Guest Post: A Husband’s Point of View
One of my favorite people in all the world, Andy Thomson, is not doing very well right now. As of writing this he’s just come out of a medically induced coma as doctors try to figure out just what is wrong, suspecting a serious brain infection of some kind – you can help here if you would like – but this is about something else. I went looking through our old YouTube videos for all the times we filmed Andy who was the cornerstone of the Lanna Muay Thai gym where we first went so many years ago, and came upon this video. When watching it I was inexplicably moved to tears. And once crying the tears just coming, as if sobs wanted to force their way out. There’s something in it that is just incredible – why was I so moved?
above: Andy holding for Sylvie, her first day of padwork in Thailand, ever.
If you’ve been in Thailand a while, in various gyms (so many of them very good gyms), you’ve seen what instruction is. It can vary from gentle correction, to boot camp commands, to long periods of ignoring, or grueling drills or clinch sessions. It can be a lot of things in Thailand, all of them beautiful in their own way, but one thing that are not is THIS. You did not, cannot have this experience, unless you found yourself with Andy. And watching it now, with 5+ continuous years of living in and around Muay Thai, it just stuns me. It’s like it has been beamed from another planet. A planet of Andy.
Here’s this little 102 lb woman, 27 years old, just arrived in Thailand having saved up for 6 weeks of training, full of passion for the sport. She’s been training herself on the bag in her house in the New York woods, and taking sessions from a 70 year old Thai man, in his basement in New Jersey. This is her very first pad work in Thailand. She’s had one fight in her life, and she’s going to fight in about 20 days…and she knows nothing. It’s just incredible for me to see Sylvie like this. Sylvie’s become an absolute monster fighting more times in Thailand than any foreigner, fighting huge opponents many of them World Champions, just smashing it with toughness. And I do believe that when Sylvie finishes her arc several years from now she will have become the best & greatest female fighter in history. But here, she is nascent. She is just a dream and passion. She’s completely off balance, has almost never been systematically hit, like a baby bird in the nest really. And look, LOOK how Andy is training her on her first day.
Andy had at this point already been a trainer in Thailand for probably 15 years. He had already mentored 100s upon 100s, indeed 1000s of students, many of them from the very start of their passion. This isn’t the first time he has seen a student, a girl, like this. But his enthusiasm is intense. He is so, so generous as a teacher. He is feeding passion back into a student’s open heart, empowering her. He has no idea what’s going to become of this girl. She might leave the gym in a month and never be heard from. But he is giving it all to her. Every drop. Every miss is an occasion of laughter. Every landed strike, a pop of success, and look closely. He is already sculpting her. He is already changing distance on her. He is already hitting back. He is already making her pay for being off balance. He is already testing and tightening her guard. He is already making a fighter. Right from the beginning. He could not know, none of us could know, what Sylvie would become. She would fight twice for Andy, and after that 2nd fight she would climb into the bed of the pickup and announce to him: “I want to fight 50 fights.” That was the beginning of an Odyssey. The way he smiled at her then, when she said that, he was taking a moment. And then he said, “Alright then.” All Andy saw was the will. That’s all that ever mattered to Andy. The will.
I’ll say this, as a husband who has watched Sylvie in such of her Muay Thai passion. She has had incredible teachers and instructors along the way. Master K, back in America, he just planted a burning hot coal in her heart, a fire that just would never go out, but looking at that girl in the video there is nothing there in the film that would say: This woman is going to set the world on fire, break every barrier, smashing out 200, and now possibly 300 or 400 fights. Nothing…apart from the eagerness with which she looks at him, and takes in what he is teaching her. Looking at this film I feel like saying that if Sylvie had not had Andy as her first instructor and mentor in Thailand back in 2010, and then against in 2012 when we moved here, she very well may never have become “Sylvie”, and be on the path to even more incredible things. A teacher is a precious relationship. As a teacher you cannot know what will come of what you are giving. But, if you do not give, generously, you might stamp out some incandescent passion that nobody can quite see yet. Our first visit to Thailand could have gone a very different way. Sylvie may have said she wanted to fight 50 fights and it may have, or probably would have, fallen on different ears. I can and will never count Sylvie out. She’s always been a quiet electric beam of intensity that goes way under the radar, with very few people seeing where she is actually heading. But part of me is just awe-struck by this video and the incredible blessing that Andy Thomson was at this moment that feels fragile. This video is a butterfly effect moment between two absolute lines of destiny, that of Sylvie and that of the giant heart of a man, Andy. These threads crossed many times in those first 6 weeks, making an unbreakable braid for us, and then again for several months when we returned in 2012 and then again many times after that. Andy, in his generosity of spirit, I can say was the anchor of Sylvie in Thailand. 100 times he inspired Sylvie to challenge herself, to reach for more, to commit to a deeper level, just as he has done for so many others over the two decades of Thailand teaching.
Aside from my personal connection and memory of Andy’s gift to Sylvie, this video just inspires in me a love of living that almost has no parallel. Every person who has trained with Andy and watches this video will be emotionally taken back to the kind of man he is, in a way that really defies description. There is something in this video that goes beyond Muay Thai, but also explains Muay Thai, why is it that people fall in love with this sport, this art, and feel a kind of liberty connected to it that somehow exists nowhere else, in any other culture or time. Andy, a farang, opening a camp in Chiang Mai, teaching the art he loves so much, somehow embodies Muay Thai for the world. You can see it in that video. I can see it. There is a kind of glee, an inescapable glee of living, that comes out of learning to protect yourself, to fight, to do damage and survive, in art. Andy was fond of saying that there is not ONE Muay Thai. There are thousands. Each person has their own Muay Thai. But Andy the man makes me sense that there is one Muay Thai, a Muay Thai he makes us all know and feel.
If you know or connect to Andy and you’d like to help contribute to the support of the burden of his medical costs you can do so here. He’s a very strong man. He’s beaten cancer. He’s lifted men and women. He’ll overcome this. I cannot help but believe in him as he has believed in so many.