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Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu

Thailand Muay Thai News - Rule Changes, Fights, Events

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Changes to Lumpinee Stadium:

Not sure if you all will be interested in the kind of "what's going on in Thailand" news, but I find it interesting and will be posting things here. Recently, there was a big meeting at Lumpinee with the head of the stadium. Lumpinee is run by the army and the man who is the head of the stadium is a high ranking officer, whose face was showing up in photos and and reports of this meeting, which seemed to be focused on 1) creating a new set of enforcement for punishing fighters who "lom muay" (that's "taking a fall" or "throwing a fight" to us), with a specification that "dek" (the word for children, but also colloquially used for "young") will be given a second chance; as well as some rules I'll have to get help fully understanding from Kru Nu, which seemed to be about fighters who change gyms and their alliances. And 2) how to drive more business to the Lumpinee, Ram Intra area throughout the week so that it's not just the 3 days on which they have promotions. When New Lumpinee opened, it was hit hard by being a completely inconvenient location and audience attendance plummeted. There are some things to do over there, but there's construction on the overpass and traffic is terrible, so the financial struggle at the stadium is real.

The part that's interesting is this "lom muay" part, because within a couple days of this meeting, this fighter was accused of throwing his fight. Aekgarat Tor. Dor. Gudanamsai is seen in this video returning backstage after the referee called his fight off. He was out of power and after the third round the referee announced the fight was dubious and had both fighters exit the ring. I've seen this before - the first time Kevin and I saw it on TV we had no idea what was happening. It's not frequent, but sometimes a referee will decide that one fighter is not really fighting, or trying to throw the fight, and he'll stop the fight right there and all bets are cancelled. Sometimes fighters are suspended, sometimes there's an investigation and it's ruled that it was not being thrown; and sometimes the referee is suspended, in the case that his call for stopping the fight is deemed a method of cheating for gambling purposes. Suspensions are uncommon. But the disdain that fighters who are known to have thrown fights are spoken about, demonstrates this is a big sore spot on the face of Muay Thai.

In this video, the military police come into the back room. He mostly just stays there to keep the fighter and trainers from going anywhere, then escort them to a meeting with this high ranking officer who runs Lumpinee. There were photos of that meeting in posts after this. Ultimately, the fighter explained that he was a replacement for this match and had only a week to prepare, which is why he had no power in the fight. He was not suspended or punished, ultimately. But in the video there's a guy who comes and is just screaming at this fighter and his trainer. You get a good glimpse of Thai style "not my business" with folks in the background, including another fighter who is getting ready for his match. The guy who is yelling is a gambler and his language is harsh. You'll get gamblers screaming at fighters from the stands after fights, but it's another thing for them to come backstage. I find it interesting that the military police officer is only concerned with keeping an eye on the fighter and trainers and has no care at all for controlling the gambler. In the comments on the facebook share of this video, my favorite is from a guy who, using very harsh language himself, directs his comment at the gambler and says, "if you've got so much energy to yell at the fighter like this, why don't you go fight the opponent yourself."

Ultimately, one of the reasons I'm sharing this is that the proximity of this meeting and announcement of punishment for throwing fights to an event in which a fighter is accused is highly performed. To have published photos of the meeting and then published photos of a fighter being accused, taken to the office, and ultimately let off with a warning all appears to be a "we made a rule and watch us enforce it!" kind of thing. 

