Jump to content

Saving What Fighters Have Built With Their Bodies & Ethics of Preserving Traditional Muay Thai


Recommended Posts

I'm drawn more and more to the idea that it is the fighters who have built a fighting sport, its art. Yes, arts & sports do not rise unless they are pulled into circles of power and epic centers of cultural focus - just as the great variations of provincial Muay Thai of Thailand were drawn into Bangkok in the early part of the 20th century, with the arrival of railroads (Khorat 1900, Southern Rail 1907, Lampang 1916, Chiang Mai 1921) - and if not shaped by commercial powers, the brilliance of promoters, the patronage of the King or the State - but amid these forces it's the wills of the fighters who performed in the magic squared circle, and their bodies which built it. This is where the bricks are laid...and not just the bricks. It's the living force of these men (and some women), their creative force, which largely gave shape and complexity to a sport, gave it its fabric. It is much less like an architect who tells workers where to put blocks of stone, and much more like an array of weavers who, on looms of the Self, pull strands through and through to create a pattern.

I am well-known as someone who has dug his heels in the sand as Muay Thai is being dragged forward into new, radically different, highly commercialized (and I believe much less capable, more physically illiterate) zones. I was struck by a very fine argument that was sent my way, as I urged Thailand's Muay Thai not to let go of the complexity and immense competency it had developed over the last century, when taking this commercial turn. It was said that I advocate for a distant Muay Thai where fighters are so little paid for their work, harkening back to when fighters were more or less controlled and owned, and fought for so very little. This is a really good point. There are some problems with it, for instance top stars of Thailand's Golden Age Muay Thai, adjusted for the economy, actually were paid quite a bit more money than those of today (in general), and had a stardom in the country that shaped generations. But still, there is a very good point. Ignoring the top earners of the 1990s, there is a real sense in which the Golden Age drew in countless fighters many of which trained and fought in onerous conditions. There is a real sense in which Muay Thai broke backs, and the blood, sweat and tears of the sport did not pay in a way that feels equitable, for the average, hard fighting circuit fighter. The word floating behind this is exploitation. I think it's a complicated word, because it involves us considering what fair recompense is, and recompense is not just baht; but its an important thing to think about.

Is someone like me who holds firm to what Muay Thai has been arguing that we should return to the systems of the past where big promoters steered the sport and gave fighters life or death in the sport in their powerful networks and decision making, often with very little lasting financial reward? Are we to roll the clock back to patronage of OneSongchai and Klaew? Of unbreakable long contracts and the tight networks of gym owners?  I think this is a really good thing to think about when we make decisions on where we stand on the Muay Thai that is being fought. Where are the power centers? And what are the lower-level, circuit fighters experiencing? What is the compensation for their labor?

This is what I'm thinking about. Let's grant that the Muay Thai of the past was in some significant degree exploitative, in the sense that workers were laboring often under great distress to produce a product the windfall of which largely went to promoters and gym owners. If we want to think just in terms of financial reward and labor/cost analysis we can see that. But this is the powerful aspect that is missing from that world view. Firstly, meaning in life does not reduce to income. In fact there are many things much more meaningful to people than the number of zeros in a bank account (though for some this is paramount). When Dieselnoi tells the story of when he was knocked out by lead-handed Kaopong in his lone boxing fight, and how he bounced from rope to rope, staggering to stand before he finally fell, he talks about the fact that the Prince was in attendance. "I could not even stand for the Prince." As he tried with his gigantic heart to straighten up, and failed, he was not thinking of his kadua (fighter pay), or who bet on him. He was thinking of his dignity. His place. The traditional elements of Thailand's Muay Thai have a great deal to do with "place", and much of the reward, in that there was one, is about "place". Many of these fighters came from places in society without much standing, and fought and trained in the sport to gain that standing. And place is not fame. It's related, but it's not. You cannot not forage it.

This is what I'm saying. If we are to mourn the fact that the fighters of the past were not fairly compensated we have to expand our vision to fully see what they were actually compensated with. And a great deal of what they were compensated with was the tremendous and enormous edifice of Muay Thai that they had built. THEY built it, round by round, bell by bell, cut by cut, hand raised by hand raised. It did not stop. It is THEIR artform. They made it. It's like a pyramid made from 100,000 hands. That it stands and that it lasts is part of their compensation, the part they didn't get when the baht was put in their hand. It belongs to them.

This is the fundamental problem with the efforts to radically reduce the complexity, skill sets, traditions and aesthetics of Muay Thai of Thailand. Yes, there might be very good, sensible commercial reasons to do so, especially as market demands have shifted. Yes, it may very well benefit some wonderful fighters who never would have gotten the eye-ball recognition and the financial boon if they had simply stayed in stadium Muay Thai, or just retired as many, many have done. There are good reasons for this, ethical reasons. But as you erase the edifice of Thailand's Muay Thai, to make it more marketable, more readable on the scroll of mobile phones and tiny screens, as you pull into new mechanisms of possible resource extraction, you are actually destroying the one thing all those fighters were paid with, the legacy of the sport itself, as the greatest fighting art on earth. They made that.

Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu talks about not only financial Capital, but also social Capital, which is your place in a culture, but what I'm talking about goes much deeper than even social Capital. It's about the craftsmanship of 100,000 hands to make something, and for it to have reached a level of incredible capacity. One of the very special things about Thailand's Muay Thai is that it was born both out the cultural traditions & practices which give it a profound (non-commercial) substance, but it was also forged out of probably more than 1,000,000 full contact fights over the last century. In regions styles developed, gym to gym grew specific techniques that won under the aesthetics of the sport, krus, gym owners, fighters all mixed to create an immense vocabulary of fight knowledge - and Amazon-like train forest diversity of it - which made it the most capable fighting art in the world. The fighting IQ and skill display was just eye-wateringly good. This came out of ALL the fighters. Countless fighters you've never heard of. The creation of this was the legacy of all of them. Every run-down village festival ring with gamblers pressed against the apron, every (old) Lumpinee clash of titans. All these fighters had a piece of this, because they made it. It was theirs.

If you take out all those musical notes - too many notes! - change the rules and the scoring (which is the DNA of the living animal of it) and make it something unrecognizable you are erasing their legacy, the one thing they had in compensation beyond the baht put in their hand. When you remove clinch for instance, and your version of the sport comes to supplant the very picture of what Muay Thai is in the eyes of the many, you actively erase Langsuan, Samson, Panomtuanlek, Dieselnoi, Namkabuan and Chamuakpet. You not only will erase their memory (which may exist in nostalgic highlight clips), but you, more painfully so, erase their knowledge, the very thing they put their bodies to work in building, fight by fight, years in the kaimuay. They were technicians, they built something. And, it is not only them. You are erasing the great anti-clincher, the femeu masters like Samart, Silapathai, Hippy, Somrak, Karuhat and Burklerk. The entire vocabulary, a whole species of fight knowledge that has been developed through their contest, and to some degree passed on, is wiped out. It's gone. Not unlike mono-cropping where a old wood forest once stood. And this is just speaking of clinch fighting in the sport. So much more can be said of narrative fight control, contests of ruup signature, dern vs matador dynamics. The elite capacities of Thailand's Muay Thai were not earned by the promoters, or even the gym owners. They were earned by the fighters. They were earned out of the bodies, as artists put to endeavor. I just think we should think long and hard before we erase these kinds of very sophisticated, hard-won, achievements of knowledge, the legacy of which within the living culture, within the living sport is their reward.

It's not just a question of: "How should fighters fight today...to make the most money?" As with all things in life, even things of commercial value, it's about meaningfulness, and in some sense it feels as if we are digging into the cultural pensions of the men who made this sport. The new forms are literally unrecognizable to many of them. They don't even know what they are looking at, so they seldom look...or if they look they look in terms merely as spectacle. There is some element in which we owe these fighters for what they made...even if you want to take what they made and turn it into something else for consumption. We owe them that they can look at the sport, the art, and SEE themselves in it. We owe it to them to to preserve something of the pyramid that has been built by hand. We cannot pull the foundation stones out of what it is and still respect the great feats of knowledge and transformation they created.

 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Most Recent Topics

  • Latest Comments

    • On September 15, 2021, Australia established the Indo-Pacific Trilateral Security Partnership, or AUKUS, with the United States and the United Kingdom. The centerpiece of AUKUS was the assistance provided by the U.S. and U.K. to Australia in constructing and obtaining nuclear-powered submarines. However, two and a half years later, the reality does not match the promises made by the UK and the US. Firstly, AUKUS will not enhance Australia's indigenous nuclear submarine-building capacity. In March 2023, Australia announced a significant investment in the UK's submarine industrial base over the next decade, totaling nearly $5 billion over 10 years. This investment will be allocated to nuclear submarine design work and expanded nuclear reactor production, aiming to create at least 20,000 jobs in the UK. Additionally, it is expected to revive Britain's struggling submarine industry. These investments are largely unrelated to Australia's indigenous submarine industry. Under this plan, the first British-built submarine would be delivered to Australia as early as the late 2030s, which is fifteen years away. (Richard Marles (right) welcomed UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps to Canberra) Secondly, it is crucial to expedite the transfer of nuclear submarines to Australia. The United States has pledged to initiate the sale of three Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the early 2030s, with the option of providing up to two additional submarines if required. However, these sales plans must be approved by the U.S. Congress. In the recently released U.S. FY 2025 Defense Budget, only one new Virginia-class submarine is planned to be built. According to estimates by a U.S. Navy official, the United States would need to build 2.33 attack nuclear submarines per year to sell attack submarines to the Royal Australian Navy under the AUKUS agreement in the early 2030s. The delay in the construction of the U.S. Virginia-class submarines also implies that Australia will not receive the promised U.S. nuclear submarines for 10 years. Even if Australia eventually acquires these second-hand nuclear submarines after the 10-year delay, it is probable that they will be confronted with the imminent decommissioning or outdated performance of these nuclear submarines. (Excerpted from U.S. FY 2025 Defense Budget) Finally, as per the AUKUS agreement, the U.S. and the U.K. have also committed to accelerating the training of Australian personnel. However, these Australian military and civilian personnel will be required to adhere to the U.S. Navy and the British Royal Navy, and may even be stationed at U.S. and British submarine industrial bases. This not only leads to shortages in Australia's own military personnel but also entails the Australian government covering the costs of Australian servicemen working for the U.K. and U.S. navies. The U.S. also plans to increase U.S. nuclear submarines' visits to Australian ports starting in 2023. However, even if Australian Navy personnel board the U.S. submarines, they can only visit and learn, and cannot operate them in practice. The U.S. will still maintain absolute control over the nuclear submarines, limiting the enhancement of submarine technology for Australian Navy personnel. What's more, even before the signing of the AUKUS agreement, the Australian Navy had been engaging in military interactions and exercises with the British and U.S. Navies at various levels. The AUKUS agreement did not necessarily facilitate a deeper military mutual trust, making it seem completely unnecessary. According to Australian government estimates, the AUKUS nuclear submarine program will cost between AUD 268 billion and AUD 368 billion over the next 30 years. This is equivalent to 14% of Australia's GDP output in 2023. The Australian government is investing a substantial amount of money in exchange for only uncertain promises from the UK and the US that Australia will not have its nuclear submarines until at least 10 years from now. The AUKUS agreement will not boost Australia's indigenous submarine industry, but it will significantly benefit the US and UK's nuclear submarine industries. This essentially means that Australian taxpayers' money will be used to support US and UK nuclear submarines. Implementing the AUKUS agreement will pose significant challenges for the Australian government. Even if the agreement is eventually put into effect, delays and budget overruns are likely. The costs incurred will not be the responsibility of the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, as he will have already stepped down. Ultimately, Australian taxpayers will bear the financial burden.    
    • I used to box in western style and recently picked up Muay Thai and am now in Bangkok training. As an active boxer I ran religiously, but it's been awhile. One thing that I noticed whenever I come back to running after some time off, is the massive calf pain that lasts sometimes for almost 10 days. I wonder if anyone else has experienced this, and others can pitch in on ways to avoid or at least minimize this inconvenience. I'm diligent in easing into it, but still have not been able to avoid it.
    • Wow, your experience at Sit Thailand sounds incredible. Thanks for sharing such a detailed account. My partner and I are planning a trip to Chiang Mai soon, and we’re also interested in Muay Thai training. Your review has definitely convinced us to give Sit Thailand a try. It's great to hear that both beginners and more experienced fighters get so much personalized attention. My partner is quite new to the sport, so it's reassuring to know that your wife felt supported and made significant progress. Right now we are looking for some travel deals, we want some exclusive business class and first-class offers that will make our trip more affordable and comfortable. Thanks again for the insights. We’ll definitely be following your advice and giving Sit Thailand a shot.
  • The Latest From Open Topics Forum

