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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

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  1. Sometimes the podcasts go into these concepts. Not the Library though, it's all documentation. I write about these some on my subforum, for instance this article:
  2. #deleuze #muaythai #warfare #philosophy #chess #sociology #thailand TLTR: discussing the unique historical and cultural influences on Thailand's Muay Thai as a traditional martial art and sport. Highlighting the deep-rooted history of Muay Thai, its ties to state warfare, influences from various cultures, including its unwritten provincial history, a comparison between Muay Thai, the games of Chess and Go is drawn as to the different philosophies and strategies inherent in each form of gamed combat. Additionally, it delves into the concept of warfare, power dynamics, spiritual aspects, and societal hierarchies reflected in the practices of Muay Thai as they relate to the Deleuze and Guattari's theories of nomadology, smooth space and war. Overall, a contrast between centralized, advance-forward, territory capture and more fluid edge-control, labor-capture warfare provides insight into what has shaped Thailand's Muay Thai into a distinct and formidable fighting art. (if it's TLTR, you get this summation) This is an on-going draft that will be edited over time As internationalizing pressures push Muay Thai toward Western-friendly viewership, its worth considering the fundamental ways in which Thai and Western perceptions of conflict differ, and the manor in which this difference is preserved and expressed as Thai, in Thailand's traditional Muay Thai, a sport which achieved its acme-form in it's Golden Age (1980-1994). It's the contention of this article that there are governing, different and possibly quite opposed Martial Logics that structure many Western combat sport perceptions and the art of Thailand's Muay Thai, and these can be seen in the two graphics above, showing the games of Chess and Go. Now combat sports are quite diverse, even in the West, and each has its own history and audience. Each is shaped by its rules. The discussion here is more about the dominant image of thought as might be traced in Western and Southeast Asian regions of the world, despite rich variance, and even cross-influences. Thailand's Muay Thai, despite its violence, more maybe even because of it, is noted for its defensive excellence. It historically has been a close-fought sport that unlike some Western ring aesthetics, actually gravitates toward the ropes and corners, which are notoriously more difficult topographic ground. Because fighting is draw to this edge and corner emphasis, it requires even higher levels of defensive prowess to thrive at these edges. While the dominant image of Western ring fighting is much more clash-conscious, force meeting force in the middle of the ring (like two knight champions meeting at the center of a battlefield), in Thailand's Muay Thai it is the dextrousness along the ropes, the escapability, which wins the highest esteem. This piece offers explanations for what that is so and points to other studies of Muay Thai that underpin this. Largely though, it likely relates to the way in which violence and aggression is thought of in a traditionally Buddhist society, and Thailand's long history of a warfare of encirclement and capture. Examples of Thailand's Muay Thai Most Praised Edge Fighting Thailand is not alone in esteeming edge mastery. Western Boxing has very famous rope work, much of which constitutes the highest forms of fighting of its greatest fighters. But it does have a differing dominant image of thought than in the West, one which elevates rope and corner work into its own purposeful artform. Some of this can be read as a direct result of nearly opposite generalized scoring criteria. In the West, being very broad about it, forward aggression is a positive signature. All things being equal the forward fighter is seen as imposing themselves on their opponent. In Thailand's Muay Thai it is the opposite. This fundamental criteria reversal leads to a lot of Western viewers being confused over how fights are scored. Just being very broad about it, when a Thai fighter takes the lead in a fight - something that they know because audience gambling odds have changed in their favor - they begin to retreat. The retreating, defensive fighter is seen as protecting their lead. Their defense becomes their path to victory, which is why historically Thai fighters became the best defensive fighters in the world. Defense takes the spotlight in almost any lead, all other things being equal. A fighter going to the ropes in the broad Western conception is a fighter who has been forced there. A fighter who goes to the ropes in Muay Thai is in the dominant picture of thought signalling that they are in the lead. It's an upside down world for the Westerner and leads to a lot of miscomprehension. It's best to continually return to the note that these are broad, image-of-thought pictures of aggression and ring space. Judging a fight is much more complex than this. Over the years there are pendulum swings in how aggressive or active the retreating fighter has to be, and this is something that has differed even between the National Stadia of the sport, each with their own scoring aesthetics. Broadly though, the way that the edges and corners are semiotically coded, what they signify, is areas of control where fights are won and lost. And, because fighters in the lead retreat and defend, a lot of fights head to the edges, especially in the traditional, high-scoring later rounds. If you want to see the highest levels of this edge-excellence, I recommend this fight between two legends of the sport. Somrak in red, Boonlai in blue. Noteworthy in this fight is that Somrak at this time was one of the best Western Boxers all of Thailand. In a few years he would go onto win Gold at the 1996 Olympics in Mayweather's division. In this fight he hardly throws a punch until the fight is well in hand. It's footwork, interception, movement and countering, a great deal of it at the edge. At the edge because he is winning, and he is signalling his superiority. watch Boonlai vs Somrak here Another classic example is this study of Samart Payakaroon, widely thought to be the GOAT of Muay Thai, fighting the forward knee-fighter Namphon Nongkipahayuth (below). Watch the entire fight, but also look at the study of how Samart, almost always on the ropes, command and controls Namphon's knee and clinch attack through interception and movement. In a manner different than much of Western symbology, Samart is signaling his dominance through rope work, interception and evasion. watch this study of Samart's defense along the ropes in his Golden Age rematch vs Namphon In a general way, just at the level of style, watch this highlight compilation of the switching footwork of possibly the most artful fighter of Thailand's Golden Age, the great Karuhat Sor Supawan (below). You will see his deft switching in both attack and defense at the ropes featured here, but when in the lead and he performs his best magic, his back is to the rope. Back to the rope signals dominance. watch Muay Thai Scholar's study of the legend Karuhat's switching footwork Dipping into Thai History and the Games of Go and Chess Thailand's Muay Thai is a fighting art and combat sport of extraordinary uniqueness. Fashioned as it has been from at least 100+ years of continuous provincial fighting deep in its countryside custom - something that may stretch back multiple centuries - fortified and shaped by Royal and State warfare, itself composed of worldwide mercenary influences, from Japanese & Javanese merchant pirates to Persian & Portuguese regimented manpower, it stands as both a cosmopolitan fighting art, and still one which has been richly woven together as wholly Buddhistic Siamese and then Thai continuity. Channeled and informed by British Boxing's colonialist, pressuring example in its modernizing period (1920-1950s), what remains most valuable in Muay Thai are the ways it is like no other fighting art. It's a purity of difference. Both lab-tested in 100,000s of full-contact ring fights multiplied by generations, and expressive of wool-dyed Buddhistic principles, this is a synergy of provincial and the Capital fight knowledge, both martial and sport, like no other in the world. They just fight differently...and have arguably been the best ring fighters in the world. The at-top diagram juxtaposing two combat inspired board games, Chess and the game of Go, aims to draw out some of the deeper philosophical and conceptual differences between Thailand's Southeast Asian fighting art and many of Western conceptions of combat, especially at the dominant image of thought level. Chess is a game of some disputed origin approximately 1,500 years ago. It was not a Western game. It's largely believed to have come from India by way of Persia. The Western Chess vocabulary is etymologically Persian, and the Persian version of the game is closest to the one adopted in Europe. Interestingly enough, the birth of Chess and its dissemination throughout the world across tradewinds corresponds roughly to the period, 3rd-6th century AD, during which Southeast Asia underwent Indianization. Indian culture became powerfully adopted throughout mainland Southeast Asia, and importantly in the history of Siam significantly informed Khmer Empire (today's Cambodia) royalty warfare and statecraft, much of which would be adopted by Siamese kings to the West. Royal, court and State culture was Indianized, bearing qualities (language, social forms, knowledges) which were not shared by the common populace. The Indianization of Southeast Asia has been culturally compared to the Roman Empire's Romanization in of Europe. And to this day Thai Royalty, its Brahmin customs and practices, the common worship of Hindu gods within a Buddhist context reflects this 1,500 years of influence of Indian culture. This is to say, when comparing Thailand's Muay Thai to the West via the game of Chess, we are speaking of a game that was of Indian and Persian origin, something quite closely braided within Siamese history. For instance, King Narai of Ayutthaya in 17th century had 200 Persian warriors as his personal guard. The influence of India and Persia is profound. What I want you to see is that Muay Thai's historical past is likely quite imbricated. There are layers upon layers of historical segmentation. Within this history the Royal form in particular had a distinctly Indianized history, and Thailand's Muay Thai has had a robust Royal history surrounding the raising of armies, large scale wars at times with armies (perhaps fancifully) rumored to approach 1,000,000 men. This Statecraft heritage is likely something we can see reflected in the game of Chess itself, the game of Kings, castles and queens. And, the history that we have of Thailand's Muay Thai is almost entirely composed of this Royal-State story, as royal record and foreign visitors to Siam's kingdoms comprises our written history. The possible story of Muay Thai that involves provincial, rural, village, regional martial and sport practices has vanished seemingly just as much as houses of wood or bamboo will not be preserved. Yet, in the nature of Southeast Asian and Siamese fighting arts we very well may see the martial contrastive martial logic of the Siamese people, especially when compared to the visions of the West. Chess, Go, Striated and Smooth Spaces In this we turn to the 4,000 year old Chinese and then Japanese game of Go (the game of surrounding). wikipedia: Japanese word igo (囲碁; いご), which derives from earlier wigo (ゐご), in turn from Middle Chinese ɦʉi gi (圍棋, Mandarin: wéiqí, lit. 