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Lawrence Kenshin on Lucia Rijker's kickboxing match with a man, Somchai Jaidee


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https://youtu.be/O06JQiVDvwc

I like Kenshin, and I think this video is worth watching -- in fact, better for you to watch it before reading my thoughts. I have a quibble, though. I thought I'd post about it here, since he frequents this forum and might join in.

I was a bit put off when he started explaining why Somchai was winning exchanges, especially in the clinch. Judging by his name, Somchai trained muay thai, and therefore clinch work. I don't know much about Rijker beyond that sports science episode, but most kickboxers literally don't know how to clinch at all -- or know the inactive clinch of a boxer. Maybe one factor was that only one of them knew what they were doing in the clinch, and not only a difference in strength?

I do think there are some physical differences between women and men, but I think we're often too eager to attribute gaps in athletic performance to biology. And I don't mean only in this specific case. When people are explaining how much stronger/faster men are than women, much of their evidence has very little explanatory power.

To take an example. Let's say we compare the top marathon times for men and for women. The men's times are substantially faster: the fifteenth fastest man finished about 6 minutes faster than the first fastest woman, and about 22 minutes faster than the fifteenth fastest woman. That's a pretty big gap.

But nothing here helps us understand which factors had the greatest influence on the result. For instance:

  1. Inherent biological differences between women and men of the same height/weight (maybe hip shape, for instance)
  2. Biological difference across populations (men are taller on average, although a given man is not necessarily taller than a given woman)
  3. Differences in talent pool (there are almost certainly many more men than women who run marathons. The top 15 out of a pool of 5 million are going to be faster than the top 15 out of a pool of 500 thousand. You get the same effect when you look at the number of olympic medals held by large nations vs small nations.)
  4. Differences in training (for various social reasons, it might be that one group trains with greater frequency or higher quality on average)

There's absolutely no reason to think that factors 1 and 2 are having a greater effect than 3 and 4. And yet all I hear about, over and over, all day, is how women can't expect to beat men in fights because of biology. Maybe there are some other things going on, too.

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https://youtu.be/O06JQiVDvwc

I like Kenshin, and I think this video is worth watching -- in fact, better for you to watch it before reading my thoughts. I have a quibble, though. I thought I'd post about it here, since he frequents this forum and might join in.

I was a bit put off when he started explaining why Somchai was winning exchanges, especially in the clinch. Judging by his name, Somchai trained muay thai, and therefore clinch work. I don't know much about Rijker beyond that sports science episode, but most kickboxers literally don't know how to clinch at all -- or know the inactive clinch of a boxer. Maybe one factor was that only one of them knew what they were doing in the clinch, and now only a difference in strength?

I do think there are some physical differences between women and men, but I think we're often too eager to attribute gaps in athletic performance to biology. And I don't mean only in this specific case. When people are explaining how much stronger/faster men are than women, much of their evidence has very little explanatory power.

To take an example. Let's say we compare the top marathon times for men and for women. The men's times are substantially faster: the fifteenth fastest man finished about 6 minutes faster than the first fastest woman, and about 22 minutes faster than the fifteenth fastest woman. That's a pretty big gap.

But nothing here helps us understand which factors had the greatest influence on the result. For instance:

  1. Inherent biological differences between women and men of the same height/weight (maybe hip shape, for instance)
  2. Biological difference across populations (men are taller on average, although a given man is not necessarily taller than a given woman)
  3. Differences in talent pool (there are almost certainly many more men than women who run marathons. The top 15 out of a pool of 5 million are going to be faster than the top 15 out of a pool of 500 thousand. You get the same effect when you look at the number of olympic medals held by large nations vs small nations.)
  4. Differences in training (for various social reasons, it might be that one group trains with greater frequency or higher quality on average)

There's absolutely no reason to think that factors 1 and 2 are having a greater effect than 3 and 4. And yet all I hear about, over and over, all day, is how women can't expect to beat men in fights because of biology. Maybe there are some other things going on, too.

Hi :), 

 

Lucia started her martial arts journey as a Judoka. Her lineage was Vos Gym, which branches from Jan Plas (Meijiro). This means their style is Dutch Muay Thai, and the origins of that style is essentially from "Japanese Muay Thai." Her contemporaries training at the gym includes people like Ernesto Hoost and Ivan Hyppolyte, and other Dutch Muay Thai / Kickboxing pioneers.  