https://www.facebook.com/190387948278006/posts/360860344564098/

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    • I also think that we may run into some problems if we just define Thai hypermasculinity by the appeal to violence. In the West hypermasculinity is often strongly coded by shows of violence. I imagine you've read it but Sylvie's and my article Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail is really good on this, taking the start from Peter Vail's chapter. We have to say that not only is the "nak leng" (prone to violence gangster tough) Thai hypermasculinity, but also so is the "monk". Both are exaggerated masculine ideals. And that's where the Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu battle plays out. Two models of hypermasculinity. I think the difficulty comes when we try to graft that historical duality onto let's say Greek mythology and Apollo & Dionysus, or even (Western) ideals of male and female. The graphic we made from that article:  
    • I think a really interesting place to start, and the metaphysically strongest foothold is your original appeal to Apollo as distinct, and the sense that (his/the) figure involves the movement from the inchoate (which in at least many societies is chthonic with female associations, though not categorically so). In at least the traditional aesthetics of Golden Age Muay Thai there is a powerful emphasis on distinction, readability, visibility, and even in contemporary Muay Thai you find the criticism of a fighter as muaymua which means indistinct, clouded. A very aggressive, flailing or windmilling fighter is fighting in an unreadable way. Muaymua. You find this in the importance of ruup, which you mentioned, which is ultimately taking the body as a sign, displaying posture, physical control, dignity, etc. A fighter who is off-balance, or who is bent over, or generally lacks readability has lost their ruup. This runs parallel to Buddhistic ideals of self-control. A fighter who cannot control their emotions also can't control their body-signification. This plays into your appeals to Heidegger's truth-event, art as visibility - though I personally feel that Heidegger got alethea somewhat wrong - which helps us understand that in a Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu (metaphysical) battle, both fighters are seeking to make themselves visible & readable. Distinct. I do think it is fair to say that Muay Femeu is further along the distinction spectrum, at least it does not risk lack of clarity quite as much in its style, as it often pays more attention to rhythm and timing (musical aspects of distinction and readability). And the burden falls upon the Muay Khao fighter to show distinction in his/her pressure fighting. Muay Khao legends are very insistent on this with Sylvie when they have instructed her. Do not rush. Find the rhythm, the beat. Make your strikes (which often are at close range) readable. Also, in this battle, the warfare that the Muay Khao fighter brings is to break the illusions of the Muay Femeu fighter's clarity and signified composure. You see this, for instance, in the two big fights that Samart lost (Dieselnoi and Wangchannoi). Once the spell is broken there is very little left. The Muay Khao fighter seeks to break ruup. But, I think it's a very complex thing to attempt to graft historical male and female expressions onto the inchoate>distinctness metaphysical spectrum, and arrive some beyond-history place. Yes, males (Patriarchy) have been placed at the top of most symbolic hierarchies, but Thailand itself in the 1920s-1950s adopted Western modes of gender distinction, specifically to appear more civilized, less deserving of colonization, more in step with "modernity". Siam was known to commonly not have strong visual distinctions between the genders. Westerners found this inchoate. You can see how historically contingent the application of distinction and gender may be. Also involved in Thailand is the basic tension between cosmopolitan (royal) distinction along those adopted and developed lines, and rural, provincial distinction which may have run along very different tastes and aesthetics. A male body of Bangkok princely signification may vie semiotically with the male body of Buriram signification. It's no easy thing to try and isolate some historical, yet transcendent "female" in this mixed history. In fact it seems like it is probably wrong to do so, or at least highly projective of one's own cultural history and presumptions.  The "ontology" that you appeal to in traditional Muay Thai, which is to say the ontology of win and loss, itself is conditioned and constructed historically. It relies on culturally developed aesthetics. Even if we grant that these aesthetics developed to reward distinctness over incoherence, the significations of that distinctness, what counts for distinctness, is to a large degree historically contingent. Thais say standing up straight is clear ruup, in Caipoeira it's the crouch. Also complexifying the distinctness measure, even or especially a great Muay Femeu fighter fights with deception and incoherence as a tool. Obscurity isn't only a weakness, it cloaks sudden readability. In some regard both Muay Khao and Muay Femeu are aesthetically mixing incoherence and clarity for effectiveness under that culturally expressive rule set.
