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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

Questions about Muay Thai "Authenticity" in the West

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43 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

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.

It depends on whether the drill is understood properly. All the best amateur and professional boxers drill, so do the best wrestlers and other grapplers. It's when they ONLY drill or the drills don't represent well what you're supposed to be doing that the problems begin. The best boxers in the amateurs are using the cuban and russian models and it's heavily focussed around realistic drilling. Drills aren't mechanisation unless the drills are all that you do. 

The way those Russian guys do it keep the drill very close to sparring while in control, allowing it to bleed over. That's how you can have an undersized fighter like Ramazanov outwork and outmanoeuvre Petchmorakot from the weight division above him. I think you say it yourself when you say that the Thai's drill the basics in the very young, it's not because they're necessarily young but because they're the beginners. 

Drills aren't removed from any artistry, opera singers drill vocal technique, illustrators will drill shapes. They're a part of it and a big part of what create the best fighters in the world, they're just not the be all and end all. I don't think that Thailand necessarily has the best approach to teaching and learning - I think they simply have the best learning environment in which to develop. 

That is why I also mention that in addition to the drill I'll teach the concept. If I introduce you to a concept like say for example changing levels, and that is just the concept, through drilling free-form you'll find your own ways to change level and operate as a fighter. Thai's do this, I just don't think they would necessarily explain this to you in the same way. Like, the vast majority of the time when I watch Sylvie working with a legend, she IS drilling. She's drilling in a way that I would call drilling, or what a Russian would call drilling - but maybe not in a way that an American will notice as drilling. There's subjectivity to it.

Edited by AndyMaBobs
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A  fun drill to encourage creativity that I get anyone who works with me to do:

Person A - uses a technique, any technique, or combination etc. 

Person B - responds with their own one, but one different

Both fighters are allowed to check and otherwise defend during all of them.

They go back and forth, after doing it for about two minutes, they're allowed to interrupt each others combination. Power is about 50% - 60% to the body + legs, 20% to the head (The English tend to be big lads, don't want to take any risks there). The students learn techniques from each other that way - but also they learn the timing to properly interrupt each other. It eventually turns into something like light sparring. 

What in my experience I find is that my students end up being far more experimental in sparring. They're not stiff and they learn defence in a more organic way (I posted my fighters first competition, and that sort of drilling gave him his movement, which is still raw but very much there). 

Those 1,2,3 kick type of drills, for me, only serve the purpose of getting the fighter comfortable with the movement and becoming defensively responsible.

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2 hours ago, AndyMaBobs said:

That's how you can have an undersized fighter like Ramazanov outwork and outmanoeuvre Petchmorakot from the weight division above him.

A few things about that fight.

1. ONE calls what they put on "Muay Thai", but it isn't Muay Thai. It isn't reffed like Muay Thai, nor scored like Muay Thai. It is sad that it is becoming a layman's reference for what Muay Thai is, around the world. I say this well beyond this fight.

2. I like Ramazanov a lot, for a non-Thai. To be sure. But he's just doing memorized switch steps advances and patterns over and over and over. It isn't really fighting, using your eyes, like any top Thai fighter does. There is no solving, no thinking, no seeing. It's hold your breath and throw your pattern, move. Hold your breath, throw your pattern and move. This is just not "fighting" in my view.

3. Petchmorakot is not near his prime. I didn't know his career when he was at Lumpinee, but at 25-26 and with the way he fights not really an accomplished fighter at this point. I know ONE wants to hype him as such, but he's just an uncomplex Muay Khao fighter, with very simple attacks. ONE likes to feature and hype fighters. Fighting outside of his career prime, and outside of stadium rules and judging makes him un-extraordinary.

4. Ramazanov in that fight didn't even understand how to close his open side to a southpaw. This is really something any 10 year old in Thailand knows to do. It's basic Muay Thai. If he had simply checked the rear kick, Petchmorakot had nothing. The absence of even basic defense vs southpaw just points up to serious deficits.

