Jump to content

Learning Muay Thai - Early Childhood Development and Later Starts


Recommended Posts

moved from another thread to start a new line of discussion

This answer is kinda me thinking out loud haha.

I don't really have the answers to your question specifically but... in general terms (and this is purely my early childhood philosophy - not everyone's!) children learn best through play, so I imagine the kids around your gym are absorbing heaps of Muay Thai 'knowledge' through play, through adults modelling, through observation, through family and each other. Children make sense of their world through play so they probably mimic what they see important adults in their lives doing. I suppose this is a great example of how 'Muay Thai culture' is transmitted to the kids in a way that it can never be, for outsiders. It must just be in their blood - from being a baby around a gym, to playing to actually training. It's really mind blowing to think how integral it must be to their lives!

In terms of brain development and gross motor development, the learning of Muay Thai probably follows a progressive sequence - much like it does for adult beginners. Children who 'practise' these movements (whether through play or training) might be more likely to form the 'muscle memory' at quite a young age and then start developing the more cognitive skills of strategy and tactics, planning ahead and thinking about 'reading' their opponents intentions, at a later age when their cognitive function is more developed.

For instance, very young children are 'egocentric', meaning they find it difficult (or impossible) to put themselves in another's shoes (as a simple way of explaining it!). They can't really see another person's perspective. This is not 'egocentric' in the general usage sense of having a huge ego!

Sometimes children show you this trait when they say things like "Remember that dream where I was being chased?" They think because they know what was in the dream, that you will too. They can't put themselves in your shoes. This is one reason why young children have trouble sharing - THEY want the toy so that's all that matters. They don't understand that someone else might want it too. Its only later, they see the social payoff of sharing eg. adults are happy with you, kids share things back with you etc.

Until a child can cognitively move 'outside themselves' and see another's perspective, it would be pretty hard for them to predict an opponent's next move etc in Muay Thai. But the repetition in training (and playing) is also a vital way to develop the cognitive sense of sequence, order, successful combinations etc as well as the physical development of movements becoming 'second nature' and developing the required flexibility at such a young age eg. in the hips.

Sylvie, do you think the Thai kids and fighters you know are more flexible in general? Or is that totally an individual thing dependent on training or body type?

Definitely interesting to think about! Sorry for the rambling answer! I know, as a beginner myself, Muay Thai has been a very big mental challenge for me as well as physical. Moving from thinking about every single movement to some things starting to become second nature. Then in sparring, being under pressure, I could only barely think about my next move, let alone what my opponent was going to do next! Slowly, slowly I am working on getting better at these things. Little children probably do not think as overtly as we do about such things but develop their physical and strategic skills as they grow in age.

It would certainly be interesting to watch - maybe you have seen this, Sylvie, to some extent with Phetjee Jaa?

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This answer is kinda me thinking out loud haha.

Sylvie, do you think the Thai kids and fighters you know are more flexible in general? Or is that totally an individual thing dependent on training or body type?

Definitely interesting to think about! Sorry for the rambling answer! I know, as a beginner myself, Muay Thai has been a very big mental challenge for me as well as physical. Moving from thinking about every single movement to some things starting to become second nature. Then in sparring, being under pressure, I could only barely think about my next move, let alone what my opponent was going to do next! Slowly, slowly I am working on getting better at these things. Little children probably do not think as overtly as we do about such things but develop their physical and strategic skills as they grow in age.

It would certainly be interesting to watch - maybe you have seen this, Sylvie, to some extent with Phetjee Jaa?

Flexibility is an interesting point because it's indirect. I never see Thais stretching. Even though Pi Nu tells westerners to "go stretch" and I've learned at several camps how to use the ring to learn how to open your hip for kicks (so it must be something Thais learn too at some point), I still never see them doing it. Sometimes Thais will come in for their very first session, whether kids or teens or adults, and within 20 minutes their kicks are awesome. It's incredible because it takes westerners years sometimes. But I reckon the flexibility in the hips comes from cultural differences like how squatting is still very common. In the west we start sitting in chairs from the moment we can sit up on our own and we rarely sit otherwise, so our hips develop an inflexibility that's not great for kicking. We have to "undo" something whereas cultures that still squat with some regularity don't have to "undo" anything.

