Jump to content
Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

Questions about Muay Thai "Authenticity" in the West

Recommended Posts

It feels like the one and only contest in western Muay Thai that is commercially, and perhaps socially underway is "who is the most authentic" (which fighter, which org, which gym....)? As long as that is the battle, nobody can really win. Even if you win as "most authentic" or "really, really real" you are set up against a broader background of "not authentic", you are in a field of in-authenticity. It feels like Muay Thai somehow got caught up in a Kung Fu cultural framework, when in fact it is probably much, much closer to boxing. It doesn't help that notions of authenticity and fake in Thailand are incredibly plastic, which plays into the authenticity paranoia from the west.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Most ppl in the West probably know their thing they're doing isn't 'authentic' authentic, but still fun to do and cool for the exercise. Plus, make some good friends too, which is always a plus. For that, it's all good.

It's not really the average people with the realness paranoia, just the Western gym owners and trainers. And from a business point of view, they might think they got no choice.

 

 

Edited by Oliver
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It’s such a struggle for me. 
I did a little bit of training in Thailand when I was on holiday and returned to Thailand hooked and trained some more.

But Back home... on returning, I really struggled to find anything like it. 
I finally did but I had to leave my gym of 4 years which was a hard transition but I couldn’t bare the arrogance. The masculine aggression. 

My trainer I have now is perfect. He has also lived in Thailand and I believe that really helps When looking for a genuine gym. 
He also has the spirituality that surrounds Thai gyms which is very important to me Too. 

I feel “most“ western Muay Thai gyms are brute force kickboxing mma gyms.

Very rarely are they respectful Muay Thai that you see in most of Thailand. 

 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think this is especially tricky because of the complete disparity between importance and commonality of fighting between Thai gyms and western gyms. In the argument about grading systems in western gyms, which is a way to retain members and give people who aren't fighters a sense of accomplishment and progress, these methods are in place because gyms are not mainly fighter's gyms. Most members are there for fitness or passion, but most won't fight. There are "fight teams" within the gyms and the more fighters you have the  more "authentic" you are, I guess. But in Thailand, a grading system would be ridiculous. You walk into a gym and just watch people and you know what "level" they are in experience. Fighters definitely have importance for financial reasons and giving "face" and esteem to the gym name, which is true in the West as well but to a very, very different degree. I'm not sure how that kind of "authenticity" could translate into such a different system in the West, with such different business models, customer breakdowns, opportunities, and most importantly a broad disparity in experience between Thai trainers/gyms and those anywhere else in the world.

  • Like 3
  • Gamma 1
  • Cool 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/4/2020 at 2:29 PM, Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu said:

In the argument about grading systems in western gyms, which is a way to retain members and give people who aren't fighters a sense of accomplishment and progress

It's also a way for a lot gyms in the west to make more money from their members. The first gym I trained at here in Perth had a grading system. They charged $60 to attend the grading, and then another $20 for your new shirt with your new grading on it 😲 🤦‍♂️

'So Snack Payback, will you be attending the upcoming grading?'

'Err, no I won't'

I don't train there anymore 🙂
 

On 4/2/2020 at 9:01 PM, SHELL28 said:

It’s such a struggle for me. 
I did a little bit of training in Thailand when I was on holiday and returned to Thailand hooked and trained some more.

But Back home... on returning, I really struggled to find anything like it. 
I finally did but I had to leave my gym of 4 years which was a hard transition but I couldn’t bare the arrogance. The masculine aggression. 

My trainer I have now is perfect. He has also lived in Thailand and I believe that really helps When looking for a genuine gym. 
He also has the spirituality that surrounds Thai gyms which is very important to me Too. 

I feel “most“ western Muay Thai gyms are brute force kickboxing mma gyms.

Very rarely are they respectful Muay Thai that you see in most of Thailand. 

