[Kevin writing] - We're right in the middle of the Muay Khao Summit - if you don't know what that is you can read about it here, or follow it all through the Muay Khao Summit Facebook Group - so we are a little behind on our Patreon content. Don't worry, we'll catch up! But I wanted to take a second and write to all our patrons and fill you in on what we are doing beyond the Summit itself, the vision behind the card that you see above.
First thing to say is that the card, in fact the Summit itself would not have remotely been possible without the collective help of all our patrons. There is just no way it would have even been conceived, let alone attempted. So thank you. But, given that we assembled this incredible Summit which featured absolute legends (Karuhat, Yodkhunpon, Namkabuan, Langsuan, Dieselnoi and Samson Isaan) and elite Thai Yodmuay Ying (Chommanee, Sawsing, Dokmaipaa, Saifaa), it dawned on us that we had a chance to maybe do something more that could make a read difference. We could put on a card for female fighters in Thailand such that has never been done before. Sylvie and I thought to ourselves about what could be done that might change the way that female fighting happens in Thailand, and that's what this post is about. First, a little about the state of female fighting in Thailand, especially for Thai female fighters. A little background reading, Sylvie's article:
To be very brief about it, the focus for us is the improvement of the opportunity and the skill level of Thai female fighters. Why Thai female fighters? Aside from a strong sense of bonding that's occurred over Sylvie's 6 years in Thailand, we have a sense that if Muay Thai is going to grow in the world, it is something that has to grow together. That means that if we want to improve ourselves, we work to improve others. It's why Sylvie spends so much time trying to disseminate knowledge (instead of hiding it as super secrets, like hoarding advantages), and it is why we are thinking deeply about how Chiang Mai can improve itself as the foremost female fighting city in the world. Ha, I thought I was going to be brief about it...oh well.
Back to the nuts and bolts. Thai female fighters generally really start to peak at around 14 or 15 years old. At least the best of them. It's when they are training the hardest, and fighting most frequently. Fighters like Sawsing, Saifaa, Phetjeejaa, Loma, they were world champions at 15 or so. But, the reality is that because there is no developed National Stadium circuit of fighting these prodigies really around that time start finding less and less opportunity to fight. There is no tier to grow into. Unlike 14 year old boys who suddenly are leaving the small pond of their local dominance, and facing a very deep pool of national talent at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern, elite female Thai fighters become stranded. They start to fight for big sidebet fights only, and after a few high profile wins find opponent opportunities dry up. They will also stop training regularly, only ramping it up once in a while, for a title fight, or a National Team fight. Often though, when in their very late teens or early 20s, when these big name fighters face westerners they are far from the kind of prime they were at when they were when 15. They may technically be better fighters, having matured psychologically, but they can find themselves in and out of fighting. The lack of opportunity cuts off the best and brightest, just as they are peaking. Sawsing for instance, is one of the great female fighters in the world, she's more or less "done" with fighting as a serious focus at the age of 20, well before a western fighter would even they are peaking. She's booked to fight for a World Title next month giving up lots of weight, but has not been in training, and I imagine will only train a few weeks for the match. She's a beautiful fighter, has been fighting since the age of 9, but she's really toying with not fighting any longer, and she'll probably stay in that state for 2 or 3 more years. It's as if you had an apple tree, and just as the fruit started to show you stopped watering it or giving it light. This is where many of the elite female Thai talent finds itself, just as they are hitting their athletic prime.
Ok Kevin, so what does this have to do with your card? Get to the point! Well, it's not just the very elite female fighters of Thailand that find themselves starved of opportunity. The Chiang Mai female fight scene is thriving. It is filled with nightly female fights on cards across the stadia of the city, it is fed by a huge circuit of Thai female fighters who not only fight westerners (supported by Muay Thai tourism), they avidly fight each other. There is a sub system of Thai vs Thai female fighting, a Muay Siam Northern Belt structure, that under-girds the Thai vs Western female fights. There are natural ecosystems in place that exist nowhere else in the world. Fights are not dominated by the Muay Thai Tourism of Thailand's Islands, nor by the sidebet system of Isaan and other provinces. So...what the problem? The problem is that though there are dozens and dozens of female Thai fighters fighting in the North, and accruing a great deal of experience, there is no real money in it for Northern fighters who are paid quite modestly. And because there is no money, there is no real investment in growing fighters in quality beyond their own local dominance. Thai female fighters are fighting for pride, and probably for moderate betting interests. What is missing is a fixed economic incentive to tempt up the already vastly experienced Thai female fighters (100 fights not uncommon), to the next levels of development. And that's really what this fight card, Queens of the North, is about. It's a tester, a proof of concept, of what we hope might be a monthly promotion, something that might change the fabric of female Muay Thai in Chiang Mai, and perhaps, if we are lucky, the fabric of female Muay Thai in the world.
I'll explain some of the thinking behind the Queens of the North promotion. Firstly, we wanted to offer very substantial Fight of the Night bonuses. In this case it's 30,000 baht for 1st place, and 15,000 baht for 2nd place. Importantly, these bonuses don't go to the winner, they are split between the fighters. The point is to encourage the sense that fighters want to elevate their fight together. This isn't a MAX style "super bonus", rather it's just the incentive to produce a GOOD fight, however that is defined. It can be femeu dominance, it can be a bash war, it could be a close technical fight. You know a good fight when you see it. The idea is that you can risk loss, as long as it elevates the fight. This is pretty substantial chunk of a prize, and if we could build something along these lines as a regular promotion it might start to shape the way that Thai female fighters fight in the city. The Queens of the North promotion - not this card, but the idea beyond it - is really thought to be for the Thai fighters, primarily in Thai vs Thai matches, but not reserved to that by rule. We want to feed the grassroots of female fighting in the North. With this same idea in mind, we've also added KO by technique bonuses. 3,000 baht for a jumping knee KO, 2,000 for a spinning elbow KO. This is an old standard bonus tradition that was offered in the Golden Age and after, emphasizing techniques. The hope is that if this is woven into regular shows it will also create an ascent in the quality of Thai female fighting in the North. It would be special, for instance, if Northern fighters became known for their jumping knees and spinning elbows, just as an expression of this bonus system. We are putting into place an incentive to help structure the future of Muay Thai as it develops. At least, that is what this Queens of the North card is a proof of concept of. And you, Sylvie's patrons, are a part of this. Whether you are on Patreon because you love the Muay Thai Library, or because you follow Sylvie's journey closely and support her as a fighter, you are also adding to efforts to nurture the ecosystem of female fighting. I should say here as well, if you are a business and these efforts appeal to you, we are definitely calling for sponsorship help with the Queens of the North promotion. I think there is real opportunity to become closely related to this significant change in Thailand's female Muay Thai. Give us a shout, if its something you'd like to be involved in.
The last element of this card that really makes it like no other is that it is also a celebration of legends of Muay Thai. As an extension of the Muay Khao Summit which featured all time legends, we are bringing Dieselnoi, Karuhat and Langsuan (and maybe Arjan Burklerk) to not only attend, and vote for Fight of the Night, but also to be referees in the ring. It's more than a celebration though. It's putting together the most traditional with the cutting edge of change...female fighting. Many may not realize, but female fighting possesses the seeds of the preservation of some of the best qualities of traditional Muay Thai, because it does not face the same financial, internationalizing pressures of male Muay Thai. The Queens of the North promotion, if we are able to carry it forward to other cards, wants to be one that lifts up and celebrates the great male fighters of the past, in conjunction with the development of Thai female fighters in the region. It's our belief that they go together, just as Sylvie's radical rewriting of the record books as a female fighter has gone hand in hand with her documentation of the great techniques and men of the past.
So, this is just a long winded way of saying "Hey, this is what you are supporting!" and this is what we have been doing. This is of course a very ambitious thing to try to do, and it very well may be that this card will all that will become of it...but the card alone was unthinkable even a year ago, and if there is anything that characterizes Sylvie and what she does, it's the attempt to change things, to reach higher. That's what we are doing. If you are not a patron yet and you'd like to support, you can easily become one through this site. You get loads of exclusive content, really the best Muay Thai content on the Internet. If you are a business and would like to get involved in the Queens of the North promotion, shoot us a message. Aside from being a patron you can also support what we are doing by watching the live stream of the Queens of the North card, and sharing it. It will be streaming at 9:00 PM on December 22nd (2018) on Sylvie's Facebook Page. That's Thai Time. And if you are in Chiang Mai please come on out to support us. You can meet legends like Dieselnoi, Langsuan and Karuhat, and be a part of an awesome beginning of a new way of helping female fighting. Also, thank you to everyone who has been patient with our usual Patreon content, we should be back online with it by the end of the week!
If you haven't been following what we have been doing in the Muay Khao Summit, this interview with Tara is a good introduction what it has been all about.