Fighting Giants, Fighting Small – Taking on Challenges

I’ve written about this before, but here is a little more on it. In my 173 fights, I’ve generally fought opponents bigger than myself, both in Thailand and in...

I’ve written about this before, but here is a little more on it. In my 173 fights, I’ve generally fought opponents bigger than myself, both in Thailand and in my amateur fights in America. It’s just the lot I’ve drawn in being the size that I am – I’m just small. Sometimes it’s a small difference, but sometimes the difference is quite notable. The frequency with which the size disparity presents itself in my fight path, about 70% of the time, has led me to misunderstand my own size – as well as for the majority of promoters who book me to really have no idea what my actual size is. They see that I fought so-and-so, who is known to be X kg (or the fight was set at X kg), and so they book me for a fight at that same weight because they assume that’s my size. Sometimes that’s a considerable size difference – like 5-6 kg (11-13 lbs). On the other hand, one promoter up in the North, for example, only books me against much bigger opponents; visually contrasting our size is part of his marketing strategy. And because I can beat opponents bigger than myself, this continues.

I don’t always win against bigger fighters, as you can imagine. Size is a factor, but it’s not the only factor, or even the most important one. A promoter will book me for a fight at a 5-10 kg weight disadvantage, fully expecting that I can win that fight. And I’ll look at a fighter that much bigger than myself – a giant in comparison – and think that I should win that fight. Confidence is great, but it’s partially a body dismorphia as well… I don’t fully recognize how much of a size difference there is until I look at it from a distance, like in video. I don’t give myself credit for the challenge of size in addition to the general challenges of fighting at all. If I’m not able to pull off some of the things I’m really trying to do in the ring, some of that might be due to size and I might do myself a favor to recognize when it is. I need to grade a little on a curve in these kinds of fights, and be a little easier on myself when I don’t pull off the victory.

Fighting Giants - Snap

When I say that I’m fighting “giants,” I don’t mean that these are physically huge women. Even being 10 kg heavier than I am, as some are, is still just putting you at 57 kg (125 lbs), which is a totally normal-sized, if not still a small-ish woman. And even if you are physically large on an objective scale, that’s perfectly fine; fighting is for everyone! When I say a giant, I mean compared to me – I’m really small. Everyone who meets me in person after following me online remarks on it. These are giants I’m reaching for. And that’s part of the reason why I fight up so often, because there simply aren’t opponents my true size who are plentiful and available and reasonable matchups for me. Fighting someone bigger isn’t “special” in Thailand, but fighting bigger as consistently as I do isn’t the norm either. It’s a necessity. While any one particular match up might not be “wise,” or even a fight I’m likely to win, eventually I believe it all will make me better.

Before my most recent fight I posted a photo of me and my opponent at weigh-in, noting her accomplishments as a fighter and also noting our size difference. The weight was set at a number that’s about 5 kg (11 lbs) heavier than my normal walking around weight. Her gym immediately objected to me making any reference to the weight difference, as if that was unsportsmanlike in some way, also helpfully pointing out that I’d agreed to the fight. Yes, I did, and in fact I would again and again. I knew exactly what I was walking into. But there are at least three good reasons why I mentioned the weight difference, despite having (obviously) agreed to it:

  1.  it’s a fact and part of the story of the fight. There are public weigh-ins all over the world because weight is a primary factor in the fighting sports. A lot of what I try to do is be as transparent and reporting on the details of my fights and fighting in Thailand.
  2. Weight disparities happen all the time in Thailand, but almost nobody is talking about it – very few people talk about it on both sides of the scale, when you have the weight advantage and when you have the disadvantage. This means that folks newer to Thai fighting in Thailand don’t know about it. I can’t tell you how many times someone has written to me in a state of distress because they are booked to fight an opponent who is 1-2 kg heavier than himself/herself in Thailand; they don’t know this is pretty typical and in the worst case scenarios they feel that their gyms aren’t looking out for them. If you know it happens all the time, you know it’s not nefarious (though not in every case, you still have to be watchful).
  3. and it lets people know that weight disparities are not only somewhat normal (within a few kilos), but also that it can be done without great risk. Maybe you struggle more to move someone bigger, maybe the damage you incur is slightly more than against your own size, and maybe you lose. Fine. It’s part of fighting someone bigger. You have to go into it knowing that the challenge is now not only whether or not you have the tools to win a fight, but whether or not you can keep trying to use those tools when they resist you at first. There is a lot to learn from fighting people bigger than you.

Ultimately, here’s why I say yes to fights that have little to no advantages for me on paper: because it’s okay to be small. The world of Muay Thai is bigger than I am; my path is bigger than I am; my love for the process and the fight and the potential for what I can be, is bigger than I am. I’m fighting with all of those things. The challenges are legion and the rewards are also bigger than I am. I’m okay being small. There is no such thing as “too small to fight;” you can always fight. There will always be giants, and none of us need to fear them.

Fight 173 - Hug

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Muay Thai

A 100 lb. (46 kg) female Muay Thai fighter. Originally I trained under Kumron Vaitayanon (Master K) and Kaensak sor. Ploenjit in New Jersey. I then moved to Thailand to train and fight full time in April of 2012, devoting myself to fighting 100 Thai fights, as well as blogging full time. Having surpassed 100, and then 200, becoming the westerner with the most fights in Thailand, in history, my new goal is to fight an impossible 471 times, the historical record for the greatest number of documented professional fights (see western boxer Len Wickwar, circa 1940), and along the way to continue documenting the Muay Thai of Thailand in the Muay Thai Library project: see patreon.com/sylviemuay

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