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Hello all! 

 

This is my first post and I am really excited to throw my voice in with you!

 

My question is this, what are some "go-to" texts, videos, or podcasts that I may be able to get my hands on to better understand the philosophy (if there is one) of Muay Thai. For example, I have been studying the ancient Greek Stoics for about 5 years (what I graduated in) and have noticed that their teachings have influenced modern Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Roman Catholicism/Christianity. I am wondering if there are any writers or thinkers like that for Muay Thai: people who wrote about the meaning behind each movement or the mental state one needs to be Nak Muay etc. and are revered in the community.

 

Thanks for your time! I'll be googling around as well and make sure to share whatever it is I find. 😃

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29 minutes ago, SPACEDOODLE said:

My question is this, what are some "go-to" texts, videos, or podcasts that I may be able to get my hands on to better understand the philosophy (if there is one) of Muay Thai

This is pretty insane, because I was just talking with Sylvie this morning that she needs to write this kind of book, because nothing that we know in this area of exists, if we are speaking of Thailand's Muay Thai. There are definitely philosophical/metaphysical/religious/cognitive underpinnings to Muay Thai in Thailand, but they have not been teased out, on their own. I think she's going to do it if we can find a publisher.

I would be interested in what others post, if anything though. I'll add something if I think of it.

These are Academic articles on Muay Thai in English which Sylvie and I have run across and read, though nothing really touches on this subject. You'll get a little bit of it in this essay on the nature of Thai hypermasculiity:

Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail

which talks about the versions of masculinity that are expressed by the Thai fighter:

Monkhood and Nakleng.png

 

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Oh wow there is a lot in the link. I will definitely start reading them when I can and offer my reflections on this thread, if that is okay. 

I was just watching Sylvie's commentary on her fight #241 and I heard Sylvie talk about "nan-ding" I think was what I heard. Please correct my spelling. It was some concept in which a fighter remains calm during an engagement. This sentiment reminded me of the Stoic notion of eudamonia which is a type of calmness during any and all situations. It's a type of contentment with the circumstances one finds themselves in. Which makes me wonder what other little philosophical nuggets are hiding in Muay Thai pedagogy or philosophical foundations.

For example, when I used to spar and take nasty low leg kicks, I would often find myself repeating this mantra: Nothing bad is happening, the cosmos has willed it as it is. This would help with the flinching, pain, and throbbing after eating the kick. I wouldn't really wince or limp because the mantra would help focus my mind on what is happening in front of me and not on what I was feeling in terms of the pain. The best analog I can think of is when Sylvie was talking about being unphased or without any facial expression after a kick or hit in her reflection of fight #241. 

So my question for this would be: How far is a Nak Muay expected to take this sentiment? Are they expected to take this "eudamonic" state to all facets of their lives or only in the ring? 

I ask because the Stoics would assert eudamonia to every single aspect of their lives: Friends left you? It is ok, you are not suffering an evil. Someone is robbing you? It is ok, it is as the cosmos wills it. Exiled from your country? It is ok, they are not forcing you to react negatively or positively to being exiled. 

A little disclaimer: we are just talking about how a fighter should respond to external pressures. I would also like to know if there are any philosophical ideas about how a fighter should respond to internal pressures.

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7 hours ago, SPACEDOODLE said:

I was just watching Sylvie's commentary on her fight #241 and I heard Sylvie talk about "nan-ding" I think was what I heard. Please correct my spelling. It was some concept in which a fighter remains calm during an engagement.

The principle she referred to was "Ning", is very important component of Muay Thai excellence in Thailand. You can win entire fights through Ning. Samart, who many consider the greatest ever, was a Master of Ning, and his reputation for Ning made him very hard to beat.

7 hours ago, SPACEDOODLE said:

Stoic notion of eudamonia which is a type of calmness during any and all situations. It's a type of contentment with the circumstances one finds themselves in. Which makes me wonder what other little philosophical nuggets are hiding in Muay Thai pedagogy or philosophical foundations.

