In starting the Muay Thai Library – Preserve the Legacy project, the initial impetus was to document not only a vanishing knowledge of techniques, but also documenting the men who know those techniques in their bodies and minds, who have expressed themselves through the vocabulary of Muay Thai for decades. You can see how wonderful their Muay Thai is when you watch them in old fight videos, but you really get a sense for how it all fits together when you see these men in person. Their particular masculinities, mannerisms, ways of speaking and moving and engaging.
above, video of the 123 Greatest book, and Dieselnoi’s signature
There is nobody in all the world quite like Dieselnoi, the greatest Muay Khao (knee fighter) who ever fought, and perhaps the greatest Muay Thai fighter period. He was one of the first legends I trained with for the project and immediately we bonded over how evident our love for Muay Thai is. It’s very clear that I love Muay Thai, it’s my whole life, it’s everything I do and touch and I try to take in as much of it as I can. Dieselnoi can see that and he loves that about me. That said, I have never in my life met someone who loves Muay Thai as much as Dieselnoi does. He’s a man who somehow was able to live the celebrated position of an ultimate champion and still the unrequited love of having to retire before he had even dimmed his flame.
Preserving the Legacy of Muay Thai is not just jotting down notes about how to turn your hip on a kick or whether or not to lean back on a knee. For one, neither is wrong, so you document all techniques. But more importantly, how a technique is executed is very often tied to the expression of the man who is using it, and that dictates his pedagogy. In discovering this, preserving the techniques has become indistinguishable from preserving the legends who carry them. Dieselnoi has had some health problems, including a very serious heart operation a few years ago and another one that was scheduled and then postponed – we raised several thousand dollars in support of him then. Learning from Dieselnoi has always carried with it this requirement of keeping him calm or able to take frequent breaks – something that isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds because the man has one level, which is very high, and he does not stop on his own. Taking care of his health, being able to share video of his teaching and of his personality, and trying to work toward creating snippets of his biography over time through informal interviews… it’s all part of this immense project of archiving and documenting these legends. Dieselnoi is a major focus for me, not only because I love him, but because he burns so bright that it’s hard to even see how far the fires go.
above, a short video clip, you can see how passionate he is
listen to Dieselnoi talk about the State of Muay Thai, above – you can watch the full 18 minute interview with him as a patron
On our way home from fighting in Chiang Mai one time, we stopped in Ayutthaya to see Dieselnoi. I interviewed him about the changing states of Muay Thai scoring and difference in technique from the Golden Age to now. (That interview, excerpted above, is available on Patreon) We also sat down with him and had him thumb through this hard-to-find book called the 123 All-Time Greatest Muay Thai Fighters of Thailand. We told him, “no problem if you never saw someone or don’t know someone, even just what you’ve heard.” He knew everybody. He would excitedly jump up and imitate how someone moved or threw knees differently from how he did; he seems to love Muay Mat (punchers) the most, because of the heart they show for the fight. And he’d wave his hand over some entries and just say, “he’s only in here because of politics.” He’s amazing. (That interview is being translated and will also be on Patreon. Dieselnoi is a bit tricky to translate, even for native Thai speakers he can be hard to understand… because he speaks Dieselnoi.)
So, this wonderful, hard to find book is being auctioned as a way to preserve the legacy of Muay Thai historically, because it’s an awesome book for fans of Muay Thai, even without his signature. With his autograph it’s precious. When I brought my own copy to Krongsak (who has the incredible distinction of having beat Sagat 3 times, and drawed against the unbeatable Dieselnoi near the peak of Dieselnoi’s career) for his signature, he was so enamored of the fact that he was in the book, he took 10 minutes to sign it because he wanted to look through and take photos to show his friends. It’s a fantastic collection of full color photos, a half-page biography in Thai and the bottom half of the page has a statistic-style rundown in English. This copy is signed by Dieselnoi (who couldn’t help himself from starting to flip through it again and tell me about which fighters he thought were great when he had finished signing and had the book in front of him) and all the proceeds from the auction go directly to him. Most of these legends do not land in a stable position, financially, and part of the Muay Thai Library – Preserve the Legacy project’s mission has included sending financial assistance toward the legends who are in the library, even as we celebrate and study them. Every time I’ve transferred money over to Dieselnoi, from individual patrons who have loved his library entries and sent extra contributions as a “thank you” to him, to folks who have sent donations specifically for his health expenses, he has always been incredibly grateful and appreciative of an international support for his well-being. He can feel that the world Muay Thai community is reaching out to him and saying, “we want you here with us.” It’s beautiful.
If you’d like to send a donation or just a “hey I love you!” gift to Dieselnoi (or any of the legends and krus in the Muay Thai Library) you can send it by PayPal to the address firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be sure to forward it to them as well as any message you have. I cover any additional fees myself. Be sure though to add in a note on your Paypal gift that it is specifically for Dieselnoi (or another kru).
You can also become a patron, 5% of all pledges go to the kru fund shared with all the krus in the Library, as does all the profit from the sale of my shirts and shorts found in my store 8limbs.us/store
The 123 Greatest Fighters book itself is very hard to find, but highly recommended. The only place I know of to get it retail is the Thaismai shop in Bangkok. I’ve also brought 3 copies up to Chiang Mai for Pi Boy to sell at his Thaikla shop for the convenience of my readers, so if in Chiang Mai you can also get it there.