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I've been meaning to write a blog post about this for a while and recently, as I think it's an amazing topic. A lot of folks who become dedicated to Muay Thai find it to be a form of therapy, out outlet, a time for themselves away from the pressures and stresses of family/work/school. Muay Thai is empowering, but it can also tear you up; but for most of us, Muay Thai is something that has forever changed us and keeps forming us the more we work in it.

I came across this post from a woman who has found her experiences at her gym (Onyx MMA in Singapore) to be helpful in dealing with her Depression. For whatever reason, I think Muay Thai beckons to those of us who are struggling with ourselves and gives us a set of tools and a process through which we can translate that struggle.

This thread is to share our thoughts and experiences on the usefulness and challenges of Muay Thai as therapy.

For me, Muay Thai is an incredible outlet. Physically pushing myself is, at times, a very real necessity in dealing with my personal demons. But it's also difficult because all the things about Muay Thai that make me feel empowered and strong and capable, ALSO make me feel useless and stuck and self-critical. A mirror is just a reflective surface - it's YOU that interprets what you see in it. Muay Thai is like that - some days it shows me beauty and some days it shows me a monster. But I do feel that I'm able to work through things on a personal, emotional and psychological (even spiritual?) level through the language and art of Muay Thai that I wouldn't be able to address otherwise. It gives me the courage to keep trying, I think. And I can see improvement; it's measurable, whereas being a more stable or happy or good person is harder to gauge. But man... sometimes it just crushes me, too.

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I love love love this post. Muay Thai and my amazing trainer are the reason I'm coping at all! Muay Thai gives me strength, courage and belief in myself.

In recent times I have had to deal with distressing workplace physical violence and am currently watching helplessly as my parent dies.

I used to smoke. Now Muay Thai saves me. Every day. Even when I have a shit day at training, I know it'll be okay and I just push through.

 

I absolutely know, without a doubt, that my mental health has been maintained and improved by Muay Thai.

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This is a powerful post that she wrote! 
It is really interesting to see why and how people come into martial art. 
I remember I started judo (this was the only martial sport in my island) when I was a kid, because my dad was worry about me. Since I am a girl, it is most likely that I would get trouble when I get older (harassment and such). I didn't really liked it mostly because I was forced, and also because I had that urge to punch.
When I finally moved from my small island, I had to support emotionally my mom who was in depression, dealing with a lot of new thing (new country, language, culture, people, etc). I fake being super happy for about a year, I was struggling with bulimia and trained 7/7 kickboxing. I had to stop going to the gym because of an injury and health problem, you probably all know how doctors don't really like boxer (and if you are a girl, this is not a sport for you (!) ... I was at that time in a really machist country). Stopping training got myself into depression too. I partially blame it on the country and moved again.
After 2 years of doing nothing, I wanted to go back to kickboxing, and by mistake register for muay thai.
For me muay thai became synonym of freedom. Daniel Pennac said in one of his book "learning is first to learn how to 'master' your body"; but for that you need to overcome emotional and mental barrier. 
I've learn that it is not about what happen to you that matter, but what you do with it. They kick you? Grab that leg, make them fall. Got hurt? Train harder!
Same in life, if someone hurts me or if I'm down, I don't blame it on the other, maybe I'm not strong enough, maybe I could have avoid it.
(For me) Muay Thai is freedom of mind/body, plus when you train you don't have time to think about how sad you were earlier that day :) 

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I highly recommend that no woman face menopause without Muay Thai. Kidding...sort of. I started training when I was 48, and am still gamely at it while I'm looking down the barrel of 53. The hormonal roller coaster, and all the freaky physical, emotional, questioning everything in your life shitstorm,  is a lot easier ride when you know you've got a solid hour of training coming where you won't be able to think of anything else, you get in a monster work out and you secretly start hoping some fool will try to jump you in the parking lot so you can beat the daylights out of him (I really am kidding about that last part...not the first part though) 

It's well known that regular exercise helps alleviate mild depression, and a martial arts practice is no exception. I get a little skittish about admitting something along those lines, as the prevailing attitude towards women in any martial art is that they train only because something is wrong with them. But screw those fools, my experience tells me otherwise.

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I love love love this post. Muay Thai and my amazing trainer are the reason I'm coping at all! Muay Thai gives me strength, courage and belief in myself.

In recent times I have had to deal with distressing workplace physical violence and am currently watching helplessly as my parent dies.

I used to smoke. Now Muay Thai saves me. Every day. Even when I have a shit day at training, I know it'll be okay and I just push through.

 

I absolutely know, without a doubt, that my mental health has been maintained and improved by Muay Thai.

So sorry to hear about your parent, Cilla. And the trouble at work sounds awful.