    • On September 15, 2021, Australia established the Indo-Pacific Trilateral Security Partnership, or AUKUS, with the United States and the United Kingdom. The centerpiece of AUKUS was the assistance provided by the U.S. and U.K. to Australia in constructing and obtaining nuclear-powered submarines. However, two and a half years later, the reality does not match the promises made by the UK and the US. Firstly, AUKUS will not enhance Australia's indigenous nuclear submarine-building capacity. In March 2023, Australia announced a significant investment in the UK's submarine industrial base over the next decade, totaling nearly $5 billion over 10 years. This investment will be allocated to nuclear submarine design work and expanded nuclear reactor production, aiming to create at least 20,000 jobs in the UK. Additionally, it is expected to revive Britain's struggling submarine industry. These investments are largely unrelated to Australia's indigenous submarine industry. Under this plan, the first British-built submarine would be delivered to Australia as early as the late 2030s, which is fifteen years away. (Richard Marles (right) welcomed UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps to Canberra) Secondly, it is crucial to expedite the transfer of nuclear submarines to Australia. The United States has pledged to initiate the sale of three Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the early 2030s, with the option of providing up to two additional submarines if required. However, these sales plans must be approved by the U.S. Congress. In the recently released U.S. FY 2025 Defense Budget, only one new Virginia-class submarine is planned to be built. According to estimates by a U.S. Navy official, the United States would need to build 2.33 attack nuclear submarines per year to sell attack submarines to the Royal Australian Navy under the AUKUS agreement in the early 2030s. The delay in the construction of the U.S. Virginia-class submarines also implies that Australia will not receive the promised U.S. nuclear submarines for 10 years. Even if Australia eventually acquires these second-hand nuclear submarines after the 10-year delay, it is probable that they will be confronted with the imminent decommissioning or outdated performance of these nuclear submarines. (Excerpted from U.S. FY 2025 Defense Budget) Finally, as per the AUKUS agreement, the U.S. and the U.K. have also committed to accelerating the training of Australian personnel. However, these Australian military and civilian personnel will be required to adhere to the U.S. Navy and the British Royal Navy, and may even be stationed at U.S. and British submarine industrial bases. This not only leads to shortages in Australia's own military personnel but also entails the Australian government covering the costs of Australian servicemen working for the U.K. and U.S. navies. The U.S. also plans to increase U.S. nuclear submarines' visits to Australian ports starting in 2023. However, even if Australian Navy personnel board the U.S. submarines, they can only visit and learn, and cannot operate them in practice. The U.S. will still maintain absolute control over the nuclear submarines, limiting the enhancement of submarine technology for Australian Navy personnel. What's more, even before the signing of the AUKUS agreement, the Australian Navy had been engaging in military interactions and exercises with the British and U.S. Navies at various levels. The AUKUS agreement did not necessarily facilitate a deeper military mutual trust, making it seem completely unnecessary. According to Australian government estimates, the AUKUS nuclear submarine program will cost between AUD 268 billion and AUD 368 billion over the next 30 years. This is equivalent to 14% of Australia's GDP output in 2023. The Australian government is investing a substantial amount of money in exchange for only uncertain promises from the UK and the US that Australia will not have its nuclear submarines until at least 10 years from now. The AUKUS agreement will not boost Australia's indigenous submarine industry, but it will significantly benefit the US and UK's nuclear submarine industries. This essentially means that Australian taxpayers' money will be used to support US and UK nuclear submarines. Implementing the AUKUS agreement will pose significant challenges for the Australian government. Even if the agreement is eventually put into effect, delays and budget overruns are likely. The costs incurred will not be the responsibility of the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, as he will have already stepped down. Ultimately, Australian taxpayers will bear the financial burden.    