 

Rijker also either has a ISKA or WKA Muay Thai belt I believe, and also stated that she has trained the style of Muay Thai since she started, with clinch and with knees. 

 

Rijker sparred with the best in the world (Dutch MT/KB), because of her lineages. This doesn't mean she is a great clincher, rather, I'm just saying that she's trained clinch. 

 

Yes - talent pool different, but Jaidee is unheard of relative to Rijker, who some will say is arguably the greatest female combat sports fighter of all time. 

 

Off what I saw, I believe that Rijker was technically superior, but she did not have enough base and power relative to Somchai. In my opinion, while Somchai displayed technique, what he did to win was essentially power through everything. 

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This doesn't mean she is a great clincher, rather, I'm just saying that she's trained clinch.

 

I think differences in clinch knowledge can prove HUGE. A good example is how Sylvie beat Saya Ito last year. Sylvie hardly knew clinch (unlike now when she is much improved), but she knew it much better than Saya, who probably trained in it lightly. These differences can make an average clincher look very good. You see a lot of this in the west, I believe.

But to say that someone trained in clinch may be the difference between having taken Italian for a year in High School, and speaking Italian. Dutch style fighting tends to not be clinch oriented, and the real art comes from training in a Thai style, every day - it's a particular mode of development. Most western approaches to clinch in Muay Thai are abbreviated in technique, and then women in training usually are usually experiencing a dilution of that.

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I was a bit put off when he started explaining why Somchai was winning exchanges, especially in the clinch. Judging by his name, Somchai trained muay thai, and therefore clinch work. I don't know much about Rijker beyond that sports science episode, but most kickboxers literally don't know how to clinch at all -- or know the inactive clinch of a boxer. Maybe one factor was that only one of them knew what they were doing in the clinch, and now only a difference in strength?

....

But nothing here helps us understand which factors had the greatest influence on the result. For instance:

  1. Inherent biological differences between women and men of the same height/weight (maybe hip shape, for instance)
  2. Biological difference across populations (men are taller on average, although a given man is not necessarily taller than a given woman)
  3. Differences in talent pool (there are almost certainly many more men than women who run marathons. The top 15 out of a pool of 5 million are going to be faster than the top 15 out of a pool of 500 thousand. You get the same effect when you look at the number of olympic medals held by large nations vs small nations.)
  4. Differences in training (for various social reasons, it might be that one group trains with greater frequency or higher quality on average)

There's absolutely no reason to think that factors 1 and 2 are having a greater effect than 3 and 4. And yet all I hear about, over and over, all day, is how women can't expect to beat men in fights because of biology. Maybe there are some other things going on, too.

 

I haven't watched the whole fight in a while, but I didn't see a lot of clinch in that fight, especially as Lawrence presented it. But I do think that in the few clinch clips I saw it was fair to say that Somchai was more skilled in clinch, likely more trained in clinch in the traditional Thai way. He looks Thai, and his gym "Lumpini" in NZ was probably populated with Thais to some degree. Understanding off-balances can make you appear very strong. It's probably too much to say that those clips were showing some definitive muscle mass strength difference. (Btw, did anyone else think that Lucia probably had a weight advantage here?)

Drawing from our own experiences in Thailand, we have Sylvie and Phetjee Jaa clinching in training. Sylvie has 8 kilos on her now, and has had a year of twice a day clinch training in the Thai style, and is probably physically the strongest female Muay Thai fighter in the world at her weight. Sylvie definitively a clinch fighter and wins almost all her fights against Thai fighters in the clinch, even when they have a size advantage. Jee Jaa was raised basically as a boy since she was 7 in term of training in the clinch (very, very rare) and is able to hold her own against Sylvie, and even out perform her, despite both a weight and a strength difference. The knowledge gap is huge, and the physical differences between Sylvie and Jee Jaa are much more pronounced than those between Somchai and Lucia.

On your second point, this is really big. Yes, there are physiological differences, across the board, by average, but built on top of these are very strong magnifying factors exactly as you describe. Talent pool and training, not to mention ideological expectation (athletics are mental), which make those physical difference appear enormous. Your example of clinch here is a really interesting one. Even if Lucia was trained in Thailand it is very unlikely that she would have had the training in clinch that the average "Somchai" would. And even if a Somchai did have a small physical advantage in clinch, what really would make the biggest difference would be the training and technique.

