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Tiffany Van Soest left unpaid by Lion Fight, now selling her belt.

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She's not the first unpaid fighter I know of. I also know they've not been as great with accomodations as they could be. I won't name names as I am only the friend and/or teammate in this situation. Highly disappointing.

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Was this a forcing move? I never saw an actual link to an auction.

It just may be that the economics behind profession Muay Thai promotion in the US just are not there. Lion Fight has been trying to make Muay Thai work for a long time. I can't imagine they are stuffing their pockets at this point, and letting all their relationships die off. There literally must be no money.

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I have known shows that have made a loss but have still paid the fighters on the night.  I think it's incredibly hard to make much money for Muay Thai shows or even those that put on a mix of boxing and Muay Thai.

 

I am glad she has been paid

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I have known shows that have made a loss but have still paid the fighters on the night. 

 

It's hard to compare shows I think. We can't know the finances and relationships at stake. Hey, I'd be pissed if Sylvie wasn't paid in a timely fashion, but I presume that Lion Fight has made decisions to pay certain expenses, and delay others. How do we criticize these harshly? We don't really have very much information. Are people claiming incompetence? Fraud? Are there not stories of the UFC itself delaying fighter pay for long periods at times?

What I don't really understand is the level of some of the online vehemence that was behind the backlash on this? The only reason anyone knows Tiffany's name as a star, in the first place, is probably because of Lion Fight itself...no? The anger towards Lion Fight (and maybe many people have reason to be angry, from personal experience), feels self-consuming. It's the community hating and devaluing the last significant Muay Thai show in the United States. If Lion Fight goes there is really nothing much else. Bellator is not Muay Thai. Glory is not Muay Thai. We should be slow to see Lion Fight fall.

That being said, there probably is more to this story than we know. When Tiffany (very quietly...I was surprised how silently she made the move) decided to move to Bali did Lion Fight feel betrayed, or that they were losing a star they helped create? Did they delay her pay on purpose? If so, maybe not smart. Bottom line though, it doesn't feel good that Lion Fight looks like it is struggling to stay afloat - that reversed decision was a fiasco. I believe Marq Piocos said that she's rumored to be going to Bellator now.

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no way! I hope she will make it into a promotion that PAYS her!! Lion Fight doesn't seem to care about the fighters...

I don't think it's fair to say they don't care about their fighters, they just don't have money. Yes, it's terrible business practice and yes it SUCKS for the fighters, but Lion Fight isn't lining their pockets with surplus while screwing over their fighters. They're struggling and trying to keep the shows going in order to recover. I won't defend them not paying their fighters, but I don't think it's because they're bad people. 

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I don't think it's fair to say they don't care about their fighters, they just don't have money. Yes, it's terrible business practice and yes it SUCKS for the fighters, but Lion Fight isn't lining their pockets with surplus while screwing over their fighters. They're struggling and trying to keep the shows going in order to recover. I won't defend them not paying their fighters, but I don't think it's because they're bad people. 

I hope they're not bad people, either. It just seems that the "big stars" of Lion Fight are not as enthusiastic about the promotion itself, so for me that's just the polite way of not talking about the bad stuff and just waiting things out while looking for better opportunities financially speaking. It would be great if the promotion could make ends meet for themselves as well as for the fighters.

Jorina Baars, also a Lion Fight Champ speaks practically nothing about Lion Fight, but speaks a lot about needing sponsors, fights and catching all oportunities that come her way besides Lion Fight...

I mean, I don't want to sound judgemental, beause I have no right to do so. Since I first heard about Lion Fight my opinion was not entirely "yay, Muay Thai show", rather "I have a weird feeling about it". Maybe it's just not my cup of tea, but surely, I wouldn't have heard about Tiffany or Jorina Baars if they wouldn't be Champs there ;) I hope they get everything together nicely!

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"I would like to address the fans and combat sports community of the concerns I recently raised regarding fighter-promter relations. I hope the issue highlighted the unfortunate scenario we face when promoters exploit fighters, which negatively impact on our lives.

