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  1. MTG 084: Building A Muay Thai Gym in Issan, Thailand with Frances and Boom Wattahanaya GoFundMe for building the gym.
  2. These four video parts make up part 1 of my Conversation with Kelly Creegan. You can check out the blog post article for part 1 here. It's the the camera rolling as we sit and have a chat. The 2nd part of the Interview should be up next week. Kelly is a member of our forum here and it was great to finally meet her. She's been at Sitmonchai Gym for a while now, a quiet, family-like gym a couple of hours out of Bangkok, and is moving to Eminent Air in Bangkok later this summer. Kelly, sorry for that still on the 2nd video, YouTube just does what it wants!
  3. Black Bird Fly Blog Found a new muay thai blog to follow. The latest post is a review of of Santai Muay Thai Gym
  4. Emma Thomas found an interesting article by Sarah George. It's not long, only 12 pages: Dancing Under the Mongkhon: How Thailand's National Sport a Distinctive Moral Code (PDF) It presents ethical arguments and a framework for understanding how the violence and practice of Muay Thai indeed corresponds to, and even exemplifies Buddhist ethics. Scholar Peter Vail already had written how in Thai Society the Muay Thai fighter falls between the monk and the gangster, something Sylvie wrote about here: Thai Masculinity: Positioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng, and George takes up some of the monk-like comparisons Vail talks about, as well as some others (including forms of breathing meditation). Most interesting in the article is a quote by a western photographer: ‘Despite the perceived violence of MT (it is very powerful and arguably the most effective system of stand-up fighting on the planet) there is another aspect to it that is internal. How the fighters approach the sport and their training offers glimpses into the personal, internal quest that could be seen as very similar to a monk's quest for enlightenment. They understand they have to endure the suffering of themselves to reach a goal (I personally believe that the goal is deeper than the promise of riches and escaping their plight - it's an internal struggle to better themselves continually)…This internal struggle of the fighter might have something to do with why many temples will host MT events (obviously it's to raise money too) but seeing the appreciation on the faces of some of the monks when the fights are on, you can tell that they're recognizing one of their own in the ring’ I have to say that having been to lots of festival fights with monks present - they are often out at the edges smoking like teenagers under the bleachers - this projection of them seeing fighters as "one of their own" seems pretty exaggerated as a proof of Muay Thai spirituality. Many monks seem pretty mundane at these events. But that doesn't eliminate the overall point that indeed Muay Thai as a way of life is a method and means of self-control and discovery, and that this process fits neatly into the aims and ways of life of Buddhism. I see this even in how Pi Nu teaches at Petchrungruang. I can see in his eyes that there is always something to benefit someone in them learning proper Muay Thai. There is a kind of ethical ballast to the calm aesthetic of what he sees as beautiful. And this goes from beginner on up. You can see the same in these opening scenes involving Kru Bah who ethically instructs children using Muay Thai (Kru Bah is referenced in the essay): George's technical arguments about non-violence and Buddhist ethics seem less convincing to me, though you may be more persuaded than me. At most she seems to argue that because Muay Thai violence is non-life threatening it does not violate Buddhist principles. This does not quite measure up though to the idea that it exemplifies them. But perhaps it does, in a way that George does not fully draw out. By the practice of equipoise, the exertion of what she calls "force" (morally neutral) in the artifice of combat Muay Thai's version of non-violence is simply not descending into the emotions of violence. And this is instructive. She also references Buddhist mediation techniques which she connects to Muay Thai breathing, and the reception of a student ceremony Yok Kru, which no longer really exists as prevalent in commercial Muay Thai as far as I know. These two feel like stretches to me, but still are interesting ethical orbits around Muay Thai and its heritage. Arguments about how camp Muay Thai improves the lives of children, seem to be on good footing, and go towards her larger view that Muay Thai itself, especially in its more traditional form, is somehow essentially good for the health of a Nation. Bottom line: there isn't a lot written about the ethics of Buddhism and Muay Thai and at the very least this seems like a great starting point for conversations about the moral force of Muay Thai as a heritage. for a collection of academic articles on Muay Thai see here
