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Posts posted by Asger

  1. On 12/17/2021 at 9:28 AM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    This Cartesian instrumentalism I think has vast overlay on our experiences, not only conditioning how the art and skill is learned/practiced, but also how it is experienced, what it means to us, and how we relate to ourselves through it. If our bodies are only instruments that obey or fail us this is a very different world to live in, and likely holds a very different set of capacities or ceiling. But the concept of instrumentation also runs out into the very way that Muay Thai is disseminated (or even appropriated) outside of Thailand. It involves our mechanization of its parts (moves, strikes, techniques) the broken way one might Frankenstein parts together (for instance in MMA), and also the way it goes out across the Internet in "breakdowns", which literally "break" "down" the living experiences, often rationalizing it into constituent components and "reasons". The instrumentation of our own bodies, experiencing our bodies as tools or mechanized actions holds its parallel in the commercialization of the art, and a pedagogy of mechanization as well. It all seems to flow from a Cartesian World, one ultimately balanced on the knife-edge of a mythologization of "freedom of choice".

    Agreed, and with this freedom of choice also an individualization and a deritualization and decommunization of muay thai. If the fighter is a cartesian island from whose mind the body obeys, there is no participation of the audience, no participation of the community of trainers, training partners and gym. It becomes pure efficiency and no soul.

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  2. 2 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    I don't really want to spin into a Nietzsche on Spinoza thread, he had a love-hate thing, but this by Nietzsche is notorious:

    “I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza: that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by “instinct.” Not only is his overtendency like mine—namely to make all knowledge the most powerful affect—but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world-order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and make my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness. Strange! Incidentally, I am not at all as well as I had hoped. Exceptional weather here too! Eternal change of atmospheric conditions!—that will yet drive me out of Europe! I must have clear skies for months, else I get nowhere. Already six severe attacks of two or three days each!! — With affectionate love, Your friend”

    Friedrich Nietzsche, postcard to Franz Overbeck in Sils-Maria dated July 30, 1881.


    Thanks for the very kind words, and reading my thoughts closely.

    Oh man what a letter! Do you know any works on the relationship between the two? Or just any good introductions to Spinoza in general? I thought about going by Deleuze, would that be recommendable?


    Regarding your essay, I feel great affinity with your understanding of muay thai as language. When I was 8, I moved from Denmark to France and learned french in school. Now, I just picked up greek and latin at college this semester, and I was overjoyed reading your essay because it occurred to me that the process of learning muay thai a few years ago is actually very reminiscent of learning language now; I had preconceptions and goals going into both muay thai and especially greek now, and just after a few months (as with muay thai) the relationship to the techne has changed drastically. Both times it has been an evolution from a cartesian standing-outside with a very clear cut instrumental goal in mind (muay thai: learn to fight, greek: read the classics) to a spinozist being-inside that is more characterised by the joy of movement within and the joy of acquiring competence. That joy is the freedom of movement within the domain I think. 


    Also ''The reason why they don't understand "relax" is that they are all Cartesians.'' is just a great fucking line lmao.

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  3. Kevin, you master. This is an amazing essay. I need to study Spinoza at some point, so many thoughts and intuitions that occur in Nietzsche and afterwards already anticipated here. I love how your very practice of philosophy is spinozist; sometimes a poem, sometimes a few sentences on twitter, sometimes these great essays. Like you dance around between philosophy and muay thai and let your words flow from this ''mind-dancing.''

    • Nak Muay 1
  4. On 12/7/2021 at 5:24 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:


    I think a really interesting place to start, and the metaphysically strongest foothold is your original appeal to Apollo as distinct, and the sense that (his/the) figure involves the movement from the inchoate (which in at least many societies is chthonic with female associations, though not categorically so). In at least the traditional aesthetics of Golden Age Muay Thai there is a powerful emphasis on distinction, readability, visibility, and even in contemporary Muay Thai you find the criticism of a fighter as muaymua which means indistinct, clouded. A very aggressive, flailing or windmilling fighter is fighting in an unreadable way. Muaymua. You find this in the importance of ruup, which you mentioned, which is ultimately taking the body as a sign, displaying posture, physical control, dignity, etc. A fighter who is off-balance, or who is bent over, or generally lacks readability has lost their ruup. This runs parallel to Buddhistic ideals of self-control. A fighter who cannot control their emotions also can't control their body-signification. This plays into your appeals to Heidegger's truth-event, art as visibility - though I personally feel that Heidegger got alethea somewhat wrong - which helps us understand that in a Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu (metaphysical) battle, both fighters are seeking to make themselves visible & readable. Distinct. I do think it is fair to say that Muay Femeu is further along the distinction spectrum, at least it does not risk lack of clarity quite as much in its style, as it often pays more attention to rhythm and timing (musical aspects of distinction and readability). And the burden falls upon the Muay Khao fighter to show distinction in his/her pressure fighting. Muay Khao legends are very insistent on this with Sylvie when they have instructed her. Do not rush. Find the rhythm, the beat. Make your strikes (which often are at close range) readable. Also, in this battle, the warfare that the Muay Khao fighter brings is to break the illusions of the Muay Femeu fighter's clarity and signified composure. You see this, for instance, in the two big fights that Samart lost (Dieselnoi and Wangchannoi). Once the spell is broken there is very little left. The Muay Khao fighter seeks to break ruup.

    But, I think it's a very complex thing to attempt to graft historical male and female expressions onto the inchoate>distinctness metaphysical spectrum, and arrive some beyond-history place. Yes, males (Patriarchy) have been placed at the top of most symbolic hierarchies, but Thailand itself in the 1920s-1950s adopted Western modes of gender distinction, specifically to appear more civilized, less deserving of colonization, more in step with "modernity". Siam was known to commonly not have strong visual distinctions between the genders. Westerners found this inchoate. You can see how historically contingent the application of distinction and gender may be. Also involved in Thailand is the basic tension between cosmopolitan (royal) distinction along those adopted and developed lines, and rural, provincial distinction which may have run along very different tastes and aesthetics. A male body of Bangkok princely signification may vie semiotically with the male body of Buriram signification. It's no easy thing to try and isolate some historical, yet transcendent "female" in this mixed history. In fact it seems like it is probably wrong to do so, or at least highly projective of one's own cultural history and presumptions. 

    The "ontology" that you appeal to in traditional Muay Thai, which is to say the ontology of win and loss, itself is conditioned and constructed historically. It relies on culturally developed aesthetics. Even if we grant that these aesthetics developed to reward distinctness over incoherence, the significations of that distinctness, what counts for distinctness, is to a large degree historically contingent. Thais say standing up straight is clear ruup, in Caipoeira it's the crouch. Also complexifying the distinctness measure, even or especially a great Muay Femeu fighter fights with deception and incoherence as a tool. Obscurity isn't only a weakness, it cloaks sudden readability. In some regard both Muay Khao and Muay Femeu are aesthetically mixing incoherence and clarity for effectiveness under that culturally expressive rule set.

    Oh and this is just fucking awesome, such a strong thought that to me seems to present some of the strokes I really wanted to capture but did not manage to articulate this well.

    • Nak Muay 1
  5. Thank you very much for your thorough and dedicated thoughts on this Kevin, it is honestly an honor to have you put so much work into your response. I have taken to heart many of your points, and while I still stand by my points through a charitable reading, some of the blindspots of the presentation have become clearer aswell as the work that I need to put into resolving some of those issues if I get to work further on this. Especially the points on the cultural and historical thai connotations, which you are obviously much more privy to than I, as well as the greek Apollo and Dionysus other than just as conceived by Nietzsche. It really has been great getting all your considerations, and I'm thrilled that you, despite the theoretical issues we discussed, think that this was something nice.

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  6. 4 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    Okay. But you are the one who included "female" on one half of the bracket. It was your schema. You may be saying that this dichotomy cannot hold, but even at the level of description it doesn't seem to describe the cultural facts on the ground, to start with. But maybe I'm not following you. I just don't see why a starting place would be Muay Khao = female, unless one is just trying to set up a dichotomy that will then be deconstructed. Are we starting with something like: Muay Khao is rural, rural is of the land, the land is often seen as female in cultures? Or, why isn't Samart "Dionysian"? He is ornate. He is gender fluid (in some ways), He is theatrical. I guess I'm just having trouble with the starting point, which is a male vs female division. But I will admit I might not be following it clearly.

    I do really enjoy and even love the broad strokes of your thought. And the presentation with all the performance/example is really beautiful stuff. So good. I do love the way you have brought diverse ideas and theories together. It's very good.

    I guess I may need to put some more thought into how I conceive of muay khao = female, because I'm having a hard time explaining it differently than I am, and it does not seem to be entirely convincing, haha. Yes, it is trying to set up a dichotomy for deconstruction, but it is also trying to conceive of dynamics of gender rather than cultural conceptions of gender. If the format of the presentation were different, I would have liked to establish the dichotomies of Ortner and Nietzsche first. I think that would have made for a more convincing case of muay khao being parallel to female, because it does seem to be more animalistic, and that would be considered closer to ''the female'' in the framework of Nietzsche and Ortner. Mainly it hinges on an understanding of gender as a continuum that constitutes it's pole through the immanent tension itself, rather than through substances at either end.