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I highly recommend that no woman face menopause without Muay Thai. Kidding...sort of. I started training when I was 48, and am still gamely at it while I'm looking down the barrel of 53. The hormonal roller coaster, and all the freaky physical, emotional, questioning everything in your life shitstorm,  is a lot easier ride when you know you've got a solid hour of training coming where you won't be able to think of anything else, you get in a monster work out and you secretly start hoping some fool will try to jump you in the parking lot so you can beat the daylights out of him (I really am kidding about that last part...not the first part though) 

It's well known that regular exercise helps alleviate mild depression, and a martial arts practice is no exception. I get a little skittish about admitting something along those lines, as the prevailing attitude towards women in any martial art is that they train only because something is wrong with them. But screw those fools, my experience tells me otherwise.

YES!! I love reading this. So often women's narratives are handed to us as what's wrong with our bodies, but the "my body is gong through changes so I'm going to turn it into a monster that's on MY SIDE" is just awesome. You've totally inspired me today.

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Training regularly basically saved me from a severe depression. Training in combat sports allowed me to face my own fears and to learn that I have the tools !and the strenght to overcome them. People mock me saying I'm a fitness junkie because I train every day, but for me it's a way of life that keeps me balanced and healty.

Thank you for this topic, Sylvie

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Severe drug addiction and alcoholism run in my family and I am no exception - total garbagehead. It is not uncommon for fighters to treat their addictions this way; Kevin Ross is a prime example.  Exercise put a damper on my problem until college sports ended, then I had to seek help which I did.  So I no longer use sports (or substances) to regulate my moods and basic personality although I remain addictive in every sense; I freaking love combat sports and Muay Thai in particular.  Now its just passion though :)

Two years ago my son was bedridden with an unknown illness for nearly a year.  We made the rounds of doctors including two different big city hospital systems and my own very expensive East/West (allopathic and alternative) doc.  We even brought him across the country to the famous Mayo clinic to try and get him diagnosed.  He was nauseated every. single. day.  for months.  Time was creeping by so slowly and I had to be calm and positive for him.  I was also beyond furious at every patronizing _(*&*( _{#%*{)(  doctor who treated me like a stupid hysteric.  To compound it I had (and still have) differing views of the situation than my spouse.  There would have been total mayhem had I not been training boxing and Muay Thai.  One of my trainers knew the situation and while not delving in (to keep me from crying), displayed every kind of empathy and kindness available to a sparring partner and padholder.  It may not be your grandma's idea of empathy (violence rather than hugs and tea), but for me it worked and I am eternally grateful.  My son is better now, but never had a diagnosis.

I am charmed by laurakg's prescription for menopause.  As I approach it I am definitely becoming a battle axe in every way and its ever more fun to train Muay Thai.  

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Training regularly basically saved me from a severe depression. Training in combat sports allowed me to face my own fears and to learn that I have the tools !and the strenght to overcome them. People mock me saying I'm a fitness junkie because I train every day, but for me it's a way of life that keeps me balanced and healty.

Thank you for this topic, Sylvie

That's a very different kind of "fitness," one that I think a lot of people who are outside of these experiences simply don't understand. 

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Severe drug addiction and alcoholism run in my family and I am no exception - total garbagehead. It is not uncommon for fighters to treat their addictions this way; Kevin Ross is a prime example.  Exercise put a damper on my problem until college sports ended, then I had to seek help which I did.  So I no longer use sports (or substances) to regulate my moods and basic personality although I remain addictive in every sense; I freaking love combat sports and Muay Thai in particular.  Now its just passion though :)

Two years ago my son was bedridden with an unknown illness for nearly a year.  We made the rounds of doctors including two different big city hospital systems and my own very expensive East/West (allopathic and alternative) doc.  We even brought him across the country to the famous Mayo clinic to try and get him diagnosed.  He was nauseated every. single. day.  for months.  Time was creeping by so slowly and I had to be calm and positive for him.  I was also beyond furious at every patronizing _(*&*( _{#%*{)(  doctor who treated me like a stupid hysteric.  To compound it I had (and still have) differing views of the situation than my spouse.  There would have been total mayhem had I not been training boxing and Muay Thai.  One of my trainers knew the situation and while not delving in (to keep me from crying), displayed every kind of empathy and kindness available to a sparring partner and padholder.  It may not be your grandma's idea of empathy (violence rather than hugs and tea), but for me it worked and I am eternally grateful.  My son is better now, but never had a diagnosis.

I am charmed by laurakg's prescription for menopause.  As I approach it I am definitely becoming a battle axe in every way and its ever more fun to train Muay Thai.  

I have alcoholism in my family and I can see the ways in which each of the four kids in my family have dealt with that inheritance. We've all thrown ourselves into things that are microscopic on a scale of general interest but we've each blown that single line out to become the whole frame. And I know exactly what you mean about the empathy of physical contact that isn't, from the outside, "embracing." I cannot tell you how many times my trainer has put more pressure and pain on me when I'm in a difficult place and it feels exactly as comforting as a hug or shoulder cry... complete with about as much snot.

I'm sorry about the years your family went through the insanity of an undiagnosed illness. I reckon doctors really hate not being able to give answers and the more asshole-ish among them turn that into the patronizing of patients, and mothers. Glad your son is doing better now. My cousin had undiagnosed Lyme for years. It was a nightmare for the whole family.