I can confirm receipt of the outstanding payment from Lion Fight Promotions since the social media post. I do not intend to defame Lion Fight Promotions - they are coined "the best stand up promotion in America'' for a reason. Their growth and development for American Muay Thai speaks for itself. However, after seeking legal advice and numerous unreturned emails from Lion Fight demanding payment, I was left feeling heartbroken. My only option was to take matters into my own hands.

I hope this provided a platform for ALL fighters who put their hearts and souls into their careers, their bodies on the line yet still get the short end of the stick. We knowingly fight for small pay checks, but to not receive payment is just wrong. It’s simple – you do a job and get paid for it.

Hopefully there is light at the end of the tunnel for fighters in regards to promoters not paying within reasonable timescales. I would like to thank the fans and combat sports community for the overwhelming support and I hope you all continue to support Muay Thai in America."

 

I'm not sure how you avoid defaming a promotion by explicitly stating one sentence before that they exploit fighters. "Exploit" is a strong word, pretty much a word that is meant to defame. An exploitative promotion is one that nobody really wants to be a part of.

Aside from that non-sequitur though I'm a little divided on this. I do appreciate that she took things into her own hands. Fighters are largely locked into a Gym-Promoter power structure. Their images (and futures) are traditionally decided by their gyms, and by promotions. Social Media allows direct connections with fans, and creates a more immediate power. And Tiffany used that, and I applaud that (though she does not seem very active on social media since her move). I have no doubt that she had very little recourse other than this. But...Muay Thai's continued existence in North America, as a commercially viable product, is seriously threatened, even before this happened. If Lion Fight goes, it could very well mean that North American full rules Muay Thai itself will end, aside from very small local shows.

I think for people who LOVE Muay Thai, we don't see how incredibly niche it is in North America...that it is far more fragile than we imagine.

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If Lion Fight were to fall, wouldn't the market demand eventually create an organization in its place, the same way when K-1 fell its place was taken by Glory? The only potential issue I see is that many casual fans consider Muay Thai and Kickboxing the same thing so that demand might be channeled into a K-1 style promotion instead.

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If Lion Fight were to fall, wouldn't the market demand eventually create an organization in its place, the same way when K-1 fell its place was taken by Glory? The only potential issue I see is that many casual fans consider Muay Thai and Kickboxing the same thing so that demand might be channeled into a K-1 style promotion instead.

 If Lion Fight would fall I think it would be a pretty strong sign that Muay Thai is not commercially viable. They've been doing this for nearly a decade, have developed very strong business relationships and ties, have experimented with venues, sanctioning bodies, built up its own stars (Tiffany van Soest, Kevin Ross) and even gotten Thais fighting on the show. I'm not saying that it proves its not viable, but a new promotion would have to think that Lion Fight was doing something fundamentally wrong, something they could do quite a bit better, or they would just be throwing money away. I'm not sure what that wrong thing would be.

Bottom line is that the commercial viability of these promotions are parasitic on the UFC, that's how one is able to draw outside of an extremely niche, but very small fan base. And the truth is that K-1 or kickboxing is just closer to the UFC in aesthetic than Muay Thai is. John Wayne Parr tried to cheat the system a little by putting Muay Thai on in a cage with MMA gloves, and hey, maybe there is a way forward there. But that is NOT Muay Thai really.

You can see the UFC pressure being exhibited even in Thailand, with televised shows like MAX Muay Thai strongly distorting the rules/scoring, for a more spectacle-like, aggression-heavy show. If this is happening even in Thailand (because of the aging of the Muay Thai demographic, and the class-ism involved) it's sure to be the case all over the world. Lion Fight (or any promotion) is caught between the two directions of catering to a devoted "pure" Muay Thai that will sell local tickets to gyms, and becoming more and more like the UFC...which Muay Thai fundamentally is not.

I don't think there is market demand here, in an easy way.

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My impression is that the direction Lion Fight took is not the traditional Thai style, its the aggressive style but amplified beyond what you see in Europe and Australia. The aggression of their fights is very high. It leads me to believe the aggressive style is not a significant factor in the popularity. Perhaps its simply the aesthetics being similar to UFC.