 

All the places I've trained at in Perth have been fine. Even that place I talk about above, despite the grading nonsense it was a friendly gym. Once I started heading over to Thailand to train I soon realised I needed to find a new gym if I really wanted to improve. The place I'm at now is great - Thai owned and run. Very friendly and my technique has come on a lot. Also tried one other place before settling at my current one. Owner had spent a lot of time in Thailand and had had Thai trainers over. Again, very friendly and well run place. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/6/2020 at 8:27 PM, Snack Payback said:

It's also a way for a lot gyms in the west to make more money from their members. The first gym I trained at here in Perth had a grading system. They charged $60 to attend the grading, and then another $20 for your new shirt with your new grading on it 😲 🤦‍♂️
 

 

picardfacepalm.jpg

  • Like 1
  • hahaha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Something else that amuses me - although I haven't actually come across it in Australia, seems to be a North American thing from what I read on forums/facebook - is non Thai trainers/gym owners calling themselves 'Kru'. I'll have to put this isolation time to good use and try and make a gif.

  • hahaha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, Snack Payback said:

Something else that amuses me - although I haven't actually come across it in Australia, seems to be a North American thing from what I read on forums/facebook - is non Thai trainers/gym owners calling themselves 'Kru'. I'll have to put this isolation time to good use and try and make a gif.

I’ve come across this! Another reason why I left my last gym. 
That was the final straw along with some other things. 
I did a few months with John Wayne Parr when I lived in the Goldy and not even he demanded that title. (And he probably could if he wanted to)
The arrogance in the west can be exhausting. 

Amazing gym by the way and highly recommend training with JWP 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, heard about this one too. Never went there but told by friends who were former students - another gym in my hometown, every trainer had to be addressed as Kru. Fucking hilarious, 'Kru Mike', 'Kru Steve', 'Kru Jimmy' 😂 (Using different names here for their anonymity....not that they deserve it)

They also had a rule that you had to buy their shorts and t-shirts and wear them every training session, or you had to leave.

Not being funny but personally, best most comfortable are football shorts. (Soccer). 

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess some people like to try and give themselves an air of mystique. Like they spent a year deep in Isaan, kicking down a hectare of banana trees every morning, followed by a grueling 10 hour training session, followed by 2 back to back fights at the local stadium. Day after day. Finally, after a year of this, they were bestowed the title of 'Kru' by their trainer. They walked across the country to Suvarnabhumi and flew home. No mate, you just woke up one morning and decided to start calling yourself 'Kru'.

 

  • Like 1
  • hahaha 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, SHELL28 said:


I did a few months with John Wayne Parr when I lived in the Goldy and not even he demanded that title. (And he probably could if he wanted to)
The arrogance in the west can be exhausting. 

Amazing gym by the way and highly recommend training with JWP 

That's great you got to train at JWP's gym. He comes across as a really sound fella 👍

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You know what the real trajedy is with these douchebags? If they were just honest from the getgo, people would be cool with it and that gym would likely still make the same money.

If they just said, "Hey guys, we train K1 here, we're a kickboxing gym" - nobody would think any less of them.

 

  • Like 1
  • Respect 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/8/2020 at 10:37 PM, SHELL28 said:

I’ve come across this! Another reason why I left my last gym. 
That was the final straw along with some other things. 
I did a few months with John Wayne Parr when I lived in the Goldy and not even he demanded that title. (And he probably could if he wanted to)
The arrogance in the west can be exhausting. 

Amazing gym by the way and highly recommend training with JWP 

JWP says that the title 'kru' is for Thais. Being called 'coach' or 'teacher' in a foreign language doesn't make sense to me. It just seems to me like a way of floating ego. I've been called Kru before, but I prefer people just to use my name. 

I have a similar opinion of the insistence of 'sensei' or 'shifu' being used in japanese and chinese martial arts. It's just weird to me to throw in a substitute word in a different language

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Oh and just to be clear, absolutely nothing wrong with kickboxing, don't disrespect it all, it's also a cool sport. 

I mean, watching Crocop head kick dudes into oblivion back in the day? Glorious.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

39 minutes ago, Oliver said:

Oh and just to be clear, absolutely nothing wrong with kickboxing, don't disrespect it all, it's also a cool sport. 

I mean, watching Crocop head kick dudes into oblivion back in the day? Glorious.

That's the struggle with K1 rules. 

I recall a while ago someone asking on Sherdog where they could learn K1 because the only things close to them were a kickboxing gym and a muay thai gym. The kickboxing gym was a PKA style gym with no kicks below the waist kind of deal. And there comes a point where you have to say 'honestly, just do muay thai because you're learning K1 rules via doing it. K1 and Muay Thai are very similar whereas that American Kickboxing style is nothing like either of them. 

Muay Thai has had such a big influence on K1 that you can go back and forth between them and not really be too lose. Hell the limited clinching of K1 only happened about 10 years ago. 

They're not the same thing but their close enough that it's easier to confuse people into thinking they're doing one, when they might be doing the other - which makes it easy for someone to market themselves as coaching Muay Thai, when it's only a half truth at best, outright lie at worst.

-- Ramble on western authenticity in coming---

Even among Western coaches who actually do KNOW muay thai, I think there are still issues that hold back their progress. The trouble is, and I learned this fully when I started coaching, the Thai approach to training simply doesn't work with a western lifestyle. You can't live on a gym, you have to learn new ways of coaching and teaching and that means you're going to have to do things differently to how it's done in Thailand. 

The reason dutch kickboxers are so ridiculously good compared to the rest of the world, is because they focus so much of their training on heavy partner based drills, that keep their training as realistic and close to sparring as possible. So when they learn a technique or combination they have often learned and practised it on a person before they've ever done it on a bag, and as such that removes the element of having to adapt something from bag/padwork to a person. While the efficiency of the dutch in stadium muay thai is greatly exaggerated, Ramon Dekkers was competitive against fighters with far more in ring experience and training experience thanks to that method of learning. 

My coach adapted his training from growing up on a camp in Thailand, and implemented a heavy focus on partner based drills to teach techniques that would normally learned or honed through a lot of sparring, similar to what the dutch do. I ultimately ended up doing the same thing.  A lot of stuff that a coach in Thailand may teach you via padwork, I ultimately opted to teach in a more drill/spar like setting (similar to Karuhat) and remove that element of the pads.

Then when the time comes to actually do 5 rounds of padwork they can focus on repeating on the pads with power, as opposed to learning it with power on the pads, then having to figure out how to do it on a person in sparring.

When you don't have the ability to train twice a day, six days a week - you have to find more concise ways to learn in order to get as quality an instruction as possible, without fully living that life in the gym that allow Thais to become so very good at what they do.

The western approach (outside of Holland) seems to be:
Step 1: Learn combination or technique in shadow
Step 2: Blast it hard on the pad repeatedly
Step 3: Work it into sparring. 

My approach is:
Step 1: Learn the combination or technique in a partner drill, taking turns with each other
Step 2 or 3 : Work it on the pads or bags
Step 2 or 3: Work it into sparring

You can work it into sparring before working it onto pads, but you will already have more freedom and understanding from doing in that way. My approach to TEACHING the techniques (outside of clinch) are more influenced by dutch kickboxing and russian boxing - but the actual approach to technique I teach is a traditional Thai way

Is it inauthentic? Maybe? I'm not sure it matters. You have to adapt in order to keep practising the sport you love.

 

  • Like 1
  • Respect 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, AndyMaBobs said:

While the efficiency of the dutch in stadium muay thai is greatly exaggerated, Ramon Dekkers was competitive against fighters with far more in ring experience and training experience thanks to that method of learning. 