Generally I resist essentialist arguments about gender performance differences, especially when they are grounded in averages. Yes, there may be on average built in advantages between genders, but the art of performance is learning how to turn an opponent's advantage into a disadvantage, and discovering ways to enhance your own qualities. For women I think there are much bigger hurdles to overcome than physiological ones.

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I haven't watched the whole fight in a while, but I didn't see a lot of clinch in that fight, especially as Lawrence presented it. But I do think that in the few clinch clips I saw it was fair to say that Somchai was more skilled in clinch, likely more trained in clinch in the traditional Thai way. He looks Thai, and his gym "Lumpini" in NZ was probably populated with Thais to some degree. Understanding off-balances can make you appear very strong. It's probably too much to say that those clips were showing some definitive muscle mass strength difference. (Btw, did anyone else think that Lucia probably had a weight advantage here?)

Drawing from our own experiences in Thailand, we have Sylvie and Phetjee Jaa clinching in training. Sylvie has 8 kilos on her now, and has had a year of twice a day clinch training in the Thai style, and is probably physically the strongest female Muay Thai fighter in the world at her weight. Sylvie definitively a clinch fighter and wins almost all her fights against Thai fighters in the clinch, even when they have a size advantage. Jee Jaa was raised basically as a boy since she was 7 in term of training in the clinch (very, very rare) and is able to hold her own against Sylvie, and even out perform her, despite both a weight and a strength difference. The knowledge gap is huge, and the physical differences between Sylvie and Jee Jaa are much more pronounced than those between Somchai and Lucia.

On your second point, this is really big. Yes, there are physiological differences, across the board, by average, but built on top of these are very strong magnifying factors exactly as you describe. Talent pool and training, not to mention ideological expectation (athletics are mental), which make those physical difference appear enormous. Your example of clinch here is a really interesting one. Even if Lucia was trained in Thailand it is very unlikely that she would have had the training in clinch that the average "Somchai" would. And even if a Somchai did have a small physical advantage in clinch, what really would make the biggest difference would be the training and technique.

Generally I resist essentialist arguments about gender performance differences, especially when they are grounded in averages. Yes, there may be on average built in advantages between genders, but the art of performance is learning how to turn an opponent's advantage into a disadvantage, and discovering ways to enhance your own qualities. For women I think there are much bigger hurdles to overcome than physiological ones.

Hey Kevin, I presented the whole fight. 

Odd, Nopadon of My Muay Thai shared the opposite sentiment as you in terms of Thai / Name - "She eventually went on to amass a 35-0 (25KO) record. Her only defeat came from a 2nd round KO by Somchai Jaidee of New Zealand. A little side note, I couldn’t find any info on this fighter Somchai Jaidee. I honestly think it’s a kiwi fighter who adopted a Thai name. (It means Good Natured Somchai… Somchai being the most commons men’s name) If you watch the vid, firstly he doesn’t look Thai, secondly he doesn’t move like a Nak Muay. He hops around like a nervous amateur. Anyway just needed to get that off my chest." http://www.mymuaythai.com/archives/lucia-rijker/

 

I think a few of the NZ people that shared the vid seemed to know Somchai, I'll approach them to find out a bit more. 

 

I'll hold that I see a definitive strength & power difference. 

 

Also, I remember reading about Sylvie & Phet Jee Jaa via Sylvie's posts, and their dynamic, but also recall a few months back  (maybe more than a few months) of Sylvie posting that she could now nullify PJJ with her size due to her new knowledge / training? 

 

Maybe I remembered wrong. Regardless, would love to hear more about the current dynamic. 

 

 

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Also, I remember reading about Sylvie & Phet Jee Jaa via Sylvie's posts, and their dynamic, but also recall a few months back  (maybe more than a few months) of Sylvie posting that she could now nullify PJJ with her size due to her new knowledge / training? 

