With nearly 150 Muay Thai fights to her name, Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu has accumulated the most Muay Thai fights as a female fighter. In addition to her fighting career, Sylvie also manages to blog on a daily basis about her experiences in Thailand and Muay Thai on her website.

Sylvie is the true definition of someone who eats, sleeps and breathes Muay Thai. She moved over to Thailand in 2012 and never left. While most people thinking fighting once every 3 months is a decent amount, Sylvie usually racks up a few fights in a week

Sylvie is a work horse. She is someone who doesn’t make excuses and simply does. She understands that simple hard work and dedication to a craft will result in success over time. She is the type of person who is willing to put in the relentless hours to try and achieve perfection.

If you haven’t already read about Sylvie’s background, you can check out her full bio here.

When Sylvie agreed to do an interview with Muay Thai Pros, I knew she had a lot of insight she could share about a range of topics. The following interview was my attempt at picking Sylvie’s brain.

Interview with Sylvie Von Duuglas-Ittu:

Developing a Fighter’s Mindset

When I look at your fight career, the first thing that comes to my mind is your work ethic. Not many people can train twice a day and fight as often as you do. Is your work ethic something that was developed from your upbringing in Colorado or were you simply born like that?

Sylvie gymI’m not sure. I’ve never worked so hard at anything in my life before, but I’ve never had such a singular focus before either. When I was in college I worked 5 jobs in order to pay for books and living costs, so there was a lot on my plate, but it wasn’t a passion project, it was just necessary – and I’ve been working since I was 14. So, I think that I expect to work hard in anything I’m doing, but because I love Muay Thai it feels like I get to work hard and that’s wonderful. My parents certainly instilled in all their kids (4 of us) a hard work ethic, but allowed us freedom to design for ourselves what that work is for. My parents never loved their jobs, but they worked hard because they love us. I think that rubbed off on me and I feel really grateful that I love what I do and can dedicate all my efforts toward that development, rather than working hard somewhere else to be able to get a few hours here and there at the gym.

Because I feel so fortunate to even be here in Thailand, I take the perspective that each and every moment here has to be maximized. I’m working with people who know the art and sport better than anywhere else in the world, so every day, every hour, every minute in the gym is something rare. Yes, I train two times a day, at two different gyms (Petchrungruang, WKO), but my craving for the work and practice actually has me adding a third gym on most days (Sor. Klinmee) to get even more clinching in evening training. Why wouldn’t I? It’s right there, a 15 minute drive away.

Get that work in. There will come a time in my life when I won’t be doing this, and I’ll be thinking: those were the days. It’s the very same with fighting. Every fight is precious. There is no place in the world where a person my size would find 100 skilled, experienced opponents to fight. It’s a waste to not fight absolutely as much as I can, to not meet opportunity with enthusiasm. If a person has one fight in their life they have done something really special. If they have fought 10, even more so. In becoming the fighter I really want to be every fight is a lesson, something that develops me. When you fight a lot, it’s not about record, it’s about progress. I learn more now in one fight than I did in 10 fights at the beginning, just because awareness shifts; details come out. They are goldmines of knowledge about myself, and the art. That’s the ethic I bring to every single session and every single fight. It’s an ethic of appreciation.

 

Muay Thai is not a sport for everyone. A lot of people dream about fighting, until they realize how hard the training and pressure can be leading up to a fight. What are some key traits (competitive, hard working, tough etc.) that you think are important for someone to be successful in the ring?

It depends on how you define “success.” I truly believe that anyone can step into the ring, but choosing to do it again and again requires different “stuff” than what it takes to just try it. For a lot of people, I think the dream is to kick someone’s ass, which isn’t how fighting really works. If I dreamed of being a basketball player I’d certainly envision the way Jordan seems to just float through the game, but I wouldn’t know to envision broken fingers, broken ribs, broken nose, sore muscles, having to carry a superstar’s burden along with the superstar’s glow. All those things are a part of him, just as all those same things are part of being a fighter. The dream ends pretty quickly for some people when all those uncomfortable details present themselves. Other people are driven by it. Ultimately, I think you become whatever it is that’s required to be successful and to keep going. You become it by simply doing. So, more than anything the basic requirements are patience, time, and dedication.

 

It is a common fact that Issan (the poorest region in Thailand) produces a lot of the best fighters in Thailand. Most of the top Western Boxers in the world come from poor backgrounds where they had difficult childhoods. How much of a fighters’ mental toughness do you think is developed by their upbringing (nurture) and how much of it is inherent within the fighter (nature)?

My grandfather was a farmer. I completely believe in the phrase “farmer strong,” as an expression of a kind of physical strength and mental grit that comes from working hard with your hands, in the unforgiving dirt. There’s something to that in the world of Isaan fighters, I reckon, but it doesn’t have to be working the land. You’ll see western inner-city kids with just incredible resolve because they’ve had to fight to stand on the ground they walk on. When life is hard, the people are hard. I don’t come from that kind of background but as a woman in this world I’ve had to struggle against currents, experienced violence, and you just have to be willing to struggle. I think folks from rough upbringings, poverty, bad areas, or underdogs, folks who are “hungry” as they called it in boxing back in the day – they expect to struggle and so they keep working even when it’s hard. I do think it takes something special, an extra ingredient, beyond just toughness, to climb up higher. There are many tough kids, but some of them respond with something deeper in themselves, when faced with the grind. I remember there was a young kid named Poda who used to train at Lanna; his trainer would bring him there sometimes to work with the kids at the camp. My own trainer would marvel: Poda’s trainer would tell him to go and knee the bag, and then the trainer could just leave. Poda would knee the bag endlessly until told to stop, he’d do the work whether anyone was looking or not. He later got sold to a Bangkok gym (Thor. Pran49, and changed his name to Thanadet), and is one of my favorite fighters now. A lot of kids will do the work when told. But only a few embrace the work for what it is and where it might take them.

 

Gender Topics

When you look at professional female athletes, there is a common tendency to compare them to their male counterparts in the sport. There are some critics who say that watching women compete isn’t as exciting as men because of they have less athleticism, skill, and power (NBA vs. WNBA). Do you ever get bothered by comparisons to male fighters?

I wouldn’t say I’m bothered by it, but it’s a difficult comparison. Historically, women just haven’t (ever) had the same access to training and opportunity as men have. I agree that women aren’t at the same skill level, on average, as the men in these sports – not because we’re incapable, not because women are inferior, but because we’re playing “catch up” to a cruise ship in a paddle boat. But it’s also about expectations and being limited by public and social perceptions. Jack Dempsey has this great quote: “I was a pretty good fighter. But it was the writers who made me great.” The way women are talked about and written about makes a huge difference, and largely speaking we’re patronized, minimized, or ignored. With women’s recent inclusion in the UFC, you can actually see how this falls on either side of the line, where a woman who is “pretty good,” is heralded as “the best striker” or “unbeatable,” without those declarations really being warranted – which is something that men have had the benefit of for a long time; or you’ll see women who are very good but they’re sold for their sex appeal, or they’re very good and are ignored because they don’t have heterosexual, male-gaze sex appeal. All that is to say that comparing women to men as if we’re on an even playing field is an exercise in theory, not reality.

I’ve written a post titled New Stage Feminism – Non Comparative Struggle which came out of a beautiful comment made by someone who has been following me for a while. The idea is that, yes, it’s easy to be pulled into the man vs woman comparison, but women are training and fighting not to be compared to men. They are fighting to be allowed to fight at all, to be given the wide-open grass field where they can run full-speed and test themselves, overcome themselves. You let them do that enough and you’ll see, the standard of excellence will continue to rise. There is nothing about being a woman that, by itself, keeps you from becoming the best fighter in the world.

 

You’ve made it a point to showcase women who have been cut in fights. I’ll be the first to admit that I really don’t like watching girls get hurt in the ring, especially cut. If you showed me a photo of a guy being cut it doesn’t phase me, but when I see a girl with a big gash on her forehead I can barely look at it without cringing. Why do you think people don’t like seeing women bloodied in the ring and why do you feel it is important that we change that perception?

