Have you ever watched a “battle,” between singers or dancers, or even intellectuals on a panel? In dance battles, often the “retort” begins with an imitation of the initial performer’s moves and then expands out to an elaboration and then one-upping. Like, “I see your splits and raise you a flip.” In singing, the words can be the same but the improvisation gets more intense. With intellectuals, you try to make a really brilliant point sound elementary. These exchanges are very exciting, so long as you know what you’re looking at or listening to, can follow along. And often they’re exciting precisely because they’re an interaction, not a negation of one another.
Two clips come to mind for me. First is Yodkhunpon, the “Elbow Hunter of 100 Stitches,” in slow motion perfection. Watching him throw his elbows, you can track where his tension is placed and replaced. His hands flutter, almost like leaves in Autumn, tumbling to the Earth; or butterflies in spring, flitting and flirting. He swings in relaxed violence.
The next is Thailand Pinsinchai, who actually began his talk about elbows by referencing Yodkhunpon. The two were at the same gym for a short time and Thailand actually said to me, “my elbows are the same as Yodkhunpon.” Not at all. But yes, also performed with the effortlessness of a perpetual motion machine. Steady, repeatable, dangerous, absolutely beautiful. Thailand imitated Yodkhunpon’s elbows, without a single flutter, and then launched into his own rendition that is as perfect and mesmerizing as the inner gears of a clock. You could never, in a million years, argue that either of these completely different expressions or performances is “incorrect.” Differing techniques in Muay Thai are not “right” or “wrong” in a binary, but rather are binary, as in the language or code. Some techniques are 0 and some are 1, and you can rearrange them endlessly to map out entire commands, simulations, games, programs, or even poetry.
You can study Kru Thailand style in the Muay Thai Library, including these elbows:
Attacking Shell (62 min) watch it here
The Beauty of Clinch (57 min) watch it here
You can watch how Yodkhupon used his elbows in this watch with me: