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Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu

Spinoza's Argument Against Freewill and the Freedoms of Thailand's Muay Thai

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The 17th century philosopher famously denied the freedom of the will. There was no separate, wholly independent power of choice or decision which cut us off from our histories or the world at large as we have lived in it, floating above it in a divinity of autonomy. We feel free when we make choices, but we are not free. This fundamental feeling of freedom that all of us experience is one of the most intractable obstacles for such a claim. It turns perhaps our most salient feature as thinking beings into an illusion. Can it really be that every single choice I've made has been done under a powerful illusion? Can the words I'm typing right now be caused by a myriad of things, almost all of which I'm blind to, and not by my fundamental choice, or series of choices, to type them?

This tension between our daily experiences of our selves makes of Spinoza's claim one of two things: It is either a powerful unveiling of the nature of our world, and of ourselves giving radical insight into the truths and powers behind our otherwise blind experience; or it is a kind of Science Fiction of theory, something Philosophy can be good at - an interesting and provoking model of the world which isn't really true at all, but is enjoyable or entertaining to try on and think about. When asked: Did you freely choose to say the words you just said? Spinoza's view tends to fall into Science Fiction for us. Of course I did. In this article I hope to appeal to the experiences of training in and fighting in Thailand's Muay Thai to illuminate just what Spinoza means by the denial of the freedom of the will, and why it is important for our lives.

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I'm going to be page quoting at length from the book: Spinoza and the Politics of Renaturalization by Hasana Sharp in part because it is the book I'm reading now, and these thoughts flow from her discussion of Spinoza's position on Free Will. And also because she does a very nice job of presenting his claims and some of their consequences. I've been studying Spinoza and secondary works on him for 15 years and this is a really good one. If anyone has a hard time finding a copy of this book I can maybe help you, DM me.

The Determination of Speech and the Language of Muay Thai

One of the most dramatic targets of Spinoza's argument against the freedom of the will is the speech of human beings. The reason for this is that there seems nothing more quintessentially human than the act of speaking. It's supposedly what separates us out from the animal kingdom, and what people say helps us to determine, gauge or weigh who they are. What people say is important to us, and we also put a great deal of attention - at times - into deciding what to say. For many speech epitomizes the freedom of who we are. And Spinoza goes right at it. For him when we speak or write we are no more like madmen, drunks or gossips, people who feel that they are in control of what they are saying, but are not at all. Sober speech is just a difference of degree, not in kind, from drunk speech. "Sane" speech a difference in degree from insane speech. Intersubjective everyday speech a difference in degree from helpless gossip. Here he provides a foothold where experience can find itself in his claim that we are not in control of ourselves. When we reflect on what we've said or done when drunk we realize (often with shame) that we were not anywhere near as in control of ourselves as we thought at the time, when we were speaking freely or acting (too?) "freely". It felt radically free at the time, but in looking back it feels compulsed. We felt like we were choosing, but we were not. We can draw this analogy out toward times of extreme emotional duress, or mental illness, or in social situations were we get swept up in chains of gossip. Social media has taught us all new lessons about how the "social" dimension of news seems to give the news (and not news) a life of its own, riding along the compulsions of agreements and amplifications, all of which is done by agents who surely feel free - even radically free - in what they claim, but perhaps upon reflection at another point in history will show itself as compulsed. What Spinoza is after is actually this radical sense of freedom that is carried along with these speech acts, hoping to reveal them as actually their opposite. Drunk talk, the talk of mental illness, the social gossip talk are for him actually the model of ALL speech. All speech is conditioned, provoked and propelled by hidden causes, accompanied by a ghost feeling of freedom.

I think we do get somewhere with this analogy of the misleading feeling of freedom, but it still doesn't have enough traction to describe our everyday lives and the myriad of choices we make that seem to actually make up who we are, when not under the duress of a substance, an illness or waning character. The reason why we can tell, upon reflection, that we were not free in those more extreme circumstances is that we can compare them to our more sober, more plentiful moments. We can see the difference. But this is a difference in degree for Spinoza, not in kind.

Sylvie and I have used the analogy of language to describe the art of Thailand's Muay Thai. For many in the West when we come to Thailand and seriously learn the art of Muay Thai it's as if learning a language. It's words (strikes and blocks) as a fighting art, it's grammar (bodily ruup and tempos) are expressive things, especially because in Thailand fights are judged aesthetically, and not just in terms of damage done to opponents. Once you learn the basics of the language in order to become a proper Muay Thai fighter you have to learn to use them expressively, to express yourself, in the ring. There are hosts of styles and customs of performance that condition this expression, culturally, and like any language the meaning and role of modes of expression go quite deep into the ways of life of the Muay Thai kaimuay, and even of the people of Thailand, but ultimately, you are learning a signification system (a type of language), which physically can control the fight space, but also semiotically can signal or indicate that control, through gestures and postures. The body and the mind run in parallel in the Art of Muay Thai. If you want to look into the richness of this language, its cultural moorings and its study read my Trans-Freedoms Through Authentic Muay Thai Training in Thailand Understood Through Bourdieu's Habitus, Doxa and Hexis.

But let's get back to the basics of it. There is a very natural parallel I believe in the experiences of choosing words to say and choosing strikes to throw in a fighting art. When we are fluent in a language the "right" words will just come to us in an unconscious flow, just out of volition of speaking. This is an aim when learning to fight in a fighting art, and why the analogy of language can be an illuminating one. We want the strikes we have practiced to just come to us, at the right time, suitable for the conditions, just as words come to us in our mother tongue. When we look at the greatest fighters of Thailand, the Yodmuay of the 1980s and 1990s, they appear so seamless in their choices. In fact - importantly - they do not feel like choices at all. They fight with almost a condition of inevitability, through their style, rather than like a computer that has weighed a menu of options and then decided on one, the right one. They are poets. Most of us though, just want to speak the language, to use the strikes (and also checks, weight shifts, postures) practiced in a flowing way.

But this is what I'm pointing to. Everyone who has trained has the distinct experience that even though it is very clear in one's mind what one wants to do, you cannot do it. The volition is there, the action is not. This can simply be trying to throw a particular kind of kick on the bag and not being able to "get it". Or, it can be the frustration of trying to execute particular strikes, or plans or patterns while sparring. A little bit of pressure and all the volition in the world gets you nowhere. In fact, volition (trying really, really hard to do something) will often take you further from your goal of seamless action. This gap between volition and action is sometimes addressed in non-Thai versions of training by memorizing combinations, or certain footwork patterns. Under the auspices of the idea of "muscle memory" you rigorously train patterns over and over and over and learn to just DO them, regardless of context through commitment. You simplify the program and bite down. One can see how this approach can work to patch the problem, but one can also see how far it is from actual language use. I want to return to that fundamental frustration of the gap between volition and action. What is happening here in Spinozist terms?

What a Spinozist would say is that when you for instance freeze under the pressure of sparring, or throw a punch when you probably should be defending, you are under the power of causes you are not aware off. You are being forced into postures or tempos or reactions through your histories as a person, and (instinctively) genetically as an animal. Lineages of causes running out in every direction into the past are shaping you into those reactions. Determining you. When you learn a fighting art you are exposing yourself to new causal chains, new determinations which can over-write those histories and causes. But...importantly for Spinoza, this can only be done if the pleasures of coherence that you experience as an organism, from the training in the new art, are more powerful (joyful) than those of past histories, those causal chains. This is to say, the fluency in the language has to cash out as a greater experience of causal determination, as joy, than the sum of your past histories as a person and a being.

Spinoza and Freedom

I'm going to now go through the Hasana Sharp page quotations, with some notes:

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above: For this analysis I'm going to substitute the general idea of choosing strikes in Muay Thai for choosing speech. We have an expectation when sparring or fighting that we should just freely be able to throw the strikes (or in more advanced fighting assume the composures) that we have in our mind and have trained. One of the more powerful dimensions of Spinoza's Philosophy is his parallelism, whereby he asserts that bodies exert causal force on other bodies, and that ideas exert causal force on other ideas, in parallel. In sparring/fighting this parallelism can be vital. Bodies are causally clashing, exerting force upon each other, but also ideas are bumping into each other as well. Warfare is as much mental as it is physical. Spinoza tells us that we are largely ignorant of what is even causing us to be under a certain disposition, or to be doing certain things rather than others. One reason I believe people are drawn to fighting itself is because it dramatically amplifies this regular uncertainty of everyday life, bringing forward. Learning to control oneself under adversity, and express oneself, feels like it is life valued work.

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above. It is important that in understanding the why and how we throw a strike to not overvalue the experience of volition. This will lead to frustration. If we picture ourselves as fundamentally unfree beings, that is to say, largely conditioned and driven by unseen or unconscious causes, volition itself is not the lever point of action. Anyone learning a fighting art will understand this. The answer isn't "will harder!". Instead its about curating the realm of causes that shape you, and enriching the rootedness in the causal chains you would like to be subject to.

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above. One of the beauties of Spinoza's approach is that he will fundamentally direct our attention to the affects (which encompasses: feelings, bodily feelings, emotions) we experience when doing something. Our experiences. What gives us to do one thing or another is a complex web of affects that chain down into our histories as a person. One of the most interesting applications of this proposed truth that it isn't our will power that chooses things, but rather how we have become accustomed to feel, is that in our training of Muay Thai or any fighting art, how we feel about the technique (let's say) is far, far more important than how it is technically executed. You can for instance machine part out a technique, but it will never fluidly enter into the matrix of decisions under pressure if you regularly feel bad (for instance self-critical) about that technique. You will seldom be able to "choose" it. I wrote about this a bit in: Precision – A Basic Motivation Mistake in Some Western Training. As mentioned on other occasions, correction (and the corresponding Western fear of building "bad habits") plays very little role in the instruction of Thailand's kaimuay Muay Thai. The reason for this is that the fighting art of Muay Thai is principally affective training, in the Spinozsist sense. Bodies are not being trained to assume positions and make movements while the authoritarian Mind then directs the trained body around, as in Western Cartesian Dualism (or to be directed by a governor coach). Instead the fighter is trained affectively to feel the fight.

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above. This is really important. We sometimes do not realize just how much the Cartesian world model influences us through its essential split between the world of bodies and that of Mind. I mean, come on now, he was just a Philosopher nobody reads hundreds of years ago. But he's with us all to this day. Descartes articulated a view of the body and the mind which made of the passions of the body an obstacle of mental control. This is to say, the affects of the body are seen as the enemy of the Mind, things to be tamed, tamped down, quieted, so the Mind can just steer the whole thing. As Sharp sums up Spinoza's break from Descartes (who preceded him by a generation): "Self-cultivation is not antipathetic." You don't stop feeling things so you can be in control. The reason why I'm pointing this out so acutely is that this is a radical misunderstanding of many Westerners attempting to fight beautifully in Muay Thai (and possibly other fighting arts). They hear all the time from Thai trainers: "Sabai, Sabai". Relax, be at ease. Western tension is notorious in the rings of Thailand. To the Thai eye it just shows a lack of control. Westerners will war with themselves, trying to get themselves to relax. The reason why they don't understand "relax" is that they are all Cartesians. They believe if they can just drain the swamp of themselves of all feeling and emotion, the chain of ideas that domino through their heads, if they can just stop feeling things, then the Mind can be free to simply direct the emptied body. Like getting your dog to stop barking at the door bell, and listen to you. But Spinoza will tell you, this isn't how it works. You cannot negatively remove a powerful affect. You cannot subtract it from existence. You cannot antipathetize freedom. It's because the Mind and the Body are one thing. The Mind does not hover over an obedient (or rebellious) body. Instead Spinoza will tell you that the only that that can overcome a powerful affect is a MORE powerful affect. If you are in fear and tense, only a more powerful feeling can move the body and mind to a more free state. Muay Thai and its training is about the development of those feelings, those affects. This is a theoretical division in the metaphysics of Philosophy which has immediate bearing on the practice and development of fighting skills, in the ring.

