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Healing through the origins of Muay Thai

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Good  morning, 

I have started a journey of self healing through study of the origins of Muay Thai... Okay. I've started this journey at least three times now. Seriously; this time is different. 

This time is different because of the wholesome content available to us learners via the Library and YouTube posts. 

A special thanks to @Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu for all his hard work behind the camera (And editing software? Or is that all Sylvie?) I've spent hours behind glass myself and respect the challenge of capturing real life. 

A mentor has told me many times that an injury of the body impacts the mind. An injury of the mind impacts the body. I have scars in both places from years of mistreatment of self and neglect of self. Short take-away from the lesson was that where we choose to address the recovery from the injury is up to us. Since the mind and body are linked; we are in control of where we begin treatment. Getting out of whatever pattern is causing the injury and the subsequent guarding reactions our body is the first step toward healing. Dealers choice; treat mind or body first. I sort of view it like hopping on a merry-go-round and then going for a 10 mile run around it while its spinning. Stepping off the ride is... stepping off. 

Short summary:

I'm currently a devops engineer. Formerly a research engineer for autonomous vehicle systems, and before that, an IT guy and engineering student.  Life brought me home from the adventures to have a family. I'm a well trained, but casual low brass player (mostly tuba now.) I ran 5-10 miles a day for half a decade. Over night that was stripped from me. 

On that path, I discovered a few things which led me here; to post on this site. 

1. It's hard to work out at sea. There was a punching bag in the forward hold next to my cabin. I had a stop watch. After 8 weeks of playing around, completely unaware of what I was doing other than some basics I'd been taught as a kid about how to shift weight; I was still hooked. I used some of my sea pay to buy a bag and some gloves

2. I learned that trying to lift-push-rock a 3500 lb station wagon with one foot on the ground and the other on the clutch to skip the starter past a broken tooth on the flywheel is stupid past the age of 30. One sneeze and 2 days later; I was in the ER. 

3. Three years of struggle later, we camped on a sheet of 5" ice. My crampons went to my wife. I fell on the ice a bunch of times. (8-10; I lost count. ) Just felt wrong afterwards, stopped running. Almost stopped working out. On the way back to active, pushed things too far. Ended up in the same boat of not being able to walk for a few days. I had no time for myself and never addressed it. Almost 5 months later:

4. First Maine snowstorm of the year. I went out to shovel. First full handle and I'm limping back in. 2 weeks later, taking X-ray's. Insurance denies MRI, so I do PT for 6 weeks. At the end of PT, I'm way worse. Have an MRI confirming ruptured L5-S1 lumbrascarpal joint. Get an epidural. Yay. It helps. They recommend surgery. 

5. Acupuncture and PT instead with some good people. I'm just good 2 months later. Back to walking and running. Still don't take time for myself so I know I'm going to ... During this time, I rediscovered the "Thai Low Kick". Had to perform surgery on my cheap bag as I'd blown out some of the sand bags. The concepts of forward-facing stance, high guard, and mental focus appealed to me. I just didn't take the time. 

6. 2019 first snow storm; I shovel. I end up on the ground. GRRR.

7. I'm pretty much at rock bottom now. I'm looking at local gyms; and no one does anything other than stuff I know I shouldn't do with my limitations. Closest PT apt with someone I know could help is 5 weeks + out. 

For almost a month, I had been falling into a pattern of sitting on a heating pad for hours to get my piriformus, hamstring and glutes under control. One day I tried to go force myself to run on the treadmill in the garage one day to "get back on the wagon" and found it covered in sand, broken kids toys, and boxes. A few days later, I came home from work, motivated to get back into my PT and make the burning pain stop and found my work out spot was covered with random boxes and decorations. Enter the mind injury. 

I got worse. 