I have a super hard time with the chess game, strategic part of Muay Thai. I'm a "dumb" fighter. A few of the guys who are holding pads for me lately are trying to get me to anticipate the next move, block because I know someone's going to kick back, etc. I'm just no there yet. Yesterday I was clinching with a kid who is very new. He's basically rocketed forward in his progress in a very short amount of time, but he's still very basic in everything. I was letting him knee me then I'd knee him back, over and over again. I figured out a while back how to jerk on the neck of the person I'm clinching every time they try to knee, which shuts down the strike. I know when the knee is coming - I don't know when distance strikes are coming. Anyway, I was telling this kid that he could anticipate my return knee because it happened every time after he kneed, and to shove me instead of letting me knee him. He tried it and was just beside himself at this new trick. He wouldn't have thought of it on his own - at least not for a long time; I only came up with it after a billion attempts at clinching - but he was receptive. A few other things I showed him he wasn't receptive; he wasn't "ready" for those yet.

That's what's hard about teaching Muay Thai, you try to shortcut everything by giving techniques and tricks before the basics are in there. So the student learns them as intellectual knowledge, but isn't ready to apply them yet as experiential knowledge. That right there is the whole story of everything I learned with Master K and am only now starting to be able to actually do. That's why little kids learning from such an early age, through play, is just light years beyond what we learn in classes. That's why your native language, learned naturally, is always going to be so much better ingrained than a second language that you learn through study. I have all this experience in my body but I never learned how to play so I can't access it. Then these little kids who basically mess around for an hour every afternoon are doing, like, spinning and flying moves out of nowhere. They've done that a hundred times already. It's not "a move," it's a game. And yeah, I absolutely see this in Phetjee Jaa and her brother Mawin.

 

 

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Flexibility is an interesting point because it's indirect. I never see Thais stretching. Even though Pi Nu tells westerners to "go stretch" and I've learned at several camps how to use the ring to learn how to open your hip for kicks (so it must be something Thais learn too at some point), I still never see them doing it.

Wow, I can't believe (as a generalisation), Thais don't stretch! I'm always so stiff, I have to stretch before each session. I thought cos I'm old but maybe its the cultural thing! I've never thought about that before.

 

I have a super hard time with the chess game, strategic part of Muay Thai. I'm a "dumb" fighter. A few of the guys who are holding pads for me lately are trying to get me to anticipate the next move, block because I know someone's going to kick back, etc. I'm just no there yet.

I'm so surprised to hear you say this about yourself. My trainer was taught in the femeur (spelling?) fighter technical style at a femeur gym and that is how I have been (am being) taught. He is trying to get me to read my opponents and try out things with them to see what they're going to do next. It's soo hard!

Now I know it's hard if an experienced person like you also struggles with it. I love this part of Muay Thai though, even though its so challenging. I think I am slowly getting better at it but I'm constantly thinking about this as I watch videos of fights etc, trying to see how fighters incorporate this intellectual side. I do love watching Saenchai's 'trickiness' for this reason - you can actually see him (with a lot of replaying!) work out how his opponent is going to react to certain situations and then he counters it perfectly. It really is inspiring to me.

I suppose this is another thing young kids can really incorporate via cultural Muay Thai osmosis! If they grow up constantly 'playing Muay Thai' with each other, they could become inherently good at this style without having to think through it like I do!

It must be amazing for you, and at times demoralizing, to watch little kids mastering difficult moves! I like to incorporate that sense of fun and play into my training too and I really appreciate some of the young guys/girls I train with who like to joke and muck around a little bit. We all take the training part seriously but it's nice to be able to laugh and really feel that enjoyment together when we're all doing something we love.

I love your comment about experiential knowledge too. I don't know how it happens, but sparring really does make you better. I get so frustrated sometimes and having a bad night at sparring on a Friday can really ruin my entire weekend. But sometimes, all the thinking and the training seem to come together into some sort of alchemy and there's an improvement or a breakthrough or a new technique makes sense! Like for children, the repetition does help and being able to use the knowledge in a real world situation (eg. sparring under pressure) really helps to integrate it. Most of the time I can't actually tell I've improved and if my trainer happens to mention something, I always quietly ask him later what he was referring to haha. I need to know so I can pay attention to what I've done or achieved and move on to my next challenge.