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I have alcoholism in my family and I can see the ways in which each of the four kids in my family have dealt with that inheritance. We've all thrown ourselves into things that are microscopic on a scale of general interest but we've each blown that single line out to become the whole frame. And I know exactly what you mean about the empathy of physical contact that isn't, from the outside, "embracing." I cannot tell you how many times my trainer has put more pressure and pain on me when I'm in a difficult place and it feels exactly as comforting as a hug or shoulder cry... complete with about as much snot.

I'm sorry about the years your family went through the insanity of an undiagnosed illness. I reckon doctors really hate not being able to give answers and the more asshole-ish among them turn that into the patronizing of patients, and mothers. Glad your son is doing better now. My cousin had undiagnosed Lyme for years. It was a nightmare for the whole family.

Love that - all of you blew up one line.  Beautiful, positive way to describe a type of focus that some people pathologize but I see as the root of genius. 

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" I cannot tell you how many times my trainer has put more pressure and pain on me when I'm in a difficult place and it feels exactly as comforting as a hug or shoulder cry... complete with about as much snot.

You say the most amazing things. I can say that as your husband, because they still strike me from afar, like an arrow.

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Wo, I love what you said Sylvie that it feel like a hug, it is so true and I wish that my trainer tonight would have put some pressure on me like he does usually instead of being too comprehensive and telling me I should rest.
Our mental is so powerful, I'm feeling really down since a while, and I've been "faking being happy" in my work, I pushed my limits and ask a lot of myself not just in my training, but also in my work, my studies and my different projets.
But at some point we can't fake it anymore, I couldn't train properly today because of my anxiety, my mind keep thinking about decision I should make or not. Then I called my mom which is always so understanding of everything and she told me "maybe you should train less muay thai and work more on your thesis". I fell into tears. Obviously she couldn't understand, that the only thing making me wanna wake up in the morning is going to the gym.
But I'm glad I read you all tonight, it actually felt like a big warm hug : some people, somewhere, understand me. So Thank you!

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Obviously she couldn't understand, that the only thing making me wanna wake up in the morning is going to the gym.

 

Not much people, who didn't experience it also, will understand that feeling!  :wink:
 
I also had some difficult times and MT was also the thing to get me through it! I also didn't want to wake up in the morning, didn't want to do anything but firstly forced myself to keep going to the gym! And that felt great!! Clearing my mind, trying to think about nothing, feel nothing just pushing my body over it's limit and train like crazy.
Thanks for being their, Muay Thai.
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I've posted about my chronic and invisible illnesses in the women's section before. In short, I am a bipolar woman with autoimmune thyroid disease and fibromyalgia. So if anything goes one way or the other, I'm a hot mess. Finding muay thai was probably one of the best circumstances to fall upon me in the past few years, as it gave me something to focus all of my pent up rage and energy on. I used to be a very angry person, who didn't get along with anyone, not even my own husband and family. Now with muay thai I've become much more calm, much more patient. Learned to turn all the negative into positive, and to sometimes just let things be. Pick and choose my battles. If you all knew me personally, and seen me and the way I used to be, the difference is considerably significant. Muay thai therapy has done more for me in the last two years than sit down therapy has done for me in the past twelve.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 3 years later...

Muay Thai really is my anti depression. I was in a mentally abusive relationship a few years ago just as I lost my Dad to cancer and it left me a little bit fucked in the head. I’d find myself falling into depression for no real reason. It was like my brain was used to those emotions. Muay Thai pulls me out of those thoughts. 
I too have Had bad addiction problems, like most emotional artists we drink or do drugs and especially in the groups we keep. it’s acceptable to get completely smashed and talk junk. Or drink after gigs etc. Muay Thai has helped me to stop all those things. Sober 5 years, no drugs, no smokes, no alcohol. 
Spirituality it has helped me so much too, I have a few Sak yants and amulets etc. I try hard to follow this way of living 🙏🏼 
 

bugger I should of totally submitted THIS response into the new competition! 
🤘🏼😜😂

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Wanna know something? You all have to just take my word for it, but a conversation like this has never - could never - come up in *any* guy's locker room in *any* gym, in *any* country so far, in my training memory of doing the sport. Never. Would be unthinkable.

Even though half the locker room or more probably has dudes with stories just like you all describe. 

Maybe Corona's making people more open now. Like, so much more messaging between family and friends these days. Don't ya find?

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11 hours ago, Oliver said:

Wanna know something? You all have to just take my word for it, but a conversation like this has never - could never - come up in *any* guy's locker room in *any* gym, in *any* country so far, in my training memory of doing the sport. Never. Would be unthinkable.

Even though half the locker room or more probably has dudes with stories just like you all describe. 

Maybe Corona's making people more open now. Like, so much more messaging between family and friends these days. Don't ya find?

I think it depends what type of gym you are in, Or what culture you are living in.

I’ve heard males discuss their mental health and addiction problems before and They are well respected in the MT community.  
I don’t think it’s uncommon for fighters to talk about their heart.

for example MikeTyson admits he is an emotional guy. 

