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Drilling without shin guards - do's and don'ts?


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Hi all!

What are your thoughts on doing partner drills without shin guards? Shin to shin contact sucks, does it keep sucking, or do you get used to it?
What's the prevalent opinion on training without shin guards in Thai gyms? Do fighters train without pads prior to competion?

Thanks!

Gilles

 

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Quite regularly I'll do drills with no shin guards and light sparring with no shin guards. It can hurt, but so long as you aren't belting each other as hard as you can, you should be fine. 

It's more that you have to be careful with body kicks than anything, you still try to kick to the body but you don't want to full on blast the kick like yo would sparring. The benefit of it is that you learn control and it mentally prepares you for a fight. 

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Honestly I prefer it as I feel like it represents my kicks way more accurate and actually forces me to care about the form of my kicks, where as when i use guards I just go for max power and not form. It's all down to personal preference in the end but I recommend doing sparring and drills both ways. Double the practice double the reward right? 😄

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On 8/5/2019 at 2:43 AM, Gibu said:

Hi all!

What are your thoughts on doing partner drills without shin guards? Shin to shin contact sucks, does it keep sucking, or do you get used to it?
What's the prevalent opinion on training without shin guards in Thai gyms? Do fighters train without pads prior to competion?

Thanks!

Gilles

 

It's a great thing to get used to if you AND your partner have good control. There's not a lot of shin-to-shin contact without shinguards in Thailand. Trainers and folks sparring will kind of use the bottom of their foot to "kick" on the leg, if it's blocked, rather than go shin to shin. But kicking the arms, legs, and sides of the body with control and bare shins is totally fun and much more realistic to what kicks will feel like in a fight that doesn't have pads. You'll often see one pair of shinguards split between 2 people, so your blocking leg has a guard and your kicking leg doesn't, but in a same-stance pair it's the opposite, so their blocking leg also has a guard and their kicking leg doesn't.

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On 8/5/2019 at 2:43 AM, Gibu said:

What's the prevalent opinion on training without shin guards in Thai gyms? Do fighters train without pads prior to competion?

There is a loose theory floating out there, to which both Sylvie and I subscribe, which is that the arrival of shin guards has really changed the level of fighting even in Thailand. In the Golden Age, and certainly before, there was no such thing. We reason, and I think Karuhat helped support this if I recall, that the absence of shin guards produce far more control and balance in Thai fighters, across the board. Just something to keep in mind.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I haven't seen a lot of drilling without shinguards in my gym here in Germany but my experience is certainly limited. We never used shinguards when training Kali though. Of course we also kicked less than you do in Muay Thai.

It does help with control though. I think a good way to go might be a rule our Kali-trainer gave us for drills that involved taking direct hits that could potentially be damaging or cause long time bruising. An example was front kicks to the stomach-area where one partner would practice the kick and the other would just take it on the stomach to practice breathing and flexing the stomach muscles with good timing.

The rule was: start low intensity and the one on the receiving end gives the commands. The only two commands allowed are "good" if intensity is fine or "harder" if intensity is too low. The idea is that this way it should be possible to train well and increase intensity without it ever getting TOO hard. Remember: you'll do this taking turns so the next kick will be yours to take!

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I hate wearing shinguards. I don't wear them anymore at my gyms or when I just train with my coach outside. I don't like wearing any kind of protective gear anymore to be honest, not even gloves. It just feels unnecessary bulky and in the way like swimming with all your clothes on. I also happen to have grown fond of both the pain I feel and the pain I inflict when bones hit bones. It's so satisfying to see your partner wince from the contact while you barely felt anything. Or you actually felt something big time and you loved it! Getting more exalted as a result. In both instances your partner usually freaks out/back down.

Besides it really does help better with learning control and distance not to wear anything. When I kick kinda too hard at the wrong distance and the part of myself that lands on the other's bone isn't my shin but my foot, I can assure you I feel like screaming and will remember it. If I do the same with shinguards, I will probably not feel the sting at all. My body and mind might not learn the lesson. Might get longer to sink in.

Really, protective gears annoy me so much now. I don't even wear bands anymore. I'm no expert at all so I'm not saying I'm right. I just find them useless for the kind of person I would like to become, and the kind of enjoyment I get out of not wearing anything. I even envy men who can train in pants barechested. You're not as free to be that naked when you're a woman, for several (kinda obvious) reasons I can't be bother to list out.

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I have mixed feelings on all of this. The best answer I have is a bit of a non-answer. For me there is a time and place for safety equipment. If I am doing simple drilling I kind of like doing no pads, but for full sparring I prefer to wear shin guards. It really just depends on the partner, pace, and power levels. I have training partners that I loved sparring with (no longer work with them), but I can't imagine us training without shin guards lol. That is because we went fairly hard though. I like to spar somewhere between 60-80%. We could only go hard like that though because we knew each other quite well and understood when to back off a bit. Even when we tested each other a bit there was always an understanding to back off if it got to be too much and it was never emotional. That said, I've been dropped with a few shots in sparring and had my nose fractured twice lol. I've had other partners that I also sparred "fast" with, but with much less power. I never sparred them with no shin guards, but I think we would have both done really well with that. It's just different with each person. The added protection is just that... added protection. Depends on what you are doing and who you are working with. 

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  • 4 months later...

Found this thread while I was searching for info on sparring without shin guards. 

I'm currently sparring without shin guards (and mouth guard lost it cannot get hold of a new one for a while) and although I love it, the pain is getting to me. Obviously it's light sparring but we block shin on shin and my partner has the boniest hardest shinbones I've ever experienced and while my shins are full of dents, swollen, puddle of blood and stuff between skin and shin bone he doesn't feel it. My shins are burning most of the time.

I do the hot water towel massage thing. And put liniment on before training. And tiger balm before bed. Anything help to help speed up the hardening process? I've heard something about luke warm salt water should help? 

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On 1/19/2020 at 10:40 PM, LengLeng said:

Found this thread while I was searching for info on sparring without shin guards. 

I'm currently sparring without shin guards (and mouth guard lost it cannot get hold of a new one for a while) and although I love it, the pain is getting to me. Obviously it's light sparring but we block shin on shin and my partner has the boniest hardest shinbones I've ever experienced and while my shins are full of dents, swollen, puddle of blood and stuff between skin and shin bone he doesn't feel it. My shins are burning most of the time.

I do the hot water towel massage thing. And put liniment on before training. And tiger balm before bed. Anything help to help speed up the hardening process? I've heard something about luke warm salt water should help? 

I remember Natasha Sky, who was at Sinbi at the time, said her trainers did Apple Cider Vinegar, cinnamon or cayenne pepper, and salt, then wrapped it in plastic wrap with that concoction under it. Never done that myself, but there it is. The work you're doing should be all you need to condition them for more of what you're doing, but I don't know that there's any way to "hack" the process. Obviously not recovering between is just going to be sore shins all the time, but stopping and starting is the same. Maybe use the bottom of your feet to "kick" for a bit.

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On 1/19/2020 at 10:40 PM, LengLeng said:

I'm currently sparring without shin guards 

Interesting - just wondering, was that your choice or does your gym tell you to spar without guards?

Really wanna try this too....but...kinda too paranoid 🤦🏻‍♂️ Do the pros outweigh the cons you reckon?

And what gym is this?

Obliged 😁

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20 hours ago, Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I remember Natasha Sky, who was at Sinbi at the time, said her trainers did Apple Cider Vinegar, cinnamon or cayenne pepper, and salt, then wrapped it in plastic wrap with that concoction under it. Never done that myself, but there it is. The work you're doing should be all you need to condition them for more of what you're doing, but I don't know that there's any way to "hack" the process. Obviously not recovering between is just going to be sore shins all the time, but stopping and starting is the same. Maybe use the bottom of your feet to "kick" for a bit.

Thanks so much Sylvie. I've never heard of the apple cider spice mix I think I'll give it a try. Sounds fun. The goal is to have the same experience as @Kero Tide describes above but it might be too late. 

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5 hours ago, Oliver said:

Interesting - just wondering, was that your choice or does your gym tell you to spar without guards?

Really wanna try this too....but...kinda too paranoid 🤦🏻‍♂️ Do the pros outweigh the cons you reckon?

And what gym is this?

Obliged 😁

It's actually a lethwei gym in Yangon, Myanmar and I don't have a my gear with me and I have not been offered shin guards and I'm just going with the flow and doing what I'm told. In general the trainers are pretty rough with me compared to Thailand. Not violent, they just a bit rough including that shin guards are not offered to me. The trainer put on one shin guard after some sessions but he uses both his legs so it's still painful. Not sure if it is this gym, or these trainers, or me, or lethwei, because I have nothing to compare to. I have the feeling I'm being tested for toughness (this is like a fitness gym but I'm getting different training than the fitness students). So out of pride I'm refusing to ask for protection. 

I like it as it makes my kicks faster and more elegant and I think more before I move, but I also noticed I automatically stopped blocking and instead catching kicks which might not be great. I also started sparring and doing bags and pads without gloves as this is how you fight lethwei. It's a cool feeling. But I can't say I prefer one or the other. 

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4 hours ago, LengLeng said:

I like it as it makes my kicks faster and more elegant and I think more before I move, but I also noticed I automatically stopped blocking and instead catching kicks which might not be great.

You can use it as an occasion to maybe become more accurate with the block, and try and catch the kicks up at the top of the shin where the bone is thicker, below the knee, or even bending the leg and catching it with the knee point. This is basically the Low Kick Destroyer (catching low kicks on the knee point). It might be worth experimenting with, just to avoid catching all kicks.

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1 hour ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

You can use it as an occasion to maybe become more accurate with the block, and try and catch the kicks up at the top of the shin where the bone is thicker, below the knee, or even bending the leg and catching it with the knee point. This is basically the Low Kick Destroyer (catching low kicks on the knee point). It might be worth experimenting with, just to avoid catching all kicks.

To catch kick at top of shin would that mean to not raise leg as high as one would regularly do? Or do I sort of angle the leg/knee? 

I was considering the low kick destroyer (I'm not really good at it yet or tbh not at all) but wouldn't I hurt my partner? 

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20 hours ago, LengLeng said:

To catch kick at top of shin would that mean to not raise leg as high as one would regularly do? Or do I sort of angle the leg/knee? 

I was considering the low kick destroyer (I'm not really good at it yet or tbh not at all) but wouldn't I hurt my partner? 

You say it right, you "catch" the kick, which means you pick a spot on the shin you want to catch it with, and you meet it up, like you are using a glove and catching a ball. As to how high you bring it up depends on how high the kick is. I'm not super experienced with this myself, but I did start doing it in padwork when I had a banged up shin, and the train was fond of whacking me back with a kick. I just started catching the kick just below the kneecap, or even with the point of the knee, gently. For me, I'd fold the leg a bit to give the knee support. It is very hard when bent. There are some really good things about it. The first is that you are practicing accuracy. People don't think of blocks needing accuracy, but they do. It's usually just "Get your block up!", but all the greats were super accurate with their checks. They aren't using the whole shin. Trying to catch it in a specific part of the shin is super productive, and will give you confidence in your checks over time.

As to hurting your partner, well, they are hurting you. Not intentionally, but yeah, it's hurting you. The whole point of sparring without shin guards, or the whole benefit, is that it teaches you control and feeling. If you are catching kicks up on the thick high part of your shin, or catching with the point (a little), they just have to pull their kicks, gain control. It's sparring, not whacking. You don't have to spear them with the knee, just catch it.

I'm not even saying you could/should do this. But there are some good ideas why it might make sense in your situation. And it could be fun. In terms of Muay Thai you don't want to be catching kicks all day, in the long term.

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On 1/23/2020 at 6:05 PM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

You say it right, you "catch" the kick, which means you pick a spot on the shin you want to catch it with, and you meet it up, like you are using a glove and catching a ball. As to how high you bring it up depends on how high the kick is. I'm not super experienced with this myself, but I did start doing it in padwork when I had a banged up shin, and the train was fond of whacking me back with a kick. I just started catching the kick just below the kneecap, or even with the point of the knee, gently. For me, I'd fold the leg a bit to give the knee support. It is very hard when bent. There are some really good things about it. The first is that you are practicing accuracy. People don't think of blocks needing accuracy, but they do. It's usually just "Get your block up!", but all the greats were super accurate with their checks. They aren't using the whole shin. Trying to catch it in a specific part of the shin is super productive, and will give you confidence in your checks over time.

As to hurting your partner, well, they are hurting you. Not intentionally, but yeah, it's hurting you. The whole point of sparring without shin guards, or the whole benefit, is that it teaches you control and feeling. If you are catching kicks up on the thick high part of your shin, or catching with the point (a little), they just have to pull their kicks, gain control. It's sparring, not whacking. You don't have to spear them with the knee, just catch it.

I'm not even saying you could/should do this. But there are some good ideas why it might make sense in your situation. And it could be fun. In terms of Muay Thai you don't want to be catching kicks all day, in the long term.

Hi Kevin this is gold! Thank you so much. It's this kind of advice that is like 'yeah of course it's like that/why on earth I didn't consider it yet it's so obvious'. 

Game changer advice. Use your legs as you use your hands (duh) with control.

Makes 1000 percent sense to me and I'll try it immediately. 

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I wonder if a good compromise could be such a warming neoprene shin-protectors.  these made by Vulcan  are the most known but there are surely other producents too... 

 

They dont compromise your balance nor speed sitting on you as your extra skin.  You get also nicely warmed if you have any tendency to shin splits or other inflammations there.   

Similiar protectors exists for almost any limb parts.  Useful if you had some contusion or local inflammation there - protects and warms up.

 

They doesn protect as well as a real shin guard, but better than nothing.  🙂

 

It doesnt protect the feet either, unlike a well made shin guard which has a flap covering most ot the feet.  But you can use an ankle protector, either a traditional  one, as even the King himself uses at coronation ceremony,  or again, such a one of neoprene.

 

If a neoprene cover is supposed to protect your carryable computer against mishaps, it should be able to give some protection to your shins too.   🙂

Edited by StefanZ
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On 1/25/2020 at 5:41 PM, StefanZ said:

I wonder if a good compromise could be such a warming neoprene shin-protectors.  these made by Vulcan  are the most known but there are surely other producents too... 

 

They dont compromise your balance nor speed sitting on you as your extra skin.  You get also nicely warmed if you have any tendency to shin splits or other inflammations there.   

Similiar protectors exists for almost any limb parts.  Useful if you had some contusion or local inflammation there - protects and warms up.

 

They doesn protect as well as a real shin guard, but better than nothing.  🙂

 

It doesnt protect the feet either, unlike a well made shin guard which has a flap covering most ot the feet.  But you can use an ankle protector, either a traditional  one, as even the King himself uses at coronation ceremony,  or again, such a one of neoprene.

 

If a neoprene cover is supposed to protect your carryable computer against mishaps, it should be able to give some protection to your shins too.   🙂

Hey interesting advice, thank you. Had no idea it's the heat that also adds protection, but of course it makes sense. I currently use ankle protectors on my shins for some extra padding. But once I get access to better shopping opportunities I might try these things as I've struggled a lot with shin splints in the past and they always on the verge of reappearing. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting topic over here, great!
Just a while ago I started to train without shinguards whenever possible. Sometimes our Kru (Thai) wants me to wear shinguards, sometimes my partner wants.
But if it's ok for both, I try to go without. For me it's a little like for @Kero Tide, I don't like wearing all this stuff when training. As less as possible, as much as necessary.
 

Of course every once in a while my shins hurt and look bad, but meanwhile after 2 days the pain is gone again, so not that big deal anymore.

@LengLeng
I little envy you training at a Lethwei Gym in Yangon! When I visit Myanmar next time I definitely want to give it a try, too! Last time in Mandalay I didn't find one but it was my first visit to Myanmar that time and I first had to see how things go there.
Wish you all the best!

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Although I am from Kyokushin, I can't help but see some similarities between our systems. Our particular style of Karate make heavy use of our shins as weapons. We also will block (catch) incoming roundhouse kicks with our upper shins (very similiar to your Low Kick Destroyer). We don't typically use shin guards, relying very heavily on control. There is also the conditioning of  shins, forearms, etc. That being said, no one bats an eye if someone is using shinpads during training. Our instructor is a very pragmatic man. The last thing he wants is for one of his students to be limping around at work or school the next day. Don't get me wrong, we still have our fair share of bumps and bruises. That is how I started following Sylvie (How to treat damaged shins). In general, there is really nothing wrong with training w/o shin pads AS LONG AS you are sensible and responsible about it.

BTW- I don't see any mention of treating shins with Dit Da Jow. My acupuncturist make some for me and I was shocked at how effective it was. 

Edited by Dan C
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On 2/7/2020 at 7:46 PM, Barbara_K said:

 

 

@LengLeng
I little envy you training at a Lethwei Gym in Yangon! When I visit Myanmar next time I definitely want to give it a try, too! Last time in Mandalay I didn't find one but it was my first visit to Myanmar that time and I first had to see how things go there.
Wish you all the best!

Oh let me know if you need any advice on finding a gym. I'm at a fitness lethwei gym which I wouldn't really recommend as currently there are no fighters training there and they don't teach fighting styles. But I have a good connection with 2 trainers who give me extra work and one was up until recently an active fighter (knee injury but just waiting to recover to start fighting again) and they know gyms in the country. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/21/2019 at 9:13 AM, Tyler Byers said:

I have mixed feelings on all of this. The best answer I have is a bit of a non-answer. For me there is a time and place for safety equipment. If I am doing simple drilling I kind of like doing no pads, but for full sparring I prefer to wear shin guards. It really just depends on the partner, pace, and power levels. I have training partners that I loved sparring with (no longer work with them), but I can't imagine us training without shin guards lol. That is because we went fairly hard though. I like to spar somewhere between 60-80%. We could only go hard like that though because we knew each other quite well and understood when to back off a bit. Even when we tested each other a bit there was always an understanding to back off if it got to be too much and it was never emotional. That said, I've been dropped with a few shots in sparring and had my nose fractured twice lol. I've had other partners that I also sparred "fast" with, but with much less power. I never sparred them with no shin guards, but I think we would have both done really well with that. It's just different with each person. The added protection is just that... added protection. Depends on what you are doing and who you are working with. 

I agree it depends on the partner. Sparring involves 2 ppl. It doesn't work if you choose one while your partner chooses something else. 

And it also depends on objective as well. I have punches the bag with normal gloves, MMA gloves, bare hands. I choose it based on whether I'm training for power, accuracy, or what wrist strength. It's not like we have to pick one and never use the other. ☺️

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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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