I like the way you put that. But...it should be thrown in there, often pretty huge weight advantages. Giving a power puncher 15 lbs or more in the ring is kind of what helped lead to that exaggeration. Give him a 10 lb disadvantage regularly and all those memorized combos would become fluff.

I totally agree though that there is a serious challenge in teaching in the western context for Muay Thai coaches, and their gyms. The funny thing is though...it doesn't seem to have prevented the western world from producing some of the greatest fighters ever in terms of boxing. I really think that the problem is one of class. Boxing took its roots in the lower classes, and widely so, where fighting and its processes means something very different from the more usual middle class and even upper middle class targets of many western Muay Thai teaching scenarios.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nah.

Biggest difference between the two? Actually the hardest thing to spot at first glance in my early days when just starting out. But when you see it you can't unsee it.

It's the rhythm. And that rhythm at the fighter's core bleeds into everything produced by his Thai style. The rhythm of the little footsteps, weight distribution, the silkiness of his defence, the nuanced pliancy of the whole thing. The guard is totally different, the stance is totally different. There's almost a musicality to the whole thing - similar to how a good musician has a rock solid internal chronometer, he always knows exactly where he is relative to the beat, and that's the level of being a badass - where he can play against his own time, which is why syncopation works so effectively, and he can always seemlessly return to sender. The feel or sensibilities are what make Thai unique among striking sports.

Most kickboxers are like musicians with an over emphasis on melody and underemphasis on rhythm. Again no disrespect to kickboxers, it's also an enjoyable sport to watch, and those guys work very hard.

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I like the way you put that. But...it should be thrown in there, often pretty huge weight advantages. Giving a power puncher 15 lbs or more in the ring is kind of what helped lead to that exaggeration. Give him a 10 lb disadvantage regularly and all those memorized combos would become fluff.

I totally agree though that there is a serious challenge in teaching in the western context for Muay Thai coaches, and their gyms. The funny thing is though...it doesn't seem to have prevented the western world from producing some of the greatest fighters ever in terms of boxing. I really think that the problem is one of class. Boxing took its roots in the lower classes, and widely so, where fighting and its processes means something very different from the more usual middle class and even upper middle class targets of many western Muay Thai teaching scenarios.

Yup completely fair - dutch guys would tend to be bigger. Thais are unusually small people compared to other nations, the most competitive weight classes in MMA and boxing are like 140-170lbs and in Thailand it's waaay smaller. 

Class might be the case, it might also be general popularity of the sports. Thailand isn't dominant in boxing or kickboxing in the same way there isn't really another nation dominant in Muay Thai. 

Not sure I agree with you in terms of muay thai being targetted at the middle class in the West though. It's 100% not true for Britain and Europe and from what I've seen of gyms in America it's not true of them either. Muay Thai gyms in the US are usually linked to MMA and MMA is a sport that is usually picked up by poor people, save for your occasional Brian Ortega

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is how Russia approaches it. I think Russia have the best approach to learning pretty much any sport - building from small drills outwards to ensure the little details aren't lost. It's why you rarely see a Russian fighter who doesn't have both great footwork and good punching power. 

This video shows how they practise making contact and catching the kick itself and getting in sweep position before executing it. 
 

More here:

Drills that very closely simulate sparring.

 

This has influenced how I approach teaching the martial art. You do drills like this with me and focus more on core defensive and offensive concepts, and then put them into practise sparring. When it comes to clinching I will teach entries and teach sweeps and let you practise them, but my two main guys have to figure it out through 30 minutes of non stop clinching. 

Compromises and work arounds to get as close as possible to what I view muay thai training should be!

Edited by AndyMaBobs
Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

The funny thing is though...it doesn't seem to have prevented the western world from producing some of the greatest fighters ever in terms of boxing. I really think that the problem is one of class. Boxing took its roots in the lower classes, and widely so, where fighting and its processes means something very different from the more usual middle class and even upper middle class targets of many western Muay Thai teaching scenarios.

Correct.

