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Asger

Thai concept of bodily self and its effect on scoring

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Hello everyone,

I believe I read somewhere in the vast archives of Kevin and Sylvie that the thai notion of self is primarily situated in the torso. Does anyone have any idea where I might read further about this, provided that is true?  Thank you very much in advance. 

''We cannot know his legendary head,

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso...''

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9 hours ago, Asger said:

Hello everyone,

I believe I read somewhere in the vast archives of Kevin and Sylvie that the thai notion of self is primarily situated in the torso. Does anyone have any idea where I might read further about this, provided that is true?  Thank you very much in advance. 

''We cannot know his legendary head,

with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso...''

I don't think this is correct. The self isn't "located" in the body, but Thai language and concepts put a lot of emphasis on the heart for qualities of a person. If they're good qualities, they generally have the word for "heart" as the prefix. If they are current states of emotion they have "heart" as the suffix. Bad characteristics and emotions also use this, but additionally a poor quality or characteristic can put "shit" as the prefix, interestingly.

What you read before might be Kevin's comments on how Thais emphasize the center of the body as a higher point of focus for scoring in Muay Thai, whereas in the west we like to head-hunt. In English we use the head for language the same way Thai uses the heart, for example "hot headed" or "cool headed" in English is directly "hot heart" or "cool heart" in Thai, which is the locative difference you've picked up on in your question. But I think it's important to make clear that the "Self" in Thai concepts, since it largely is a Buddhistic culture, isn't located anywhere. And is ultimately an illusion that causes pain, suffering and should be escaped.

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Im certain that's the point I was referring to. Thank you for clearing that up for me Sylvie! I was hoping to draw some parallels between the homeric thymos & self and this idea, but it seems that would be inaccurate. I guess there's something to be said for your linguistic points about the heart as locus of emotions that is comparable to the homeric self though. I'll have to think about that. 

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It think this is something I put forward, and I think I kind of disagree a little with Sylvie's take here. I definitely put forward that we are talking about centers of the Self, which may not be Buddhistic in concept (ie, you would not teach "this is where the Self is"). I am describing where people in a culture locate the sense of Self, and this is reflected in the way a combat sport is scored, I argue. When you slap someone in the face, you are in a way "striking their Self". The face represents the Self in many symbolic ways, varying between cultures. A slap in the face with feel like it is insulting or injuring the Self differently in Japan than it will in Saudi Arabia than in California (I suspect), also depending on who is watching. And in the 18th century, perhaps much more so. It's not wrong to say that the Self is in some regards located in or on the Face. It's where we get phrases like "losing face" or "gaining face". There are other locations of the Self. The Heart for instance is widely regarded as a Self center point. Punches to the heart don't really seem to mean that much, but spikes driving through the heart, for vampires for instance, are seen as penetrating the core "Self" of the monster or person. And of course pangs in the heart, "heartaches" are some of the firmest centers of Self we talk about. I assume that this also varies between cultures. We have other centers of Self like the brain, or the head. Cutting off someone's head is in a way severing their Self from the rest (the face is up there too). But all this is to say is that in the arrays of Self centers, it strikes me that the Thais retain a more traditional location of Self in the gut. In English we have things like "gut feeling" and "you've got a lot of guts!", but traditionally this center of the Self in the gut, the spleen, was much stronger. In Ancient Greece this was a very strong location of Self (not the only one, but a core are vital one). My arguments about Thai Muay Thai scoring are that knees and kicks to the torso score higher because they culturally are read as hitting the Self, and injuring or weakening it. And that this is a traditional way of looking at the body. And that Thai audiences literally, affectively, experience such hits much more powerfully. They can "feel" the blows there in a way probably westerners don't. In the West it seems that these senses of Selves have migrated higher. We've lost the gut center more or less (a good gut punch and double over will still mean something severe, but on a daily basis we don't deposit our Self there much), and experience our Selves much higher. In the heart sometimes, but almost always in the head. We in the west lead with our head. And, it corresponds, it's why blows to the head and face (hey, we have a whole app that rules the world called Facebook), are scored so highly. We empathetically connect to fighters, and as audience experience blows or even touches to the head with more impact. I think we've lost some of the body mapping that allows Thais to experience lower torso strikes as much more substantive. 

At least that's my thinking on it.

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3 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