🤷‍♀️ 

I Do agree though that this virus is getting more people to connect and open up. 
 

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42 minutes ago, SHELL28 said:

I think it depends what type of gym you are in, Or what culture you are living in.

I’ve heard males discuss their mental health and addiction problems before and They are well respected in the MT community.  
I don’t think it’s uncommon for fighters to talk about their heart.

for example MikeTyson admits he is an emotional guy. 

🤷‍♀️ 

I Do agree though that this virus is getting more people to connect and open up. 
 

Oh of course, there are examples for sure at the super successful level, Mike Tyson like you say. And more recently Fury would be the obvious one.

Am Eastern European myself, where culturally it's something that's just not spoken about. It's drilled into us early on that complaining must be avoided - it's even shameful. Don't mean complaining about money and bills etc - that's normal. But on personal issues.

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1 hour ago, Oliver said:

Oh of course, there are examples for sure at the super successful level, Mike Tyson like you say. And more recently Fury would be the obvious one.

Am Eastern European myself, where culturally it's something that's just not spoken about. It's drilled into us early on that complaining must be avoided - it's even shameful. Don't mean complaining about money and bills etc - that's normal. But on personal issues.

Ah I’m hearing you! I’ve got Eastern European blood too and culturally I see differences too. 

My fathers side is italian which is completely opposite hahaha! 


it’s all very interesting. 

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On 4/4/2020 at 6:22 AM, Oliver said:

Wanna know something? You all have to just take my word for it, but a conversation like this has never - could never - come up in *any* guy's locker room in *any* gym, in *any* country so far, in my training memory of doing the sport. Never. Would be unthinkable.

Even though half the locker room or more probably has dudes with stories just like you all describe. 

Maybe Corona's making people more open now. Like, so much more messaging between family and friends these days. Don't ya find?

I've found the blending of the feminine and the masculine within Muay Thai (from my very fresh eyes mind you) to be one of the most fascinating things about it.

As a person who's learned more and more about my own identity as time has gone on, finding a focus and a confidence through this art makes it a powerful space for me.

Knowing that Saenchai exists right along side Buakaw, that -Grace Balance and Beauty- are just as important as -Power Speed Resilience-, that it's a dance as much as it is a martial art. I'm just in love!

This community seems to capture all the complexity of that. Blessed I've landed here amongst you.

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This is such an engaging topic I've followed for a while but been reluctant to post because I find it so hard to discuss my mental health openly. 

Although I too feel muay thai can do so much to empower you, I feel it can easily break you down. If you're in a vulnerable mental state, training in a Thai muay thai gym can add tonnes of bricks to the mental stress. It's hard to deal with hard sparring when feeling like you're made of glass and you're stuck behind a wall and you can't really hear anybody else but the critical loudspeaker in your own mind. And also especially since relationships in Thailand are so important and maintaining relationships can be draining or impossible when you're in a state where you cannot even maintain the relationship to yourself. Add to this promoters with other interests than putting on a good fight card. Or trainers demanding respect. 

Further, as a woman, there are so many invisible barriers to climb. And sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, doors simply don't open. 

I think for me personally, I might have at one point taken on too much and probably should've stayed away from the gym and all the relationship maintenance for a while until I was stronger. Instead of trying and trying and getting disappointed. 

Even though I'd go back to my gym in a heartbeat if I could (my plan was to be in Bangkok right now to fight) my mental health benefitted tremendously from training at a gym with no active fighters and having the space just to push myself how I wanted and play around for a while. 

Anxiety is awful, it's like a dragon in your chest clawing. But at least there's some kind of moving energy. Depression is how I imagine dark matter. It just swallows you. 

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Something my gym was doing before the corona lockdown, was working with local doctors as something people with depression could be prescribed to see if we could help them by giving them free training/physical activity. 

I agree with LengLeng, it's a double edged sword. One of my students is a trans-man, who is going through the process of transitioning and all the mental health problems that can come with that very stressful life change. Muay Thai helps him - but it also creates challenges that can in of itself be stressful.

