Monday, January 29, 2018

Under the Ropes - a muaythai fighter's journey

How many fights is a solid ambition? 50? 100? Why not 200? This the question American muaythai fighter Sylive Von Duuglas-Ittu asks herself as her career develops. 

This beautifully-shot video (by Simon Mulvany) captures her thoughts on that journey, up to fight number 191 she says when this is filming.

And what does "Under the Ropes" mean? There are many rituals attached to muaythai, most of which are why we love this sport more than any other. But some issues relate back to a time when women just weren't accepted, and this custom is one of them. 

Male fighters enter the ring by vaulting over the top rope, or maybe through the middle if they're not bothered about the big jump. But women in professional muaythai bouts must go under the bottom rope - a sort of awkward slither and roll into the ring. There are complex cultural reasons for this, but to simplify it's because of a belief that a woman cannot be higher than the spirits of the ring.

Back when I was fighting, I just did it without questioning.  I think I probably fought a few times before I even understood why it was different for me than the guys in the gym. And when I did, I added it to a drawer in my head and got on with it. It bothered me more after I retired and had time to reflect. And on a superficial note, I'd love to have a photo of me vaulting the ropes as comfort in my less-agile old age! 

What did bother me a lot is that it isn't just about the ring in the stadium. There were (and maybe are?) many gyms in Thailand where women could not get into the gym ring to train. I visited a few of these but never stayed, because it was impossible to prepare for a bout without learning how to use the ropes.

Sylvie addresses this directly in the video, but prefaces her remarks by saying she finds the culture and traditions beautiful, even romantic. But of course that doesn't stop us as women fighters from noticing this and commenting on it. She previously uploaded a clip of Biamwiali Laobiam (Thailand) saying how frustrating this is for her. 


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