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Sylvie's Origin Story - Becoming Visible

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I look at this photo and I cannot help but feel that I'm looking at Sylvie's origin story. This exact moment, this Joker's bathroom scene. In truth there is no origin moment, and in reality this was just a moment in the flow of things, but seeing it frozen here, photographically, it bends back through time and founds itself. It's that she is looking at herself, and taking herself in, as a whole, wearing the Frankenstein scars of her recreation, made by Muay Thai, and she does not shrink back. She is incorporated anew, almost literally. The backstory to this moment is that she was booked on a Yokkao fight. What a huge promotional name at the time for a 100 lb fighter who had been mixing it up in the North, fighting at documented rates no fighter ever had before, just pounding the local, very active Thai circuit for 2 years in the country. You can see her record here. She was making history already then, but she was nobody. She had a few passionate supporters, those that had followed her journey from Master K's New Jersey basement on YouTube, but on the face of Muay Thai itself, she was just another female fighter somewhere in Thailand. We were exploring moving down to Pattaya to get more serious training from Sakmongkol, and maybe better clinch training from a little gym filled with Thai boys, but had not made the move yet. Sylvie was a "clinch fighter" at the time, but honestly didn't really know how to clinch yet, and wasn't getting much clinch training back in the North. She was fighting, she was winning, but it was largely just will-power and determination, not really knowing. Suddenly she got an offer through an Italian connection in Pattaya to fight on Yokkao. Wow, okay. The fight was at 46 kg, but then suddenly it was at 48 kg. We didn't care. Sylvie just fought everyone. Giving up weight to someone we didn't know, not arguing for - or having someone leverage for us - small advantages wasn't and isn't our thing. "They change the name, they change the shorts" in the Wanderlei Silva way, something she really embraces. Turns out, she's fighting one of the best female fighters in Thailand over the past 5 years, Lommanee. We had no idea. Giving a few more pounds, huh. Sylvie was diced by Lommanee's infamous lead elbow, and experienced a transformation. This happened on several levels. One, its very difficult to give up significant weight vs elite fighters. Sylvie just wasn't there yet. There heart was there, but she wasn't formed. Secondly, her bloody face zoomed and bounced off satellites and ran through the Muay Thai world. As the Yokkao commentators made protective sexist comments about this worrisomely happening to "a girl", her asking the doctor to let the fight go on with blood streaming down her face became, right then, a kind of superpower of dignity. Sylvie writes about this experience of suddenly being seen here: Can Bleed Like a Man – Lumpinee, Muay Thai, Culture, Sexism and Meme


A fighter has to be seen in order to exist, because fighting is a display, a performance before the public eye. It is an art that involves peak human states taken on so as to pull the public in. A fighter who is not seen is not a fighter, in a certain way. This is the first time that Sylvie was actually seen. To this day people tell her they know her from this fight, sometimes even thinking that it happened recently. But she is being bathed in the blood of public vision. She is being born into existence, as a fighter, in an origin sort of way. With 269 fights, the cusp of 200 fights beyond this her 70th, and 218 stitches taken to the face, this was her origin, when she stepped into blood. It's not the first time she's bled, but it's the first time the blood covered her, and she was seen. It's honestly a horrible moment on the face of it. It's embarrassing to be cut in any fight. It's embarrassing to just be out mastered in the ring. There is a well one can fall in with a loss like this, a dark, colluding well. But Sylvie has just incredible resilience, a kind of Phoenix power. Like complex comic book heroes (or villains) she walks with her extreme discomfort and shame like one walks with a shadow. She was seen. She walked with blood. I've known and loved her for a long time now, and I don't fully understand the powers of her endurance and transformation, I wrote a little about in 2016 here, but somehow this fight and that she was seen, bloodied, constituted her as a fighter, assembled her. The epic journalistic Muay Thai Library documentary project was but a flicker of a thought in the future, her years of struggling in the clinch in the training ring were before her, her friendship with legends of the sport, fights upon fights taking on massive weight disadvantages, beating World Champions out of her weight class, all before here...but here she had kind of Madame Bathory'd herself, and embraced herself as a new, imperfect, constructed, hardened, dreaming new thing. A force of fighting.

It did not happen at the exact moment when the photo was taken before the mirror, above. But it was happening then. You can see it in her eyes. She is taking all of herself in. There is no shrinking back, no concerned examination. She sees the whole thing of herself. The Yokkao broadcast and all the subsequent images that flowed from it was when she was seen, but that was not the origin. It was when in the aftermath of that blood, those stitches, she saw herself.

The path she walks to this day is extremely dangerous. That moment in the mirror was the consummate, retroactively imbued moment of origin...perhaps, but from that origin, from who she began in her embrace became a very difficult climb. It's a quite vertical climb up a rockface where honestly no one has taken hand holds or foot holds before. It began then, but it was only the first day. Since then being seen, and seeing yourself has become the weaving on a loom, back and forth, getting into the ring and bathing oneself in violence hundreds of times. I recall one of the variations of the origin story of Achilles, the near invulnerable epitome warrior of Homeric Greece. The goddess Thetis is said to have thrown her off-spring into the fire upon birth, each time, until she found one that was impervious from her divinity. In some sense, this is what fighting is. The exposure of the flesh to the fire that burns it until you find some composition of the self which remains unburned, unconsumed. I look at that photo at the top of this article and I see that composition. I see that body of herself that takes all of herself in, the stitches of her transformation. Origin Story.


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