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    • #deleuze #muaythai #warfare #philosophy #chess #sociology #thailand TLTR: discussing the unique historical and cultural influences on Thailand's Muay Thai as a traditional martial art and sport. Highlighting the deep-rooted history of Muay Thai, its ties to state warfare, influences from various cultures, including its unwritten provincial history, a comparison between Muay Thai, the games of Chess and Go is drawn as to the different philosophies and strategies inherent in each form of gamed combat. Additionally, it delves into the concept of warfare, power dynamics, spiritual aspects, and societal hierarchies reflected in the practices of Muay Thai as they relate to the Deleuze and Guattari's theories of nomadology, smooth space and war. Overall, a contrast between centralized, advance-forward, territory capture and more fluid edge-control, labor-capture warfare provides insight into what has shaped Thailand's Muay Thai into a distinct and formidable fighting art. (if it's TLTR, you get this summation) This is an on-going draft that will be edited over time   As internationalizing pressures push Muay Thai toward Western-friendly viewership, its worth considering the fundamental ways in which Thai and Western perceptions of conflict differ, and the manor in which this difference is preserved and expressed as Thai, in Thailand's traditional Muay Thai, a sport which achieved its acme-form in it's Golden Age (1980-1994). It's the contention of this article that there are governing, different and possibly quite opposed Martial Logics that structure many Western combat sport perceptions and the art of Thailand's Muay Thai, and these can be seen in the two graphics above, showing the games of Chess and Go. Now combat sports are quite diverse, even in the West, and each has its own history and audience. Each is shaped by its rules. The discussion here is more about the dominant image of thought as might be traced in Western and Southeast Asian regions of the world, despite rich variance, and even cross-influences. Thailand's Muay Thai, despite its violence, more maybe even because of it, is noted for its defensive excellence. It historically has been a close-fought sport that unlike some Western ring aesthetics, actually gravitates toward the ropes and corners, which are notoriously more difficult topographic ground. Because fighting is draw to this edge and corner emphasis, it requires even higher levels of defensive prowess to thrive at these edges. While the dominant image of Western ring fighting is much more clash-conscious, force meeting force in the middle of the ring (like two knight champions meeting at the center of a battlefield), in Thailand's Muay Thai it is the dextrousness along the ropes, the escapability, which wins the highest esteem. This piece offers explanations for what that is so and points to other studies of Muay Thai that underpin this. Largely though, it likely relates to the way in which violence and aggression is thought of in a traditionally Buddhist society, and Thailand's long history of a warfare of encirclement and capture. Examples of Thailand's Muay Thai Most Praised Edge Fighting Thailand is not alone in esteeming edge mastery. Western Boxing has very famous rope work, much of which constitutes the highest forms of fighting of its greatest fighters. But it does have a differing dominant image of thought than in the West, one which elevates rope and corner work into its own purposeful artform. Some of this can be read as a direct result of nearly opposite generalized scoring criteria. In the West, being very broad about it, forward aggression is a positive signature. All things being equal the forward fighter is seen as imposing themselves on their opponent. In Thailand's Muay Thai it is the opposite. This fundamental criteria reversal leads to a lot of Western viewers being confused over how fights are scored. Just being very broad about it, when a Thai fighter takes the lead in a fight - something that they know because audience gambling odds have changed in their favor - they begin to retreat. The retreating, defensive fighter is seen as protecting their lead. Their defense becomes their path to victory, which is why historically Thai fighters became the best defensive fighters in the world. Defense takes the spotlight in almost any lead, all other things being equal. A fighter going to the ropes in the broad Western conception is a fighter who has been forced there. A fighter who goes to the ropes in Muay Thai is in the dominant picture of thought signalling that they are in the lead. It's an upside down world for the Westerner and leads to a lot of miscomprehension. It's best to continually return to the note that these are broad, image-of-thought pictures of aggression and ring space. Judging a fight is much more complex than this. Over the years there are pendulum swings in how aggressive or active the retreating fighter has to be, and this is something that has differed even between the National Stadia of the sport, each with their own scoring aesthetics. Broadly though, the way that the edges and corners are semiotically coded, what they signify, is areas of control where fights are won and lost. And, because fighters in the lead retreat and defend, a lot of fights head to the edges, especially in the traditional, high-scoring later rounds. If you want to see the highest levels of this edge-excellence, I recommend this fight between two legends of the sport. Somrak in red, Boonlai in blue. Noteworthy in this fight is that Somrak at this time was one of the best Western Boxers all of Thailand. 