 

I have a theory though and it goes like this: I think that the main factor is that their relative popularities are mostly the result of how they have been affected by the 90s cultural shift which created the fighting boom in Japan and the rise of the UFC in the West. Just as Muay Thai parasitizes the fan base of the UFC, Glory drew its fans from the remaining fans after the collapse of K-1, and gets the same crossover effect from the UFC. I imagine Buakaw has single handedly doubled the popularity of Muay Thai in the West through his success in K-1. Its like it creates a hierarchy of combat sports which are the most benefited from that time. It would look something like this:

 

1: MMA: benefited from both the rise of the UFC in America and the fighting boom in Japan. = popular

2: Kickboxing: benefited from the fighting boom in Japan, gets some crossover fans from MMA. = less than popular

3: Muay Thai: Did not directly benefit from either, but gets some crossover fans from both. = Not popular

4: Combat sports that benefit from neither and get no crossover from MMA or Kickboxing(e.g. Silat) = people have no idea what it is.

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 John Wayne Parr tried to cheat the system a little by putting Muay Thai on in a cage with MMA gloves, and hey, maybe there is a way forward there. But that is NOT Muay Thai really.

 

The question of CMT's legitimacy as Muay Thai is also an interesting topic. If my knowledge of Muay Thai history is correct, it originally was fought in a circular sandpit with the rope wraps instead of gloves. In these regards CMT would be more similar to the original art than is stadium Muay Thai. But if we think of the stadium Muay Thai as the standard, there are still a lot of grey areas about what is real Muay Thai. Like how Thai Fight puts on those kard chuek fights, is that really Muay Thai?

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I have a theory though and it goes like this: I think that the main factor is that their relative popularities are mostly the result of how they have been affected by the 90s cultural shift which created the fighting boom in Japan and the rise of the UFC in the West.

 

I'd say I pretty much agree with your breakdown, although the fighting boom in Japan was a bit ancillary. It created a hardcore niche fan base in the West, but the UFC really exploded because - in my opinion - it gave expressing to (largely white) male (middle and lower class) frustration. The sliding social power of the UFC demographic found potency in what the UFC was selling, something that felt like REAL fighting. Part of this was taking the wave against the orientalized martial arts fads of the 1970s and 1980s, with so many McDojos, and martial arts developed outside of actual fighting. Muay Thai partook in some of this because it is developed through 1,000s and 1,000s of fights for decades, it felt like "real" fighting (as opposed to so many other martial arts, which didn't). But, those that love Muay Thai also love the culture of Muay Thai, which falls back into the orientalization of the art (it's Kung Fu-ism). This is the fundamental contradiction of Muay Thai in the west, and the thing that prevents it from becoming commercially viable.

1. It has this Kung-Fu aspect, full of "cool" moves and techniques, and a whole Boran history (it's exotic).

2. It has this real fighting aspect, born of actual fights.

Those that love it's real fighting aspect just want to steal or imitate its moves. You get a very watered down version of "Muay Thai" in the UFC (and elsewhere) which is really much more just kickboxing. All the supposedly exotic stuff just gets thrown away. So you get silly reverse elbows over and over, out of context, and off-balance kung-fu-like moves, and the rest of it is all tossed away. The Muay Thai moves will just be absorbed by kickboxing and MMA, there's no need for the rest.

For those that love the exotic dimensions of Muay Thai, this runs hard against the very core of what makes the UFC and MMA in general popular. These people are seriously marginalized. Any promotion is forced to draw on this very small group of people because they are most passionate about the art/sport. But any promotion always has to face the fact that it can't answer the question: Why not just do kickboxing with cool Muay Thai moves throw in? There is no answer to that.

The truth is that real Muay Thai is found neither in its exptic fantasy component, or it's "cool moves" stand up MMA component. It's found in the 1,000s fights across the country of Thailand. It doesn't really exist outside of Thailand, in my opinion. So any western promotion is really forced with presenting some sort of imitation of it, to a largely inexperienced audience. It has to piece together its fanbase from very diverse quarters.

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I have a theory though and it goes like this: I think that the main factor is that their relative popularities are mostly the result of how they have been affected by the 90s cultural shift which created the fighting boom in Japan and the rise of the UFC in the West.

 

I'd say I pretty much agree with your breakdown, although the fighting boom in Japan was a bit ancillary. It created a hardcore niche fan base in the West, but the UFC really exploded because - in my opinion - it gave expressing to (largely white) male (middle and lower class) frustration. The sliding social power of the UFC demographic found potency in what the UFC was selling, something that felt like REAL fighting. Part of this was taking the wave against the orientalized martial arts fads of the 1970s and 1980s, with so many McDojos, and martial arts developed outside of actual fighting. Muay Thai partook in some of this because it is developed through 1,000s and 1,000s of fights for decades, it felt like "real" fighting (as opposed to so many other martial arts, which didn't). But, those that love Muay Thai also love the culture of Muay Thai, which falls back into the orientalization of the art (it's Kung Fu-ism). This is the fundamental contradiction of Muay Thai in the west, and the thing that prevents it from becoming commercially viable.

1. It has this Kung-Fu aspect, full of "cool" moves and techniques, and a whole Boran history (it's exotic).

2. It has this real fighting aspect, born of actual fights.

Those that love it's real fighting aspect just want to steal or imitate its moves. You get a very watered down version of "Muay Thai" in the UFC (and elsewhere) which is really much more just kickboxing. All the supposedly exotic stuff just gets thrown away. So you get silly reverse elbows over and over, out of context, and off-balance kung-fu-like moves, and the rest of it is all tossed away. The Muay Thai moves will just be absorbed by kickboxing and MMA, there's no need for the rest.

For those that love the exotic dimensions of Muay Thai, this runs hard against the very core of what makes the UFC and MMA in general popular. Doing the Ram Muay, calling your instructor Kru or Arjan, the UFC fans looking for KOs don't care about these things, they are antithetical to "ass kicking". The people who love the exotic aspects are seriously marginalized. Any promotion is forced to draw on this very small group of people because they are most passionate about the art/sport. But any promotion always has to face the fact that it can't answer the question: Why not just do kickboxing with cool Muay Thai moves throw in? There is no answer to that.

The truth is that real Muay Thai is found neither in its exotic fantasy component, or it's "cool moves" stand up MMA component. It's found in the 1,000s fights across the country of Thailand. It doesn't really exist outside of Thailand, in my opinion. So any western promotion is really forced with presenting some sort of imitation of it, to a largely inexperienced audience. It has to piece together its fanbase from very diverse quarters.

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The question of CMT's legitimacy as Muay Thai is also an interesting topic. If my knowledge of Muay Thai history is correct, it originally was fought in a circular sandpit with the rope wraps instead of gloves. In these regards CMT would be more similar to the original art than is stadium Muay Thai. But if we think of the stadium Muay Thai as the standard, there are still a lot of grey areas about what is real Muay Thai. Like how Thai Fight puts on those kard chuek fights, is that really Muay Thai?

 

I can't say I really follow this. Have you seen old footage of Boran style fighting? It's not really Muay Thai either. It doesn't matter what shape (or gloves) they are working within. Modern Muay Thai fighters at top stadia would have cleaned up those fighters. Muay Thai, as we know it, is really created out the aesthetics of its rules and scoring, as they express  and preserve Thai culture, as the techniques developed over the period of Thailand's modernity (generally 1960-1990s).

Take a look at Boran style fighting not long after the first rings were being used

1920s

Even by 1946

John Wayne Parr's promotion is basically trying to create "stand up MMA" which is not Muay Thai, at least in my opinion - though I don't blame him, it's a natural progression.

[Edit: a quote from JWP:

"I'm addicted to it," he continued. "I buy almost every single pay-per-view. As a Muay Thai fighter I got to this stage where I was very jealous of them fighting in a cage. I wanted to prove myself as a warrior, just to show I am just as tough as MMA guys are. I decided to get the cage and host an event. I did a little bit of research on Youtube and I seen a few Muay Thai fights in a cage, but they were wearing traditional gloves. And it looked wrong and really peculiar. If I wanted to get the same respect from the fans as the MMA guys get, there is no way I could have fighters going to the arena fighting with boxing gloves instead of MMA gloves. I thought, 'If I am going to do this, I am going to do this 100 percent.' That's why I decided for the gloves and the cage. Keep it Muay Thai rules exactly the same as MMA except for when it goes to the ground, you stop and stand back up again. Every single UFC fight that they call 'Fight of the year,' is the ones where they stand the whole time. I'm giving the fans exactly what they want to see."]

To me the kard cheuk fights are a joke/gimmick. They are put on, as form of spectacle in an attempt to rile up Thai nationalism, usually in a show like Thai Fight. There is a strong and lasting narrative told in Thai history that it was Muay Thai that kept Thailand free from western (and neighborly) control. Kard Cheuk is an evocation of that narrative. Thai Fight usually isn't really Muay Thai...it's a Muay Thai show, featuring famous fighters of Thailand, often against overwhelmed western fighters. At the gym the Thais joke about how you have to fight in a totally different, artificial way for Thai Fight, featuring ridiculous moves, etc.

Of course there is no "official" Muay Thai. But Muay Thai to me is the process and promotion of the sport which grows the potency and depth of the art. Thai Fight and Max Muay Thai are spectacle shows. MAX Muay Thai for instance has a rule/advice sheet passed out to its fighters that tells them to fight in a way that is opposite to Bangkok stadium fighting, for the sake of aggression.

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I'd say I pretty much agree with your breakdown, although the fighting boom in Japan was a bit ancillary. It created a hardcore niche fan base in the West, but the UFC really exploded because - in my opinion - it gave expressing to (largely white) male (middle and lower class) frustration. The sliding social power of the UFC demographic found potency in what the UFC was selling, something that felt like REAL fighting. Part of this was taking the wave against the orientalized martial arts fads of the 1970s and 1980s, with so many McDojos, and martial arts developed outside of actual fighting. Muay Thai partook in some of this because it is developed through 1,000s and 1,000s of fights for decades, it felt like "real" fighting (as opposed to so many other martial arts, which didn't). But, those that love Muay Thai also love the culture of Muay Thai, which falls back into the orientalization of the art (it's Kung Fu-ism). This is the fundamental contradiction of Muay Thai in the west, and the thing that prevents it from becoming commercially viable.

1. It has this Kung-Fu aspect, full of "cool" moves and techniques, and a whole Boran history (it's exotic).

2. It has this real fighting aspect, born of actual fights.

Those that love it's real fighting aspect just want to steal or imitate its moves. You get a very watered down version of "Muay Thai" in the UFC (and elsewhere) which is really much more just kickboxing. All the supposedly exotic stuff just gets thrown away. So you get silly reverse elbows over and over, out of context, and off-balance kung-fu-like moves, and the rest of it is all tossed away. The Muay Thai moves will just be absorbed by kickboxing and MMA, there's no need for the rest.

For those that love the exotic dimensions of Muay Thai, this runs hard against the very core of what makes the UFC and MMA in general popular. Doing the Ram Muay, calling your instructor Kru or Arjan, the UFC fans looking for KOs don't care about these things, they are antithetical to "ass kicking". The people who love the exotic aspects are seriously marginalized. Any promotion is forced to draw on this very small group of people because they are most passionate about the art/sport. But any promotion always has to face the fact that it can't answer the question: Why not just do kickboxing with cool Muay Thai moves throw in? There is no answer to that.

The truth is that real Muay Thai is found neither in its exotic fantasy component, or it's "cool moves" stand up MMA component. It's found in the 1,000s fights across the country of Thailand. It doesn't really exist outside of Thailand, in my opinion. So any western promotion is really forced with presenting some sort of imitation of it, to a largely inexperienced audience. It has to piece together its fanbase from very diverse quarters.

That's an interesting perspective! I think it makes sense in an American context, yet I wonder if these same dynamics can be applied to say, Japanese society, where MMA started before it did in America and attained a much greater popularity at its peak. I think the biggest appeal MMA has is the Bloodsport/Mortal Kombat element, put all the tough guys in a big tournament with minimal rules and see who's the best. It explains why MMA is growing fast in so many different societies, it explains why the same development happened in Brazil 50 years earlier, and in ancient Greece thousands of years earlier.

