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Unsolicited advice during training


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This is a topic I have been meaning to bring up a while, but being hesitant since it might get a bit heated. However my curiosity won this battle as I am very interested in hearing other peoples’ views, especially trainers/coaches/teachers/instructors.

So here goes.

The self-appointed assisting coach or as some name them, mansplainers. The person, not a teacher, who comes with unsolicited advice in the gym.

I have always done some kind of exercise one way or the other, but it never became a true interest until I started yoga seven years ago. And with yoga, only the teacher will adjust your alignment (with few exceptions). The teacher understands anatomy, the asanas (posture/movements), and is trained to perform physical adjustments. If you have a good teacher, physical adjustments are done with such care and compassion. You are gently but firmly guided into the posture. It is a great way to learn.

On a job mission a few years back, I visited a studio that offer Budokon yoga,  a special kind of modern yoga which is infused with martial arts. A great experience and highly recommended.

Afterwards though I was talking to the teacher and this fellow student chats me up and out of nowhere he says he noticed I had over-extended my knee during practice. I am what you might call an experienced, advanced level yogi in terms of difficulties of the asanas I can master. But yoga has very little to do with difficult arm balances and so much more to do with presence and his comment brought me out of my presence, out of my physical body and mind, and into the thinking and judging brain of mine where I started over-thinking of where I kept my limbs and if I am doing things correctly and suddenly hyper-aware of the other people in the room.

And this to me is what unsolicited advice does. It robs me of my presence in training and learning and suddenly I become aware I am being observed by others.

When learning muay thai in Thailand as an adult. Well, it is an incredibly humbling experience. Due to language barriers, you will be made fun of when teachers instruct you, with exaggerated charades they will show you what kind of mistakes you do. And there is a clear hierarchy you need to submit to. And if you do not speak the language, you will have a hard time explaining yourself when being criticized and you can just nod and say yes. People will laugh and make jokes you do not understand.

In these situations it is wonderful to have training buddies who know you. Who can help you. Where there is mutual trust.

What you don’t need is someone you do not know giving you advice you did not ask for.  And I think it was Timothy who said it well in a different thread, you need the space to make your own mistakes.

As stated above, this is just my perspective and I am interested in other peoples’ views on this.

Edited by LengLeng
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10 minutes ago, LengLeng said:

And this to me is what unsolicited advice does. It robs me of my presence in training and learning and suddenly I become aware I am being observed by others.

I think this is why, often in real, long term training gyms that raise Thai boys up there is very little correction. And, why, you don't get everyone on the gym doing the same motions, having the same muay. Growing young fighters tend to be more nudged towards better technique, rather than "corrected", especially not repeatedly. And emulation becomes a strong tool of honing techniques, rather than teacher direction.

This may be related to the guest post I wrote for Sylvie's blog:

Precision – A Basic Motivation Mistake in Some Western Training

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From a western perspective, in a group class setting,  senior students are expected to give training advice. One reason is in anticipation of them being teachers themselves one day, another is kru's eyes can't be everywhere at once. I personally don't mind it, if I find it valid. If I don't find the critique valid, I just tell them that's the way I do it.

Edited by Jeremy Stewart
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For sure this happens way more in Western gyms than in Thailand. What country did this happen to you in, just out of interest?

Not a trainer, but out of pure guesswork? Might be the lack of training time & resources that makes this happen. 1 trainer and 40 people on the mat for a mere 1 hour session, basically means you get hardly any input from the teacher, so the 3 or 4 most experienced people in the room will - out of honest to God good intentions - try and help the new people in their first few weeks / months. Because somebody did it for them once. Which is nice of them - and to be fair, helped me out a tonne on my first day. But you also get it from people who suck and have douchebag attitudes, so yeah that's the frustrating part.

Training in different European countries makes you realise that half the job is remembering who to never partner with again, who to never spar with again, and regularly position yourself on the far side of the mat from them so as not to be paired up. Sounds bitchy, but there it is.

You guys often think this is 'mansplaining' but.... like...genuinely.... guys do this to each other more than they do it to girls. 

It's also a question of different people being wired to learn in totally different ways. Dunno how to prove it, just an instinct. But personally, always been totally incapable of learning anything by reading or listening to teachers give long winded speeches. The way a musician learns has always made more sense, you watch your teacher's movements, his finger mechanics, listen to the sound produced, then try to do it yourself. No reason for it to be more complicated than that.

 

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24 minutes ago, Oliver said:

You guys often think this is 'mansplaining' but.... like...genuinely.... guys do this to each other more than they do it to girls. 