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Fashioned as it has been from at least 100+ years of continuous provincial fighting deep in its countryside custom - something that may stretch back multiple centuries - fortified and shaped by Royal and State warfare, itself composed of worldwide mercenary influences, from Japanese & Javanese merchant pirates to Persian & Portuguese regimented manpower, it stands as both a cosmopolitan fighting art, and still one which has been richly woven together as wholly Buddhistic Siamese and then Thai continuity. Channeled and informed by British Boxing's colonialist, pressuring example in its modernizing period (1920-1950s), what remains most valuable in Muay Thai are the ways it is like no other fighting art. It's a purity of difference. Both lab-tested in 100,000s of full-contact ring fights multiplied by generations, and expressive of wool-dyed Buddhistic principles, this is a synergy of provincial and the Capital fight knowledge, both martial and sport, like no other in the world. They just fight differently...and have arguably been the best ring fighters in the world. The at-top diagram juxtaposing two combat inspired board games, Chess and the game of Go, aims to draw out some of the deeper philosophical and conceptual differences between Thailand's Southeast Asian fighting art and many of Western conceptions of combat, especially at the dominant image of thought level. Chess is a game of some disputed origin approximately 1,500 years ago. It was not a Western game. It's largely believed to have come from India by way of Persia. The Western Chess vocabulary is etymologically Persian, and the Persian version of the game is closest to the one adopted in Europe. Interestingly enough, the birth of Chess and its dissemination throughout the world across tradewinds corresponds roughly to the period, 3rd-6th century AD, during which Southeast Asia underwent Indianization. Indian culture became powerfully adopted throughout mainland Southeast Asia, and importantly in the history of Siam significantly informed Khmer Empire (today's Cambodia) royalty warfare and statecraft, much of which would be adopted by Siamese kings to the West. Royal, court and State culture was Indianized, bearing qualities (language, social forms, knowledges) which were not shared by the common populace. The Indianization of Southeast Asia has been culturally compared to the Roman Empire's Romanization in of Europe. And to this day Thai Royalty, its Brahmin customs and practices, the common worship of Hindu gods within a Buddhist context reflects this 1,500 years of influence of Indian culture. This is to say, when comparing Thailand's Muay Thai to the West via the game of Chess, we are speaking of a game that was of Indian and Persian origin, something quite closely braided within Siamese history. For instance, King Narai of Ayutthaya in 17th century had 200 Persian warriors as his personal guard. The influence of India and Persia is profound. What I want you to see is that Muay Thai's historical past is likely quite imbricated. There are layers upon layers of historical segmentation. Within this history the Royal form in particular had a distinctly Indianized history, and Thailand's Muay Thai has had a robust Royal history surrounding the raising of armies, large scale wars at times with armies (perhaps fancifully) rumored to approach 1,000,000 men. This Statecraft heritage is likely something we can see reflected in the game of Chess itself, the game of Kings, castles and queens. And, the history that we have of Thailand's Muay Thai is almost entirely composed of this Royal-State story, as royal record and foreign visitors to Siam's kingdoms comprises our written history. The possible story of Muay Thai that involves provincial, rural, village, regional martial and sport practices has vanished seemingly just as much as houses of wood or bamboo will not be preserved. Yet, in the nature of Southeast Asian and Siamese fighting arts we very well may see the martial contrastive martial logic of the Siamese people, especially when compared to the visions of the West. Chess, Go, Striated and Smooth Spaces In this we turn to the 4,000 year old Chinese and then Japanese game of Go (the game of surrounding). wikipedia: Japanese word igo (囲碁; いご), which derives from earlier wigo (ゐご), in turn from Middle Chinese ɦʉi gi (圍棋, Mandarin: wéiqí, lit. 'encirclement board game' or 'board game of surrounding'). I have written about the historical origins of Thailand's Muay Thai that particularly bring out its logic of surrounding and capture, a martial logic that is quite embodied in the game of Go (The Historical Foundations of Thailand's Retreating Style, or How They Became the Best Defensive Fighters In the World). In short, historians of Southeast Asia point out that unlike in Europe where land was scarce (and therefore the anchor of wealth), and manpower plentiful, conquering land and killing occupying enemies formed a basic martial logic in warfare. In Southeast Asia where fecund land was everywhere, but population sparse (especially in Siam which had been one of the least populated regions of Southasia), warfare was focused on capture and enslavement. Enemy land capture was at a minimum, and even in the case of the famed and ruinous sackings of the Siamese Capital of Ayutthaya by the Burmese, the captured territory was not held. These are just very different spatial and aim-oriented logics, in fact opposite logics. I'm using the game of Go, which expresses a fluid rationality of edge control and reversible enemy capture (captured stones add to your wealth, and don't only subtract from one's enemy), opposed to the more centric, land-control logic of Chess. A Chess of Indian-Persian statecraft which resonated with European political and warfare realities. This juxtaposition between games is not mine, though I'm probably the first to use it to illuminate combat sport perceptions in today's ring fighting. It comes from the sociologically oriented philosophers Deleuze and Guattari in their book A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. A notoriously difficult work due to its heavy reliance on invented vocabularies, and its opaque, keyed-in references to specific philosophical traditions, psychoanalysis and their theoretical problems, it still provides rich analysis of buried trends in Western social organization, and a metaphysics for thinking about the history of the world as a whole. What Deleuze and Guattari want to do in contrasting Go with Chess is to think about the different ways that Space is organized and traversed by political powers and regimes of meaning. They propose that Chess is a striated (divided, segmented, hierarchical) Space, And Go more of a smooth space. This blogged description is a good summary of the two kinds of Space: The much older game of Go is a strategy of surround and capture, wherein you turn an enemy's wealth - by our analogy labor-power - into your own. This is mirrored in Siamese warfare as reported in 1688 by an Iranian vistor, "...the struggle is wholly confined to trickery and deception. They have no intention of killing each other or of inflicting any great slaughter because if a general gained a