'encirclement board game' or 'board game of surrounding'). I have written about the historical origins of Thailand's Muay Thai that particularly bring out its logic of surrounding and capture, a martial logic that is quite embodied in the game of Go (The Historical Foundations of Thailand's Retreating Style, or How They Became the Best Defensive Fighters In the World). In short, historians of Southeast Asia point out that unlike in Europe where land was scarce (and therefore the anchor of wealth), and manpower plentiful, conquering land and killing occupying enemies formed a basic martial logic in warfare. In Southeast Asia where fecund land was everywhere, but population sparse (especially in Siam which had been one of the least populated regions of Southasia), warfare was focused on capture and enslavement. Enemy land capture was at a minimum, and even in the case of the famed and ruinous sackings of the Siamese Capital of Ayutthaya by the Burmese, the captured territory was not held. These are just very different spatial and aim-oriented logics, in fact opposite logics. I'm using the game of Go, which expresses a fluid rationality of edge control and reversible enemy capture (captured stones add to your wealth, and don't only subtract from one's enemy), opposed to the more centric, land-control logic of Chess. A Chess of Indian-Persian statecraft which resonated with European political and warfare realities. This juxtaposition between games is not mine, though I'm probably the first to use it to illuminate combat sport perceptions in today's ring fighting. It comes from the sociologically oriented philosophers Deleuze and Guattari in their book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. A notoriously difficult work due to its heavy reliance on invented vocabularies, and its opaque, keyed-in references to specific philosophical traditions, psychoanalysis and their theoretical problems, it still provides rich analysis of buried trends in Western social organization, and a metaphysics for thinking about the history of the world as a whole. What Deleuze and Guattari want to do in contrasting Go with Chess is to think about the different ways that Space is organized and traversed by political powers and regimes of meaning. They propose that Chess is a striated (divided, segmented, hierarchical) Space, And Go more of a smooth space. This blogged description is a good summary of the two kinds of Space: The much older game of Go is a strategy of surround and capture, wherein you turn an enemy's wealth - by our analogy labor-power - into your own. This is mirrored in Siamese warfare as reported in 1688 by an Iranian vistor, "...the struggle is wholly confined to trickery and deception. They have no intention of killing each other or of inflicting any great slaughter because if a general gained a real conquest, he would be shedding his own blood so to speak" (context, Ibrahim), full quote here. We have at surface a strong homology between foreign reports and the structural nature of the game of Go. More can be understood of my position and the role of evasion, surround-and-capture principles in this extended thread here. Diving down into the more philosophical ramifications I provide the extended Deleuze & Guattari quotation comparing the game of Chess vs the game of Go: Rather, he is like a pure and immeasurable multiplicity, the pack, an irruption of the ephemeral and the power of metamorphosis. He unties the bond just as he betrays the pact. He brings a furor to bear against sovereignty, a celerity against gravity, secrecy against the public, a power (puissance) against sovereignty, a machine against the apparatus. He bears witness to another kind of justice, one of incomprehensible cruelty at times, but at others of unequaled pity as well (because he unties bonds.. .). He bears witness, above all, to other relations with women, with animals, because he sees all things in relations of becoming, rather than implementing binary distributions between "states": a veritable becoming-animal of the warrior, a becoming-woman, which lies outside. Let us take a limited example and compare the war machine and the State apparatus in the context of the theory of games. Let us take chess and Go, from the standpoint of the game pieces, the relations between the pieces and the space involved. Chess is a game of State, or of the court: the emperor of China played it. Chess pieces are coded; they have an internal nature and intrinsic properties from which their movements, situations, and confrontations derive. They have qualities; a knight remains a knight, a pawn a pawn, a bishop a bishop. Each is like a subject of the statement endowed with a relative power, and these relative powers combine in a subject of enunciation, that is, the chess player or the game's form of interiority. Go pieces, in contrast, are pellets, disks, simple arithmetic units, and have only an anonymous, collective, or third-person function: Thus the relations are very different in the two cases. Within their milieu of interiority, chess pieces entertain biunivocal relations with one another, and with the adversary's pieces: their functioning is structural. On the other hand, a Go piece has only a milieu of exteriority, or extrinsic relations with nebulas or constellations, according to which it fulfills functions of insertion or situation, such as bordering, encircling, shattering. All by itself, a Go piece can destroy an entire constellation synchronically; a chess piece cannot (or can do so diachronically only). Chess is indeed a war, but an institutionalized, regulated, coded war, with a front, a rear, battles. But what is proper to Go is war without battle lines, with neither confrontation nor retreat, without battles even: pure strategy, whereas chess is a semiology. Finally, the space is not at all the same: in chess, it is a question of arranging a closed space for oneself, thus of going from one point to another, of occupying the maximum number of squares with the minimum number of pieces. In Go, it is a question of arraying oneself in an open space, of holding space, of maintaining the possibility of springing up at any point: the movement is not from one point to another, but becomes perpetual, without aim or destination, with out departure or arrival. The "smooth" space of Go, as against the "striated" space of chess. The nomos of Go against the State of chess, nomos against polis. The difference is that chess codes and decodes space, whereas Go proceeds altogether differently, territorializing or deterritorializing it (make the outside a territory in space; consolidate that territory by the construction of a second, adjacent territory; deterritorialize the enemy by shattering his territory from within; deterritorialize oneself by renouncing, by going elsewhere . ..). Another justice, another movement, another space-time. Deleuze & Guattari, "1227: TREATISE ON NOMADOLOGY—THE WAR MACHINE", A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia Becoming and A Warfare of Capture What Deleuze and Guattari are invoking is a conception of warfare which is much more fully potentiated. Not locked into rigid hierarchies and roles of figures of power, it is a much more metaphysical battle that reflects aspects of what I have argued is the spiritual foundation of Thailand's Muay Thai, an animism of powers within the history of the culture that predates the arrival of Buddhism (Toward a Theory of the Spirituality of Thailand's Muay Thai). This logic of an animism of powers contains an essential aspect of captured power, the incorporated power of a captured enemy, founded on what historians of Southeast Asia have called "Soul Stuff", roughly equivalent of Hindu shakti (strength). This can be manifested in captured slave labor, or perhaps even in the prehistoric rites of cannibalism through which one consumed the soul stuff of an enemy. You can find a logic of Soul Stuff here, this graphic below helps represent the animism of contest. A primary source on soul stuff and a fusion of military and spiritual prowess can be found with historian O.W. Walters here. Thus, within the cultural origins of Siamese culture, even that which pre-dates the Indianization of the region, we have essential aspects of a smooth, tactical space in a Deleuze & Guattari sense, which potentially maps quite well into the game of Go, especially as it is contrasted to Chess. Further in concordance with Deleuze & Guattari's philosophical concept of liberty is the way in which Thailand's Muay Thai can be understood as revolutionary in their terms. Deleuze & Guattari write of becoming-animal, becoming-child, becoming-woman, deterritorializing flights inimitable to human freedom. Thailand's Muay Thai (& broader Thai agonism) de-privileges these categories, along a continuous spectrum of thymotic struggle, which runs thru the social hierarchies of low to high, sewing them together. One could say a smooth thymotic space of trajectories. Thailand known for its (ethically criticized) child fighting, women have fought for 100+ yrs, and beetle fighting embodies much of the Muay Thai gambled form. In many important ways Thailand's Muay Thai avoids the stacked arboreal structure of Western Man (& its contrastive Others), favoring a continuity agonistic spectrum within its (Indianized) hierarchies. It has strongly weighted traditional hierarchies, but within this a thymotic line-of-becoming that runs between divinity and animality. see Beetle Fighting, Muay Thai and the Health of the Culture of Thailand - The Ecology of Fighting more on the division of divinity and animality by wicha here: Muay Thai Seen as a Rite: Sacrifice, Combat Sports, Loser as Sacred Victim Knowing-as-doing, the wicha of technical knowledge of how to do, runs between the axes of divinity and animality in a way that supports a mutuality of any figure's becoming, from the insect up to the heightened champion fighter, in a line of flight shared by others. Most Deleuzian becoming-animal, -child, -woman examples come from the arts (sometimes the bedroom), but instead in Thai, gambled agonism we have the becoming of actual animals, children, women & the projective affects of an equally agonistic audience undergoing its own becoming-as. When I say revolutionary, I say "Thailand's Muay Thai has something to teach the world about the nature of violence and its meaning." Learning From Chess in How to See Thailand's Muay Thai Keep in mind, this isn't an direct one-for-one comparison of the contemporary game of Chess (and Chess Theory) and the ring sport of Muay Thai. It compares the dominant image of thought in the conceptual trend. Some have pointed out that my gross picture of Chess leaves out its post-1920s modern Chess Theory development, which often eschews central forward advancement. What is important in the Chess example isn't how Chess was played in 1960s, say, but rather that Chess over the sweep of its history allows us to see how it expressed the martial logic from which it came, ie, how some battles were fought in the field, with advancing lines, and a central capture of territory focus. Chess I would argue contains a martial logic fingerprint in its organizational structure, just as the real life political powers of Kings, Queens, knights and bishops made their impact on its rules & formation, the increased power of the Queen on the board said to be a fine example of this (see: A Queen in Any Other Language). Even in the Hypermodernism of Chess one might say that the center still holds importance, as there are just other ways of controlling or managing it. Hypermodernism for instance may have reflected the increased use of cannon & then WW1 artillery. Between the two games of Chess and Go are differing Martial Logics. It doesn't mean that there is zero fighting for the center in Muay Thai (or in Southeast Asian warfare...siege warfare is prominent in Ayutthaya history for instance, though with influence from the Portuguese, etc), or that there is zero edge or flank control in Western European warfare or Chess (flank maneuvers are numerous in European warfare). The contrast is really meant to exposed how we perceive conflict spatially, and that these are things we've culturally inherited. You see these inherited concepts, for instance the centrality of territory capture in common Western scoring criteria like "ring control". Centralized conflict is part of our past and informs how we judge fighting styles, just as edge conflict is part of Southeast Asia's past. And importantly this also informs our ideas of violence, with a European tendency toward "kill" (to control land, ie the center) and a SEA tendency toward "capture"(to control labor, ie the edge).