Men "Mansplain" to other men all the time. In fact that is how they develop the habit. In fact, I just did it.

25 minutes ago, Oliver said:

trainer and 40 people on the mat for a mere 1 hour session, basically means you get hardly any input from the teacher

To offer the other side of it, this is really common in Thailand, and not because there are 40 people in a class. Sylvie calls it "Sensei-ism". Usually or often older, or long term people in the gym who themselves don't work very hard, maybe they've been coming for many years, off and on, and one of the biggest pleasures is trying to convey how much "knowledge" they have. Happens all the time.

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6 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

To offer the other side of it, this is really common in Thailand, and not because there are 40 people in a class. Sylvie calls it "Sensei-ism". Usually or often older, or long term people in the gym who themselves don't work very hard, maybe they've been coming for many years, off and on, and one of the biggest pleasures is trying to convey how much "knowledge" they have. Happens all the time.

 

Not sure I understand - this older person doing the sensei-sim thing, is this a Thai or a farang?

Only met a couple of white dudes over there who would chat shit to you constantly, & usually they wanted you to invest in their pyramid scheme or something after bestowing their great boxing knowledge. But like, sketchy characters who left fairly quick. 

As for the mansplaining thing... often what you're looking for you will find, whether it's there or not. 

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8 minutes ago, Oliver said:

this older person doing the sensei-sim thing, is this a Thai or a farang?

farang, for sure.

8 minutes ago, Oliver said:

Only met a couple of white dudes over there who would chat shit to you constantly, & usually they wanted you to invest in their pyramid scheme or something after bestowing their great boxing knowledge. But like, sketchy characters who left fairly quick. 

I guess we go to different gyms. It's definitely a type we have run into again and again. I'm not sure if @LengLeng is talking about this type, but I just wanted to throw it out there that this does occur in Thailand, as people have been mentioning western gym contexts.

8 minutes ago, Oliver said:

As for the mansplaining thing... often what you're looking for you will find, whether it's there or not. 

Hmmm. No, mansplaining is just an air of authority men are raised to take on and feel comfortable with (especially online, where social cues are minimal). It's a pattern of talk that, very broadly speaking, women are much less comfortable with. It's the assumption "I know more than you likely know" as a way of entering communication. Happens all the time. Raised as a man I definitely have been cursed/blessed with it. You don't have to really look for it, like a rare rabbit in the woods, it is pretty much everywhere. Sylvie gets it all the time when people first come to the gym and imagine that they are super experienced when compared to her.

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That's like... thinking about it / over analysing it way too much for me to comprehend. 

Isn't life hard enough without deliberately making it harder, and bringing it that level of negativity into your brain when you're doing what you love?

But to be fair, that's fairly shocking that white people will come into your gym and preach to her after over 200 fights. Surely you just have to see somebody shadowbox or do 1 body kick to know if they're better than you..?

Maybe our gyms are quite different, yeah. Like, not only did none of my trainers speak English, but neither did the other farang really. Only had my 1 Brazilian friend to talk to in almost a year in Bangkok, which was awesome tbh. It lets you off the hook if you're a quiet person who doesn't talk much anyway.

 

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At the yoga class I attend, the instructor frequently tells the students they have "beautiful variations". We all are working toward the same posture but because we are all individuals, our forms are unique to us. 

I definitely think the way that men and women are socialized affects our confidence about giving advice to others. I have offered advice to new people in various contexts if the teacher is occupied elsewhere, but I usually phrase it as a question "May I make a suggestion?, Would you like some help/advice?". If the person says no, then I keep my advice to myself.

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1 hour ago, Oliver said:

That's like... thinking about it / over analysing it way too much for me to comprehend. 

Isn't life hard enough without deliberately making it harder, and bringing it that level of negativity into your brain when you're doing what you love?