    I suppose that the way I see it outside of this attempt at establishing dichotomies for deconstruction is that muay khao and muay femeu both contend for the right to masculine identity, and both are at risk of being condemned as feminine; muay femeu for being too ornate and ''not having guts'', for not being aggressive and for not being strong enough; muay khao for looking like a dumb beast (many patriarchal societies consider and have considered women dumb, unfit for learning, see Aristotle), for not being able to play by the rules of man so to speak, for not being part of the order.


    I agree with you that the strongest reading of muay thai is through your span of man-animality, but I wanted to try my hand at doing something similar with gender, because it seems to me (and to you) that there are strong currents of gender identities and dynamics in muay thai. As I mention in the presentation, I don't subscribe to an entirely social constructivist concept of gender, and so it seems to me that muay thai has something to tell us about gender that is more than how it is conceived at x time in y place.

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  7. Kevin I think we are saying the same thing - my point was that if you were to rationalize gender metaphysically, you would have to put muay femeu and muay khao on those poles, and what goes to show through muay thai and the Butler/Heidegger reading is that it is impossible to make that dichotomy as some kind of gendersubstance. What I'm attempting is a critique of patriarchal gender dichotomies through it's own reasoning.

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  8. 1 hour ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

    Thanks for posting this, and all the work you put into it, and the English subs. So good, full of thought and the presentation is awesome. My very first response would be that I don't really follow why "Muay Khao" would iconically, or symbollicaly represent the female/feminine in your dichotomy (other than grouping it together with Western equations of Nature with Mother). The reason I raise this question is that in many respects Muay Khao is regarded as more "masculine" or at least manly, in the rugged/tough stereotype. It's the cowboy or rural toughman. On the other hand Muay Femeu stereotypes bend toward the feminine. As Muay Khao Dieselnoi has joked of his femeu friend Samart, "he hits like a girl" (if I recall). The femeu fighter in Thailand, when pushed to the extreme, can be seen as ornate (stylized, almost feminized) and lacking in substance, with many qualities that have been attributed to Dionysus. Not a "real man", if we are really speaking in broad terms, merely performing. Whereas many of the great Muay Khao fighters of Thailand have been some of the most masculine, he-man, hard-hitting/kneeing figures of the sport.

    Maybe I'm not reading your basic dichotomy clearly, but that would be my first question. It feels like you are grafting across cultures and contexts in way that may not fit Thai context?

    Thank you very much for your kind words, it honestly means a lot coming from you.

    I am definitely grafting across cultures; I tried to group muay khao with the feminine/dionysian/nature through a few points:

    1) The connection between cultured and apollonian is obvious; also the connection between the apollonian and muay femeu. This lends credence to the jump from apollonian = muay femeu = culture towards male through Sherry Ortner. If we allow these ''equals'', then the feminine = dionysian = nature, which does not seem far fetched to me (as stated through the quotes from BoT in the presentation, more could be provided), needs to account for the inclusion of muay khao. Honestly, looking back at the presentation now, I probably didn't provide enough argument for this, so let me argue here:

    2) The fundamental aesthetics, ethos and narrative of muay is the apollonian aspect of muay thai and what makes muay thai muay thai and not mma without grappling; it is at the core of muay thai. But so is the raw violence - muay thai is not just ceremonial movements, it must be efficient and applicable. The violence that is inherent to muay thai is its dionysian aspect. In the fight, these two opposing but complementary drives are at stake, and obviously it is a dipolarity more than a dichotomy, but on one end is the muay femeu, incarnating the apollonian, and on the other, muay khao, incarnating the dionysian.

    3) I was actually trying to formulate your point about Dieselnoi laughing at Samart; any display of masculinity is always also a stylizing of femininity (as they are so conceived culturally and historically!), which is why Dieselnoi can laugh at Samart for hitting like a girl. But imagine if Dieselnoi had lost to Samart, if he had been humiliated in the way muay femeu humiliates muay khao as a dumb beast with no grace nor brains, would he also have added to insult that Samart hits like a girl? I don't think so, because that would have been even more humiliated. 

    4) My point was that the stylizing of masculinity, which exists on a continuum of the dichotomies, is always also a stylizing of the feminine, and the muay thai fight is where two styles of masculinity can compete; is the better man the civilised man or the beastman? So muay thai is fundamentally a ritualized fight between the man of man and the animality of man, and this dichotomy (as shown by Sherry Ortner) has historically been genderized. 


    I hope this sheds some light on why I place muay khao where I do.  

    • The Greatest 1
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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.

  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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. 

  16. 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. 

  17. 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:


    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


    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:


    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
  18. 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.


    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
  19. 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. 😁


    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.



    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.



    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. 

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