 

 

 

 

I actually asked Sylvie, who was next to me, when wrote my response. She indeed is able to neutralize Jee Jaa now with size, strength and new knowledge, but that is simply a change from being dominated. Jee Jaa, despite 10 kg, was able to put Sylvie down on the ground pretty easily in the beginning. That is why I characterized the current state between them the way I did "is able to hold her own against Sylvie, and even out perform her, despite both a weight and a strength difference" - Jee Jaa used to do far more than hold her own. Now thing are closer, showing how important knowledge and skills learned are - Jee Jaa has probably gained 2 kg in the last year. The way Sylvie put it is that Jee Jaa would definitely "out point" her if they fought a clinch battle now, which is a big deal in how Thai fights are fought, but that she would have a good chance of KOing her with one very strong knee. They basically are even but with different advantages.

re: Somchai being the most commons men’s name) If you watch the vid, firstly he doesn’t look Thai, secondly he doesn’t move like a Nak Muay.

I didn't say he was Thai, as in a fighter of Thailand, at all, if you got that impression I didn't phrase myself well - I meant that he looked to be of Thai decent. I rather suspected that he had undergone some Thai-style training in the clinch (sessions of barehanded clinch with more skilled partners about your same size, with some regularity), perhaps at the hands of Thai trainers who had immigrated, but only a wild guess. This isn't the same at all to being Thai raised as a fighter (he has very few fights for a fighter his age, on the Thai scale), but it would put him ahead of whatever clinch Lucia had trained in. I don't see anything in her clinch that suggested that she was a clinch fighter. If she were clinching with a Thai male, of Thailand, of that size I suspect she would have been handled very easily in the clinch. 

As to the name, I'm not sure there is much evidence either way. Thai fight names are also adopted names with very similar meanings.

If you do get information on him, that would be great though. But bottom line, strength differences are not as important as skill differences, especially when one partner has little knowledge. You see it all the time in Thailand, very strong, partially clinch trained, large western fighters being tossed around by relatively small Thais in clinch in practice rings. Very few western women have a strong foundation in clinch.

But as this is the whole fight there doesn't seem that much clinch going on at all.

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But nothing here helps us understand which factors had the greatest influence on the result. For instance:

  1. Inherent biological differences between women and men of the same height/weight (maybe hip shape, for instance)
  2. Biological difference across populations (men are taller on average, although a given man is not necessarily taller than a given woman)
  3. Differences in talent pool (there are almost certainly many more men than women who run marathons. The top 15 out of a pool of 5 million are going to be faster than the top 15 out of a pool of 500 thousand. You get the same effect when you look at the number of olympic medals held by large nations vs small nations.)
  4. Differences in training (for various social reasons, it might be that one group trains with greater frequency or higher quality on average)

There's absolutely no reason to think that factors 1 and 2 are having a greater effect than 3 and 4. And yet all I hear about, over and over, all day, is how women can't expect to beat men in fights because of biology. Maybe there are some other things going on, too.

Well, I doubt anyone who emphasizes 1 and 2 would deny that a woman who comes from a large talent pool and is better trained than a man would be able to beat said man in a fight despite the factors of 1 and 2. e.g. Ronda Rousey would tool any guy who has only been training a week. I have seen discussions of the Rijker fight before and some will say that Lucia is highly disadvantaged in the bout because she is a woman, but I think that their conceptualization of man and woman goes beyond x and y chromosomes and is informed by the fact that, for example, way more men go into sports and especially combat sports. They dont often spell it out, but then again I havent seen many who go into the specifics of human anatomy either.

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Lawrence, here is a good example of what I'm talking about with clinch. It's Caley Reece who is probably the most accomplished western female clinch fighter in the world. Because of her ex-fighter husband who spent a lot of time in Thailand she trains regularly in a very Thai style, and her clinch is probably the reason she's been so dominant in fights, especially against westerners - she owned Tiffany van Soest in the clinch, who herself no doubt trained in it. But her clinch knowledge doesn't compare to Thais.

In this video of hers shared by MTG she is controlled by someone, not through strength but through technique. She herself talks about the mystery of how smaller Thais can get the better of her - Sylvie will attest, it feels like magic.

These kinds of differences play out, in less advanced techniques in western fights all the time. A female fighter who knows to take the inside position and control the arms against a fighter who doesn't will appear much stronger. A fighter who understands how to lock their hands can own a fighter who doesn't. And in a more rudimentary version, a fighter who can take the Thai plumb (a position which is actually rarely dominantly used in Thailand because there are so many counters to it) will cream a fighter who doesn't know how to get out of it. A lot of the time in the west in terms of clinch it is just one female fighter knowing one or two things the other doesn't. But it doesn't even mean that they are a strong clinch fighter. Fighters with a little bit of knowledge can go a long way.