5. There is no way that Ramaznov wins that fight in full Thai rules. You don't get "points" for throwing a lot (you actually will lose points for it). The announcers themselves didn't even seem to understand Muay Thai rules proper.

6. An exciting win for Ramaznov, to be sure. Something to be proud of.

7. I'll repeat. It's sad that hybrid-ish representations of "Muay Thai" such as ONE are becoming representations of what Muay Thai is. 

I say this as a Ramazanov fan. I love watching him vs other non-Thais. But what I see him doing isn't really "Muay Thai" to me, or vision guided fighting.

 

2 hours ago, AndyMaBobs said:

Those 1,2,3 kick type of drills, for me, only serve the purpose of getting the fighter comfortable with the movement and becoming defensively responsible.

I never want to put a coach in a position where they feel like they have to defend or justify their training methods. Sounds like you've come upon a great compromise in making things work with what is available.

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1 hour ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

A few things about that fight.

1. ONE calls what they put on "Muay Thai", but it isn't Muay Thai. It isn't reffed like Muay Thai, nor scored like Muay Thai. It is sad that it is becoming a layman's reference for what Muay Thai is, around the world. I say this well beyond this fight.

2. I like Ramazanov a lot, for a non-Thai. To be sure. But he's just doing memorized switch steps advances and patterns over and over and over. It isn't really fighting, using your eyes, like any top Thai fighter does. There is no solving, no thinking, no seeing. It's hold your breath and throw your pattern, move. Hold your breath, throw your pattern and move. This is just not "fighting" in my view.

3. Petchmorakot is not near his prime. I didn't know his career when he was at Lumpinee, but at 25-26 and with the way he fights not really an accomplished fighter at this point. I know ONE wants to hype him as such, but he's just an uncomplex Muay Khao fighter, with very simple attacks. ONE likes to feature and hype fighters. Fighting outside of his career prime, and outside of stadium rules and judging makes him un-extraordinary.

4. Ramazanov in that fight didn't even understand how to close his open side to a southpaw. This is really something any 10 year old in Thailand knows to do. It's basic Muay Thai. If he had simply checked the rear kick, Petchmorakot had nothing. The absence of even basic defense vs southpaw just points up to serious deficits.

5. There is no way that Ramaznov wins that fight in full Thai rules. You don't get "points" for throwing a lot (you actually will lose points for it). The announcers themselves didn't even seem to understand Muay Thai rules proper.

6. An exciting win for Ramaznov, to be sure. Something to be proud of.

7. I'll repeat. It's sad that hybrid-ish representations of "Muay Thai" such as ONE are becoming representations of what Muay Thai is. 

I say this as a Ramazanov fan. I love watching him vs other non-Thais. But what I see him doing isn't really "Muay Thai" to me, or vision guided fighting.

 

I never want to put a coach in a position where they feel like they have to defend or justify their training methods. Sounds like you've come upon a great compromise in making things work with what is available.

Either way you slice it, he won the fight, In regards to the pure act of the two men fighting each other, he won it.

 

I recommend you try that drill that I detailed at some point and see how you find it affects what openings you see and how it helps you improvise with your own sparring and training! Hopefully at some point I'll be in Thailand in the next couple years and we can try it out then! 🙂 

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You guys all write in a super complicated way.

On drilling. Western boxers might drill, but if you go into a regular boxing gym in US or UK because you wanna be a fighter, you'll also get a trainer holding pads for you. 

Sorry to be a broken record, but this really isn't a minor point.

 

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3 hours ago, Oliver said:

You guys all write in a super complicated way.

On drilling. Western boxers might drill, but if you go into a regular boxing gym in US or UK because you wanna be a fighter, you'll also get a trainer holding pads for you. 

Sorry to be a broken record, but this really isn't a minor point.

 

Pad holding in Thailand is simulating sparring, pad holding in a US boxing gym is usually fluff

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6 hours ago, Oliver said:

Umnm.....who told you that?

2 People: 
Head coach of CBA, coached Cuban national team including silver medalists at the olympics.
Also the head coach of Johnny Tocco's boxing - which is one of the best amateur boxing gyms in the US. 
Two of the most qualified people I know in boxing.

Too much western padwork is fluffing the boxers ego thinking they've got the fast hands and reflexes - but isn't substantive. The best countries for boxing focus on drills over padwork - and it shows in the amateur scene. That's why Cuba dominates and America has degraded so badly. Too much focus on speedy padwork without practical application and athleticism, not enough on the building blocks that make a fighter.

This is substantive padwork. It has a clear goal and focus, it's not just training muscle memory.

It's very easy for padwork to turn into drilling a set combination + responses to the pad holders slaps, that only succeed in making you better at that drill - rather than better at fighting. The drill itself becomes the skill that's mastered instead of the drill serving to improve the skill of fighting.

I see it all the time - you get guys who look fierce on the pads, but when they get into sparring and fighting they aren't capable of anything more than rushing in swinging and trying to use athleticism to win. 

I'll leave it there for my moaning. 😛

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On 4/13/2020 at 7:09 PM, AndyMaBobs said:

2 People: 
Head coach of CBA, coached Cuban national team including silver medalists at the olympics.
Also the head coach of Johnny Tocco's boxing - which is one of the best amateur boxing gyms in the US. 
Two of the most qualified people I know in boxing.

...Errr....these are people you *actually* know? As in *know* know? Or you heard it said by them on a podcast? Or you met them once at an event and queued for a selfie?

Sorry but something about this is setting off the bullshit radar. 

Cannot actually refute anything you've said or prove you wrong, that's the thing. Am not a western boxer, not an American, and never trained in an American gym. Can an American on this forum who has boxed please weigh in on this? Would be happy to be wrong, just need more convicing.

Oh yeah, and that thing you said about padholding in Thailand being 'simulated sparring'. Like...OK, kinda get what you think you mean when you say that...but....it's a very very curious way of describing it.

And those previous videos you posted of Russian guys training Muay Thai with that partner drill system you describe.... umm.... again...not trying to be an asshole here, but that isn't Muay Thai. Would rather suck a dick than train like that every day.

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1 hour ago, Oliver said:

...Errr....these are people you *actually* know? As in *know* know? Or you heard it said by them on a podcast? Or you met them once at an event and queued for a selfie?

Sorry but something about this is setting off the bullshit radar. 

Cannot actually refute anything you've said or prove you wrong, that's the thing. Am not a western boxer, not an American, and never trained in an American gym. Can an American on this forum who has boxed please weigh in on this? Would be happy to be wrong, just need more convicing.

Oh yeah, and that thing you said about padholding in Thailand being 'simulated sparring'. Like...OK, kinda get what you think you mean when you say that...but....it's a very very curious way of describing it.

And those previous videos you posted of Russian guys training Muay Thai with that partner drill system you describe.... umm.... again...not trying to be an asshole here, but that isn't Muay Thai. Would rather suck a dick than train like that every day.

Yup, know know. Thought it wouldn't make a difference either way.

You can go to Levantar Athletics on YouTube to see the training at Toccos (I know their head coach quite well) and I've taken lessons from the head coach at CBA. 

It's not a curious way of describing it - it's just how they approach pad work. I won't assume to know your experience, but if you've ever had a thai trainer hold pads for you, or trained in Thailand, you will see what I mean.

As I said tho, I'll leave it there because this info and perspectives are easily available.

Edited by AndyMaBobs
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2 hours ago, AndyMaBobs said:

It's not a curious way of describing it - it's just how they approach pad work. I won't assume to know your experience, but if you've ever had a thai trainer hold pads for you, or trained in Thailand, you will see what I mean.