    • I guess I may need to put some more thought into how I conceive of muay khao = female, because I'm having a hard time explaining it differently than I am, and it does not seem to be entirely convincing, haha. Yes, it is trying to set up a dichotomy for deconstruction, but it is also trying to conceive of dynamics of gender rather than cultural conceptions of gender. If the format of the presentation were different, I would have liked to establish the dichotomies of Ortner and Nietzsche first. I think that would have made for a more convincing case of muay khao being parallel to female, because it does seem to be more animalistic, and that would be considered closer to ''the female'' in the framework of Nietzsche and Ortner. Mainly it hinges on an understanding of gender as a continuum that constitutes it's pole through the immanent tension itself, rather than through substances at either end. I suppose that the way I see it outside of this attempt at establishing dichotomies for deconstruction is that muay khao and muay femeu both contend for the right to masculine identity, and both are at risk of being condemned as feminine; muay femeu for being too ornate and ''not having guts'', for not being aggressive and for not being strong enough; muay khao for looking like a dumb beast (many patriarchal societies consider and have considered women dumb, unfit for learning, see Aristotle), for not being able to play by the rules of man so to speak, for not being part of the order.   I agree with you that the strongest reading of muay thai is through your span of man-animality, but I wanted to try my hand at doing something similar with gender, because it seems to me (and to you) that there are strong currents of gender identities and dynamics in muay thai. As I mention in the presentation, I don't subscribe to an entirely social constructivist concept of gender, and so it seems to me that muay thai has something to tell us about gender that is more than how it is conceived at x time in y place.
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    • I also think that we may run into some problems if we just define Thai hypermasculinity by the appeal to violence. In the West hypermasculinity is often strongly coded by shows of violence. I imagine you've read it but Sylvie's and my article Thai Masculinity: Postioning Nak Muay Between Monkhood and Nak Leng – Peter Vail is really good on this, taking the start from Peter Vail's chapter. We have to say that not only is the "nak leng" (prone to violence gangster tough) Thai hypermasculinity, but also so is the "monk". Both are exaggerated masculine ideals. And that's where the Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu battle plays out. Two models of hypermasculinity. I think the difficulty comes when we try to graft that historical duality onto let's say Greek mythology and Apollo & Dionysus, or even (Western) ideals of male and female. The graphic we made from that article:  
    • I think a really interesting place to start, and the metaphysically strongest foothold is your original appeal to Apollo as distinct, and the sense that (his/the) figure involves the movement from the inchoate (which in at least many societies is chthonic with female associations, though not categorically so). In at least the traditional aesthetics of Golden Age Muay Thai there is a powerful emphasis on distinction, readability, visibility, and even in contemporary Muay Thai you find the criticism of a fighter as muaymua which means indistinct, clouded. A very aggressive, flailing or windmilling fighter is fighting in an unreadable way. Muaymua. You find this in the importance of ruup, which you mentioned, which is ultimately taking the body as a sign, displaying posture, physical control, dignity, etc. A fighter who is off-balance, or who is bent over, or generally lacks readability has lost their ruup. This runs parallel to Buddhistic ideals of self-control. A fighter who cannot control their emotions also can't control their body-signification. This plays into your appeals to Heidegger's truth-event, art as visibility - though I personally feel that Heidegger got alethea somewhat wrong - which helps us understand that in a Muay Khao vs Muay Femeu (metaphysical) battle, both fighters are seeking to make themselves visible & readable. Distinct. I do think it is fair to say that Muay Femeu is further along the distinction spectrum, at least it does not risk lack of clarity quite as much in its style, as it often pays more attention to rhythm and timing (musical aspects of distinction and readability). And the burden falls upon the Muay Khao fighter to show distinction in his/her pressure fighting. Muay Khao legends are very insistent on this with Sylvie when they have instructed her. Do not rush. Find the rhythm, the beat. Make your strikes (which often are at close range) readable. Also, in this battle, the warfare that the Muay Khao fighter brings is to break the illusions of the Muay Femeu fighter's clarity and signified composure. You see this, for instance, in the two big fights that Samart lost (Dieselnoi and Wangchannoi). Once the spell is broken there is very little left. The Muay Khao fighter seeks to break ruup. But, I think it's a very complex thing to attempt to graft historical male and female expressions onto the inchoate>distinctness metaphysical spectrum, and arrive some beyond-history place. Yes, males (Patriarchy) have been placed at the top of most symbolic hierarchies, but Thailand itself in the 1920s-1950s adopted Western modes of gender distinction, specifically to appear more civilized, less deserving of colonization, more in step with "modernity". Siam was known to commonly not have strong visual distinctions between the genders. Westerners found this inchoate. You can see how historically contingent the application of distinction and gender may be. Also involved in Thailand is the basic tension between cosmopolitan (royal) distinction along those adopted and developed lines, and rural, provincial distinction which may have run along very different tastes and aesthetics. A male body of Bangkok princely signification may vie semiotically with the male body of Buriram signification. It's no easy thing to try and isolate some historical, yet transcendent "female" in this mixed history. In fact it seems like it is probably wrong to do so, or at least highly projective of one's own cultural history and presumptions.  