real conquest, he would be shedding his own blood so to speak" (context, Ibrahim), full quote here. We have at surface a strong homology between foreign reports and the structural nature of the game of Go. More can be understood of my position and the role of evasion, surround-and-capture principles in this extended thread here. Diving down into the more philosophical ramifications I provide the extended Deleuze & Guattari quotation comparing the game of Chess vs the game of Go: Rather, he is like a pure and immeasurable multiplicity, the pack, an irruption of the ephemeral and the power of metamorphosis. He unties the bond just as he betrays the pact. He brings a furor to bear against sovereignty, a celerity against gravity, secrecy against the public, a power (puissance) against sovereignty, a machine against the apparatus. He bears witness to another kind of justice, one of incomprehensible cruelty at times, but at others of unequaled pity as well (because he unties bonds.. .). He bears witness, above all, to other relations with women, with animals, because he sees all things in relations of becoming, rather than implementing binary distributions between "states": a veritable becoming-animal of the warrior, a becoming-woman, which lies outside. Let us take a limited example and compare the war machine and the State apparatus in the context of the theory of games. Let us take chess and Go, from the standpoint of the game pieces, the relations between the pieces and the space involved. Chess is a game of State, or of the court: the emperor of China played it. Chess pieces are coded; they have an internal nature and intrinsic properties from which their movements, situations, and confrontations derive. They have qualities; a knight remains a knight, a pawn a pawn, a bishop a bishop. Each is like a subject of the statement endowed with a relative power, and these relative powers combine in a subject of enunciation, that is, the chess player or the game's form of interiority. Go pieces, in contrast, are pellets, disks, simple arithmetic units, and have only an anonymous, collective, or third-person function: Thus the relations are very different in the two cases. Within their milieu of interiority, chess pieces entertain biunivocal relations with one another, and with the adversary's pieces: their functioning is structural. On the other hand, a Go piece has only a milieu of exteriority, or extrinsic relations with nebulas or constellations, according to which it fulfills functions of insertion or situation, such as bordering, encircling, shattering. All by itself, a Go piece can destroy an entire constellation synchronically; a chess piece cannot (or can do so diachronically only). Chess is indeed a war, but an institutionalized, regulated, coded war, with a front, a rear, battles. But what is proper to Go is war without battle lines, with neither confrontation nor retreat, without battles even: pure strategy, whereas chess is a semiology. Finally, the space is not at all the same: in chess, it is a question of arranging a closed space for oneself, thus of going from one point to another, of occupying the maximum number of squares with the minimum number of pieces. In Go, it is a question of arraying oneself in an open space, of holding space, of maintaining the possibility of springing up at any point: the movement is not from one point to another, but becomes perpetual, without aim or destination, with out departure or arrival. The "smooth" space of Go, as against the "striated" space of chess. The nomos of Go against the State of chess, nomos against polis. The difference is that chess codes and decodes space, whereas Go proceeds altogether differently, territorializing or deterritorializing it (make the outside a territory in space; consolidate that territory by the construction of a second, adjacent territory; deterritorialize the enemy by shattering his territory from within; deterritorialize oneself by renouncing, by going elsewhere . ..). Another justice, another movement, another space-time. Deleuze & Guattari, "1227: TREATISE ON NOMADOLOGY—THE WAR MACHINE", A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism & Schizophrenia   Becoming and A Warfare of Capture What Deleuze and Guattari are invoking is a conception of warfare which is much more fully potentiated. Not locked into rigid hierarchies and roles of figures of power, it is a much more metaphysical battle that reflects aspects of what I have argued is the spiritual foundation of Thailand's Muay Thai, an animism of powers within the history of the culture that predates the arrival of Buddhism (Toward a Theory of the Spirituality of Thailand's Muay Thai). This logic of an animism of powers contains an essential aspect of captured power, the incorporated power of a captured enemy, founded on what historians of Southeast Asia have called "Soul Stuff", roughly equivalent of Hindu shakti (strength). This can be manifested in captured slave labor, or perhaps even in the prehistoric rites of cannibalism through which one consumed the soul stuff of an enemy. You can find a logic of Soul Stuff here, this graphic below helps represent the animism of contest. A primary source on soul stuff and a fusion of military and spiritual prowess can be found with historian O.W. Walters here. Thus, within the cultural origins of Siamese culture, even that which pre-dates the Indianization of the region, we have essential aspects of a smooth, tactical space in a Deleuze & Guattari sense, which potentially maps quite well into the game of Go, especially as it is contrasted to Chess.   