Back to the issue of availability of training, even in Thailand it is very unequal. The highest form of the clinch art is in this country, but Sylvie has fought maybe 70 female opponents, most of them larger than her, and only a handful have had the technique to stay with her in the clinch. Some of it is Sylvie's strength, but most of it is just technical, stuff that comes from training. Most Thai female fighters are not trained in the clinch anywhere near the level that their male counterparts are. And Sylvie has just been training in a real Thai style for a little over a year now.

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For women I think there are much bigger hurdles to overcome than physiological ones.

This is such a great summary of my position.

To Lawrence: I think I've been a little unfair to you. I picked on one line of reasoning from your video, and really one sub-argument within that line of reasoning. I stand by my critique of that argument, but I think it's fair for me to say explicitly that I'm really reacting to a broad suite of essentialist thinking. Your specific comment was really just a point of entry for me to talk about some frustrations I've had with the same "man vs woman" conversation that prompted you to create this video.

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 but I think it's fair for me to say explicitly that I'm really reacting to a broad suite of essentialist thinking. Your specific comment was really just a point of entry for me to talk about some frustrations I've had with the same "man vs woman" conversation that prompted you to create this video.

 

One of the interesting things about the mythos of Muay Thai is that the Thais enjoy the thought that it's a martial art that allows someone to make up big differences in physical size. It's one reason, I suspect, that nationalistic shows like Thai Fight, which often feature larger, less-skilled farang fighters against smaller top Thai talents are popular. Long into Thai history, Muay Thai is seen as an equalizer of western "muscle mass" and aggression, accounts going back to the 18th century, if I recall.

Lawrence's own treatment of Muay Thai talks about technical advantages in clinch which can make up for huge differences in size and strength:

There are no mentions of determinative muscle mass in the video above, even though the difference is far more profound than anything Lucia Rijker may have faced. Not to jump on Lawrence here, I think he does an insanely good job of bringing out interesting features in anything he touches on, but I think the muscle mass story is just too easy to fall back on in male vs female fight debates. Clearly if a "Rijker" had the skills of Kaoklai (training, life opportunity) nobody would be talking about her muscle mass, as she would have cleaned her opponent up. But the truth is, as good as Lucia Rijker was, and she was good in so many ways, she was never as good as top male Thai fighters...and this is really an issue of training and life experience.

Yes, physiological differences may be a factor, but Muay Thai is really designed to be the art of the smaller person.

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    • Davince Resolve is a great place to start. 
    • I see that this thread is from three years ago, and I hope your journey with Muay Thai and mental health has evolved positively during this time. It's fascinating to revisit these discussions and reflect on how our understanding of such topics can grow. The connection between training and mental health is intricate, as you've pointed out. Finding the right balance between pushing yourself and self-care is a continuous learning process. If you've been exploring various avenues for managing mood-related issues over these years, you might want to revisit the topic of mental health resources. One such resource is The UK Medical Cannabis Card, which can provide insights into alternative treatments.
    • Phetjeeja fought Anissa Meksen for a ONE FC interim atomweight kickboxing title 12/22/2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu92S6-V5y0&ab_channel=ONEChampionship Fight starts at 45:08 Phetjeeja won on points. Not being able to clinch really handicapped her. I was afraid the ref was going to start deducting points for clinch fouls.   
    • Earlier this year I wrote a couple of sociology essays that dealt directly with Muay Thai, drawing on Sylvie's journalism and discussions on the podcast to do so. I thought I'd put them up here in case they were of any interest, rather than locking them away with the intention to perfectly rewrite them 'some day'. There's not really many novel insights of my own, rather it's more just pulling together existing literature with some of the von Duuglus-Ittu's work, which I think is criminally underutilised in academic discussions of MT. The first, 'Some meanings of muay' was written for an ideology/sosciology of knowledge paper, and is an overly long, somewhat grindy attempt to give a combined historical, institutional, and situated study of major cultural meanings of Muay Thai as a form of strength. The second paper, 'the fighter's heart' was written for a qualitative analysis course, and makes extensive use of interviews and podcast discussions to talk about some ways in which the gendered/sexed body is described/deployed within Muay Thai. There's plenty of issues with both, and they're not what I'd write today, and I'm learning to realise that's fine! some meanings of muay.docx The fighter's heart.docx
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