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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

The Muay Thai Videography of Stillness and Color - vlogging the choices

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I've started vlogging my experiences in early work with video and color to capture some of the elements I've been pursuing in still photography. You can check out the first two below:



What is principal here for me are all the ways that slowing down footage actually works to produce motion. It is all this micro-motion, which for me is like a kind of breathing, as if the form itself is breathing, that I find really interesting. This...and how color grading can work to building up atmosphere, a materiality of space, out of which the depicted form or focus emerges, is cloistered in, or erupts. This is something I seek in lots of my still photography. It's why I often try wider lenses. I feel like Muay Thai photography, and videography as well, has extracted too much from the surrounding nature, mechanizing it, alienating it, making an fragmentation. These video experiments are in that direction.

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    • Thank you for recognizing this. It's one of the hardest parts, especially for someone who has been inherently shy much of her life. We've felt from the very beginning an obligation to put it out there, to share the knowledge and the perspective, but it's been a balancing act, because at the same time Sylvie is developing to become a fighter, a great fighter, so the social web of relations isn't always helpful in that. We've just tried to be very nose-to-the-grindstone on this, and keep putting out more high quality thought, documentation, art. Everything...
    • I know it may be hard to believe because of the way people in the west treat film and video, but its actually a very small part of what is going on. Looking at her fights again, at the very best, might give her confidence that certain work she is putting in is paying off a bit, but 99% of what she is doing with her fight commentary is just reliving the event for the benefit of others. She's really just trying to relay everything that mattered. Any kind of advice from video from others is pretty minor, and very often advice from the outside can be misplaced, because they just don't understand (often) how Sylvie has to fight to win, given the circumstances of how her opponents fight her. Female Thai fighters don't fight like male stadium fighters, so much of the outside advice, if from a particular fight video, is based on classic fighting tendencies which are much harder to apply in the female fight scene. I would say the fight video experiences are way less than .1% of a benefit. On the other hand, her commentary done on all her Muay Thai Library film sessions is very helpful. It allows her to isolate more objectively, the lessons and important bits, and incorporate them in her training. For instance just looking at her bag work with Wangchannoi, objectively, got her to really radically change how she did bagwork recently.   This is actually changing in real time in Thai culture, but there is a very long stigma of the living scene of Muay Thai in Thailand as low-class, dirty, wrong-side-of-the-tracks. Middle class families would enroll their kids in TKD classes, because it isn't shirtless, and they have nice clean white uniforms, for instance. But in the last 5 years or so gyms, and Muay Thai gyms, have been branding themselves much more to the upper classes in cities, as a way to stay fit for women, so the classic stigma is shifting. It also has to be said that while Muay Thai has had a class stigma, it also, ideologically, has been very important for Thai Nationalism and identity. So Thai victories, especially vs foreigners, is much esteemed and glorified. Perhaps the same thing could be seen, in parallel, with western boxing, which had a history of lower-class and disreputable participation, but boxing victories were celebrated at a very high level.  There is a very strong moralistic slant against gamblers and gambling. Gambling is largely illegal throughout the country, for moral reasons. And in Thailand it is only lawful at specific stadia. That being said, the country is quite superstitious and the government lottery (and various black market lotteries) is a huge phenomena. But Muay Thai does suffer socially from its gambling stigma.   We've covered this in detail in the Muay Thai Bones podcasts, I think. Clinch has recovered in the sport, but it's place in the sport is less secure than what might be widely thought. I'm not really sure how much COVID will effect Muay Thai, a large part of that is how many surges of infection take place, and how effective the vaccine is. Muay Thai in Thailand finds itself in a difficult position. Because it is socially disreputable to some degree, and the first COVID cluster in Thailand came around Lumpinee (the 2nd one now, notably, has oriented now around an illegal casino), Muay Thai has to be super conservative in relation to COVID. It has an uphill PR problem. The reason why this is so complex is that Thailand's economy is heavily dependent on tourism, so while Thailand has had an amazingly good COVID safety record, one of the best in the world, there is great pressure to open up to tourists soon, faster than say a tourism competitor like Vietnam. Muay Thai in Bangkok and elsewhere is linked to tourism, so there is some risk in how and when the country will open up, which could cause long term problems with Muay Thai if things go wrong.
    • Interesting observation, and I myself think, in much a spot on. Because, its well known among serious students, to have  "learning journals" helps much in learning, in getting the knowledge mature. And Sylvie together with Kevin does this, and in different forms. In written form, in discussing, in filming.  In talking about it, including these car ride blogs,, inside Sylvie´s  head it surely arouses new insights, and deepens up the knowledge.   And in fighting, obviously.   🙂 Just the talking on the task, none or very little of jolly joking around looking elsewhere.  None or very little of just empty talk. Showing up the thoughs and films openly adds up in the same direction.  Its as an artist or writer or scientist:  You can paint or write for yourself, and its nice and worthwile.  But the real test, the real insights come, when you publish yourself, make yourself open for kibitzing - and criticizm.   Re social media.  There are comments.   I presume some of the comments may even be helpful, and helps to arise or deepen new insights?   So this is a campain on many different fronts, more or less coordinated.  Both physically and intellectually, and emotionally too.    
    • Thank you for your answers, Kevin. This does explain the success. Following up on that: How big an impact is the social media documentation on the success itself? I find Sylvie's comments on her own fights fascinating. Her insights open the door to what is actually going on (which as a layman I couldn't see before). I would have to think that doing this not only helps the followers on social media understand what is going on but should be very helpful for Sylvie herself to understand what she is doing well and what not and to improve herself. Basically, she is studying film of every fight. Since she is fighting some women more than once, studying the film of her last encounter must give her a huge advantage over her opponents if they didn't do that. In a couple of these videos Sylvie pointed out that she showed the fights later to her trainers and the former fighters that she is working with and they then gave her advice on what to do. How big of an impact is that?  You mentioned above the "stigma" when talking about women from upper class families joining the scene. What is your sense of how Thais see Muay Thai fighters in general? Similar to MMA fighters in the west or even like football stars? Gambling seems to be a big part of the sport. How are the gamblers seen in Thailand? In the West this is seen as a vice. What is your sense how Thais look at this? Finally, the pandemic must have had a massive impact on the scene. In one of your Vlogs you guys discussed that Clinching might be eliminated from the sport. Is the scene active at all now? Do you think that the sport will change as a result of the pandemic (in the sense that rule changes may become permanent)?
    • Awesome! Thanks for your support, as always, Jim!
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