  5. When I say this is an amazing Thai soap opera there has to be a qualifier. Thai soaps are notoriously unwatchable, at least for me. Full of huge Thai stereotypes, silliness, sound effects, and at times offensive forced sex (rape) scenes, big rambling drama, they really push the patience meter, even when in Thailand there may be nothing else on TV. We don't watch them. But for us we kept running into this one which seems brand new, and were shocked to see Muay Thai being portrayed as a central theme in the soap. When we found it on we watched for few minutes, if only as a kind of observer, to see what stereotypes would surround pop culture, soap portrayals of Muay Thai. It wasn't until we sat down and binge watched 3 episodes that we found all kinds of pleasure (and information) in this innocent soap. We actually found ourselves laughing, repeatedly, at the portrayals (that were meant to be funny), and the surrounding story lines, as best we could follow. The plots are not complicated, and even though I had the aid of Sylvie jumping in, I think I could follow them despite having almost zero Thai myself. Whether it would be worth it for you, I don't know. Our 3 years here may have softened my resistance to some of these portrayals, and made watching things in a language I don't understand enjoyable, but I found it both hilarious (slapstick style, and I'm not a fan of slapstick) and oddly illuminating. As far as I can tell the story follows Phet, a young man who is the lead in his family's Likay troop. Likay (lee-kay) is a traditional form of Thai Folk Theater (this Bangkok post article fills in some details). Phet, through circuitous events finds himself wanting to join a Muay Thai camp (all of this in Isaan?) which is run by several women. The most prominent female is Pim, who also seems to be the star fighter of the camp. The title of the soap is Likay - Matsang (Folk Theater - Directed Fist), and it balances a tension between Phet's traditional dance theater troop - and its attendant (effeminate) almost boy-band masculinity - and the Kai Muay which is run by women. The camp emphasizes female fighters to a surprising degree. The stereotypes abound, and much is being said about Thai masculinity, of course in endless silliness. Also, the portrayals of the camp, with the men all training in clean shirts and discordantly in white sneakers (is it transgressively low class to see men hitting bags topless?), create a kind of Muay Thai fantasy space, that is half a cleaned-up Bangkok upper middle class, and half low-class and provincial mash up. Muay Thai figureheads like Khaosai Galaxy and Somrak appear in it, and the adventures are off the charts mad cap at times - the razing camp shower scene, leading to a near naked run through the camp at night has to be seen to be laughed at. But if you are someone who loves all things Muay Thai, and loves all things Thailand, I can't help but feel that at the very least it deserves peak. One of the more interesting things is the lead character of Pim, who could have stepped out of the Sud Suay Muay Thai campaign, aimed at making Muay Thai much more amenable to the middle class, and in particular middle class Thai young women. Her position and experience as fighter (and she fights two ridiculous fights in the first few episodes against a giant opponent named "moo daeng") gives her a strength, aggression and confidence in social situations which does not seem to have to be balanced by overly "feminine" qualities. Not knowing Thai to check her language, she seems like a woman who is just empowered by her fighting and Muay Thai, which makes for an interesting case of public image making. I'm not completely sure what the juxtaposition of Likay and Muay Thai is supposed to serve, but I am sure that it has resonance. Muay Thai and traditional dance performance (like lakhon) actually hold a very long history together, going back hundreds of years, each performed for royalty in celebrations. And now both Muay Thai and Likay performances can be found in the same festivals that countlessly dot the countryside and serve as the bed of Muay Thai in Thailand. And it isn't just in Thailand. Hong Kong Kung Fu cinema (1970s) was born out of the acrobatics and storytelling of Chinese Peking Opera as well. Fighting and dance go together, as any Ram Muay will tell you. You can find all the updated Likay Matsang episodes here streaming. Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5 This is the first part of the first episode. If you can get through this you'll be more entertained later.
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