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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

What Spider-Man Animation Tells Us About Yodmuay Muay Thai

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For my thoughts on this it is best to read Sylvie's post on the Silhouette Test and Muay Thai: Becoming Yodmuay and the Silhouette Test, that will introduce the basic ideas of making yourself visually definable as a fighter. The above video is a breakdown of the animation techniques and strategies used to expressively tell the story of Spider-Man in the off-the-charts refashioning Into the Spiderverse. What is germane to Muay Thai is for me how the techniques and strategies of the animation (frame rates, textures, timing, composition, even design elements) in the film really reflect upon one of the least thought about aspects of fighting technique and fight winning, especially in the west. Almost obsessively we think about the body as if it is a lifeless, nearly mechanical doll, whose limbs were are trying to put into positions, and into specific actions. I've written a little about this in my guest post: Precision – A Basic Motivation Mistake in Some Western Training. There is very little of that in Thailand's Muay Thai, even though we admire Thais for how precise they are. The thing is, they don't get precise by trying to be precise. Rather, and Sylvie has talked about this, they get that way by thinking about Ruup. Ruup is the bodily form. It's the overall composition of what you look like, what you are expressing, and how you are formed. Thinking and feeling about ruup is what gives you grace or power, what bestows balance and timing, and it's also what eventually gives you what Sylvie calls the Silhouette. Fighters in the western tradition of learning don't think enough about their Ruup, their Silhouette, which is compositionally how they appear in space and over time, no less than the animators were thoughtful how each character would be portrayed in the Spiderverse trailer (which the video goes into great depth on). In Muay Thai of course there are templated ruup, which is ways that bodies express archetypes of, let's say, the femeu fighter, the Muay Thai dern fighter, the Muay Maat puncher...yes. But fighters ultimately develop their own Silhouette. Fighters should always be working on their Silhouette, because at the end of it all, this is how you are visually made understandable. By judges. By audience. By gamblers. Everything is a passion play, a Marvel comic.

I invite you to watch maybe the first 15 minutes of the animation breakdown above, and then watch one of the most Silhouetted fighters of the Golden Age, in highlight:

Don't watch his techniques, watch his Ruup, his outline, his form. The outline and form is what really is expressive of your character, and at most, your soul. We in the west are often preoccupied with inflicting damage, like damage points. Things that you almost add up on a calculator (or literally CAN add up on a calculator). In Thailand, at least traditionally, it is instead a story of each fighter's Ruup, and as a fighter what you are doing is trying to break your opponent's Ruup, their Silhouette. The purpose of pain, or "damage" is only served in a larger project, that of breaking the Silhouette, and for that reason other things like timing, tempo-change, posturing, dis-balances can be even greater tools than simple pain (a landed strike). What the animation analysis at top does for us though, is open the eyes to all the ways in which a fighter can work on, and train Ruup. Do you land softly, do you land with a thud? What does that say about you? Are you striding? Are you hunched? What does that express? What it does is unfurl and enormous canvas of artistic choices you can make, infinite combinations of how you are composed, as if animated into a character. It isn't just what "weapons" you use, or which guard (crude video game concepts of character). It's things like: How close do you stand? How do you respond or recoil from a strike? How does your Ruup react to its own off-balance? How does it self-portray determination, or the reaction to fear, or dominance? You are always and ever training yourself as a 3D animation character. Everything you do on the pads, on the bag, in sparring and clinch, is the sketchbook of a Silhouette animation, filled with powerful, important character expressions. A great deal of this, if you do not attend to it, will simply become unconscious. You will accidentally create a Silhouette, one that embodies personal psychological strengths, but also weaknesses, but...if you attend to it, it can become an artistic fashioning, an exploration. What does your Ruup look like when you are exhausted, nearly defeated, proud, threatened? How do you get off the bench at the gym? How do you pick up your damp, smelly gloves? All of it is in the creation of a character that is to become visually readable, and ultimately admirable. The fighter in you should find your highest values, the poetry of yourself, and be given the clay to become real, under the fire of duress. If strikes land on you, the real test of Ruup is: How does your Ruup respond to strikes landing. They can land endlessly against you, and if your Ruup shines through there is something nearly divine about that, because it's the composed soul that is shining through. But, if a strike lands on you in training, and you stop, you break Ruup, catching a moment to self-critique, you have violating the prime directive of animation. You are losing Silhouette...or, worse, you are creating a new Silhouette, one you do not intend.

Think about all the choices pointed out in the first 15 minutes of the analysis at top, and then think of all the choices you can make in training, in every moment of who you are, and, how those choices can eventually find their way into the ring, even if you never plan to fight. That is Ruup. That is why we love things like comic book characters. That is why we love Yodmuay.


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Oh I absolutely loved reading this. How well articulated. I just watched Spider-Man in the Spider verse last week. I still can’t get over the colors, the characters, and how the shapes move across the screen. 


The theme of getting to know your silhouette to fully unleash your powers = the idea you will fit into your Spider-Man suit in time. No returns policy.

Your post reminds me about the phenomenon of the human imagination. The liminal space we step into when we suspend disbelief temporarily and listen to the narrative. The place where literally anything can come to be! The space between the tip of the animator’s pencil and paper. The space where the brain and a vivid literary world collide in the reader’s mind. The space that rests between the fighter who is and the fighter who is to be. Our gaps are our potential bc that’s where our imagination naturally thrives. 


Ive been thinking a lot about the imagination recently. This was such a relevant and encouraging post. I like thinking with the concept - Ruup! Very insightful and beautiful  ~  thank you for the thoughtful post. 

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