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above. This is how strikes are "chosen" in the fluency of the art. They are chosen because they flow from the determinations of a cultivated realm of causes, they come out of the necessity of the shape of who you are. It's not because you've emptied yourself of feeling, and your lording Mind is expertly judging what to do. (Video breakdowns of fight footage, as interesting as they are, actually do a disservice when they present the rationalization of choices in segmented parts. I've seen one well-known breakdownist even state something along the lines of "never do anything without a rational reason for it".) In fact, there is a name for this determined, necessity state of causes: Flow State. Sylvie and I talk about Flow State in our Podcast: Muay Thai Bones Podcast #9 - Orca, Sak Yant, Long Guard, Flow. Spinozist self-cultivation starts with the basic acknowledgement that we never wholly and radically act freely, and so relative freedom consists in attending to the realm of causes that shape you, creating physical and mental boundaries around the things that determine you. You are shaping yourself, and how you will naturally respond, though the conditioning of your influences and practice. You can only as a fighter - and a person - express things beyond you, so determining those things becomes an act of self-cultivation. Sylvie and I have talked about how the legend Dieselnoi will emphasize very small things like: How you go back to your corner, or how you come off of pads. How you take a drink of water. How you breathe when fatigued. The muay of legends is found in these very small things, because these are affective states. Affect is where the rubber meets the road in fighting. Not in the mechanics of the body.

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above. One of the mysteries that Westerners encounter in Thailand is why aggression is so devalued in the Muay Thai ring. Aggression can be the crown jewel of western fighting. It's what Western audiences come to the screen to see. Aggression and its slippery slope step-brother anger. The reason why aggression reads so differently in Thailand is that Thais are Spinozists in the matter. (To be real about it, Spinozism has great parallel with Stoicism, and Stoicism maps quite well onto Buddhism. And Thailand and Muay Thai is Buddhistic.) The anger-prone, aggression filled fighter is the madman, the drunk, the gossip of physical action. He or she is not in control of his or her body or mind. Because traditional Muay Thai is an affective fighting art control and cultivation of oneself is of utmost priority. All the techniques and semiotics are about control: controlling your opponent, controlling the fight space and controlling oneself. And watching an angered fighter is like watching a drunk man. (This is something that is starting to change as Western internationalist values find greater footing withing Thailand's Muay Thai.)

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above. The Western Man (gendered purposively) has evolved into the atomized Man, conceptually cut off from others at an ideal level. Ideas of Freedom and Willing are born out of a sense of the Self which is a single unit, defined and steered in solitary. There is a citadelled concept of Self and Power in the Western tradition which imagines that power consists of NOT being affected. It is a castle of the Self. We picture certain fighters this way too. Everything bounces off of them, or nothing touches them. Spinoza on the other hand takes the exact opposite stance towards power. Power he defines as the ability to be affected. The problem with something like anger, or bodily tension isn't that you are being TOO affected. Its that you are cut off from being affected by reserves of power and influence which can free you. If you are tense, you cannot see that your opponent has shifted his weight onto his back foot. You cannot be affected by that. You cannot see it. The answer though isn't in draining out the tension so that you are less affected. It's being affected by more, increasing your capacity to be affected. As a fighter, this is where the shapes and disciplines of the 120 year old fighting art that is traditional Muay Thai, as an affective development, open up dimensions of perception and affect otherwise closed to you. As a fighter you want to have those causes coursing through you, as your opponent attempts to take you out of your game. You want stronger affects to be moving through your actions. You want to be more connected, not less. This is the reason why every Muay Thai fight begins with the ceremonial reattachment of yourself to those who trained you, and also your ancestors who preserve you. This is not just a symbolization of customary respect. It's the acknowledgement and stimulation of the resources of what you bring with you into the ring. It's all the things that will flow with you. It's your power to be affected. You are not an atom.