Yeah, white guys like you and me are privileged. We can coast through lots of situations and not have to think extra "negative" thoughts because we have a passport to get through all kinds of things that others don't. It's a luxury. The first step, at least for me, is realizing that yeah, I'm privileged, and other people in the same space don't experience it quite so smoothly as I do. If these people bring up certain problems that would never occur to me I take a step back and don't immediately say "Hey, you are being negative" or "why you looking for all that stuff". Sylvie tells a great story about how she wasn't able to clinch train in the main ring of her gym in Chiang Mai. It was the "man's ring", women were not allowed to enter it. It's where almost all the heavy clinch was done, and the hard sparring. Muppets were getting pretty high level clinch work, western guys who were not even fighters, while Sylvie (who was actually a clinch fighter with maybe at the time 50 or 70 fights) was getting almost no clinch work. It wasn't on purpose. It wasn't nasty, it's just the way it shook out. All the guys would just climb in and clinch. They hadn't a clue that Sylvie couldn't go in there. Occasionally a guy would say "Hey Sylvie, why don't you come in and clinch". They had a passport, one they completely took for granted. It wouldn't even cross their mind that you actually needed a passport (a penis, really) to clinch. But you kind of did. These kinds of invisible barriers are everywhere, often in much more subtle ways. Just because the barriers don't affect you or me doesn't mean that people who are stopped or slowed by them are being negative by calling attention to them. Sylvie didn't make a stink about that ring. But she suffered under it and its prohibition for a long time. She finally just left the gym and found a gym where women can clinch with males in a single ring and get all the real work. The same thing goes on with power dynamics and how instruction or information is passed between individuals. The tendency to "mansplain", broadly speaking, is really not much different than a bunch of western dudes climbing into the men's only ring to clinch. It isn't something special they are doing. That's just how one talks. It isn't something that feels privileged, it would never occur to them that you have to be a special type to do this. If you aren't clinching in the ring - as Sylvie wasn't in that ring - it must be that that's just not what you want to do. At least for me these are really important distinctions.

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22 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

...she wasn't able to clinch train in the main ring of her gym in Chiang Mai. It was the "man's ring", women were not allowed to enter it...

Yeah that's fucked up. 100%.

 

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I try not to give unsolicited advice, but I am certain I have been guilty of it at some point. I usually only suggest things or mention things if I am drilling or sparring with someone. For me this is an appropriate setting because we are supposed to be helping each other to get better. Just walking up to someone you don't know and spot correcting them is weird lol.

Also, never under any circumstances should they touch your body to make a correction without asking first. I don't care if you are male, female, or whatever, don't touch people without asking first. I personally don't like people touching me even if I do know them, and if you do it without knowing me you are likely to get a bad reaction out of me. I think most people have good intentions with all this, but you never know how the other person is going to take it or what kind of past personal issues they may have.  

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4 hours ago, Tyler Byers said:

 

Also, never under any circumstances should they touch your body to make a correction without asking first. I don't care if you are male, female, or whatever, don't touch people without asking first. 

 

That's super normal in yoga though. Its legit, not meant to be creepy or molesty at all. 

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2 hours ago, Oliver said:

That's super normal in yoga though. Its legit, not meant to be creepy or molesty at all. 

Permission should still be asked.  Even if someone is my friend, if I am coaching I will ask them if I can touch them before I make any sort of correction.

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4 hours ago, Oliver said:

That's super normal in yoga though. Its legit, not meant to be creepy or molesty at all.

I'm not familiar with yoga, but that's actually a perfect example of why it is better to ask. For example, if I went into a yoga studio for the first time I wouldn't realize that to be a normal thing. And if someone I didn't know just started touching me they might lose a hand lol. They may have had only good intentions (I legitimately believe that most people do), but me being very protective about my body due to some traumatic events is going to cause me to react in a way that will likely be violent in some form. It's simply a trigger that I struggle to control. The entire situation can be avoided by simply asking "Do you mind if I touch you to adjust your form/technique?". 

Edit: Also Oliver, it is a good idea to ask like this if you are a trainer/gym owner for your own legal reasons. Sexual assault claims (whether true or not) will usually destroy a business. By asking first you decrease liability as well as establish a healthy relationship with your students. 

Edited by Tyler Byers
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Nah, you wouldn't react like that in a yoga studio. They have that whole hippy vibe. Ya know, peace & love, universal oneness, candles, pan pipe music, white people with dreadlocks. It's immediately obvious to you that you're not in any danger. 

Actually wait, whats the difference between getting touched by a yoga teacher and your trainer in the gym slapping you hard in the face with a thai pad if you drop your guard too much?

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6 hours ago, Tyler Byers said:

I'm not familiar with yoga, but that's actually a perfect example of why it is better to ask. For example, if I went into a yoga studio for the first time I wouldn't realize that to be a normal thing. And if someone I didn't know just started touching me they might lose a hand lol. They may have had only good intentions (I legitimately believe that most people do), but me being very protective about my body due to some traumatic events is going to cause me to react in a way that will likely be violent in some form. It's simply a trigger that I struggle to control. The entire situation can be avoided by simply asking "Do you mind if I touch you to adjust your form/technique?". 