 

Maybe this is also what hinders the development of Muay Thai. Can a crowd looking to find their champion gladiator who overcomes all trials invest themselves in Muay Thai after having seen stand up fighters smothered by MMA grapplers? Maybe to most MMA crossover fans Muay Thai will always be a secondary interest for this reason, while most fans will never be passionate enough to seek a second fight sport. The one thing that kind of throws a monkey wrench into this theory is the enduring and global appeal of boxing. This begs the question, can Muay Thai achieve the same global appeal as boxing? Maybe, but I think it would need a catalyst, like if it became an Olympic sport.

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To me the kard cheuk fights are a joke/gimmick. They are put on, as form of spectacle in an attempt to rile up Thai nationalism, usually in a show like Thai Fight. There is a strong and lasting narrative told in Thai history that it was Muay Thai that kept Thailand free from western (and neighborly) control. Kard Cheuk is an evocation of that narrative. Thai Fight usually isn't really Muay Thai...it's a Muay Thai show, featuring famous fighters of Thailand, often against overwhelmed western fighters. At the gym the Thais joke about how you have to fight in a totally different, artificial way for Thai Fight, featuring ridiculous moves, etc.

 

I always wondered what the local perspective was, very interesting!

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Can a crowd looking to find their champion gladiator who overcomes all trials invest themselves in Muay Thai after having seen stand up fighters smothered by MMA grapplers?

 

Maybe if an elite Muay Thai fighter - like the current fantasy about Saenchai - joined the UFC and cleaned up? So far I'm not sure that the UFC has seen true Muay Thai, that is, high level Muay Thai born out of the process of Thailand, with strong knowledge of clinch. BJJ would never have taken off if the fighters that introduced it were mid-level BBJ fighters. The UFC has never really seen a Muay Thai version of a "Gracie".

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I take the view that leadership in the so called "Hinduized" countries continued to depend on the attribution of personalized spiritual prowess. Signs of a spiritual quality would have been a more effective source of leadership than institutional support. The "Hinduized" polities were elaborations or amplifications of the pre- "Hindu' ones. Did the appearance of Theraveda Buddhism on mainland Southeast Asia  make a difference? Historians and anthropologists with special knowledge must address this question. I shall content myself with noting a piece of evidence brought to my attention by U Tun Aung Chain which refers to the Buddhist concept of "merit". The Burman rulers Alaungmintaya of the second half of the eighteenth century is recorded as having said to the Ayudhya ruler: "My hpon (derived from punna, or "merit") is clearly not on the same level as yours. It would be like comparing a garuda with a dragon-fly, a naga with an earthworm, or the Sun with a fire-fly." Addressing local chiefs he said: "When a man of hpon comes, the man without hpon disappears." [my bold] Here is Buddhist rendering of superior performance in terms of merit-earning in previous lives and the present one, and we are again dealing with the tradition of inequality of spiritual prowess and political status. Are we far removed from other instances of spiritual inequality noted above? The king's accumulated merit had been earned by ascetic performance; the self had to be mastered by steadfastness, mindfulness, and right effort, and only persons of unusual capacity were believed to be able to follow the Path consistently and successfully during their past and present lives. Such a person in Thailand would be hailed for his parami, or possession of the ten transcendent virtues of Buddhism. A Thai friend tells me that parami evokes bhakti ("devotion"), and the linguistic association suggests a rapport comparable with what is indicated in the seventh-century Cambodia and Vietnamese folklore about the tutelary spirits. In all the instances I have sketched, beliefs associated with an individual's spiritual quality rather than with institutional props seem to be responsible for success. Perhaps de la Loubere sensed that same situation in Ayudhya at the end of the seventeenth century when he remarked: "the scepter of this country soon falls from hands that need a support to sustain it." His observation is similar to that of Francisco Colin in the Philippines in the seventeenth century: "honored parents or relatives" were of no avail to an undistinguished son.  Others may wish to develop or modify the basis I have proposed for studying leadership in early societies of Southeast Asia. Explanations of personal performance, achievement, and leadership are required to reify the cultural background reflected in historical records, and in this turn requires study by historians and anthropologists, working in concert, of the indigenous beliefs behind foreign religious terminology.   pages 93-95        
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