The Priority of Defense in the Freedom of The Fighter

The Spinozist-Thai approach to fighting excellence calls forward the priority of Defense. In our analogy of language we made the easy comparison of strikes to words. We do often experience the quality of a fighter in terms of vocabulary of strikes, and video study perhaps makes this even more the case. Strikes still feel like volitional expressions of the character of a person, like words chosen. But if we take the quintessential ground of human power to be the capacity to be affected - and Spinoza qualifies the experience of being affected by more and more things as one of Joy...and fewer and fewer things as one of Sadness - we start to see what the role of Defense in the art and freedom of the fighter. When an opponent is striking you the are attempting to affect you. The hoped consequence of that affectation is that you are diminished by it. Your world metaphysically and pragmatically will shrink. If its a simple jab that is landing over and over suddenly all you can see is that jab...a bit too late. Your capacity to be affected by greater and numerically larger forces becomes diminished. In Spinoza's terms, your power to be affected is reduced, you will experience a kind of deflation, a sadness. Tunnel vision. Our lives are filled with it. The one thing that occupies our mind. It can be a jab that keeps landing, or a bill that isn't paid yet, or what your boss thinks of you. Your world becomes small. In traditional Muay Thai the reason why Defense holds so much esteem is that it is the primary art of cordoning off your opponent's ability to affect you. You control their ability to add their beat to your tempo. Yes, you can offensively put the beat back on them, or pressure them with beats that will shrink their world instead of yours, but the self-possesed art of cultivation lies in Defense. Defensive prowess clears the space so that all the causes of the art you have trained in can then fill it. It puts things more on your terms, and the terms of your antecedents. There is a Buddhist saying that comes to mind in regard to the protection of the Self. You can cover the whole world in leather, or you can wear a pair of leather shoes. Defensive prowess is like wearing a pair of leather shoes, so you can more freely walk about.

There is another level to Defensive excellence and the illusion of choice to this as well, that we learned from Sylvie training with the legendary Muay Femeu artist Karuhat. As you are defending and taking control over the fight space through deflections, repositioning, tempo changes, and parries, you are also developing a map of your opponent's possibilities. He became expert at reading his opponent's weight shifts and body postures to the degree that he could see the limited choices that an opponent would have, often beyond their own perception of them. This circles us back to the illusions of volition and control which Spinoza attempts to strip from us. Your opponent may very well feel that they have a great variety of strikes available to them, but from his position in the ring and the where his weight is distributed Karuhat may see that he has only three, of which one is most likely. He is actually further into your causal chain than you are. He reads your determinations more clearly than you do. When sparring with him it comes off as mind-reading. He is kicking you where you want to go, almost before you have decided to do it. You walk into his strikes. I believe he does this first though defensive prowess, eliminating your ability to affect him, which then opens up his ability to read (be affected by) your own determinations. He is fighting IN the matrix. The matrix of determinations of what is experienced as "choice". You can even see this in his fights against very skilled opponents. He'll float a check and almost bizarrely his opponent will THEN kick it. This is the next layer of Spinozist truth as a fighting art. If we are never free, in the sense that we experience that we are, the conditions of our relative freedom come through seeing and experiencing our determinations, and the determinations of others. And ultimately, in cultivating our determinations themselves, connecting ourselves to greater and greater matrices of cause.

 

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Kevin, you master. This is an amazing essay. I need to study Spinoza at some point, so many thoughts and intuitions that occur in Nietzsche and afterwards already anticipated here. I love how your very practice of philosophy is spinozist; sometimes a poem, sometimes a few sentences on twitter, sometimes these great essays. Like you dance around between philosophy and muay thai and let your words flow from this ''mind-dancing.''

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27 minutes ago, Asger said:

so many thoughts and intuitions that occur in Nietzsche and afterwards already anticipated here

I don't really want to spin into a Nietzsche on Spinoza thread, he had a love-hate thing, but this by Nietzsche is notorious:

“I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza: that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by “instinct.” Not only is his overtendency like mine—namely to make all knowledge the most powerful affect—but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world-order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and make my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness. Strange! Incidentally, I am not at all as well as I had hoped. Exceptional weather here too! Eternal change of atmospheric conditions!—that will yet drive me out of Europe! I must have clear skies for months, else I get nowhere. Already six severe attacks of two or three days each!! — With affectionate love, Your friend”

Friedrich Nietzsche, postcard to Franz Overbeck in Sils-Maria dated July 30, 1881.

 

Thanks for the very kind words, and reading my thoughts closely.

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2 hours ago, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

I don't really want to spin into a Nietzsche on Spinoza thread, he had a love-hate thing, but this by Nietzsche is notorious:

“I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted! I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza: that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by “instinct.” Not only is his overtendency like mine—namely to make all knowledge the most powerful affect—but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world-order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and make my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness. Strange! Incidentally, I am not at all as well as I had hoped. Exceptional weather here too! Eternal change of atmospheric conditions!—that will yet drive me out of Europe! I must have clear skies for months, else I get nowhere. Already six severe attacks of two or three days each!! — With affectionate love, Your friend”

Friedrich Nietzsche, postcard to Franz Overbeck in Sils-Maria dated July 30, 1881.