One thing I like to remember - even though kids have an age advantage and can really 'absorb' their Muay Thai, adults do have more advanced and developed brains (for the most part! haha) and that gives me hope that I can still learn the strategy and intellectual aspects of MT.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Most Recent Topics

  • Latest Comments

    • Just very briefly I want to take up one of the most interesting aspects of the fighting art of Thailand's traditional Muay Thai, an aspect that really cues for me how I watch fights and weigh the skills of fighters. Managing distance. Many people watch "strikes" and look for "points", but there is an under-fabric to strikes, a kind of landscape of them, no less than how a topography will influence how a battle is fought between armies. Even the most practiced strikes rise and fall to opportunity, and in Muay Thai a significant determination of opportunity is distance. Above is a quick edit of Sylvie's last fight up in Buriram, bringing out all the significant moments of engagement, telling the story in about a minute. (The full fight should be up in a few weeks with Sylvie's commentary, as usual.) I'm going to start with Entertainment Muay Thai as presenting an negative can often be the best way to bring out a positive. Entertainment Muay Thai (and there are many versions of it, so we have to be very broad here), is largely principled by eliminating the importance of distance. What is sought, again being very broad, is a more or less continuous trading in the pocket. The quest is for an easy to follow, by the casual eye, "action". Everything is about the distance of the pocket. Setting up outside of the pocket can be regarded as anti-action (so, if you do, you should regularly charge into the pocket...and trade). And fighting through the pocket, to clinch range, is also devalued by very quick clinch breaks, scoring biases (changing traditional aesthetics). Clinch, which historically is featured in some of the most technical fighting of the sport, in Entertainment Muay Thai is more and more understood as a stall of the main goal. Pocket trading. Much of the art of Muay Thai is actually organized around all those distances that border "the pocket", controlling distance through length, or through grappling. In this fight Sylvie is giving up between 8-10 kgs (perhaps more than 20% of her body weight). Now, imagine it being fought under Entertainment aesthetics. What would it be if she just stood in the pocket, bit down, and just traded over and over with Phetnamwan? Would there be any point of such a fight? Yet, as the Golden Age legend Hippy Singmanee once said when criticizing hyper-aggressive, pocket-trading Entertainment Muay Thai, "Muay Thai is the art where small can beat big." Hippy was one of the most renown undersized fighters of the Golden Era. He knows of what he speaks. This fight, in the broad brush, illustrates some of that. More and more we've come to realize that as traditional Muay Thai evaporates slowly from the urban stadia, the only traditional Muay Thai still being regularly fought is in the provinces of the country. It is there that fights are scored in keeping with the art, and fighters retain the all around, multi-distance skills that make that art happen. Clinch is allowed to unfold. Narrative fight arcs are told as principle to scoring. Ryan, a knowledgeable commenter on Twitter and a very good writer on the sport, right away noticed how the ref let clinch flow. You can see some of our discussion there. I recall a conversation I overheard when attending the funeral of the legend Namkabuan in Nongki. It was the passing of one of the greatest who ever fought. During the day-before cremation a casual conversation arose between other legends of the sport, and very experienced news reporters, people who had been a part of it for decades. One of them insisted, Muay Thai no longer existed in Thailand. Others knowingly nodded their heads. But a Muay Siam reporter objected. "No...it still lives in the provinces." And the others agreed. It still was there. We in the English speaking world tend to think the substance of something is what has been presented to us. The Muay Thai of Bangkok is the real Muay Thai of Thailand because that is what we see...and, historically, many decades ago, it did represent the highest skills of the country. But what largely remains unseen is that more and more of the sport is being designed for our eyes. It is less and less for Thais, and more and more for "us", so we can become quite disconnected from what is real and authentic in a cultural, and even efficacy sense. There rhythms and values of provincial Muay Thai, as it is fought, coached and reffed, are part of the rich authenticity of the sport which falls into the shadows when we just look at what is being shown to "us". This fight, how it is fought, shows "the art of where small can beat big", and it shows why. It's through the control of distance. If you are small you just cannot stand at range. You either have to explore the bubble outside of the pocket, too far, or at its edges, and fight your way in to score...or, you collapse the pocket, smother the strikes, and possess the skill to control a much larger bodied opponent. Clinch, historically, is kryptonite to the striker. Muay Maat vs Muay Khao battles are legendary in the sport.  Classic. Who is going to impose the distance which is best for them? It's a battle of distances. And, for this reason, Muay Maat fighters of the past were not experts in trading in the pocket. They were experts in managing clinch fighters, or even high level clinch fighters themselves...and they were experts at hunting down evasive femeu counterfighters as well. Muay Maat fighters were strong. They had to have so many tools in their tool box. 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. 
  • The Latest From Open Topics Forum

    • 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
  • Forum Statistics

    • Total Topics
      1.3k
    • Total Posts
      10.9k
×
×
  • Create New...