  3. He Returned To The Mongkol A bit of historical context, Somphong who lost vs Samarn above would return to the Muay Thai ring in 1948 to face the feared "Giant Ghost" Suk (grandfather to Sagat), a former imprisoned murderer, who attacked and knocked down Somphong so violently that his corner threw in towel, and it was reported that Suk was boo'd by the crowd for how brutal he was. Suk was a figure of terror in the Muay Thai scene in his day. Historians have pointed out that he was in direct contrast to the more gentlemanly matinee idol starts of Muay Thai and boxing of the 1930-1940s (images of masculine charm and handsomeness persisted through the Golden Age), and was in part promoted by the Fascist regime to move away from reflected composed Royalty, and Royal political power. His transgressive, violent image was a nakleng symbolic of a politics of The People ("Das Volk") as the Phibun dictatorship represented them (it had been aligned philosophically and militarily with Hitler & Japan in WW2). Somphong was nicknamed "atomic fist" (it seems), after the American power that ended the war with Japan. Suk Prasarthinpimai was about 36 years old here, said to have fought into his 40 or even 50s. from this Facebook Post here "ยักษ์ผีโขมด ดวลโหด ซ้ายปรมาณู" วันนี้เมื่อ 76ปีก่อน... วันที่ 16 พ.ค.2491(1948) ศึกชิงยอดมวยไทย ณ สนามกีฬากีฑาสถานแห่งชาติ กรุงเทพมหานคร .."ยักษ์ผีโขมด" สุข ปราสาทหินพิมาย ตำนานยอดมวยไทยผู้ยิ่งใหญ่จากโคราช โชว์โหดถล่มแหลกไล่ถลุง เอาชนะน็อคยก3 "ซ้ายปรมาณู" สมพงษ์ เวชสิทธิ์ นักชกกำปั้นหนักจากเพชรบุรี ดีกรีอดีตแชมป์มวยสากลรุ่นเวลเตอร์เวทและมิดเดิลเวทของประเทศสิงคโปร์ ผู้กลับมาสวมแองเกิลชกมวยไทยอีกครั้ง ...โดยก่อนเกมส์การชกใครๆก็มองว่าสุขจะสู้พลังกำปั้นซ้ายอันหนักหน่วงรุนแรง และความเจนจัดบนสังเวียนของ สมพงษ์ เวชสิทธิ์ ไม่ได้ แต่พอเอาเข้าจริงปรากฎว่า สุข ถล่ม สมพงษ์ อย่างเหี้ยมเกรียม เอาเป็นเอาตาย ไม่มีคำว่าปราณี จนพี่เลี้ยงของสมพงษ์ต้องโยนผ้ายอมแพ้ในยกที่3 ...สุขถึงกับโดนแฟนมวยโห่ หาว่าชกโหดร้ายทารุณเกินไป คิดฆ่าเพื่อนร่วมอาชีพ (ดราม่าเลยว่างั้น) ทำให้ไม่ค่อยมีใครอยากขึ้นชกกับสุข และสุขจึงหาคู่ชกที่เหมาะสมยากมากยิ่งขึ้น ..สุข เผยว่าที่ตนต้องชกแบบนั้นเพราะว่ากลัว ซ้ายปรมาณูของสมพงษ์เหมือนกัน จึงต้องการรีบเผด็จศึกเร็ว ไม่อยากให้ยืดเยื้อ อนึ่งการชกครั้งนี้.. "สุข ปราสาทหินพิมาย" ได้เงินรางวัล 30,00บาท นับว่ามากที่สุดเป็นประวัติการณ์ ในสมัยนั้น พักยก24 : ระบบใหม่ เล่นง่าย ราคาสนาม ออกตัวได้ มีครบทุกความมันส์ (poor) Google Trans: "Giant Ghost, Brutal Duel, Left Atom" Today 76 years ago... Date: 16 May 1948 (1948) Muay Thai Champion At the National Athletic Stadium Bangkok .."Yak Phi Khom" happy at Prasat Hin Phimai The great Muay Thai legend from Korat. Brutal show of destruction and destruction. Defeated by knockout in round 3 "Left Atomic" Sompong Wechasit, a heavy puncher from Phetchaburi. Defeated by knockout in round 3 "Left Atomic" Sompong Wechasit, a heavy puncher from Phetchaburi. แพ้น็อกยกที่ 3 “อะตอมซ้าย” สมปอง เวชสิทธิ์ นักชกหนักจากเพชรบุรี Defeated by knockout in round 3 "Left Atomic" Sompong Wechasit, a hard-fisted fighter from Phetchaburi. แพ้น็อกยกที่ 3 “อะตอมซ้าย” สมปอง เวชสิทธิ์ นักชกหมัดเด็ดจากเพชรบุรี Former welterweight and middleweight boxing champion of Singapore. Who returns to wear the mongkol in Muay Thai again. ...Before the fight game, everyone thought that Suk would fight with the power of his heavy left fist. and Sompong Wechasit's expertise in the ring is not But when it came to reality, it turned out that Suk brutally attacked Sompong. Seriously There is no word of kindness. Until Sompong's mentor had to throw in the towel and surrender in the third round. ...Suk even got booed by boxing fans He said that the punch was too cruel and brutal. Thinking about killing a professional colleague (Drama, that's all) causing not many people to want to fight with Suk. And Suk found it even more difficult to find a suitable fight partner. ..Suk revealed that he had to fight like that because he was afraid. Somphong's atomic left is the same. therefore wanted to quickly put an end to the war I don't want it to drag on. Incidentally, this fight.. "Suk Prasat Hin Phimai" Receive a prize of 30,000 baht It was considered the highest in history at that time. Rest round 24: New system, easy to play, field prices, easy to start, has all the fun.