Mayweather actually got in trouble for racism a while back talking about white Europeans. He said the best boxers in the world are predominantly African American and Hispanic.

People jumped on him for talking race, without realising he was actually talking poverty.

 

  • Nak Muay 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, AndyMaBobs said:

This has influenced how I approach teaching the martial art. You do drills like this with me and focus more on core defensive and offensive concepts, and then put them into practise sparring.

I'm very torn on this. I am 100% opposed to drill based fighting teaching, I think it's a cop out. Yes, there is a place for drills to be sure, and Thais indeed drill basics in the very young, but there is no expressive sport in the world where the elite, poetic fighters became that way primarily through drills. I say this though fully knowing that the west HAS to drill. It's in the very fabric of the business model of teaching. Drills are essentially mechanical abstractions of a living art, exported from that art, and put into an assembly line of a kind. Yes, the assembly line can and does produce working models of something, just like it can produce cars, or widgets, but the very act of abstraction, of mechanization for the purposes of duplicaiton, is killing the art of what Muay Thai is...in my opinion. As I say though, the west simply has no choice. It's like having to teach people how to play baseball in a land where no baseball fields exist. You can learn all kinds of "things" done on a baseball field, but if you don't have baseball fields you'll never really know what baseball is, or really have ever played it.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mmmm. And on top of that Western gyms are in a bind they can't get out of - they can't afford to pay salaries for 5 different trainers, who are also seasoned ex fighters, working in every session holding pad rounds for everyone. 

Maybe America is better I dunno, but in Europe it's usually 1 guy and then 40 people on the mat. 

Now in BJJ this actually works, and champions are made through that training method. Because improvement relies so heavily on sparring, and a couple of technique drills at the start with a partner, and that's it. Walk into Roger Gracie's gym in London and it's basically the same deal as training in Rio. Am told you need a Portuguese dictionary in that place to understand what going on. The culture as well as the knowledge base got successfully transposed from Brazil to parts of the UK and US. 

Can that happen with Muay Thai? Would love someone to convince me. Would love to be wrong.