Sylvie CutI do think it’s important to change that perception, for all the reasons stated above. The way women are seen and talked about has a huge impact on our opportunities. I don’t love seeing anybody’s bloody face, but with women it’s meaningful to me because – as a woman who has experienced this a lot myself (94 stitches thus far) – it’s symbolic to how dedicated we are to the fight. I don’t see many photos of women looking really deflated when they’re cut, there’s a very clear expression of pride, strength and resolve in those faces. I don’t know that my aim is to get men to be excited at seeing women’s bloody faces, but to view it in the context of what it is, what it expresses, what it means to us. While I can’t speak for you, generally one can assume that the reason it’s harder for folks to look at a woman’s bloody face is because women are perceived as the “gentler sex” and one that is in need of protection. Infantilizing women has a whole mess of problems attached to it and those are the kinds of underlying perceptions that I’d like to address with the bloody faces. But it’s not just about how men see women, it’s also about how women see ourselves and I’d love for the pride and adrenaline these women feel from the fight to be embraced, rather than it being shameful or “unfortunate” in some way. It’s earned, it didn’t just “happen.”

 

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What are your views on women who come to Thailand and start dating trainers at the gym. Do you think there is a difference between the guys who come to Thailand and date girls at the bar compared to the women who date their trainers? Is there a double standard between men and women who have relationships with Thais?

Yes, of course there’s a difference. If men were dating their trainers it would be similar, but dating within the gym and outside the gym are not the same. The better comparison is maybe women who are interested in “flings” or romantic/sexual relationships as part of the tour being the same as men who are more or less renting girlfriends for the duration of their stay in Thailand. That’s an oversimplification of “bar girl” relationships, but sometimes the relationships are that simple. Some western women do come to Thailand open to sexual adventures, just as men do, and they can use the same sense of release from their own culture as a liberation of opportunity, just as men do. This seems like a valid comparison. If you find one acceptable, you should find the other the same, in this sense. And visa versa: if you find the one problematic, the other is likely as well. But I do have strong views on whether women ought to date their trainers in Thailand and I also recognize that I’m vocalizing those views from a pretty comfortable spot as a married woman. My marital status makes things much simpler for me at the gym, both in that it’s mostly respected by the men within the gym but also in that I’m not tempted to follow up on building relationships of that nature within the gym. Men, I think, are much more free when they come to train and so they go out at night and hook up with the pre-existing sex trade. Women don’t have as much a ready-made selection of “bar boys” to take home, so the relationships they tend to build are internal to the gym and because they’re women, those relationships can be sexual. Guys build relationships in the gym as well but they’re, as far as I know, seldom sexual.

So, I get why women might end up with relationships in their gym. Firstly, it’s lonely (isolating) and you’re seeking acceptance in an unfamiliar setting. Flirting and attraction can transcend the language barrier and it feels familiar. Secondly, there’s interest from the boys or men at the gym. It’s a 1+1 equation and I don’t think women are horrible people who go along with it. But it’s a very complicated situation because women are not fully included in gyms to begin with, so putting yourself into a role where you’re anything other than a fighter, if that’s your goal, means you will likely be relegated to whatever other role you’re playing: the girlfriend, the flirt, the “hook up,” whatever. None of those make your trainer more inclined to take you seriously as a fighter and in Thai culture almost all of them invite him to sideline you.

I’ve compared it in my posts to when women first were permitted to matriculate at universities in the US. many decades ago. Including women in a traditionally male space of academia was a precarious thing and if those women had chosen to date their professors, the likelihood of them being written off as whatever stereotype already existed about women as opposed to being taken seriously as students is very high. That doesn’t mean there aren’t meaningful, even beautiful, relationships borne out of these gyms, but it does mean that the inclusion of women in these gyms as active and serious fighters is constantly being weighed and considered, rather than proven and accepted.

 

Blogging Topics

Whenever I read your posts I feel like I am reading a paper written by a PhD student. You’ve mentioned that you have two brothers who have PhD’s so I assume it runs in the family. Have you always been a writer or did you develop the skill when you started the blog?

Sylvie BloggerI’m sure PhD students do a lot more drafting than I do! I write in a bit of a stream-of-consciousness approach and then just try to clean it up or make a few edits for clarity or accuracy. It’s mostly just that I think a great deal about all these things, all the time, and so I try to share as much of the complexities about each issue as possible. Even in my answers to these questions, you can see I weigh a lot of different angles on each subject – I’m uncomfortable giving just a, “it’s like this, only,” kind of statement. My brothers have their degrees in Sport Psychology (I have an interview with my brother Dr. John Byron Gassaway on my website) and Philosophy. My third brother is a city bus dispatcher by night and a crazy mountain man, river rafter, snowboarder, fixer of motorcycles by day – he’s probably the smartest of all of us. So, we have a mix in the family but we’re all very physical and we’re all a bit bookish.

