing journey, well worth everything you have bet on it.

    Thank you so much Kevin. The praise of my writing is such a massive compliment coming from you, and the encouragement is much cherished as well. I am on an amazing journey, hard as it may be.

    1 hour ago, Kero Tide said:

    This made me tear up, no exaggeration. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. 

    Kero Tide thank you so much. That is incredibly touching to hear.  

     

    Having given it some more thought today, it was almost as if this strength, energy or power I was demanding of myself to channel did not need demanding to manifest; it was something in me that I have discovered I can access - circumventing my ego. In so far as the ego functions as a way of asserting control, and which I have relied on for so long, you cannot imagine the joy of experiencing this force within me that did not need forcing, but seemed to be an expression of the very stuff I am made of. Like pulling off a mask that expresses what I value the most to discover the same face underneath.

    What an amazing sport, art, ethic - life - muay thai is.

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  21. Thank you so much for this essay. It seems to culminate in an almost fateful way with an event that took place in my life yesterday.

    I have been doing mental training for the past 5 years, following an experience in my life which required that I undertook that journey. This weekend I was at my wits end, feeling like I kept running into the same wall, not seeing any way out, not seeing any progress and no path towards progress either. Feeling very down, I went to training yesterday. I was dehydrated and hadn’t eaten properly, and the gym was steaming hot, so I decided on just coasting through this one training. Warm up went alright, got to pads where I was working with a young fighter who’s incredibly gifted, but due to age and size difference, wasn’t getting me too hard. First round goes okay, I’m still not feeling great, but I got through relying on routine. I figure the day will be alright at this point. And then I’m called over to do a round with my kru.

    My kru is an old thai gentleman who grew up fighting at Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj (as far as I can gather from the other fighters). He’s quite reserved and distant, in his late 40’s, and he’s an incredible teacher. He moves so beautifully. He can be a mean son of a bitch though, and he was in a monday mood yesterday. He was very hard on me, not so much focusing on technique as burning me out; of course, not just in a physical way, but rather in a mental way - the physical exertion just acting as a medium, an instrument to unravel and reveal. This wasn’t just pad work, this was feeling for my heart. So, I gave all I had, physically trying to manifest what I believe I am made of, not backing off and channeling aggression and heart even in the face of such superiority - technical, experiential and physical. When the clock finally gave me pause, I fell to my knees to try and breathe, grateful I’d gotten through it as well as I had, feeling proud, thanking him.

    I was getting ready to return to my initial young pad holder, when my kru ordered me towards one of the gyms best fighters. This guy is a great pad holder and he is intense as fuck. He’s an incredibly sweet and nice guy, but he’s almost dionysian in his energy when he walks into that gym. To the point where you can barely get through to him while the training lasts. He could tell how battered I was, but quickly made it clear in a nice way that I was not to quit under any circumstance. Not just quit as in leaving the pads, which I wouldn’t do, but quit with the heart while remaining on the pads. Having tapped into the will, which you wrote about, in the previous round, I figured I would try that again, and sure enough I got through it. He embraced me and told me I’d done a great job, which felt amazing coming from him. I was almost puking at this point, so I just got through the rest of the training as best as I could.

    Only today did it dawn on me that will hadn’t gotten me through that second round wasn’t the will power that got me through the first round, and which has also gotten me through this first year of training. Something else appeared in me – or through me – that I havn’t experienced before. Something like tapping ‘’into forces and streams that lie outside of that frame’’ of the ego, the persona, the I.

    Make no mistake, I in no way dare to compare myself to Sylvie or the monumental path that she is treading, but I do believe I caught a glimpse of what you are trying to communicate in the essay - only having understood it, connected to it - through reading these words.

    In some way this new unknown that I will now need to familiarize myself with (in so far as that is even possible?) has carried over to my mental training, seeming to sort of unknit some of these knots that have bound me for a long time. Today has felt different. I have felt different. This event is something that has been underway for a long time – this shore hopefully – and I thank you deeply for writing the essay to give me the words to see myself in, words that show me that I am not alone, words to hope through. Thank you so much to both of you for all that you do.

    Best,

    Asger

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