@Oliver @Victoria Pitt @Tyler Byers

In western studios most yoga teachers will announce to the class that they will adjust you and give students the opportunity to opt out of this. Especially Male teachers I've practiced for have been very careful about this. 

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On 7/12/2019 at 1:10 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I think this is why, often in real, long term training gyms that raise Thai boys up there is very little correction. And, why, you don't get everyone on the gym doing the same motions, having the same muay. Growing young fighters tend to be more nudged towards better technique, rather than "corrected", especially not repeatedly. And emulation becomes a strong tool of honing techniques, rather than teacher direction.

This may be related to the guest post I wrote for Sylvie's blog:

Precision – A Basic Motivation Mistake in Some Western Training

This is so beautiful. I've never thought of it that way. I also love this post. 

I also really like to learn this way although of course it's time consuming. But to move with others, look at them, emulate movements and finding your own inner music. I find it such a rewarding experience. I don't have a goal with martial arts. Of course I want to be the best I can be. But mainly, I just love being in the gym and move and sweat with others and being able to discover new movements within myself. 

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21 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

From a western perspective, in a group class setting,  senior students are expected to give training advice. One reason is in anticipation of them being teachers themselves one day, another is kru's eyes can't be everywhere at once. I personally don't mind it, if I find it valid. If I don't find the critique valid, I just tell them that's the way I do it.

This is also my experience and I think it's a good system. I also do not mind it. But you will always have those who overestimate their knowledge and dish out bad advice. Which I guess it's the issue. 

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19 hours ago, Oliver said:

For sure this happens way more in Western gyms than in Thailand. What country did this happen to you in, just out of interest?

But you also get it from people who suck and have douchebag attitudes, so yeah that's the frustrating part.

This was a yoga studio in South Africa. 

And yes advice are not a bad thing...it's when the wrong people give bad advice. 

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18 hours ago, Oliver said:

 

Not sure I understand - this older person doing the sensei-sim thing, is this a Thai or a farang?

Only met a couple of white dudes over there who would chat shit to you constantly, & usually they wanted you to invest in their pyramid scheme or something after bestowing their great boxing knowledge. But like, sketchy characters who left fairly quick. 

As for the mansplaining thing... often what you're looking for you will find, whether it's there or not. 

Never met any western guy like this? I feel it's hard to generalize too much, short term visitors are different than longterm etc. But in my experience, the more skilled and experienced the fighter, the less advice they give. My closest friend was one of the best boxers in Europe. She will give me mental advice, how to prep for fight, how to deal with training or swollen knuckles. But she will never comment my movements. Even though I ask. It's more: keep working have fun it will come. 

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16 hours ago, Tyler Byers said:

I try not to give unsolicited advice, but I am certain I have been guilty of it at some point. I usually only suggest things or mention things if I am drilling or sparring with someone. For me this is an appropriate setting because we are supposed to be helping each other to get better. Just walking up to someone you don't know and spot correcting them is weird lol.

Also, never under any circumstances should they touch your body to make a correction without asking first. I don't care if you are male, female, or whatever, don't touch people without asking first. I personally don't like people touching me even if I do know them, and if you do it without knowing me you are likely to get a bad reaction out of me. I think most people have good intentions with all this, but you never know how the other person is going to take it or what kind of past personal issues they may have.  

I'll take that on board, Tyler. I always ask my female students. Never once have I thought to ask the males.

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31 minutes ago, LengLeng said:

This is also my experience and I think it's a good system. I also do not mind it. But you will always have those who overestimate their knowledge and dish out bad advice. Which I guess it's the issue. 

Oh for sure. From a teaching perspective, I try to keep an eye on the interactions of my students. I clip no it alls right in the bud.

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4 hours ago, Oliver said:

Nah, you wouldn't react like that in a yoga studio. They have that whole hippy vibe. Ya know, peace & love, universal oneness, candles, pan pipe music, white people with dreadlocks. It's immediately obvious to you that you're not in any danger. 

Actually wait, whats the difference between getting touched by a yoga teacher and your trainer in the gym slapping you hard in the face with a thai pad if you drop your guard too much?

Obvious to you perhaps, but I can assure you that not everyone who has been through traumatic situations is in control of their bodies at all times. For guys just coming out of war zones or people who were abused badly as children, women who have been raped, etc. they still see danger everywhere. It's more about never letting something like that happen to you again and you remain on high alert no matter how safe a situation seems. I've nearly hit several people with elbows simply for walking up behind me when not expecting it. It's not something I have control of, my body moves and reacts on its own.