  4. The above is a rough sketch of the triune circulations that engendered Thailand's rural Muay Thai, under the description of Peter Vail's dissertation "Violence & Control: Social and Cultural Dimensions in Thai Boxing" (1998). His dissertation captures Muay Thai just after its peak in the Golden Age (1980-1994), and focuses on the region around Khorat. what follows is just going to be some broadbrush patterning drawn from the work, and my other readings on Siamese/Thai history and that of Southeast Asia. One of the things that Peter Vail is really good at is bringing together Thailand's Muay Thai and Buddhism, especially in the production of (ideal) masculinity. In this post you can read about that nexus: Thai Masculinity: Positioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng. The sketch above brings out the larger, more materialist aspects of the relationship between Buddhism and Muay Thai, the way in which Thai wats (temples) operate within the production of merit (positive spiritual karma), in parallel to how Thai kaimuay (camps) and festival fights (often on temple grounds) operate to produce earned income, through a gambling (chance-status) marketplace of fighting. These two economies flow both merit and income into the (here very simplified) subsistence economy of rice farming. Thai farming labor does not really make money, nor particularly symbolic merit, and its sons become novice monks or nak muay, just to name two options, each of which circulate in the community. Merit, social status & income flow from these into the family. And following Vail, the kaimuay-festival-fight machine produces a culturally ideal masculinity, just as the wat-machine produces spiritual capital (as well as its own idealized masculinity). Each of them supplement to the middle circulation. You can see more economic details and some graphs of the relationship between local fighting and rural subsistence, in this post: There is another really interesting aspect that comes to the fore when you drawn back and see these three circulations side by side. Historically Siamese kingdoms drew their power largely through seasonal slave raiding warfare. Whole rural, outlying communities were captured and relocated to nearby lands where they could work as farmers and also serve in the military. There was a double sided dimension to their capture and labor that then persists, transformed, in these 3 circulations. It is as if the rural economies of Muay Thai in the 20th century expressed the much older divisions of slave and then indentured service of Siam's past. Rural farmers no longer worked for the kingdom, but rather worked to pay back loans (in patronage relationships which operated like a safety net against unsure crops), and sons (as nak muay) not only served in the national military, but also produced a warrior hypermasculinity in the art form and local fighting custom of Muay Thai. What was slavery (or a strongly indentured/corvee hierarchy) developed into a community of rural farming (with little hope for social advancement) and the art of Muay Thai festival fighting, which provided income in supplement to the farming way of life. When Slavery was abolished in Siam, by the Slavery Act R.S. 124 (1905), the Military Conscription Act came along with it, binding the newly freed young men to military service. In 1902, three years prior, religious reforms were passed against non-Thammayut Buddhism mahanikai practices – (often including magical practices). Siam sought to standardize Buddhism, but it was also working to shift political power away from regional wats and religious leaders. The Siamese wat likely carried its own largely unwritten history of Muay Thai heritage, a keeper and trainer of the technical art of Muay Thai (Boran), along side the arts of magical combat. (The history of the famed early 20th century policeman Khun Phantharakratchadet and his training at Wat Khao Aor is a very good case study). This was a potentiated martial force. Undermining the martial powers inherent in wat training, placing young men nationally under military conscription, and secularizing Muay Thai (including the formalization of Muay Boran schools and training, and its teaching in civic schools), moved trained man-power away from regional wats and the community. You can read a great account of this struggle between a central government and local religious power in "Of Buddhism and Militarism in Northern Thailand: Solving the Puzzle of the Saint Khruubaa Srivichai" (2014). For some time, after the Military Conscription Act, the main method of its legal avoidance was to become a monk. Siamese regional Buddhism and National military conscription stood at tension, as political and perhaps even to some degree martial man-powers. Several reforms worked to keep men from evading conscription via less-than-committed monkhood (for instance the institution the testing of the literacy of monks). This is only to say that the long history of Siamese Buddhism in the community, organized around the wat and the labor of village sons as novice monks, including the pedagogy of Muay Thai (Boran) lay in tension with the formation of a centralized, newly modernize Nation. When we see the circulation of sons' labor and merit in the wat, and the parallel festival fighting often under the auspices of the local wat, this is a deep rooted, historical connection. Muay Thai and the wat go together, and have gone together for perhaps much more than a century. These 3 circulations put the two in context with the 3rd of rural farming. above, the sacred cave of Wat Khao Aor near Phattalung in the South, where acolytes could undergo rites to make themselves magically invulnerable, my photograph The last provisional note I'd like to make is that in these 3 circulations you find a very ancient production. O. W. Walters, a preeminent historian of Southeast Asia takes pains to draw a picture of mainland kingdom leadership which saw the ideal masculine chief as possessing what he calls "soul stuff". This soul stuff is an animistic vital relationship to power that expresses itself spiritually and martially. A King or chief is chief not because of bloodline, he argues, but because of his spiritual and martial prowess, the union of these two dimensions of power. It is a mistake in perception to take Thailand's Muay Thai practices in isolation. In that it makes sense as a meaningful production, a production of various surpluses (not just monetary, but also cultural surpluses), both strands, Buddhism and Muay Thai, need to be seen in the braid, I would argue. As ancient chiefs were once regarded as martially and spiritually formidable, rural Muay Thai circulations have also been braided in the wider sociological sense, in the production of merit and masculinity. You can see Walters' notes on Soul Stuff and Martial/Spiritual prowess here:
  5. The Library is just really unusual content. There aren't really any demos or how tos. They are more like hour long physical dialogues with great legends of the sport. But, some sessions do have specific bagwork sections where a lot can be learned. Legends teach how they did bagwork, and how they trained techniques on the bags. Here is a list of sessions with bagwork in them, but you would have to watch the whole session. Colored sessions are some of the best overall sessions. Arjan Surat 1 - Old School Master Metprik Silachai - Old School Muay Maat Lowkick Pressure Yodwicha Por Boonsit 3 - Spearing the Middle, Fighting With Rhythm Wangchannoi Palangchai 1 - Deadly Step Counter Fighting Arjan Surat 2 - His Old School Tough & Defensive Style Langsuan Panyutapum - Monster Muay Khao Training Samson Isaan 1 - The Art of Dern Fighting Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn 2 - Muay Khao Craft Boraphet Pinsinchai 1 - Muay Khao Mastery Yodwicha Por Boonsit 2 - Clinch Techniques & Defense Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn 1 - The King of Knees Wangchannoi Sor Palangchai 3 - Advancing Counterfighting Matee Jedeepitak - The Keys To Femeu Timing & Distance Kaisuwit "Kru Pern" - Muay Maat Centrifugal Power Eagle Den Junlaphan 2 - Boxing Within Muay Thai Arjan Yai Muangsupan - Golden Age Forms & Dynamics Jampatong Na Nonthachai - The Master of the Head Kick Pudpadnoi Worawut - The Basics from the Legend Phetdam Sor Suradet - Style, Rhythm, and Timing Gulapkao Na Nonthachai - Old School Forms & Rhythms Tepniramit Sitsamnao | Defend and Punish Pairojnoi Sor. Siamchai - Balance, Footwork & Intensity Chanchai Sor. Tummarungsri - The King of Teeps Kru Ali Phet Kalim - Old School Forgotten Principles Manop Manop Gym 1 - The Art of the Teep Krongsak Prakong-Boranrat - That Shoving Energy Silapathai Jockygym - Master of Teep Distance Hippy Singmanee 1 - Developing Power Thanks for all the kind words and support. As a beginner it may take a bit of effort to get into it, but because you are connecting to the pure thing, the real thing, the benefits will really be amazing.
  6. These are the descriptions from Peter Vail's dissertation which provided the low end estimates of rural fighting. As you can see his presents the possibility of even higher fighting income involving rural fighting. These numbers are from his research prior to his 1998 work. Using a low baseline of 1,000 baht per fight for 21 fights a year (21,000 baht clear of expenses), I built the statistical picture of an economy around local fighting. And...