  • 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

    • Two things may have persisted through all these years. Sylvie just has always patchworked her training approach. At the time of the the first video she's taking the train down from Fort Montgomery where we lived in a little rented house next to a National Park, to train in Manhattan. We were just piecing training together because there was no real path to where she wanted to get as a fighter, no "Point A to point B, just do all the work, listen to all the right people and you'll get there" path. 11 years on we are in the exact same place. There is no point A to point B path. She's much, much further down a path of her own invention, to be sure, tinkering steps forward up a rock wall, but everything unstable that she faced 11 years ago is still right there. She's training sometimes at her old gym, sometimes alone working on self-curation, daily in sparring at another gym, privately with Yodkhunpon, and all the intermittent training in filming legends and great krus in the Library. But, from at least my perception, nothing has changed at all in this. She is not being carried by a process, or by powerful others, and in this sense is exposed. There is no safe port. And because her process involves sharing her flaws with others - unlike every other fighter I've ever seen, where it is regular to hide your flaw and amplify your best qualities - this exposure is hard to carry. The other aspect that has persisted is that because she's a true disruptor in the sport, doing things outside of the expectations and ways of others who are invested quite differently, there is a constant social current she is swimming against. In the first video she's talking about YouTube criticism, but more this is just push back against who she is. So many have come to support her over the last decade, and lent their voices & resources to make the path possible, but still there is, and may always be a detractor audience, which in part comes from the fact that she's still doing things that nobody else does. In the second vlog she's matured into her place in the sport, taken root in herself...to some small degree, but personally the same pressures of resistance press upon her. The road is no easier at this point, than it was 11 years ago. In fact in many ways its even more difficult...but, what has changed and deepened is the richness of what she has built up inside, with 268 fights and a decade of sharing her flaws with others for over a decade. She has more substance and standing and belief in what she is doing. This is what I see.
    • The above video is from almost 11 years ago. Sylvie is up the Hudson River where we lived, taking the train down to NYC to train in a Muay Thai gym in the city, more than an hour away from the small town we made our home. This video just gives me quiet tears, hearing her sincerity in response to some pretty harsh commentary coming through YouTube. One of the things Sylvie was exposed to was, from the beginning, being an outsider to "Muay Thai" proper. She was training with a 70 year old man in his basement in New Jersey, an hour and a half's drive away. She was putting up videos of her training because there was nobody like Master K, her first instructor, online anywhere. There was pretty much nothing of "Thai" Muay Thai online. A small community of interested people grew around her channel, but also came the criticism. From the beginning there was a who-do-you-think-you-are tone from many. You can hear it in her voice. She doesn't think she is anyone. She just loves Muay Thai. She's the girl who loves Muay Thai. I cry in part because many of the themes in this video are actually still operating today. She's a huge name in the sport, but personally she is really still just the girl who loves Muay Thai, who takes the alternate path, doesn't ride with gyms, doesn't care about belts, doesn't want to fight Westernized Muay Thai. She's burned a path into Thailand's Muay Thai for many, but she's just replaced Master K - who to this day loves Muay Thai as much as anyone we've ever, ever met, with the possible exception of Dieselnoi - with legends of the sport. Karuhat, Dieselnoi, Yodkhunpon, Samson, Sagat. These are her fight family. And the same quiver is in her voice when she thinks about, actually yearns for, their muay. Wanting to be a part of it, to express it. From someone on the inside, it's just striking how little of this has changed, though like a spiral it has been every climbing higher, towards more ratified and accomplished feat, many of them feats that nobody will duplicate...simply because she's just The Girl Who Loves Muay Thai, and is taking the alternate path. She's running through the foothills of Thailand's greatness. And like then, when people in Muay Thai criticized her, today she has the same. The same unbelievers. And it's as pained today as it was on this day in the video. What's remarkable about her journey is that it necessarily has involved sharing, exposing, all of her flaws to everyone. She's likely the most documented fighter in history. We've put up video of every single fight and probably a 1,000 of hours of training. She has lived herself as exposed to everyone, as much as a fighter can be. What I'm amazed by, watching this 11 years on, is her equipoise, her balance in holding the harshness of others, and her lack of ego in all that she was doing. One of the most difficult things she's encountered in developing as a fighter, reaching for the muay of yodmuay, is actually developing an ego, a pride or dignity, which is defended not only in the ring, but also in Life. How does one get from the above, to where one needs to be as a fighter? What internal transformations have to occur? I happened upon the above video today, the same day Sylvie posted a new vlog talking about her experiences in training with some IFMA team teens at her gym. She was reflecting on how many of the lessons of growth she had not been ready for as a person years ago, especially lessons about frustration and even anger. You can hear the frustration in the video at the top. Mostly it falls behind a "I mean no harm" confession. She's just loving Muay Thai and sharing it. The impulse of those shared early videos of Master K eventually became the Muay Thai Library documentary project, likely the largest, most thorough documentation archive of a fighting art in history of the world. It's the same person doing the same thing. Even to this day, nothing of this has changed. But, what has changed is the depth of her experience, in over a decade of love for the sport, and in fighting an incredible 268 fights, and counting. Take a look at the vlog she put up today, and see what has changed. From the above has come one of the most impactful western Muay Thai fighters in history, both as a person and as a fighter. And the mountain is still being climbed:    
    • What is interesting about this is that it is one of the few steps taken at the New New Lumpinee which doesn't seem like a bend toward Western (or Internationalist) ideas and instead is broadly in support of the ecosystem which has produced Thailand kaimuay Muay Thai superiority for decades. Modernist views are against children or early youth full contact fighting, but in this case Lumpinee is lending its name to younger fighters, in hopes of developing stars and their following much earlier in their lives. No matter what one thinks of child fighting in Thailand its a fundamental part of why Thais fight like no other people in the world, just in terms of skill. Interesting to see Lumpinee leaning into something there has been pushback on.
  • The Latest From Open Topics Forum