I really hesitate to jump in here because you and I have very different frames of reference, and a great deal of what you assert just doesn't jib with what I know and experience, but I might as well give it a try... this just isn't what padwork is, or is for in Thailand. Yes, gyms that handle a lot of westerns do start molding padwork as a kind of simulated fighting...because they are westerners, and they often lack basic rhythm or responses...and, importantly, westerners like it. But this just isn't what padwork is for in the building of Thai fighters. Padwork, originally, was designed to "charge the battery" (as Kaensak put it) leading  up to a fight. It's pounding out fighting shapes, building endurance and explosiveness. It isn't really a "teaching" mechanism. It's kind of become one for westerners, because gyms are changing, but this isn't what it really is for. Thais don't need to "simulate sparring", well, because they spar.  If there are any teaching, or leading aspects of padwork, traditionally, maybe for developing fighters its about rhythm, posture, constancy, spacing, in the exercise of power and endurance. No, padwork really isn't "simulated sparring", at least in the core of it.

Westerners do experience this "simulated fight" quality in Thailand, and then bring it back to their gym and mark it as "very Thai". And, I do think that for westerners who do need a lot of developmental experiences, it's a very good thing to try and bring out the "fight" energy in their Thai trainer, who usually is an ex-fighter and probably pretty bored with their endless rounds. Its a very good thing. It's more fun, etc. But no, that isn't really the purpose of padwork, classically.

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10 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I really hesitate to jump in here because you and I have very different frames of reference, and a great deal of what you assert just doesn't jib with what I know and experience, but I might as well give it a try... this just isn't what padwork is, or is for in Thailand. Yes, gyms that handle a lot of westerns do start molding padwork as a kind of simulated fighting...because they are westerners, and often lack basic rhythm or responses...and, westerners like it. But this just isn't what padwork is for in the building of Thai fighters. Padwork, originally, was designed to "charge the battery" (as Kaensak put it) leading  up to a fight. It's pounding out fighting shapes, building endurance and explosiveness. It isn't really a "teaching" mechanism. It's kind of become one for westerners, because gyms are changing, but this isn't what it really is for. Thais don't need to "simulate sparring", well, because they spar.  If there are any teaching, or leading aspects of padwork, traditionally, maybe for developing fighters its about rhythm, posture, constancy, spacing, in the exercise of power and endurance. No, padwork really isn't "simulated sparring", at least in the core of it.

Westerners do experience this "simulated fight" quality in Thailand, and then bring it back to their gym and mark it as "very Thai". And, I do think that for westerners who do need a lot of developmental experiences, it's a very good thing to try and bring out the "fight" energy in their Thai trainer, who usually is an ex-fighter and probably pretty bored with their endless rounds. Its a very good thing. It's more fun, etc. But no, that isn't really the purpose of padwork, classically.

I think it's terminology or the way I articulate something vs how you would, because I agree with what you're saying. 

The way I was taught my padwork by my coach (he's a Thai fella) is very different from how other westerners were. It's not simulated sparring in the core of it sure, but compare Thai padwork to some of the mindless padwork you'll see in Western gyms and I think you'll see what I mean.

Padwork in a US Thai gym (and sadly a lot of the UK) is just glorified cardio boxing. 

 

It's harder to articulate what I mean because it's not a live conversation here its a forum - so less context

 

This resembles a fight much more than what I see done in the UK. 

When you've got pro fighters it gets better (in regards to muay thai at least)

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4 hours ago, Oliver said:

umm.... again...not trying to be an asshole here, but that isn't Muay Thai. Would rather suck a dick than train like that every day.

Really, let's be chill on the language/intensity. I agree, I have to shake my head at that training stuff, but we want to keep the forum super friendly. So many places on the internet are really uncool. And yeah, people have different approaches.

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12 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

Really, let's be chill on the language/intensity. I agree, I have to shake my head at that training stuff, but we want to keep the forum super friendly. So many places on the internet are really uncool. And yeah, people have different approaches.