It's been a while since I read the stoics, but I don't think eudaimonia maps perfectly onto Ning. From what I recall, eudaimonia is a kind of blessedness. It literally means having a guardian angel (daimon) who watches over you, and is strongly connected to Greek arete (nobility and excellence). It carries with it a kind of imperviousness, and also an aspect of being above it all. There are many rough parallels between Buddhism and Stoicism, and sometimes when I'm reading western stoic influenced writers it feels like they have read Buddhism as well. Spinoza is a good example. But Buddhistic Ning, at least as far as I have come to understand it, does not have quite the same Christian-izable removal from events (at least to my feel). You are un-preturbed at a different level, maybe. The stoic is somehow above and removed. The Buddhist much more in the flow of things, in their reality, and due to that, undisturbed (if I had to take a stab at what I'm feeling here). Both of them counteract reaction, but use a difference of mechanism. That being said, if you became quite stoic about things in a Muay Thai gym in Thailand all the Thais would feel that you are behaving in the right way. To me there has always been a weird stiffness to western stoicism, that flows from concepts of toughness, endurance and maybe hierarchy of Being . Very inspiring and effective too. But in Ning there is an additional flexibility, a flowing quality. If you look at Ning fighters like Samart and Somrak you would never immediately think of them as Stoic, even in the traditional, philosophical sense of the word. They are almost floppy.

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Here, look at Somrak in this fight (red). He's facing a very tough opponent in Boonlai who gave lots of people a tough time. Somrak is fighting him with Ning, it really isn't Stoic, its something else:

 

Ning isn't just a monk-like being unperturbed, it also has a kind of flair to it. It's the Buddhistic floating through, but it is also the coolness of an assassin. Which is why that article above, on how the Nak Muay is a blend of the Monk and the Nakleng. You can see that aspect of Ning in the fighting style of Karuhat:

 

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9 hours ago, SPACEDOODLE said:

For example, when I used to spar and take nasty low leg kicks, I would often find myself repeating this mantra: Nothing bad is happening, the cosmos has willed it as it is. This would help with the flinching, pain, and throbbing after eating the kick. I wouldn't really wince or limp because the mantra would help focus my mind on what is happening in front of me and not on what I was feeling in terms of the pain. The best analog I can think of is when Sylvie was talking about being unphased or without any facial expression after a kick or hit in her reflection of fight #241. 

So my question for this would be: How far is a Nak Muay expected to take this sentiment? Are they expected to take this "eudamonic" state to all facets of their lives or only in the ring? 

I liken this to an element of Vipassana Meditation practice. The short version of explaining Vipassana is that, unlike tranquility meditation, where you're trying to get into a kind of mindless trance, Vipassana takes as its object the body (roop) and the mind (nam) and you don't want to change consciousness at all. You want to be focused, concentrated, but not overly focused/concentrated (which would be a trance or tranquility) and not overly distracted (unable to remain in observation of the two objects). So, to use your example of the leg kicks, Roop (the body) is kicked and feels pain, Nam (the mind) observes the pain - neither of those facts are YOU. There is no "I." It is not your leg nor is the sensation your pain. Rather "pain is happening," and because the body has sensors to experience that pain and the mind has sensors to observe the experience of that pain, the reception is also happening. So, rather than that the gods or Fate or the universe has willed the pain, it's not held apart from the one-ness of everything else. "Pain is happening."

That's kind of how Ning is so rewarded. The body is being kicked, but it isn't moved by it. The mind is not distracted or deterred by it. The present moment keeps moving, more or less. A river isn't halted by an object thrown into it, even if the water has to then flow around it. It's an incredibly high-valued quality and characteristic of a man. Women, too, but for different reasons, I think. I think for women it's far more not "making something" of anything, rather than being unperturbed by resistance or counter-will in a physical, combat sense.

But for SURE Ning in the ring is held high and Ning out of the ring is held high as an attribute. 100%.

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