    • Two things may have persisted through all these years. Sylvie just has always patchworked her training approach. At the time of the the first video she's taking the train down from Fort Montgomery where we lived in a little rented house next to a National Park, to train in Manhattan. We were just piecing training together because there was no real path to where she wanted to get as a fighter, no "Point A to point B, just do all the work, listen to all the right people and you'll get there" path. 11 years on we are in the exact same place. There is no point A to point B path. She's much, much further down a path of her own invention, to be sure, tinkering steps forward up a rock wall, but everything unstable that she faced 11 years ago is still right there. She's training sometimes at her old gym, sometimes alone working on self-curation, daily in sparring at another gym, privately with Yodkhunpon, and all the intermittent training in filming legends and great krus in the Library. But, from at least my perception, nothing has changed at all in this. She is not being carried by a process, or by powerful others, and in this sense is exposed. There is no safe port. And because her process involves sharing her flaws with others - unlike every other fighter I've ever seen, where it is regular to hide your flaw and amplify your best qualities - this exposure is hard to carry. The other aspect that has persisted is that because she's a true disruptor in the sport, doing things outside of the expectations and ways of others who are invested quite differently, there is a constant social current she is swimming against. In the first video she's talking about YouTube criticism, but more this is just push back against who she is. So many have come to support her over the last decade, and lent their voices & resources to make the path possible, but still there is, and may always be a detractor audience, which in part comes from the fact that she's still doing things that nobody else does. In the second vlog she's matured into her place in the sport, taken root in herself...to some small degree, but personally the same pressures of resistance press upon her. The road is no easier at this point, than it was 11 years ago. In fact in many ways its even more difficult...but, what has changed and deepened is the richness of what she has built up inside, with 268 fights and a decade of sharing her flaws with others for over a decade. She has more substance and standing and belief in what she is doing. This is what I see.
    • The above video is from almost 11 years ago. Sylvie is up the Hudson River where we lived, taking the train down to NYC to train in a Muay Thai gym in the city, more than an hour away from the small town we made our home. This video just gives me quiet tears, hearing her sincerity in response to some pretty harsh commentary coming through YouTube. One of the things Sylvie was exposed to was, from the beginning, being an outsider to "Muay Thai" proper. She was training with a 70 year old man in his basement in New Jersey, an hour and a half's drive away. She was putting up videos of her training because there was nobody like Master K, her first instructor, online anywhere. There was pretty much nothing of "Thai" Muay Thai online. A small community of interested people grew around her channel, but also came the criticism. From the beginning there was a who-do-you-think-you-are tone from many. You can hear it in her voice. She doesn't think she is anyone. She just loves Muay Thai. She's the girl who loves Muay Thai. I cry in part because many of the themes in this video are actually still operating today. She's a huge name in the sport, but personally she is really still just the girl who loves Muay Thai, who takes the alternate path, doesn't ride with gyms, doesn't care about belts, doesn't want to fight Westernized Muay Thai. She's burned a path into Thailand's Muay Thai for many, but she's just replaced Master K - who to this day loves Muay Thai as much as anyone we've ever, ever met, with the possible exception of Dieselnoi - with legends of the sport. Karuhat, Dieselnoi, Yodkhunpon, Samson, Sagat. These are her fight family. And the same quiver is in her voice when she thinks about, actually yearns for, their muay. Wanting to be a part of it, to express it. From someone on the inside, it's just striking how little of this has changed, though like a spiral it has been every climbing higher, towards more ratified and accomplished feat, many of them feats that nobody will duplicate...simply because she's just The Girl Who Loves Muay Thai, and is taking the alternate path. She's running through the foothills of Thailand's greatness. And like then, when