It made him a formidable fighter in his own right, regardless of our own takes on it. 🙂 

Cheers for keeping it friendly! Even if we may not agree

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On 4/9/2020 at 11:43 PM, Snack Payback said:

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

He really is.. his wife is great too. 
Both badass and both very friendly with no ego 🙏🏼

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23 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

Really, let's be chill on the language/intensity. I agree, I have to shake my head at that training stuff, but we want to keep the forum super friendly. So many places on the internet are really uncool. And yeah, people have different approaches.

Yeah that's fair. Sorry for the language, wasn't trying to be gross.

The 'simulated sparring' description of Thailand's pad holding.... Urrghhh.... it's like...we know what Andy is getting at at, but that phrase doesn't mean quite what he intended, was just a language slip up. (See, am being all nice now). What he means is probably that the trainer throws kicks back at you, and you gotta block and kick back. Or he'll slap you in the face with the Thai pad if you being lazy and drop your guard. Whereas if you're hitting a heavy bag, you don't get those live responses. Like, OK fine. 

But.... it doesn't feel like sparring when you're doing it. At the end of a round of sparring with your training partner, you're not made to smash 20  (or more) hard body kicks with each leg, then get down for press-ups before the resting for the next round.

Have met Europeans that bitch and trash talk (wait...can I say 'bitch' for 'complaining?) about Thailand's pad holding. They're like, "Ohhh....all I get to do every day is do jab, cross, body kick, & jab right cross, right elbow, & jab, body kick, knee....its just the same thing over and over again".

You look at them like.... errr.....YEAH mofo (see..didn't spell it out....) that's what it is.... that's what you signed up for!

Peace and love to you all by the way. 

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1 hour ago, Oliver said:

Have met Europeans that bitch and trash talk (wait...can I say 'bitch' for 'complaining?)...
You look at them like.... errr.....YEAH mofo (see..didn't spell it out....)

I know you are being cheeky, but just to be clear, it isn't actually the adult language, it's the part that begins....

6 hours ago, Oliver said:

umm.... again...not trying to be an asshole here...

Usually, anything that begins "not trying to be an asshole" and then follows with profanity, well...you know, is lacking in tone. I'm just trying to keep it all cool. If you want to cuss, curse, bust out all kinds of language in a friendly way, go for it. Sylvie and I are pretty sailormouth when it comes to enthusiasm.

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5 minutes ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

Usually, anything that begins "not trying to be an asshole" and then follows with profanity, well...you know, is lacking in tone. I'm just trying to keep it all cool.

Copy that

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On 4/4/2020 at 1:29 PM, Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu said:

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.

Totally agree with your points. It seems that Western MT gyms having to compete with other Martial Arts that provided belts to show seniority/experience level (not to mention to make money and massage the ego) had to follow the "Martial Arts School" model. What's also interesting is that the guy who introduced the MT band grading system was a Thai immigrant to California Chai Sirisute, the founder of the World Thai Boxing Association. Sirisute claims to be the first to actively teach MT in the US in 1968. I'm guessing he surveyed the landscape and realized every other martial art awarded a belt or other symbol to signify rank and decided to copy them to be competitive. 

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I have an impression, though it is only an impression that western should be read as 'american' for most of these threads, because things like belts in Muay Thai isn't something I've encountered at all in Britain or Europe - that's not to say that it doesn't exist in some mcdojo-ish setting but a fair degree of what I've been reading in this thread overall seems to be a question of muay thai's authenticity in America, rather than the west.

I have my gripes with how muay thai is trained in the UK with silly padwork approaches that can't be replicated in a fight over proper drilling/sparring - but I've never encountered things like belts and gradings like what you've just described. I imagine that Sken probably used some sort of thing when he first started teaching 'Thaikwondo' over here - but shit like that seems to have been weaseled out if it was ever a thing

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