I’ve always been a writer, although certainly the way I write has developed and evolved over time. I reckon that being shy made me more prone reading and writing, so expressing myself on paper was just a natural inclination. My high school and college experiences required a great deal of writing, which is probably why I can’t write short essays anymore (college made me very long-winded, with 30 page papers due from every class, every semester), but that combined with the informality of blogging has allowed me the freedom to just write what I’m experiencing, albeit with a kind of habitual academic voice. This being said, I’m also trying to write in a complete way that, hopefully, will inform readers not just this month, but even 5-10 years from now. Some of my articles are intended to endure the test of time, and for that one must write in a slightly different voice, I think with more depth, more detail, more ideas. This does mean that my posts aren’t very readable/enjoyable by some people, which is unfortunate and is a flaw of the blog. But there are other blogs out there which write in a more informal voice and are more accessible to a broader audience, which is great. But a positive is that some of my readers are academics and the way I write draws an unconventional group into the conversation about Muay Thai. There is so little written about Muay Thai in academia and drawing together these strings is something I would love to be responsible for fostering! (Here’s a collection of some of the very rare academic writings – in English – on Muay Thai, this is about all that there is!)

 

One article that I really enjoyed reading was the “fragility of Western Masculinity.” Do you think your upbringing in Boulder, Colorado shaped the way you view masculinity? I could imagine there is a big difference between the modern man who was raised in the city compared to men who come from smaller towns and grow up doing more “manly” things.

Certainly my upbringing influences all of my views, as well as coming from a predominantly male family. I say it in my article and it’s worth saying again, I sure do hate it when men tell me how I ought to be feminine or what “feminine” even means, so I also own that writing about how men ought to behave or be masculine is probably not going to be appreciated by a huge number of readers. But what was really amazing about the reception of this article was that it did resonate with a lot of men, who agreed with it.  In my own family, there are expectations of masculinity which don’t feel good. My brothers are expected to shake my father’s hand, for example, whereas I’m certain most of them would prefer a hug. I reckon that some of the more “old fashioned” expectations of masculinity are restrictive to men and should go the way of the dodo. I certainly don’t want to pine for the old days when men couldn’t express their feelings or have interests outside of the prescribed “manly” endeavors. However, probably what drew me to Muay Thai in such a strong way is my appreciation and love for some very traditional masculine values, which might have to do with being raised with all brothers: values like toughness and Stoicism. Those aren’t traditionally “feminine” values, at least in western culture, but I value them all the same. I’m in contradiction with myself in that I appreciate the preservation of traditional values while also critiquing them, which I struggle with around women in Muay Thai as well.

The thing about values is that you can’t claim to believe them without also living them. Of course you can, but it’s very poor form. My criticism in the “Fragility of Western Masculinity” was centered on this disconnect. If a man never steps into the ring, that’s fine. He can be very manly indeed without ever wrestling a bear. The article was meant to illustrate how the modern “Millennial” man seems to want to lay claim to masculine archetypes without actually putting in the work, that masculinity is something that you do and not a natural birthright to having a penis, nor reserved only for male bodies. Women can perform masculinity, too, because it is both value and action. Ultimately, I feel like a lot of the western men I see coming through Thai gyms are cheating themselves out of incredibly valuable experiences – transformative experiences – mostly out of fear.

 

Training in Thailand

One of the biggest reasons why people don’t come to Thailand is the perceived cost. If someone was going to train full time in Pattaya or Chiang Mai, how much would you estimate it costs to live per month including training, food, rent and entertainment.

Sylvie tipGetting to Thailand is expensive; being in Thailand isn’t as much so. Coming from the United States cost of the plane ticket is the big initial expense, but being very realistic about one’s own spending habits is the most important consideration. I’ve seen men arrive on Thai soil with a good chunk of money for a two-month stay and then burn through their entire budget in a couple of weeks by spending poorly. There’s a lot of “down time” in Thailand, even if you’re training full time: the hours between training sessions both midday and at night are considerable. Some people will try to fill those hours with entertainment, which can be expensive, and some will feel that they’ve earned a treat or need a way to “unwind” after training. You can easily end up eating and drinking away your nest egg.