 I was eating poorly. Ramen twice a day some times. Frequently skipping meals. . Occasionally consuming more rum or beer than I should to dull things. Lots of coffee. Not enough water. I was gaining weight. And I was getting pissed off that I was gaining weight. I was getting pissed off that I couldn't find the time or space to do the PT I had known would help. I was wasting hours, aimlessly watching videos on YouTube on topics I was passionate about. 

Some where in this, I caught on to the "I was getting..." meme. We were old friends already. I was sad to see this one return. And also the realization that "I was searching..." meme was active too. I was searching for a way out. Searching for inspiration; for purpose. 

I've been at this game of life in interesting situations long enough to know there are no easy answers or ways out. Any one who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves, Richard Feynman style. 

One of these particular nights when I knew I couldn't sleep due to my leg being locked up, and maybe a few beers, I got routed into a sequence of MMA fights. In that, sequence, some how, I stumbled upon a video from this site's Heroine, @Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu. For some reason now (probably because I've watched over 300 of her and Kevin's videos since) I can't find the original in my history. It was her discusing the low kick after a training session with a legend from the golden era. 

8. It got in my head, in a good way. It may have taken a few weeks for it to get hold, but to me *now*. I'm 12 days in to "now" with 200 knees on a bag every day. I'm not wasting away on a heating pad, chowing down on random videos and ramen anymore. I've finally discovered what "teep" means and I'm working towards 200 of every strike a day. Then 500. (My Jab was already pretty good, but my cross was weak.) 

What inspired me to "step off my circle" was the nature of the fighting style. The origin is a pure form of "root vs root". Posture vs posture. 


After 200 knees in the morning; I don't hurt anymore for the rest of the day. 

Next posts; ( assuming I don't get banned <grin>  ) will be about what I'm actively doing to restore my breathing and posture while studying the Library entries (and YouTube bits) for insight about root mechanics and maintenance. The origins of my injury would have been prevented if I had experienced and internalized the origins of the craft this site aims to save. 


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I was...I am...very moved by this post. This is everything I'd hope to hear and read from others, such a human story. All about our frailty, and our ache to be better, to find better, in something, in ourselves. And it is fucking incredible that for whatever reason Sylvie and her work sparked something in you, that all your gears got triggered to turn in whatever beautiful way you are turning them. Thank you for taking the time to write so realistically. It means a lot.

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What a journey! Its so good to hear that you never gave up, and always kept trying...doing...in the face of pain and debilitation (even if it wasn't easy), and that you found Sylvies videos. Her videos did a lot for my mental state as well when I was injured last year. I kept trying to push beyond my limits and kept re-injuring the same spot. I knew I had to stop...and recover, and being able to dive deep into the mental training with the way Sylvie and Kevin talk about Muay Thai in the podcast was a life saver. Being able to watch the passion (and invaluable knowledge) she brings out in the long-form training with legends, oh man! I almost think that everyone needs to study the history, general knowledge and mental capacity of Muay Thai just as much as the physical. I cant wait to read your next post 🙂

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Thank you all for the kind reception.  It is interesting that the more I watch and learn and study of the origins; the more I am convinced that the core of Muay Thai is about maintaining awareness of "posture". I see this from the subtle corrections of Dieselnoi in training to the judging of fights where frequently blows to "posture" are considered to be just as damaging as an elbow to the forehead or a teep to the throat. As someone who needs to restore my posture: I'm convinced I'll be sticking around for a while. 

I guess this is day 13 of 200 knees, and I've added in 200 teeps as I had hoped. While I feel stronger; I also have had some nasty mornings. The first fifteen minutes of the day are hard. And if I sit down in anything soft for more than a half an hour; I have to start over. 

I would like to share to those following where my current focus is, and at least one resource I'm using to get my mind and body connected through motion. My injury (and re-injury) came about because of a few factors:

  1. I worked hard and pushed hard in everything I did (my posture was out of control) 
  2. I had really weak glutes, lower back and flexors. (my posture was out of control) 

Lack of formal training of any sort, plus life style contributed a bit to (2). The first one; well... I was always the smallest, weakest, shortest and slowest growing up. My compensation was to push to the edge of my abilities. I often didn't break. Time, however, offers no quarter to "often". Oh. Gee. I guess my posture was... out of control. 