Further in concordance with Deleuze & Guattari's philosophical concept of liberty is the way in which Thailand's Muay Thai can be understood as revolutionary in their terms. Deleuze & Guattari write of becoming-animal, becoming-child, becoming-woman, deterritorializing flights inimitable to human freedom. Thailand's Muay Thai (& broader Thai agonism) de-privileges these categories, along a continuous spectrum of thymotic struggle, which runs thru the social hierarchies of low to high, sewing them together. One could say a smooth thymotic space of trajectories. Thailand known for its (ethically criticized) child fighting, women have fought for 100+ yrs, and beetle fighting embodies much of the Muay Thai gambled form. In many important ways Thailand's Muay Thai avoids the stacked arboreal structure of Western Man (& its contrastive Others), favoring a continuity agonistic spectrum within its (Indianized) hierarchies. It has strongly weighted traditional hierarchies, but within this a thymotic line-of-becoming that runs between divinity and animality. see Beetle Fighting, Muay Thai and the Health of the Culture of Thailand - The Ecology of Fighting more on the division of divinity and animality by wicha here: Muay Thai Seen as a Rite: Sacrifice, Combat Sports, Loser as Sacred Victim Knowing-as-doing, the wicha of technical knowledge of how to do, runs between the axes of divinity and animality in a way that supports a mutuality of any figure's becoming, from the insect up to the heightened champion fighter, in a line of flight shared by others. Most Deleuzian becoming-animal, -child, -woman examples come from the arts (sometimes the bedroom), but instead in Thai, gambled agonism we have the becoming of actual animals, children, women & the projective affects of an equally agonistic audience undergoing its own becoming-as. When I say revolutionary, I say "Thailand's Muay Thai has something to teach the world about the nature of violence and its meaning." Learning From Chess in How to See Thailand's Muay Thai Keep in mind, this isn't an direct one-for-one comparison of the contemporary game of Chess (and Chess Theory) and the ring sport of Muay Thai. It compares the dominant image of thought in the conceptual trend. Some have pointed out that my gross picture of Chess leaves out its post-1920s modern Chess Theory development, which often eschews central forward advancement. What is important in the Chess example isn't how Chess was played in 1960s, say, but rather that Chess over the sweep of its history allows us to see how it expressed the martial logic from which it came, ie, how some battles were fought in the field, with advancing lines, and a central capture of territory focus. Chess I would argue contains a martial logic fingerprint in its organizational structure, just as the real life political powers of Kings, Queens, knights and bishops made their impact on its rules & formation, the increased power of the Queen on the board said to be a fine example of this (see: A Queen in Any Other Language). Even in the Hypermodernism of Chess one might say that the center still holds importance, as there are just other ways of controlling or managing it.  Hypermodernism for instance may have reflected the increased use of cannon & then WW1 artillery. Between the two games of Chess and Go are differing Martial Logics. It doesn't mean that there is zero fighting for the center in Muay Thai (or in Southeast Asian warfare...siege warfare is prominent in Ayutthaya history for instance, though with influence from the Portuguese, etc), or that there is zero edge or flank control in Western European warfare or Chess (flank maneuvers are numerous in European warfare). The contrast is really meant to exposed how we perceive conflict spatially, and that these are things we've culturally inherited. You see these inherited concepts, for instance the centrality of territory capture in common Western scoring criteria like "ring control". Centralized conflict is part of our past and informs how we judge fighting styles, just as edge conflict is part of Southeast Asia's past. And importantly this also informs our ideas of violence, with a European tendency toward "kill" (to control land, ie the center) and a SEA tendency toward "capture"(to control labor, ie the edge).  
    • Hey so im an ammateur fighting in europe mostly at DIY events. The thing is even though every fight I improve I am never able to win and its starting to get to me.  I have 5 fights in total 2 k1 and 3 muay thai and iv never won a muay thai, won 1 k1 cos my cardio was better than the other girl and I just out brawld her.  People say wow your technique is so much better than the fight I saw you in last year etc but it still feels bitter to constantly lose. I know i am improving but feel that I always just get tougher and tougher matches, the last 3 fights I lost have all been very close fights. One I lost cos my opponent got injured and broke her ankle when I bloked with a knee but she was able to hide it, another one I lost cos she was using more clean techniques and I was brawling (this one I agree with 100% cos I was landing but it was sloppy.)  The last one I lost cos my cardio was bad which is also fine. I am fine with losing, its just starting to get to me that I never win. It also kinda annoys me that the only fight I ever won was one that I just outbrawled the other girl. Feels like my improvements havnt really helped me cos I just get matched with tougher and tougher opponents each time.  Im wondering if I should give up on decision fights for a while and just do non decisions to get my condifence back up or whether I will eventually break through and be able to win. I am also kinda old at 32 so even though my technique is improving my strength, reflexes and reactions will begin to fade soon. 
    • Don't know if this brand offers shin guards but might as well check them out. I bought a few pairs of shorts from them a while ago and was genuinely impressed. https://siamkickfight.com/
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    • Don't know if this brand offers shin guards but might as well check them out. I bought a few pairs of shorts from them a while ago and was genuinely impressed. https://siamkickfight.com/
    • Hi all, I have paid a deposit to a gym in Pai near Chiang Mai to train at in January. I am now concerned about the pollution levels at that time of year because of the burning season. Can you recommend a location that is likely to have safer air quality for training in January? I would like to avoid Bangkok and Phuket, if possible. Thank you!
    • Hi, this might be out of the normal topic, but I thought you all might be interested in a book-- Children of the Neon Bamboo-- that has a really cool Martial Arts instructor character who set up an early Muy Thai gym south of Miami in the 1980s. He's a really cool character who drives the plot, and there historically accurate allusions to 1980s martial arts culture. However, the main thrust is more about nostalgia and friendships.    Can we do links? Childrenoftheneonbamboo.com Children of the Neon Bamboo: B. Glynn Kimmey: 9798988054115: Amazon.com: Movies & TV      
    • 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.
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