So think about cost for training, living, eating, and transportation. Then work in a buffer for entertainment and incidentals (who knew shaving cream was so expensive? Or getting pulled over by the police and paying a fine).

The Northeast (Isaan) is the cheapest for costs of living, I don’t know what training costs are and entertainment might require special occasion transportation, depending on where you’re set up. The north, around Chiang Mai is relatively inexpensive for living costs (apartment, food, public transport) but training costs can be considerable. In Chiang Mai a room with air-con is on the low end 4,500 Baht per month, water and electricity not included. A “red truck” share cab is 20 Baht for a ride down to the Old City in each direction and Thai food canteens you can get a plate for 30-50 Baht. Western food restaurants are pretty pricy, so if you frequent them your food costs go way up; training at Lanna Muay Thai was about 8,000 Baht/month and the few other gyms I saw prices for were similar. In Bangkok the costs for training can be seriously high, like 20-30,000 Baht/month. I don’t know costs for apartments or general costs for food in Bangkok. In Pattaya a simple room with air-con is on the low end 7,000 Baht/month (water and electric not included), food is 80-120 Baht for a plate, and public transport is either motorbike taxis (I hear they’re more expensive here than in Bangkok) or the share trucks. Training at my gym, Petchrungruang, has been probably one of the cheapest gyms in Thailand at 4,000 Baht/month (some of the other small Pattaya gyms around are 10,000+ Baht/month) but I’ve heard it may be raising its prices to be more in line.

Since I came to Thailand in 2011, one of the biggest hurdles I have faced is the visa issues. I can’t tell you how many hours in line i’ve waited to try and get an extension on another education or tourist visa. Have you figured out the secrets to visas in Thailand or do you suffer like the rest of us trying to live here?

I’ve suffered too. In terms of what can go wrong, I’ve been pretty lucky in that it always has worked out. But I’ve also had to scramble and had some serious at-the-border scenarios where I nearly chewed my fingers off from worrying whether it would turn out okay. Mostly I think I’ve managed by trying to align with someone who has some stake in the outcome of my visa – for instance when I have to leave the country for a renewal I go with a company/service, so they have a stake in whether or not I get my visa. It’s an added expense, but for me it was really well worth it. Requirements change, and border policy may vary. You want a Thai person speaking for you on your behalf, if you can have one. One tip I can offer is to bring every scrap of paper and documentation you might ever need – when in doubt, bring it. You can make it all the way to a neighboring country and the office asks you for a document you never anticipated needing – if you don’t have it, there’s no lenience, they just tell you to try again once you have that paper.

 

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Your story about the falling out with Phetjee Jaa’s family over training is an example of something that happens more often than not. Do you find yourself getting jaded with certain aspects of Thai culture over time or have your learned to accept it for what it is?

I try not to paint with too broad a brush. There are nasty people everywhere in the world and culture gives them a particular flavor in each country, but it’s never as simple as “Thais are so (whatever).” I get very frustrated by hitting the same sexist walls all the time, but there’s sexism all over the world. In order to stay sane you have to choose your battles: accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, know the difference, and don’t ever let it change you unless it’s an improvement.

The particular case of the O. Meekhun gym, unfortunately, is one where the gym itself is at odds with almost the entire Pattaya Muay Thai gym community. It wasn’t until I’d been there for over a year that I came to really understand and realize why it was this way, but it also allowed me to appreciate how generous and amazing it was for my primary gym, Petchrungruang, to allow me to have that secondary relationship with O. Meekhun in the first place. I could feel the tension (from seemingly everybody) in associating with O. Meekhun, but it wasn’t until getting away from it that I could really appreciate why it is that way. It’s a very unique “outsider” gym, but I’m eternally grateful for my experiences there and it’s painful for me to have lost my relationship with Phetjee Jaa, who is a hero to me and wonderful kid. For the most part I’ve found very good people in Thailand, who pay back many fold the investment you put into them both socially, emotionally and financially.

I do think it is common for older expat westerners to become astonishingly jaded over a long period of time, which I think comes mostly from the strong insider/outsider quality to Thai culture. I’ve heard many of them refer to the pain of how, the more time they spend in Thailand and the more familiar they become with Thai people, the more they feel shut out from it. I don’t know why it’s the case, but I’ve had the opposite experience. When I first came to Thailand I loved it, but the more I learned the language, the more people I’ve grown to know and trust, the more included I’ve felt despite cultural differences. I’ve had very positive experiences with 95% of the Thais I deal with.