people in Muay Thai criticized her, today she has the same. The same unbelievers. And it's as pained today as it was on this day in the video. What's remarkable about her journey is that it necessarily has involved sharing, exposing, all of her flaws to everyone. She's likely the most documented fighter in history. We've put up video of every single fight and probably a 1,000 of hours of training. She has lived herself as exposed to everyone, as much as a fighter can be. What I'm amazed by, watching this 11 years on, is her equipoise, her balance in holding the harshness of others, and her lack of ego in all that she was doing. One of the most difficult things she's encountered in developing as a fighter, reaching for the muay of yodmuay, is actually developing an ego, a pride or dignity, which is defended not only in the ring, but also in Life. How does one get from the above, to where one needs to be as a fighter? What internal transformations have to occur? I happened upon the above video today, the same day Sylvie posted a new vlog talking about her experiences in training with some IFMA team teens at her gym. She was reflecting on how many of the lessons of growth she had not been ready for as a person years ago, especially lessons about frustration and even anger. You can hear the frustration in the video at the top. Mostly it falls behind a "I mean no harm" confession. She's just loving Muay Thai and sharing it. The impulse of those shared early videos of Master K eventually became the Muay Thai Library documentary project, likely the largest, most thorough documentation archive of a fighting art in history of the world. It's the same person doing the same thing. Even to this day, nothing of this has changed. But, what has changed is the depth of her experience, in over a decade of love for the sport, and in fighting an incredible 268 fights, and counting. Take a look at the vlog she put up today, and see what has changed. From the above has come one of the most impactful western Muay Thai fighters in history, both as a person and as a fighter. And the mountain is still being climbed:    
    • What is interesting about this is that it is one of the few steps taken at the New New Lumpinee which doesn't seem like a bend toward Western (or Internationalist) ideas and instead is broadly in support of the ecosystem which has produced Thailand kaimuay Muay Thai superiority for decades. Modernist views are against children or early youth full contact fighting, but in this case Lumpinee is lending its name to younger fighters, in hopes of developing stars and their following much earlier in their lives. No matter what one thinks of child fighting in Thailand its a fundamental part of why Thais fight like no other people in the world, just in terms of skill. Interesting to see Lumpinee leaning into something there has been pushback on.
    • Last week (or so) a video went "viral" on Thai social media. It was a scrappy street fight between a young kathoey (generally used for male to female Trans, but less frequently used also for female to male) protecting herself from a local, cis male bully. Nong Ping is the young Trans woman and in the video, shot by a bystander on their phone, and she absolutely goes to town on this bully. In the end the bully is standing, panting, tired, and nose dripping from his nose. After this video got so widely shared, Nong Toom - "The Beautiful Boxer," and the most famous kathoey celebrity and former Muay Thai fighter - took Nong Ping in under her wing. Nong Toom has had the young woman staying with her and has begun training her in Muay Thai, saying she already has heart and now just has to learn the skill. Nong Toom even accompanied Nong Ping on a TV show that is more or less a platform for guests to air out their grievances and settle disputes (Sia Boat and his fighter who has been charged with throwing a fight for money appeared on the show a month or so back). Nong Ping and her bully appeared on the show with the host, and Nong Toom at the table as well to educate this bully and the public. Here are some photos of Nong Ping. The first is a screenshot from the street fight, the remainder are those posted by Nong Toom as Nong Ping is a guest in her house. Nong Toom says she believes Nong Ping will have the opportunity to have a professional fight after she's been training for a bit. (As per Thailand's laws, Nong Ping will face either a cis male or another kathoey.)   For the latest Thailand Muay Thai News Updates check out our Muay Thai Bones Newsletter
    • No worries!! There are still some peeps Who'll keep stood up for it!!
  • Forum Statistics

    • Total Topics
      1.1k
    • Total Posts
      10.1k
×
×
  • Create New...