I know what you are saying about over thinking things, but imo simply asking is the respectful thing to do. A yoga teacher will likely announce it at the beginning of class, and then again just before they adjust you. It's not about the act of touching per se, but about the consent to do so. As for a trainer in a gym, I personally would be pretty shocked if a trainer hit a student hard without any warning. Usually you give the student several verbal warnings, then maybe a quick swat or tap but even that is at a speed that is slow enough so they understand what is happening. In Thailand things are a little different due to the language and cultural barriers, but that is also something you accept as you come into that environment.

 

2 hours ago, Jeremy Stewart said:

I'll take that on board, Tyler. I always ask my female students. Never once have I thought to ask the males.

I think a lot of times people just assume guys are alright with it. This might be a personal thing, but I'd rather get hit hard with a pad then have someone place their hands on me to turn my shoulders/hips more. While placing your hands on someone may seem like a "softer" touch, it makes me deeply uncomfortable. Due to some childhood stuff, being hit is normal and being touched/hugged took me about 20 years to get used to. In my experience a lot of the guys who end up at combat sports gyms are products of abuse or guys with PTSD of some sort (whether from childhood or military service). Not all of them obviously, especially as combat sports are becoming more main stream, but you just don't know people's background. Plus it sets a good example for the younger kids (male and female) and teaches them appropriate behavior for their future so they know what is ok or not ok in case their parents aren't teaching them at home.  

 

 

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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)    
    • Hi, this might be out of the normal topic, but I thought you all might be interested in a book-- Children of the Neon Bamboo-- that has a really cool Martial Arts instructor character who set up an early Muy Thai gym south of Miami in the 1980s. He's a really cool character who drives the plot, and there historically accurate allusions to 1980s martial arts culture. However, the main thrust is more about nostalgia and friendships.    Can we do links? Childrenoftheneonbamboo.com Children of the Neon Bamboo: B. Glynn Kimmey: 9798988054115: Amazon.com: Movies & TV      
    • I really appreciate your wave patterns analogy; it applies to a lot of interactions. 
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    • Hi, this might be out of the normal topic, but I thought you all might be interested in a book-- Children of the Neon Bamboo-- that has a really cool Martial Arts instructor character who set up an early Muy Thai gym south of Miami in the 1980s. He's a really cool character who drives the plot, and there historically accurate allusions to 1980s martial arts culture. However, the main thrust is more about nostalgia and friendships.    Can we do links? Childrenoftheneonbamboo.com Children of the Neon Bamboo: B. Glynn Kimmey: 9798988054115: Amazon.com: Movies & TV      
    • Davince Resolve is a great place to start. 
    • I see that this thread is from three years ago, and I hope your journey with Muay Thai and mental health has evolved positively during this time. It's fascinating to revisit these discussions and reflect on how our understanding of such topics can grow. The connection between training and mental health is intricate, as you've pointed out. Finding the right balance between pushing yourself and self-care is a continuous learning process. If you've been exploring various avenues for managing mood-related issues over these years, you might want to revisit the topic of mental health resources. One such resource is The UK Medical Cannabis Card, which can provide insights into alternative treatments.
    • Phetjeeja fought Anissa Meksen for a ONE FC interim atomweight kickboxing title 12/22/2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu92S6-V5y0&ab_channel=ONEChampionship Fight starts at 45:08 Phetjeeja won on points. Not being able to clinch really handicapped her. I was afraid the ref was going to start deducting points for clinch fouls.   
    • Earlier this year I wrote a couple of sociology essays that dealt directly with Muay Thai, drawing on Sylvie's journalism and discussions on the podcast to do so. I thought I'd put them up here in case they were of any interest, rather than locking them away with the intention to perfectly rewrite them 'some day'. There's not really many novel insights of my own, rather it's more just pulling together existing literature with some of the von Duuglus-Ittu's work, which I think is criminally underutilised in academic discussions of MT. The first, 'Some meanings of muay' was written for an ideology/sosciology of knowledge paper, and is an overly long, somewhat grindy attempt to give a combined historical, institutional, and situated study of major cultural meanings of Muay Thai as a form of strength. The second paper, 'the fighter's heart' was written for a qualitative analysis course, and makes extensive use of interviews and podcast discussions to talk about some ways in which the gendered/sexed body is described/deployed within Muay Thai. There's plenty of issues with both, and they're not what I'd write today, and I'm learning to realise that's fine! some meanings of muay.docx The fighter's heart.docx
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