It think this is something I put forward, and I think I kind of disagree a little with Sylvie's take here. I definitely put forward that we are talking about centers of the Self, which may not be Buddhistic in concept (ie, you would not teach "this is where the Self is"). I am describing where people in a culture locate the sense of Self, and this is reflected in the way a combat sport is scored, I argue. When you slap someone in the face, you are in a way "striking their Self". The face represents the Self in many symbolic ways, varying between cultures. A slap in the face with feel like it is insulting or injuring the Self differently in Japan than it will in Saudi Arabia than in California (I suspect), also depending on who is watching. And in the 18th century, perhaps much more so. It's not wrong to say that the Self is in some regards located in or on the Face. It's where we get phrases like "losing face" or "gaining face". There are other locations of the Self. The Heart for instance is widely regarded as a Self center point. Punches to the heart don't really seem to mean that much, but spikes driving through the heart, for vampires for instance, are seen as penetrating the core "Self" of the monster or person. And of course pangs in the heart, "heartaches" are some of the firmest centers of Self we talk about. I assume that this also varies between cultures. We have other centers of Self like the brain, or the head. Cutting off someone's head is in a way severing their Self from the rest (the face is up there too). But all this is to say is that in the arrays of Self centers, it strikes me that the Thais retain a more traditional location of Self in the gut. In English we have things like "gut feeling" and "you've got a lot of guts!", but traditionally this center of the Self in the gut, the spleen, was much stronger. In Ancient Greece this was a very strong location of Self (not the only one, but a core are vital one). My arguments about Thai Muay Thai scoring are that knees and kicks to the torso score higher because they culturally are read as hitting the Self, and injuring or weakening it. And that this is a traditional way of looking at the body. And that Thai audiences literally, affectively, experience such hits much more powerfully. They can "feel" the blows there in a way probably westerners don't. In the West it seems that these senses of Selves have migrated higher. We've lost the gut center more or less (a good gut punch and double over will still mean something severe, but on a daily basis we don't deposit our Self there much), and experience our Selves much higher. In the heart sometimes, but almost always in the head. We in the west lead with our head. And, it corresponds, it's why blows to the head and face (hey, we have a whole app that rules the world called Facebook), are scored so highly. We empathetically connect to fighters, and as audience experience blows or even touches to the head with more impact. I think we've lost some of the body mapping that allows Thais to experience lower torso strikes as much more substantive. 

At least that's my thinking on it.

Very interesting, thank you for your reply Kevin. This corresponds to what I was hoping to ''get from you.'' 😁 This is very interesting to me, since if we accept that thais have a much more prominent notion of the self as located within the torso, I believe it opens up some possible thoughts I was hoping to get at.

One of these would seem to me to be the fact that this is tied much more to an affective than a discursive or cognitive notion of self, compared to the west. If the head and face parallel the abstract notions of identity and thoughts, then the torso would parallel the affective and emotional. In this sense the poorly articulated description of the human being from Plato (with exception of the stoics I suppose) until at least the 20th century and the rise of phenomenology would find a much more adequate articulation - in muay thai. This specifically refers to the buddhist conception of the ''passions'' or affects as intrinsically constitutive for the human being, and the way this is highlighted through the scoring of body strikes. 

I believe that the homeric warrior was quite much closer to the richer phenomenology of the nak muay compared to the later cartesian subject (which it seems to me we still very much are) of the west, and I do believe that this change in in-der-welt-sein is one of the most important ways in which muay thai has enriched my life. This only comes from the study of the thai aesthetic in muay thai and the attempt of integration into my own muay.  

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7 hours ago, Asger said:

I believe that the homeric warrior was quite much closer to the richer phenomenology of the nak muay compared to the later cartesian subject (which it seems to me we still very much are) of the west, and I do believe that this change in in-der-welt-sein is one of the most important ways in which muay thai has enriched my life. This only comes from the study of the thai aesthetic in muay thai and the attempt of integration into my own muay.  

Very, very much so. The Homeric depictions of warfare, characterizations of figures and personae fit very closely with what I intuit here. And the Ancient Greek concept of Thymos (which you sound like you would be familiar with, but for others this is a pretty decent breakdown of) I think presents a very productive mapping point between Thai traditional Self and maybe traditional/archaic western Self. I think for the Thai (ideally) and for the Homeric Self/ves, you have an affective self, but also the privileging of external "face" or appearance as Real. Not sure if you know the work of Giambattista Vico, but his notions of pictorial language, or the realism of figuration, at least for me, helps decode Thai sensibility toward performance, and Ruup. In Thailand's Muay Thai you have the regulation of the passions through affective balancing (Buddhistic) and symbolic presentation, instead of turning all those passions over to the rule of the Cartesian Subject.

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21 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

Very, very much so. The Homeric depictions of warfare, characterizations of figures and personae fit very closely with what I intuit here. And the Ancient Greek concept of Thymos (which you sound like you would be familiar with, but for others this is a pretty decent breakdown of) I think presents a very productive mapping point between Thai traditional Self and maybe traditional/archaic western Self. I think for the Thai (ideally) and for the Homeric Self/ves, you have an affective self, but also the privileging of external "face" or appearance as Real. Not sure if you know the work of Giambattista Vico, but his notions of pictorial language, or the realism of figuration, at least for me, helps decode Thai sensibility toward performance, and Ruup. In Thailand's Muay Thai you have the regulation of the passions through affective balancing (Buddhistic) and symbolic presentation, instead of turning all those passions over to the rule of the Cartesian Subject.

Very interesting. I'm very intrigued by thymos, and have studied the first third of Sloterdijks Rage and Time quite diligently. I am unfamiliar with Giambattista Vicos work, as I've only heard his name in passing, but it seems very interesting. What I'm trying to weave together, I suppose, is something of a thinking of masculinity-affirmative ethics of the self. Muay thai aesthetics and ethics seem to be the nexus that for me unites thinkers such as Butler, Homer, Agamben (specifically his thoughts about the self in Use of Bodies), Nietzsche and Sloterdijk in what I'm trying to get at. And you have very much been a catalyst for this thinking through all of your work, so I would like to express deep gratitude for that. 

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