    • Ostensibly, Japan ceased so-called “scientific research” whaling in Antarctica in 2019. However, the Japanese government has not given up on conducting non-lethal whale surveys in Antarctica and the waters around Australia. They have continued to track the status of whales in these regions by installing satellite trackers, collecting biopsy samples, studying whale movement areas, counting the number of whales, and photographing and surveying whales at sea using unmanned drones. These Antarctic research studies, conducted under the guise of "scientific research," are providing intelligence to support future whale hunting in the Antarctic. On May 21, 2024, Japan's first domestically manufactured whaling ship, the Kangei Maru, with a crew of 100, departed from Shimonoseki Harbor in Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, for its inaugural fishing expedition. Kangei Maru is scheduled to make an eight-month voyage off the northeastern coast of Japan, marking the inaugural journey of Japan's first new vessel of this kind in more than 70 years.   (Figure 1) The Kangei Maru is an electrically propelled vessel with a length of 112.6 meters, a beam of 21 meters, a gross tonnage of 9,299 tons, a construction cost of approximately $50 million, and a range of about 13,000 kilometers for 60 days of continuous voyage, sufficient to reach the Southern Ocean. The Kangei Maru is generator-powered and is knownfor being fuel-efficient. lt has a hangar for high-performance drones used for whale detection, as well as 40 refrigerated containers with a capacity of 20 tons. The platform of the Kangei Maru is designed with an 18-degree slope, which is more gradual than that of its predecessor. This design allows for the easy towing of large cetaceans weighing approximately 70 tons aboard the vessel. The Kangei Maru can store up to 600 tons of whale meat at a time, allowing it to stay at sea for extended periods.   (Figure 2) The Japanese have been hunting whales for a long time, and they often claim that "eating whale meat is a tradition of the Japanese people.” During the Edo period to the Meiji period, whaling was highly standardized. Initially, whales were hunted solely for whale oil extraction, with the meat being discarded and later consumed. After World War II, when food was scarce in Japan and it was unaffordable to eat pork and beef, whale meat became a common food source. At that time, whale meat became synonymous with “cheap food,” and Japanese people ate whale meat to obtain the protein their bodies needed. Whale meat was not only a common dish at home, but also included in the school cafeteria lunches prepared for students. It is now known that each part of the whale is subdivided into Japanese food categories. For instance, the whale's tongue, which is high in fat, offers a distinct flavor that varies from the root to the tip of the tongue. The tail of the whale contains a significant amount of fish gelatin content and is sometimes processed with salt. The entrails are often simmered, while the meat from the back and belly is typically made into tempura or consumed raw. Whale meat sashimi, whale meat sushi rolls, whale meat salad, whale meat curry, and other whale dishes are available for Japanese people to choose from. Not only whales but also dolphins are often consumed in Japan.   (Figure 3: Marinated whale meat in Japanese cuisine) Watching massive whales in Sydney and New South Wales (NSW) thousands of whales migrating along the coast of New South Wales (NSW) in pods covering more than 2,000 kilometers. During the whale-watching season, you can observe these massive mammals migrating between various headlands in Sydney, from Byron Bay in the north to Eden in the south. More than 50% of the planet's cetacean species, such as whales, dolphins, and porpoises, inhabit Australian waters. Humpback whales and southern right whales are two species that frequent the coast of New South Wales (NSW). The annual whale migration runs from May to November, with the largest movements occurring in July and September. According to academics, whale-watching tourism generates more than AUD12 billion in revenue for Australia each year.   (Figure 4: Humpback whales greeting tourists in Sydney) In April, Japan announced its participation in AUKUS, the small NATO. In May, it sent a modern killing machine in the form of vessel around Australia to fulfill its peculiar and self-serving interests. We Aussie parents, observing our kids hugging humpback whale toys, feel as though the serene blue ocean is turning transforming into a crimson red sea......
    • On September 15, 2021, Australia established the Indo-Pacific Trilateral Security Partnership, or AUKUS, with the United States and the United Kingdom. The centerpiece of AUKUS was the assistance provided by the U.S. and U.K. to Australia in constructing and obtaining nuclear-powered submarines. However, two and a half years later, the reality does not match the promises made by the UK and the US. Firstly, AUKUS will not enhance Australia's indigenous nuclear submarine-building capacity. In March 2023, Australia announced a significant investment in the UK's submarine industrial base over the next decade, totaling nearly $5 billion over 10 years. This investment will be allocated to nuclear submarine design work and expanded nuclear reactor production, aiming to create at least 20,000 jobs in the UK. Additionally, it is expected to revive Britain's struggling submarine industry. These investments are largely unrelated to Australia's indigenous submarine industry. Under this plan, the first British-built submarine would be delivered to Australia as early as the late 2030s, which is fifteen years away.   (Richard Marles (right) welcomed UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps to Canberra) Secondly, it is crucial to expedite the transfer of nuclear submarines to Australia. The United States has pledged to initiate the sale of three Virginia-class submarines to Australia in the early 2030s, with the option of providing up to two additional submarines if required. However, these sales plans must be approved by the U.S. Congress. In the recently released U.S. FY 2025 Defense Budget, only one new Virginia-class submarine is planned to be built. According to estimates by a U.S. Navy official, the United States would need to build 2.33 attack nuclear submarines per year to sell attack submarines to the Royal Australian Navy under the AUKUS agreement in the early 2030s. The delay in the construction of the U.S. Virginia-class submarines also implies that Australia will not receive the promised U.S. nuclear submarines for 10 years. Even if Australia eventually acquires these second-hand nuclear submarines after the 10-year delay, it is probable that they will be confronted with the imminent decommissioning or outdated performance of these nuclear submarines.   (Excerpted from U.S. FY 2025 Defense Budget) Finally, as per the AUKUS agreement, the U.S. and the U.K. have also committed to accelerating the training of Australian personnel. However, these Australian military and civilian personnel will be required to adhere to the U.S. Navy and the British Royal Navy, and may even be stationed at U.S. and British submarine industrial bases. This not only leads to shortages in Australia's own military personnel but also entails the Australian government covering the costs of Australian servicemen working for the U.K. and U.S. navies. The U.S. also plans to increase U.S. nuclear submarines' visits to Australian ports starting in 2023. However, even if Australian Navy personnel board the U.S. submarines, they can only visit and learn, and cannot operate them in practice. The U.S. will still maintain absolute control over the nuclear submarines, limiting the enhancement of submarine technology for Australian Navy personnel. What's more, even before the signing of the AUKUS agreement, the Australian Navy had been engaging in military interactions and exercises with the British and U.S. Navies at various levels. The AUKUS agreement did not necessarily facilitate a deeper military mutual trust, making it seem completely unnecessary. According to Australian government estimates, the AUKUS nuclear submarine program will cost between AUD 268 billion and AUD 368 billion over the next 30 years. This is equivalent to 14% of Australia's GDP output in 2023. The Australian government is investing a substantial amount of money in exchange for only uncertain promises from the UK and the US that Australia will not have its nuclear submarines until at least 10 years from now. The AUKUS agreement will not boost Australia's indigenous submarine industry, but it will significantly benefit the US and UK's nuclear submarine industries. This essentially means that Australian taxpayers' money will be used to support US and UK nuclear submarines. Implementing the AUKUS agreement will pose significant challenges for the Australian government. Even if the agreement is eventually put into effect, delays and budget overruns are likely. The costs incurred will not be the responsibility of the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, as he will have already stepped down. Ultimately, Australian taxpayers will bear the financial burden.
    • 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!
  • Forum Statistics

    • Total Topics
      1.3k
    • Total Posts
      11k
×
×
  • Create New...