 

Thanks for the very kind words, and reading my thoughts closely.

Oh man what a letter! Do you know any works on the relationship between the two? Or just any good introductions to Spinoza in general? I thought about going by Deleuze, would that be recommendable?

 

Regarding your essay, I feel great affinity with your understanding of muay thai as language. When I was 8, I moved from Denmark to France and learned french in school. Now, I just picked up greek and latin at college this semester, and I was overjoyed reading your essay because it occurred to me that the process of learning muay thai a few years ago is actually very reminiscent of learning language now; I had preconceptions and goals going into both muay thai and especially greek now, and just after a few months (as with muay thai) the relationship to the techne has changed drastically. Both times it has been an evolution from a cartesian standing-outside with a very clear cut instrumental goal in mind (muay thai: learn to fight, greek: read the classics) to a spinozist being-inside that is more characterised by the joy of movement within and the joy of acquiring competence. That joy is the freedom of movement within the domain I think. 

 

Also ''The reason why they don't understand "relax" is that they are all Cartesians.'' is just a great fucking line lmao.

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4 hours ago, Asger said:

Do you know any works on the relationship between the two? Or just any good introductions to Spinoza in general?

The easiest way into the bridge between the two is the work of Gilles Deleuze who was deeply influenced by both of them. His Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza is a good overview of his take. His Spinoza: Practical Philosophy is much shorter, concise approach.

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17 hours ago, Asger said:

Both times it has been an evolution from a cartesian standing-outside with a very clear cut instrumental goal in mind (muay thai: learn to fight, greek: read the classics) to a spinozist being-inside that is more characterised by the joy of movement within and the joy of acquiring competence.

This Cartesian instrumentalism I think has vast overlay on our experiences, not only conditioning how the art and skill is learned/practiced, but also how it is experienced, what it means to us, and how we relate to ourselves through it. If our bodies are only instruments that obey or fail us this is a very different world to live in, and likely holds a very different set of capacities or ceiling. But the concept of instrumentation also runs out into the very way that Muay Thai is disseminated (or even appropriated) outside of Thailand. It involves our mechanization of its parts (moves, strikes, techniques) the broken way one might Frankenstein parts together (for instance in MMA), and also the way it goes out across the Internet in "breakdowns", which literally "break" "down" the living experiences, often rationalizing it into constituent components and "reasons". The instrumentation of our own bodies, experiencing our bodies as tools or mechanized actions holds its parallel in the commercialization of the art, and a pedagogy of mechanization as well. It all seems to flow from a Cartesian World, one ultimately balanced on the knife-edge of a mythologization of "freedom of choice".

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On 12/17/2021 at 9:28 AM, Kevin von Duuglas-Ittu said:

This Cartesian instrumentalism I think has vast overlay on our experiences, not only conditioning how the art and skill is learned/practiced, but also how it is experienced, what it means to us, and how we relate to ourselves through it. If our bodies are only instruments that obey or fail us this is a very different world to live in, and likely holds a very different set of capacities or ceiling. But the concept of instrumentation also runs out into the very way that Muay Thai is disseminated (or even appropriated) outside of Thailand. It involves our mechanization of its parts (moves, strikes, techniques) the broken way one might Frankenstein parts together (for instance in MMA), and also the way it goes out across the Internet in "breakdowns", which literally "break" "down" the living experiences, often rationalizing it into constituent components and "reasons". The instrumentation of our own bodies, experiencing our bodies as tools or mechanized actions holds its parallel in the commercialization of the art, and a pedagogy of mechanization as well. It all seems to flow from a Cartesian World, one ultimately balanced on the knife-edge of a mythologization of "freedom of choice".

Agreed, and with this freedom of choice also an individualization and a deritualization and decommunization of muay thai. If the fighter is a cartesian island from whose mind the body obeys, there is no participation of the audience, no participation of the community of trainers, training partners and gym. It becomes pure efficiency and no soul.