In the body, there are two central outer "lines of stuff" which hold everything together at a superficial level. Some texts use the term "myofascial lines". You can find tracks from these in several different disciplines. Just follow some acupuncture or acupressure charts and they are obvious. The "front" and "back" lines work together as we breath and move. They hold our guts in place, stabilize our breathing and ensure that when we do stupid stuff like try folding ourselves in half; that we don't actually fold in half. These are the same lines responsible for holding us in the fetal position while in the womb and then extending us the other way so we can start crawling with our head up. Cool huh. 

My draw to "Knees on the Bag" comes from the study of these two lines. I was struggling to answer this question: "Why wont my left hamstring shut off?" And "Why does my right foot hurt?" 

The simple action of kneeing a bag properly, with the mental queue of drawing your hands in an arc from your eyebrows down to your hips and tucking your heal to your butt happens to involve every actor along both of the text-book "front" and "back" lines. 

My pain goes away while I engage all of the actors. Interesting? But it can come back when I'm "resting" or static for too long. Why is this? The first obvious theory is that there is some binding occurring along the lines. I sort of know that, as I have an MRI showing me one such "binding". (It's really not that bad! Even if I had some surgery to scrape some stuff off, I'd then have to still fix the problem which is present causing the situation. And deal with the scar tissue and the recovery and .... ) 

To find the binding; I admit to enlisting some help. Pictures taken of me standing and walking revealed an obvious point. While walking, I was never fully shifting my weight into my left hip and my right arm almost didn't move. While standing and breathing, my rib cage was tipped with the front bottom "forward" and my pelvis was canted top-forward. To pull from text books; my bell (rib cage) was rung and my bowl (pelvis) was spilling. 

The "going into the left hip" thing has an easy solve. It's a pretty common pattern for us humans to fall into since we have more lung on our right side than the left. The solve for this may be as simple as just "switching stances". Although if something else other than our natural propensity to be right-dominant due to our anatomy is at play; more work is required. 

To identify that work; we must look at what can get the rib cage out of a "rung forward" position. The hips will probably follow. The suggestion from the person taking the pictures was a simple one "just breathe into your back". 

Sure. Easy. 

So then he showed me how to do that and almost on the first breath... "OMGWTFISTHAT!" was my shocked cry as some muscles in my mid back started into spasms. Once everything calmed down and I'd gone through some careful breathing sequences in the right posture; my rib cage and hips were back parallel like they're supposed to be. I felt nothing; no pain, no tension, no burning left hamstring feeling like it was going to snap my knee off.  I also knew it wouldn't stay.

I had what I needed for the day. Some data to work with. Some bits to study.

What "breathing into my back" did for me was wake up by force some muscles and fascia which probably hadn't moved in a very very long time. 

Now to  why I think this area is interesting for this forum. The area in mid back where I was bound up is directly related to the area of engagement in your back as you wind up for a cross. The back and front work together. Focus thoughts on the 5th rib next time you throw a strike of any sort at a bag. Below is a brief word map of the two lines from our waist up. Lets see if I can get my head around what's going on. 

(Bone attachments in Bold

Back:  << stuff below >> Sit Bones --> Sacrum --> Lumbar muscles into erector spinae --> Occiput --> Over TopOfHead --> Frontal Bone (just behind your eyebrows)

Front:  <<from below >> --> Pubic bone --> RA --> 5th rib  --> Some little bits near collar bone --> Mastoid Process (Jaw) --> Scalp

Notice two things. First; these do not connect. Second; throwing knees, teeps, low kicks, a right cross ALL leverage a small contraction of the RA's at the 5th rib. Some of the acceleration of the weight transfer and the shock of impact goes through this attachment. At the same time the RA draws down, the erector spinea's (those ropey muscles on either side of your spine) also extend in coordination, but also in such a way as to coordinate around the fact that the rib cage is expanding and contracting in the center. 