  7. The purport of this short essay thread is not to question the ethics of the improvement of poverty conditions, nor to nostalgically wist back to agrarian times. It is to look more closely at the relationship between Thailand's Muay Thai and its likely unwritten rural heritage, and to think about the likely co-evolution of gambled ring fighting, local Thai culture (festivals, Buddhism & the wat, traditions of patronage & debt), and subsistence living. And it is to think about the deeper, systemic reasons why today's Muay Thai fighting and practices does not compare with those of Thailand's past. The fighters and the fights are just quite substantively not as skilled. This opens up not only a practical, but also an ethical question about what it means to preserve or even rejuvenate Thailand's Muay Thai. Much can be vaguely attributed to the dramatic strides that Thailand has made in reducing the poverty rate, especially among the rural population. This allows an all-to-easy diagnosis: "People aren't poor so they don't have to fight" which unfortunately pushes aside the substantive historical relationship between agrarian living (which has been largely subsistence living), and the social practices which meaningfully produced local fighting. It leaves aside the agency & meaningfulness of lives of great cultural achievement. If the intuition is right that gambled ring fighting and rural farming co-evolved not only over decades but possibly centuries, and that it produced a bedrock of skill and art development, then it is not merely the increase of rural incomes, but also the increased urbanization and wage-labor of Thailand's population overall. Changes in ways of Life. We may be in a state of vestigial rural Muay Thai, or at least the erosion of the way of life practices that generated the widespread fighting practices that fed Thailand's combat sport greatness, making them the best fighters in the world. At the most basic level, there are just vastly fewer fighters in Thailand's provinces today, a much shallower talent pool, and a talent pool that is much less skilled by the time it enters the National stadia. In the 1990s there were regularly magazine published rankings of provincial fighting well outside the Bangkok stadia scene. You can see some of these rankings in this tweet: The provinces formed a very significant "minor leagues" for the Bangkok stadia. It provided not only very experienced and developed fighters (many with more than 50 fights before even fighting in BKK), more importantly it also was the source of a very practiced development "lab-tested" of techniques, methods of fighting and training that generationally evolved in 100s of 1,000s of fights a year. Knowledge and its fighters also co-evolved. The richness of Thailand's Muay Thai is found in its variation and complexity of fighting styles, and this epistemic and experiential tapestry derived from the breadth of its fighting, not only at its apex in the Golden Age rings of Bangkok. Bangkok fighting was merely the fruit of a very deep-rooted tree. If we are to talk about the heritage of Thailand's Muay Thai and think about how to preserve some of what has become of Thailand's great art, especially as its National stadia start bending Muay Thai to the tourist and the foreign fighter, and less for and of Thais, seeking to stabilize its decline with foreign interest and investment, it should be understood significantly rooted in the very rural, subsistence ways of life that modernity is seeking to erase. And if these ways are too completely erased, so too will the uniqueness and efficacy of Muay Thai itself be impaired or even lost. We need to look to the social forms which generated the vast knowledge and practices of Thailand's people, as we pursue the economic and emotional benefit in modern progress, finding ways to support and supplement those achieved ways of being at the local and community level. The aesthetics, the traditions, the small kaimuay. The festival. Thinking of Muay Thai as composed of a social capital and an embodied knowledge diversely spread among all its practitioners, including its in-person fans, the endless array of small gyms, the infinity of festivals and their gambling rings, and the traditional ways of life of Muay Thai itself must be regarded as the vessel for Muay Thai's richness and greatness. And much of this resides in the provinces. No longer is it the great contrast between what a local fighter can win and the zero-sum of a farming life burdened with debt which can drive the growth of the art and sport, but we must recognize how much the form of fighting grew out of that contrast and seek to preserve the aspects of the social forms that anchor Muay Thai itself, which co-evolved with agrarian life. Muay Thai must be subsidized. Not only financially, but ethically and spiritually. And this has very little to do with Bangkok which has turned its face toward the International appetite.
  8. Cannot speak about Tiger as I don't know it as its a big camp and haven't been around it. I do know Silk. It's a pretty nice camp with a traditional Thai training aspect, and also Western friendly orientation. The training is hard, everyone is friendly. It seems like a great place for a long term investment.
  9. We tend to misunderstand Thailand when we think of individuals as discrete economic units. In a culture which is so heavily imbued with concepts of social debt, allegiance, patronage and hierarchy, the pure "individual" will always be a distortion, especially when thinking in terms of motivation. This being said, this piece is thinking about the economic motivations which shaped the prolific rural-regional fighting in Thailand's Golden Age of Muay Thai (1980-1995), mostly drawing on data and descriptions from Peter Vail's 1998 dissertation on Thailand's Muay Thai: Violence and Control: Social and Cultural Dimensions in Boxing, which I'm reading through for a second time now, the first being many years ago when we first moved to Thailand. One of the things I'm moving away from is the noted way in which Thailand's Muay Thai is characterized principally by its fights in the Bangkok National Stadia, which until recently held the international facing standard for its excellence as an art and sport. Muay Thai has been defined largely by its Rajadmnern and Lumpinee stadium example. Drawing back, it is meaningful perhaps to look beneath these high-profile fights and into the fabric which makes Thailand's Muay Thai like no other fighting art in the world: an historically persistent, vast rural-regional fighting practice and celebration, something which the economics of local fighting in Thailand in the 1990s sheds light on. In the larger frame, Muay Thai has been profoundly and prolifically fought throughout the provinces in Thailand (and Siam before that), intimately woven into its festival traditions for not only decades, but perhaps centuries. It has likely been part of its lasting agrarian culture, turning with the plantings and harvests, closely connected to the wat (Buddhist temple) and community, potential for millennia. It has an unwritten rural and regional heritage. And it has been this heritage and its widespread practice that has fed the stadia scene in the Capital for the last 100 years. Peter Vail is careful to point out that this robust fighting culture is not so much the case of a "hoop dreams" aim of long-shot stardom and life changing income, but rather one of a much closer, local practice. By the mid-1990s, with the Golden Age of Thailand's Muay Thai arguably coming to its close in the National stadia, rural, festival and regional Muay Thai was a very significant income source for the subsistence rural farming family, even for a modest, local fighter. The data Vail presents is from a 1994 survey, whose detailed accuracy may be question, but which also helps bring into broad picture the relative per capital wealth by region, and by urban and village groupings. "Savings" is qualified by the subtraction of expenses from income. Urban, more wage-oriented living was by far the more financially viable, with the best prospects in Bangkok. But even an average, non-exceptional fighter in local, festival fighting would in a single month - based on Vail's personal investigation, I believe primarily in Khorat - a very significant portion (a competitive sum) of even the annual savings that were possible of a Bangkok worker. (This graphic is based on Vail's somewhat conservative estimate that a local fighter could earn 3,000 baht fighting 3x a month in kadua fight pay alone - 1,000 baht a fight "take home" after a 50% cut taken by the gym). Because a fighter lives at the gym and has all his living expenses taken care of by the gym, potentially all of this income could clear expenses. This is leaving aside any income from fight gambling, tipouts from gamblers, or fighting in higher level local fights which would pay more. It's just an active, average rural-regional fighter in the mid-1990s. This would far outpace any of the annual totals of village labor averages in any of the four regions. In order to appreciate the economics of rural farming - and I certainly am no expert in this, only relating to the material - it seems important to understand that this is a subsistence way of life that somewhat systematically traded the possibility of increased income for the stability of loaned insurance against crop failures. Farming can be unpredictable, especially in the Northeast of Thailand which depends heavily on weather patterns as it does not irrigate from large rivers or lakes. Exchanging possible future gain for season-by-season stability builds in subsistence ways of life, and with them social stratification. This pattern goes quite far back in Siam to indentured labor, and farming practices that have been compared, perhaps with mixed accuracy, to Medieval fiefdoms, but in modern times it manifested itself in rural middle class loans. Peter Vail explains the circularity of loan-making and the ceiling it put on farmed income below. Importantly, this ceiling was not just economic, but also composed of social bounds, as the relationship between financial debt (borrowing money to plant crops) and social debt (alliances with those socially above you), in a very hierarchical society becomes quite complex. The "tradition" of the culture, and in many ways the nature of its paid social "respect" is also tied to financial debt, in the form of patronage. This is something to understand when thinking about the financial boon of local fighting itself. In a kaimuay the young fighter is given room and board, is trained almost as an adoptive son in a large family of other fighters, given skills developed in the gym not unlike a guild of knowledge, and is presented the opportunity to fight and make expense-free income that far, far exceeds that of his farming family, and there is a sort of infinite social debt and obligation as part of this relationship that is woven into the culture. Today these Muay Thai obligations are reified in legal contracts, but they run deep into its practices & history. Peter Vail on the Cycle of Rural Loaned Money The Fighter and the Average Worker I'm working from the low-end of Vail's estimates. If I project out his numbers to 7 months for the year (local fighting is seasonal falling to the patterns of planting and harvest) we end up with a broad picture like this. Even if Vail's 1,000 baht a fight estimates proved high for other regions beyond Khorat, there is enough play in these numbers to support the strenuous contrast. The average annual village worker in Thailand could save 440 baht (understood in the cycle of borrowings in Vail's description above). A local fighter could conceivably per capita outpace that to an enormous degree. Remember the data in question may not be precise, nor Vail's local fighter estimates. It just gives enough context for us to understand that what was driving local fighting in the provinces was not merely some unlikely strike-it-rich, become-a-star-in-Bangkok daydream. It was rather a quite robust and perfectly achievable fighting custom which outstripped the subsistence culture of farming and debt, which reached back for centuries. Gambling on ring sport seems to have very old antecedents possibly reaching back to the Indianization of Southeast Asia well over 1,000 years ago. In fact, one could imagine that the fight and festival gambling custom of Thailand's countryside developed in parallel to its subsistence farming practices, which themselves were defined by social bonds of patronage and social debt. Ring fighting among the youth of rural Thailand maybe seen less as something that the farming poor were forced to do, and more a dimension of the rural economy itself, the flow-back of moneys into the festival markets and the traditions of ring masculinity performance which characterized rural Thai identity. They were perhaps less supplemental income practices, and more co-evolved traditions or customs folded into larger practices of patronage and debt, tied to the rice harvest itself (and seasonal patterns of warfare, which were also tied to planting and harvest). Leaving aside the ethical criticism or moral rightness of these practices, understood within an economy of selves, rural-regional fighting in the 1990s made up a substantial avenue for social mobility (progression towards financially improving urban environments, the possibility of saved income, even the increased opportunity for education, which had to be paid for), and was woven into the rural culture & economy itself. The above paints a picture of the self-sustaining economic benefits of provincial fighting alone. There is no need to look to Bangkok for its motivation. But, if you look at Golden Age Muay Thai economics the picture gets even more stark. Below are average fight pay (after the 50% cut giving to the gym), of a few fighters we informally surveyed. These numbers are extremely ballpark, as fighter pay varied quite a bit depending on the stage of career (two fighters told us that the their first Lumpinee fight pay was only 2,500 baht, for instance), star power and at the higher levels, match-up. These are just "what did you make on your average fight" numbers, and memories could vary. Using the same 1994 data (Vail) one can see how even a lower level stadium fighter in an average fight far outstrips what the average Bangkok worker in a month could save. They are not even in the same economic worlds, and becoming a Bangkok laborer at this time was a significant draw to provincial Thailand. Provincial workers streamed into Bangkok due to the economic boom. Stadium fighters in the Golden Age of Muay Thai were towers above the average Bangkok worker, on a month to month basis. And this leaves out the very significant motivations of fame, social respect and idealized hypermasculinity that ring fighting provides. This can be seen as the "hoop dreams" aspect of the equation, but it's important to understand that at the systematic level the economics of Bangkok stadium fighting folded upon the already robust economics of local fighting in the provinces, when compared to the potential for laborers to save money beyond their expenses. We can leave aside the peak fight kaduas like Namkabuan's 250,000 baht, Kaensak's 380,000 baht, Karuhat's 240,000 baht, among so many others at the peak of the sport. At the level of the average fighter, the active participant in the scene, in the Golden Age of Muay Thai opportunity was economically profound when compared to rural Thailand.