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    • There are many gyms in Hong Kong that can provide you private sessions. You can check out: https://www.onepersonaltraininghk.com/ http://www.sitpinyo.com/ Also at the mean time, you can also find some Muay Thai Blogs, that would also help you in your training, like: https://www.muay-thai-guy.com/blog/ https://www.muaythaicitizen.com/best-muay-thai-blogs/ https://evolve-mma.com/blog/category/muay-thai/ https://www.elitesports.com/blogs/news/tagged/muay-thai
    • February 06-2023 - Monday Afternoon 15:00 - 18:00 I'm realizing now that it won't be practical or necessary to post 2x or even 1x daily, so my updates won't be as frequent as originally planned.  Before the afternoon session I was able to eat lunch, prepare dinner, do laundry, and found an hour to lay down/relax. My favorite snack right now is banana-egg-roti. I ordered two today, one to have with lunch, and another to be saved for after dinner. The roti shop shares a wall with one of the vegan buffets I like, so I can eat at both places at the same time and get takeaway for later.  The weather in Udon has been very mild and pleasant up until yesterday when the humidity and temperature got turned up. Today was a bit tough for me because of that. Me and five others went out for a 2km walk and 2km run around the lake. There are several well maintained lakes/parks to run around in this town, and the air quality is quite good by Thai standards. The gym was a bit busier this afternoon, with 8 training, and 4 holding pads. A good 2:1 ratio. After the run, I stretched, skipped rope for 10-minutes, 5 x 3-minute rounds on pads, 5 x 3-minute rounds on heavy bag (kicks and teeps), 15-minutes clinching, air squats, pullups, pushups, situps, neck curls, stretching. Today is the first day I didn't spar. Kik had me doing jump knees again and I about had to tap out from those as my right knee developed a tender lump, and my left quad has deep bruising. I'm learning to push through the pain. He's still not happy with my punch/jab motion, so fine-tuning that continues to be a top priority. Since verbal communication is limited in the gym, I've started supplementing my learning by reading muay thai text books in the effort to pickup ideas to bring into the gym. Currently reading 'Muay Thai Unleashed' by Erich Krauss. and have found it helpful. Anyone have other book suggestions? 
    • February 06-2023 - Monday Morning 07:00 - 09:00 Good start to the week. Awake and out of the door at 06:50a, and at the gym by 07:00a. I really should be arriving to the gym by 06:30 to start the day with 30-minute run, but I'll admit, recently have been neglecting this. Instead, I began with my usual warmup of 15-minutes skipping + 10-minute full body stretch.  There were 4 of us training this morning with the 1 instructor. After warmup, I sparred for 3-rounds with same person who I had only met briefly sometime last week. Not knowing much about him or his skill level, we felt each other out with light kicks and punch combinations. His idea of light sparring was a bid harder than what I had in mind, which became clear when he landed a roundhouse kick to my temple with a bit of force. I reeled back smiling with a hand gesture pushing to the floor while saying 'Sabai', reminding him to go easy, to which he responded by rolling his eyes. In general, he wasn't very warm to me throughout class. We went 2-rounds with gloves and shin guards, followed by 1-round boxing with gloves only, no kicking. He landed some good combinations on me with a bit more power than I'm used to receiving, which is helping increase my confidence and comfort with standing in a guarded position taking shots. I'm becoming less timid/afraid of being hit and hitting back. Landing a clean jab to his chin felt good in response to a hook he got me with. After sparring, I went 5, 3-minutes rounds on the pads throwing simple combinations. Kik seems to enjoy having me do jump knees. With my hands locked at his neck/traps, he counts to 50, switching pads every 10, shouting suun, nueng, saawng, saam, sii, haa, hok, jet, bpaaet, gao, sib... 1-10 in thai. He has a pleasant high-pitched voice and the melodic rhythm of the counting helps distract from fatigue and soreness as knee/quad become increasingly battered from repetitive smacking against the pad. My leg muscles have become noticeably harder, stronger and thicker from all the kicking/kneeing. Immediately after the jump knees, he'll point at one of the boys standing against the ropes to have him come in and clinch. This is tough for me right now because I'll be gassed from hitting pads and a stronger, more rested person will come manhandle me in the clinch for a minute followed by more kicks and punches on the pads and ending with 10 punching sit-ups with trainer stepping on tops of feet. I'm being pushed pretty close to my limit with each training session and have found the bar moves higher with each session. The rapid improvement from near daily training has been fun to experience, but it's clear I have a long road ahead to reach the skill and conditioning level of my peers. After padwork, I moved to the heavy bag for 3-rounds; push kicks, low/high kicks, hand combinations. Finished session with neck conditioning, pullups, bodyweight squats, cooldown, stretch. Paid 3,000baht for another week unlimited training. My goal for this week is to not miss a session, train 2x/day Monday-Saturday, 12 sessions total. For those wondering about cost of living here, training works out to 250baht/session or 500baht/day, motorbike rental is 250baht/day, and apartment is 432baht/day. I'm eating a lot right now trying to gain a bit of weight, so my food cost is approx. 500baht/day. I don't drink alcohol, but do smoke weed. Main expenses total ~1700-2000baht/day or ~$50-65/day. Therefore, a realistic budget for me is $1,500-2,000 USD/month to live the comfortable, but not excessive lifestyle I have here. If someone was willing to eat less, live at the gym, borrow a bike from the gym, not smoke weed or alcohol, you could train here for much much cheaper. I'm just not willing to make those sacrifices. I'm vegetarian and struggle at times to find good food options in Thailand. They like to eat their meat with a side of seafood here, so it can be challenging at times to add diversity to my diet despite being able to explain myself in thai. Fortunately, there are three buffet style thai-chinese vegan restaurants near each other here in Udon Thani. After every training session I go to one of the three for a meal. I've become a regular at all of them. The food is delicious and people all very friendly. There's also a few western chains like Burger King who has a plant-based burger that I've been a long time fan of as someone who has driven across the USA many times. My daily food budget is quite a bit higher on the days where I have western food.  Afternoon training begins at 15:00 and I plan to start with a run with the rest of the crew. In the meantime, I'll do laundry, have lunch, and rest.    
  • The Latest From Open Topics Forum