I find facinating the mechanical (bone) attachments of these lines. In the back, we have a very strong double attachment to the sitbones + sacrum (which must move mostly together other than a little twisting), and then no anchor from the sacrum all the way to the skull. In the front, we have anchors at "root", "heart" , "voice", "mouth". Know why people clench their teeth when winding themselves up to deliver a strike? Oh! Cool!

I'll be working on this area for the week. I of course welcome thoughts. 

To add a suggested reference for this:  "Anatomy Trains" Thomas W. Myers. This is a wonderful book. There are several out there which cover this sort of thing, and I find Myers the most easy to understand and approach. I've used this book to help with some massage sessions for family injuries over the years; but never tried to apply much of it to myself. 

And some good pictures here since I probably shouldn't scan in anything from Myers. 

Adding in functional and spiral lines will be a topic for near future. I have a lot more to digest about how these superficial lines work first. 


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  • 1 month later...

It has been a long and strange month. Travel took me away from the bag for a bit. Distractions did what they do. 

I've been thinking on an update here for a few days.  The mental clarity and presence of mind to reflect finally found me today. 

First; a some bullet points: 

  • I simply don't hurt in the mornings any more. Aches in places? Sure. 
  • Have I missed a few days of the bag? Yes; but. Yes; but I have added some substantial shadowboxing to my day. The upper-middle back issue that I didn't even know about (5th rib, as mentioned in previous post) is worked more by punches vs big leg movements. 
  • I've completed my fastest 5k since 2011 (31 minutes.) 
  • I'm now running 5 miles a day. 

Also; two funnies:

  1. Pride: Getting your 6-year old to throw a legitimate knee at your arm is an awesome feeling.  (I need to acquire some pads!) 
  2. Shadowboxing while running/walking on a treadmill is actually kind of fun! However... adding an occasional knee into it didn't go so well. Our beat up old treadmill has these silly fan things below the hand bar. Striking one with your knee is sort of like hitting a cheese grater. 

I probably need another few days to heal a nasty gash (Sterri strip's were required. Glue didn't hold it very well.) Right leg-only knees aren't quite as fun as alternating. It's way harder to get to 200 when you can't switch off. 

Now the meat of the post. 

I've watched carefully Sylvie's discussion of "Ruup", across a few videos. The interesting notes from her actually start around fight 237. Her ability to perform "ruup management" is inspirational. 

I am a big fan of Miamoto Musashi's works; and the biggest take-away from his teachings  as a whole, comes from his concept of taking the origin of a knowledge and applying it to a different context. The maintenance of Ruup, is as much a mental discipline as a physical one. I would argue easily that it is not just "mental or physical", it is "mental and physical". One can not maintain physical posture against all external forces without also maintaining mental posture. One can not maintain mental footing against adverse thoughts without having a solid breathing body beneath. But what of emotions? How does the concept, and how it fits into the narrative of a Thai fight, translate to every day life? 

What I have found in my month of ... not quite keeping to my goals... is exactly what I expected. My mental posture is, if anything, more deficient than my physical. Some might look to the question of which deficiency caused which. Did mental damage generate the physical? Did a physical injury open a rift in the mental posture? Perhaps most importantly; does it matter which came first? 

For me, this month will be about my mental posture.  I will allow the work I have done physically to continue along its course. Knees and teeps in the morning, running at night. 

I will pull one more "origin" from Muay Thai to aid me: the corner ritual. As an external observer; if I had to guess where the Ruup Maintenance magic happens, it is in that corner. While I believe I do "okay" in the ring of life, I am beginning to be aware enough to tell myself that I absolutely suck while sitting in the corner between rounds. 



Until next time. 





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  • 1 month later...

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