  10. More footnoting. Peter Vail in his 1998 dissertation sketching out a socio-religious basis for gambling, and Muay Thai gambling in particular, as an aspect of masculinity and charisma. See also this piece on Peter Vail's comparison of Muay Thai Masculinity to the Monk and the Nakleng (gangster): Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail
  11. One of the most confused aspects of Western genuine interest in Thailand's Muay Thai is the invisibility of its social structure, upon which some of our fondest perceptions and values of it as a "traditional" and respect-driven art are founded. Because it takes passing out of tourist mode to see these things they remain opaque. (One can be in a tourist mode for a very long time in Thailand, enjoying the qualities of is culture as they are directed toward Westerners as part of its economy - an aspect of its centuries old culture of exchange and affinity for international trade and its peoples.). If one does not enter into substantive, stakeholder relations which usually involve fluently learning to speak the language (I have not, but my wife has), these things will remain hidden even to those that know Thailand well. It has been called, perhaps incorrectly, a "latent caste system". Thailand's is a patronage culture that is quiet strongly hierarchical - often in ways that are unseen to the foreigner in Muay Thai gyms - that carries with it vestigial forms of feudal-like relationships (the Sakdina system) that once involved very widespread slavery, indentured worker ethnicities, classes and networks of debt (both financial and social), much of those power relations now expressed in obligations. Westerners just do not - usually - see this web of shifting high vs low struggles, as we move within the commercial outward-facing layer that floats above it. In terms of Muay Thai, between these two layers - the inward-facing, rich, traditional patronage (though ethically problematic) historical layer AND the capitalist, commerce and exchange-driven, outward-facing layer - have developed fighter contract laws. It's safe to say that before these contract laws, I believe codified in the 1999 Boxing Act due to abuses, these legal powers would have been enforced by custom, its ethical norms and local political powers. There was social law before there was contract law. Aside from these larger societal hierarchies, there is also a history of Muay Thai fighters growing up in kaimuay camps that operate almost as orphanages (without the death of parents), or houses of care for youth into which young fighters are given over, very much like informal adoption. This can be seen in the light of both vestigial Thai social caste & its financial indenture (this is a good lecture on the history of cultures of indentured servitude, family as value & debt ), and the Thai custom of young boys entering a temple to become novice monks, granting spiritual merit to their parents. These camps can be understood as parallel families, with the heads of them seen as a father-like. Young fighters would be raised together, disciplined, given values (ideally, values reflected in Muay Thai itself), such that the larger hierarchies that organize the country are expressed more personally, in forms of obligation and debt placed upon both the raised fighter and also, importantly, the authorities in the gym. One has to be a good parent, a good benefactor, as well as a good son. Thai fighter contract law is meant to at bare bones reflect these deeper social obligations. It's enough to say that these are the social norms that govern Thailand's Muay Thai gyms, as they exist for Thais. And, these norms are difficult to map onto Western sensibilities as we might run into them. We come to Thailand...and to Thailand's gyms almost at the acme of Western freedom. Many come with the liberty of relative wealth, sometimes long term vacationers even with great wealth, entering a (semi) "traditional" culture with extraordinary autonomy. We often have choices outside of those found even in one's native country. Famously, older men find young, hot "pseudo-relationship" girlfriends well beyond their reach. Adults explore projects of masculinity, or self-development not available back home. For many the constrictures of the mores of their own cultures no longer seem to apply. When we go to this Thai gym or that, we are doing so out of an extreme sense of choice. We are variously versions of the "customer". We've learned by rote, "The customer is always right". When people come to Thailand to become a fighter, or an "authentic fighter", the longer they stay and the further they pass toward that (supposed) authenticity, they are entering into an invisible landscape of social attachments, submissions & debts. If you "really want to be 'treated like a Thai', this is a world of acute and quite rigid social hierarchies, one in which the freedom & liberties that may have motivated you are quite alien. What complicates this matter, is that this rigidity is the source of the traditional values which draws so many from around to the world to Thailand in the first place. If you were really "treated like a Thai", perhaps especially as a woman, you would probably find yourself quite disempowered, lacking in choice, and subject only to a hoped-for beneficence from those few you are obligated to and define your horizon of choice. Below is an excerpt from Lynne Miller's Fighting for Success, a book telling of her travails and lessons in owning the Sor. Sumalee Gym as a foreign woman. This passage is the most revealing story I've found about the consequences of these obligations, and their legal form, for the Thai fighter. The anecdote of the disorienting photo op meet is exemplar. While extreme in this case, the general form of obligations of what is going on here is omnipresent in Thai gyms...for Thais. It isn't just the contractual bounds, its the hierarchy, obligation, social debt, and family-like authorities upon which the contract law is founded. The story that she tells is of her own frustrations to resolve this matter in a way that seems quite equitable, fair to our sensibilities. Our Western idea of labor and its value. But, what is also occurring here is that, aside from claimed previous failures of care, there was a deep, face-losing breech of obligation when the fighter fled just before a big fight, and that there was no real reasonable financial "repair" for this loss of face. This is because beneath the commerce of fighting is still a very strong hierarchical social form, within which one's aura of authority is always being contested. This is social capital, as Bourdieu would say. It's a different economy. Thailand's Muay Thai is a form of social agonism, more than it is even an agonism of the ring. When you understand this, one might come to realize just how much of an anathema it is for middle class or lower-middle class Westerners to come from liberties and ideals of self-empowerment to Thailand to become "just like a Thai fighter". In some ways this would be like dreaming to become a janitor in a business. In some ways it is very much NOT like this as it can be imbued with traditional values...but in terms of social power and the ladder of authorities and how the work of training and fighting is construed, it is like this. This is something that is quite misunderstood. Even when Westerners, increasingly, become padmen in Thai gyms, imagining that they have achieved some kind of authenticity promotion of "coach", it is much more comparable to becoming a low-value (often free) worker, someone who pumps out rounds, not far from someone who sweeps the gym or works horse stables leading horse to pasture...in terms of social worth. When you come to a relatively "Thai" style gym as an adult novice aiming to perhaps become a fighter, you are doing this as a customer attempting to map onto a 10 year old Thai boy beginner who may very well become contractually owned by the gym, and socially obligated to its owner for life. These are very different, almost antithetical worlds. This is the fundamental tension between the beauties of Thai traditional Muay Thai culture, which carry very meaningful values, and its largely invisible, sometimes cruel and uncaring, social constriction. If you don't see the "ladder", and you only see "people", you aren't really seeing Thailand.
  12. Here is a 6 minute audio wherein a I phrase the argument speaking in terms of Thailand's Muay Femeu and Spinoza's Ethics.
  13. Leaving aside the literary for a moment, the relationship between "techniques" and style (& signature) is a meaningful one to explore, especially for the non-Thai who admires the sport and wishes to achieve proficiency, or even mastery. Mostly for pedagogic reasons (that is, acute differences in training methods, along with a culture & subjectivity of training, a sociological thread), the West and parts of Asia tend to focus on "technical" knowledge, often with a biomechanical emphasis. A great deal of emphasis is put on learning to some precision the shape of the Thai kick or its elbow, it's various executions, in part because visually so much of Thailand's Muay Thai has appeared so visually clean (see: Precision – A Basic Motivation Mistake in Some Western Training). Because much of the visual inspiration for foreign learned techniques often come from quite elevated examples of style and signature, the biomechanical emphasis enters just on the wrong level. The techniques displayed are already matured and expressed in stylistics. (It would be like trying to learn Latin or French word influences as found in Nabakov's English texts.) In the real of stylistics, timing & tempo, indeed musicality are the main drivers of efficacy. Instead, Thais learn much more foundational techniques - with far greater variance, and much less "correction" - principally organized around being at ease, tamachat, natural. The techne (τέχνη), the mechanics, that ground stylistics, are quite basic, and are only developmentally deployed in the service of style (& signature), as it serves to perform dominance in fights. The advanced, expressive nature of Thai technique is already woven into the time and tempo of stylistics. This is one reason why the Muay Thai Library project involves hour long, unedited training documentation, so that the style itself is made evident - something that can even have roots in a fighter's personality and disposition. These techne are already within a poiesis (ποίησις), a making, a becoming. Key to unlocking these basic forms is the priority of balance and ease (not biomechanical imitations of the delivery of forces), because balance and ease allow their creative use in stylistics.
  14. To help in greater theoretical discussion, The Magician's Doubt's parsing of signature from style. In my discussion above the uses of a fighter's style perhaps would be best understood as a blending of both Michael Wood's "style" and "signature" below:
  15. When we spoke to them during our filming they at first said that they were closed to non-Thais, but a little while later they changed their mind and said they were open to it, but that if you trained there you could not come and go, ie, you would have to treat it like a camp, and train in the restricted Thai fashion. I think this would be very difficult to manage if you did not speak Thai, to be honest about it. Most western friendly Thai gyms have enough English to get by, but Chor Hapayak is very, very Thai, at least as we encountered it. Also of note, believe that Wangchannoi is no longer a trainer there, though Bangsaen Tor. Kotsan (who is also in the Muay Thai Library) still is.
  16. Further afield, here is a discussion of Thailand's Muay Thai in terms of the Aesthetics of Deleuze, especially as it relates to the Western student/fighter in Thailand. This also is a grasping of aesthetics as it is distinguished from ethics, and addresses the idea of Living One's Life as a Work of Art.
  17. This thesis of the aesthetic is perhaps most telling in its (very rare) failure, in the two losses of Samart Payakaroon, the acknowledged greatest fighter of Thailand's Muay Thai. Below are the two fights, he is not at his peak as a fighter in both cases. Unfortunately there is no preserved video from his prime, when he was a regular stadium fighter before he left for boxing. Both of these fights are interesting from the aesthetic question, for you get to see Samart shift into aesthetic attempts to take flight over difficulties...in these cases to have such a flight fail. In the negative you can imagine how such styles must have operated at this time of true greatness, of which we only have eye-witness report: Dieselnoi vs Samart Wangchannoi vs Samart In the negative you can also see Karuhat's failed attempt to climb to victory using the aesthetics of his style in his 3rd fight vs Wangchannoi (a fight he to this day felt like he won), or his early fight vs Hippy. In these negative examples you can see the role of style, as it doesn't-quite-cross the chasm. Karuhat vs Wangchannoi After two losses to Wangchannoi Karuhat really set his mind to winning the third fight vs the much bigger Wangchannoi. You can visibly see Karuhat style climbing on him, seemingly to real effect, but the judges ruled it just wasn't enough. And Karuhat vs Hippy This fight is quite extraordinary, very early in Karuhat's career before he fully matured, in that Karuhat seeks to style climb on Hippy, and Hippy style climbs right back at him. What I mean by "style climb" in the above are the ways in which Thailand's traditional Muay Thai rewards stylistic displays of being above or beyond the fight, aspects of which are culturally coded (for instance certain body positions (ruup), or qualitative tempos, or musicalities. You can read about the role of dominance in the traditional form of the sport here: The Essence of Muay Thai: 6 Core Aspects Which Make it What it Is. More obviously fighters which employ stylistics are of the more Muay Femeu (technical, artful) variety, though there are distinct stylistics to its counterpart, Muay Khao.
  18. This beautiful quote from The Magician's Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction uncovers a powerful observation on the function of style for an artist. What is in question is the way in which Nabokov comes to what really are aporias - difficult crossings - in his writing, discussions of the roots of knowledge or of ethics. It is the particular way in which Nabokov can dive down into some of the most beautiful writing in the English language, only to then surface into parodies of literary styles, or even almost parody of himself. The quote places the leverage point at the level of the difficulty of the answer. What this opens up is a separable understanding of the uses of aesthetics, of style, itself. The way in which style can be used to overcome doubts, or certain impassible gaps, an aesthetic solution to the next moments of living. It is as if one's style, if fully invested, can briefly give you wings to cross short chasms until you can land on the other side, when the style becomes more grounded, has more footing. What comes to mind, if we allow ourselves to leave literature and enter the traditional Muay Thai ring is the fighting style of Karuhat Sor. Supawan, who may be the greatest stylist of Thai history. What the stylistics of traditional Muay Thai can teach us of the pragmatic role of style is the very firm-footed nature of these brief flights into personalized aesthetics. When you study Karuhat's fights - you can find 32 of them here - especially as he matures as a fighter, you can locate very contested sections of fights where he will almost inexplicably pass into style. He may or may not be scoring, but it is the weightlessness of his ascent, at those very times that feel the most difficult, most uncrossable, that displays the power of style. It is as if, when you do not know what is next, what can be done, you pass into style, almost as if humming the bars of a song you have forgotten the words to, passing into pure melody. And, once alighting on the other side, you return again to the lyrics. Karuhat's style has many components, techniques, pieces, bars. His side shuffle along the rope, the interruptive trip-out, the snake-charmer's sway, the delay on an already released kick, the syncopated swing step, short popping crosses or hooks, all techniques in a deepseated personal melody. And at a time of great crisis he can pass into style alone. This Muay Thai Scholar video will give you some reference to elements of Karuhat's Style: While I would consider Karuhat Thailand's greatest stylist, I believe this aesthetic rule, the pragmatism of Style can be found throughout the legendary fighters of Thailand's Golden Age: from Samson's drumming dern, smothering tempos, to Samart's deer-like escapes, nonchalance and unexpected power; from Dieselnoi's early round, wading-in, spider-like defensive rhythms, to Wangchannoi's stubborn heavy hand pressures. Samart, widely considered the GOAT of the sport is a great case in point, himself a great stylist. In fact I believe you can see this aspect of aesthetics in the face of difficulty especially in his two notable loses, against Dieselnoi and Wangchannoi, where you can if you watch closely his appeal to style, which does not quite carry him over - a proof in the negative. What is most interesting about Thailand's Muay Thai is that while it is one of the more violent sports in the world, it simultaneously is an art, and this dimension of aesthetics is what shows itself in the efficacy of performance. Style, in brief wing-beats, can carry you across brief chasms of doubt, all the while remaining within the physically constrained grounds of an actual fight, full of real material dangers. The transcendent nature of Thailand's Muay Thai, as an art, resides in this aesthetic dimension, which made its Golden Age fighters the best fighters in the world. As Muay Thai changes, coming under the influence of more commercial, more casual (tourism driven) demands, it is losing its aesthetic dimension. Thai fighters less and less have recourse to individual styles which can guide them across difficulties. Vestigial aspects of Thai aesthetics still remain in the 5th round retreat, the emphasis on defense, the reward of balance, but fewer and fewer fighters have fully developed, personalized style - something also seen in the Thai principle of sanae (charm). The recourse to "techniques" (in particular increasingly memorized combinations), of which styles are more ideally composed, to carry one through difficulties, the dumbing down of styles into practiced singular strikes, is progressively sinking the sport into less expressive states, a movement which ultimately will rob it of its larger meaning and value to the world...its art. Muay Thai is in a certain sense, the literature of fighting. This opens up important questions as to the relationship between the study of techniques, and the development of styles. The Magician's Doubts quote at top also carries another quality of style, which is that when the answer is easy style can become simply "signature", almost a kind of excess. We see this in actors, perhaps like Di Nero whose inimical style in youth became caricature in older age, how a fighter like Saenchai, whose subtle effects carried him through the stadium ranks, then became pure signature and show vs a pool of requisite non-Thais on Thai Fight, according to his late maturity. At its most ideal a fighter's style in a fight would perhaps weave between these poles, ascending to style during a fight's greatest impasses (witness Ali's rope-a-dope or late-rounds shuffle), but also the signing of fights, in during its easier stretches, in displays of style, the author's signature. And in between these poles, the boots-on-the-ground fighting, by which leads are fashioned or protected, a pragmatism of two bodies in conflict caught in the context of twin aesthetic freedoms.
  19. You can look through my various articles which sometimes focuses on this: https://8limbsus.com/muay-thai-forum/forum/23-kevins-corner-muay-thai-philosophy-ethics/ especially the article on Muay Thai as a Rite. The general thought is that Thailand's traditional Muay Thai offers the world an important understanding of self-control in an era which is increasingly oriented towards abject violence for entertainment. There are also arguments which connect Muay Thai to environmental concerns.
  20. There is no video keeping. Patrons get access to the Library, according to tier. $10 subscription will give you access to the entire 140+ video Library, and everything else published (like technique vlogs, podcasts, etc), as long as you are a patron. $1 gives you access to the last 5 sessions we've published, but these keep changing. The truth is that we don't update the tiers very quickly, so right now the $1 tier has the last 11 sessions we've published. But once updated it will be only the 5 most recent. You can see the tiers and their sessions always here, in the Table of Contents: https://www.patreon.com/posts/muay-thai-uncut-7058199
  21. Just very briefly I want to take up one of the most interesting aspects of the fighting art of Thailand's traditional Muay Thai, an aspect that really cues for me how I watch fights and weigh the skills of fighters. Managing distance. Many people watch "strikes" and look for "points", but there is an under-fabric to strikes, a kind of landscape of them, no less than how a topography will influence how a battle is fought between armies. Even the most practiced strikes rise and fall to opportunity, and in Muay Thai a significant determination of opportunity is distance. Above is a quick edit of Sylvie's last fight up in Buriram, bringing out all the significant moments of engagement, telling the story in about a minute. (The full fight should be up in a few weeks with Sylvie's commentary, as usual.) I'm going to start with Entertainment Muay Thai as presenting an negative can often be the best way to bring out a positive. Entertainment Muay Thai (and there are many versions of it, so we have to be very broad here), is largely principled by eliminating the importance of distance. What is sought, again being very broad, is a more or less continuous trading in the pocket. The quest is for an easy to follow, by the casual eye, "action". Everything is about the distance of the pocket. Setting up outside of the pocket can be regarded as anti-action (so, if you do, you should regularly charge into the pocket...and trade). And fighting through the pocket, to clinch range, is also devalued by very quick clinch breaks, scoring biases (changing traditional aesthetics). Clinch, which historically is featured in some of the most technical fighting of the sport, in Entertainment Muay Thai is more and more understood as a stall of the main goal. Pocket trading. Much of the art of Muay Thai is actually organized around all those distances that border "the pocket", controlling distance through length, or through grappling. In this fight Sylvie is giving up between 8-10 kgs (perhaps more than 20% of her body weight). Now, imagine it being fought under Entertainment aesthetics. What would it be if she just stood in the pocket, bit down, and just traded over and over with Phetnamwan? Would there be any point of such a fight? Yet, as the Golden Age legend Hippy Singmanee once said when criticizing hyper-aggressive, pocket-trading Entertainment Muay Thai, "Muay Thai is the art where small can beat big." Hippy was one of the most renown undersized fighters of the Golden Era. He knows of what he speaks. This fight, in the broad brush, illustrates some of that. More and more we've come to realize that as traditional Muay Thai evaporates slowly from the urban stadia, the only traditional Muay Thai still being regularly fought is in the provinces of the country. It is there that fights are scored in keeping with the art, and fighters retain the all around, multi-distance skills that make that art happen. Clinch is allowed to unfold. Narrative fight arcs are told as principle to scoring. Ryan, a knowledgeable commenter on Twitter and a very good writer on the sport, right away noticed how the ref let clinch flow. You can see some of our discussion there. I recall a conversation I overheard when attending the funeral of the legend Namkabuan in Nongki. It was the passing of one of the greatest who ever fought. During the day-before cremation a casual conversation arose between other legends of the sport, and very experienced news reporters, people who had been a part of it for decades. One of them insisted, Muay Thai no longer existed in Thailand. Others knowingly nodded their heads. But a Muay Siam reporter objected. "No...it still lives in the provinces." And the others agreed. It still was there. We in the English speaking world tend to think the substance of something is what has been presented to us. The Muay Thai of Bangkok is the real Muay Thai of Thailand because that is what we see...and, historically, many decades ago, it did represent the highest skills of the country. But what largely remains unseen is that more and more of the sport is being designed for our eyes. It is less and less for Thais, and more and more for "us", so we can become quite disconnected from what is real and authentic in a cultural, and even efficacy sense. There rhythms and values of provincial Muay Thai, as it is fought, coached and reffed, are part of the rich authenticity of the sport which falls into the shadows when we just look at what is being shown to "us". This fight, how it is fought, shows "the art of where small can beat big", and it shows why. It's through the control of distance. If you are small you just cannot stand at range. You either have to explore the bubble outside of the pocket, too far, or at its edges, and fight your way in to score...or, you collapse the pocket, smother the strikes, and possess the skill to control a much larger bodied opponent. Clinch, historically, is kryptonite to the striker. Muay Maat vs Muay Khao battles are legendary in the sport. Classic. Who is going to impose the distance which is best for them? It's a battle of distances. And, for this reason, Muay Maat fighters of the past were not experts in trading in the pocket. They were experts in managing clinch fighters, or even high level clinch fighters themselves...and they were experts at hunting down evasive femeu counterfighters as well. Muay Maat fighters were strong. They had to have so many tools in their tool box. In versions of the sport where both fighters are forced to "stand and bang" repeatedly, we have been taken quite far from the glories of Thailand's Muay Thai fighters, and that is because Muay Thai is an art of distance control. This goes to a deeper point about the sport. It isn't really a "sport" in the International, rationalist idea of a sport. Muay Thai is culture. It is Thai culture. Thousands and thousands of fights occur on temple grounds, far from Western eyes. It has grown up within the culture, but also expressive of that culture. And it is a culture unto itself. The more we try to extract from this rich fabric some kind of abstract "rule set" and "collection of techniques" that can be used in other cultures, expressing their values, favoring their fighters, the more we lose the complex art of what Muay Thai is...and in the bigger sense move away from the value it has to the entire world. It's value is that it has a very highly developed perspective on distance management and on aggression. It has lessons upon lessons to teach in techniques of control and fight winning, woven into the DNA of its traditional aesthetics. And these techniques embody the values of the culture. It's all of one cloth. Sylvie has chosen the path less traveled. She's fought like no other Westerner in history (a record 271 times as a pro), and she has devoted herself to the lessor style, the art of Muay Khao and clinch fighting. There are very, very few women, even Thai women, who have seriously developed this branch of the art in the way that she has. And she's done it as a 100 lb fighter, taking on great size disparities as she fights. Because Muay Thai is "the art where small can beat big" there is a long tradition of great, dominant fighters fighting top fighters well above their weight, and developing their in style the capacity to beat them. Fighting up is Muay Thai. Sylvie's entire quest has been to value what may not even be commercially valued at this time, the aspects of the art which point to its greater meaning & capacity. The narrative of scoring, the control of distance, the management of striking through clinch, in the heritage of what it has been. I'm not saying that this is the only way to fight, or that Entertainment Muay Thai has no value for the art and sport. It's not, and it does. But, we should also be mindful of the completeness and complexity of Muay Thai, and the ways that those qualities can be put at risk, as the desire to internationalize it and foreign values become more and more part of its purpose. If we love what we discover when we come to Thailand, we should fight to preserve and embrace the roots of Muay Thai, and the honored aspects of the culture/s which produced it. photos: Khaendong, Buriram, Thailand (temple grounds)
  22. Here's a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BaanRambaaGym and another Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063547570660 and Rambaa's personal Facebook page (which is the most active): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089593217773
  23. If you are drawn to a big gyms then Fairtex (or Venom) might be your best bet. I'd just throw out there the idea of visiting Rambaa's gym if you'd like a unique experience. There's no other gym that's like it. First of all its one of the last kaimuay in Pattaya, a camp full of local Thai kids training for free, but they also have big fighters, like Peungluang who is undefeated on ONE. A few Westerners train there. It's a small gym, but it even has an MMA cage. Rambaa was Thailand's first MMA World Champion. It's just full of so many contradictions, and Rambaa himself is a great trainer, and has a wonderful fight style. I'm just adding this, in case you'd enjoy something that is unique. Here is an album of the photographs I took there not long ago: https://www.behance.net/gallery/166275057/The-Kaimuay
  24. This is the man who modernized Muay Thai, here Prince Vajiravudh. He would become King of Siam in 1910. Educated in British schools (attended Sandhurst & Oxford), he led the infusion of Muay Thai with the British Boxing example, part of a larger International modernizing movement.
  25. Manop's gym in Chiang Mai might be interesting. His daughter was a fighter, and Somrasamee (the RWS champion) fights with his name (not sure if she trains there). He's very good with female fighters, and he's an amazing teacher. Femeu. Was Saenchai's padman for many years.
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