The "ontology" that you appeal to in traditional Muay Thai, which is to say the ontology of win and loss, itself is conditioned and constructed historically. It relies on culturally developed aesthetics. Even if we grant that these aesthetics developed to reward distinctness over incoherence, the significations of that distinctness, what counts for distinctness, is to a large degree historically contingent. Thais say standing up straight is clear ruup, in Caipoeira it's the crouch. Also complexifying the distinctness measure, even or especially a great Muay Femeu fighter fights with deception and incoherence as a tool. Obscurity isn't only a weakness, it cloaks sudden readability. In some regard both Muay Khao and Muay Femeu are aesthetically mixing incoherence and clarity for effectiveness under that culturally expressive rule set.
    • I guess I may need to put some more thought into how I conceive of muay khao = female, because I'm having a hard time explaining it differently than I am, and it does not seem to be entirely convincing, haha. Yes, it is trying to set up a dichotomy for deconstruction, but it is also trying to conceive of dynamics of gender rather than cultural conceptions of gender. If the format of the presentation were different, I would have liked to establish the dichotomies of Ortner and Nietzsche first. I think that would have made for a more convincing case of muay khao being parallel to female, because it does seem to be more animalistic, and that would be considered closer to ''the female'' in the framework of Nietzsche and Ortner. Mainly it hinges on an understanding of gender as a continuum that constitutes it's pole through the immanent tension itself, rather than through substances at either end. I suppose that the way I see it outside of this attempt at establishing dichotomies for deconstruction is that muay khao and muay femeu both contend for the right to masculine identity, and both are at risk of being condemned as feminine; muay femeu for being too ornate and ''not having guts'', for not being aggressive and for not being strong enough; muay khao for looking like a dumb beast (many patriarchal societies consider and have considered women dumb, unfit for learning, see Aristotle), for not being able to play by the rules of man so to speak, for not being part of the order.   I agree with you that the strongest reading of muay thai is through your span of man-animality, but I wanted to try my hand at doing something similar with gender, because it seems to me (and to you) that there are strong currents of gender identities and dynamics in muay thai. As I mention in the presentation, I don't subscribe to an entirely social constructivist concept of gender, and so it seems to me that muay thai has something to tell us about gender that is more than how it is conceived at x time in y place.
    • Okay. But you are the one who included "female" on one half of the bracket. It was your schema. You may be saying that this dichotomy cannot hold, but even at the level of description it doesn't seem to describe the cultural facts on the ground, to start with. But maybe I'm not following you. I just don't see why a starting place would be Muay Khao = female, unless one is just trying to set up a dichotomy that will then be deconstructed. Are we starting with something like: Muay Khao is rural, rural is of the land, the land is often seen as female in cultures? Or, why isn't Samart "Dionysian"? He is ornate. He is gender fluid (in some ways), He is theatrical. I guess I'm just having trouble with the starting point, which is a male vs female division. But I will admit I might not be following it clearly. I do really enjoy and even love the broad strokes of your thought. And the presentation with all the performance/example is really beautiful stuff. So good. I do love the way you have brought diverse ideas and theories together. It's very good.
    • [again, I see you have responded to the above while writing, I'll just post this blind.] I should say, I think that these contradictions in representation, the difficulty in just popping most Muay Femeu fighters into a "male" box, and Muay Khao fighters into a "female" box, actually comes from the attempt to move from what maybe we'd call ethnography (?) to metaphysics. The contradictions actually, don't mean that it's wrong to attempt the theorizing, but rather than that politics and ideology complexify the entire problem. You touch on this in your presentation when you suggest that provincial males might see the aristocratic boys as sissies (ie, unmanly). That entire inversion of what is manly is at tension here. But, being very broad about it...the "critique" of urban sophistication is that it is "feminine" and the critique of rural strength is that it is "animalistic" or "stupid" (not that it is feminine). Any approach would have to incorporate these poles I think.  
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