    • Hi, I am organizing Muay Thai fights in Kenya to build the sport here and give fighters more opportunities. Would I need to be affiliated with an international Muay Thai body to sanction all the fights? Which would be the best Muay Thai organisation to register with? I would appreciate any advice on this. Thank you  
    • It is recommended that you should rest 1 month approximately, after having an eye surgery. I know that you are very very keen about your training. That's the best spirit in you. But at this time I recommend you to rest at least 1 month and if you fear that you may not forget Boxing, I recommend you 2 read books and blogs about Boxing. That'll help you keep in touch with Boxing.
    • Sparring was each day, it's part of the training, also each day you go the bagwork and the pads, so i don't know where you got that idea from.  You never go  without hiting the pads or having spar in the Thailand, unless you're in a really bad comercial gym, but the spar there is way different than in other countries, you develop technique there and go sparr without power, by either legs, hands or clinch, depending on the day . As for technique, they always correct you and try to teach it the correct way, they made a good amount of adjustments in my kicking techniques, sweeps and clinch while i was there, i didn't go into such small details because it would take a whole book to write about how much small things they see and try to work on that. Also i don't think you fully read what i wrote in the blogs, because i don't really remember now all the things i wrote, it was a long time ago, but i went on and re-read the first day i wrote, and it already said i did a lot of pads and clinch , knees and elbows , so i don't know where you got the idea that i didn't do pad work. 
    • Hey mate sorry for bumping old thread, im thinking bout going to Manop for 3 months in nov-dec-jan. Everything you described in your posts are what i'm looking for, but there was some things bothering me.   1) From what I read you barely got to spar? Sparring is a huge deal and important for me.. Why didn't you get to spar in the beginning? 2) You seem to spent ALOT of time hitting the bag, why didnt you get more pad-time in the beginning of your training? I really don't know your level and it was hard to tell from the fight 3) (Probably most important) How are they on instructions? Do they correct your technique? how much do they emphesise on that? Do they teach you proper form, sweeps, techniques, tricks, etc? cause from your posts it seemed like you were on your own pretty much the entire stay     Cheers!
    • I'll recommend Elite Sports, Yokkao and Fairtex.
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