 

One thing i’ve learned about training with superstar fighters like Saenchai and other big names is they are just like the other Thai guys, except they are really good at what they do. Do you think there is a fine line between showing someone respect and putting them on a pedestal and turning them into an idol?

I don’t think it is really Thai culture to act like a superstar and many of these guys come from very humble beginnings. Despite their accomplishments as fighters, a lot of champions don’t receive a lot of long-term celebration and end up working at someone else’s gym, maybe owning their own gym, or in a line of work totally outside of Muay Thai – I know an ex-fighter who simultaneously held both the Lumpinee and Rajadamnern belts in the same weight class, incredible feat, one of the great fight minds I’ve ever met, and he works as referee at bar fights. The only “superstar” attitude exceptions I’ve encountered are some rare, big names who have spent a lot of time outside of Thailand, in the west mostly. Maybe in those cases a superstar persona develops from the reverence from foreign students, the way that foreign students might adulate them. On the other hand I know some very kind and humble stars who have spent time in the west and they don’t develop that narcissism. In any case it’s good to pay respect to the fighters or ex-fighters you admire, and I fan-girl out a little bit myself sometimes (although usually privately, keeping it all inside until I’m back home), but from my experience it is very rare for these guys to expect or want idolation.

For me there is a big difference between being respectful and just staring doe-eyed, or thinking someone is perfect. Saenchai seems like this, a lot of these top champions are still just big kids in the gym, full of the same joy that they trained with when they were kids. I recently trained with Karuhat Sor. Supawan, shooting a private for Nak Muay Nation. He’s lesser known in the west but in Thailand he’s a superstar from the Golden Age. I really didn’t know what to expect, even though I had met him before, but this was our first time training together. I love him. I mean, I watch his YouTube fights before my own fights to get pumped up. We get in the ring, I’m nervous, and he tells me he doesn’t want to hold pads, he just wants to spar. And the next hour is just him having fun, just like a kid, and me having fun too. There was no, “I’m going to teach you the champions way,” or anything like that. He taught me the whole time, gave me so much, but he didn’t want anything formal. He even let me throw him to the ground in order to practice things he taught me, laughing every time I flipped him. You just try to meet them in their joy.   

 

Fast forward 10 years from now. Where do you see yourself and what are you doing? Do you think you will still be fighting (300 fights?) or will you turn your attention to starting your own gym? What will Sylvie be doing in the future?

Sylvie ClinchI’d love to still be fighting, I plan to be fighting. It really depends on finances and my body holding out, but I don’t fantasize about a time when I won’t be fighting. I dream about fighting because that’s what I love. I fight so much because it makes me better as a fighter, and because there is so much to learn. Every year I’m surprised the kind of vistas that open up, every year I learn how much better I could be, if given enough time and opportunity. It’s not that there is another technique out there, or another tactic, there are whole ways of being in the ring that the great fighters know, that you can feel when you’re with them, but they take a long time to acquire.

I say that I want to fight 200 fights in Thailand, and it should take me about the next two years to accomplish that. Aside from the motivation that setting these kinds of marks changes fundamentally the way that women may look at their own achievement, dreaming even bigger in terms of fight experiences, and how others look at female fighting possibilities in Thailand, 200 is just a number that gets me closer to my real goal of real fluency in the art.

A goal I do hold is that I want to be the best female Muay Thai clinch fighter in the world, which for me means acquiring the techniques and mindset where I can not only beat everyone in my weight class (not achieved yet), but all those a few weight classes above me. I think Muay Khao (knee fighting) is that potent. If properly executed and expressed it can beat any other fight style. I’m nowhere close to that, there are still fighters in my own weight class I need to overcome, like Loma Lookboonmee for instance, but I’m setting very high goals for myself. This might take 2 years, it might take 10 more years of fighting. But this is an incredible path, fighting for self-mastery and self-discovery, trying to learn the art at a very deep level.

I really don’t see myself opening a gym, or even joining a gym in the west after my fighting is done. I’m just too enamored with the Thai version of Muay Thai, which involves not only the techniques and teachers, but the whole culture of fighting, inclusion, gambling, patience that only exists in Thailand.

My husband and I have been tossing around an idea of maybe opening up an all-female fighting gym one day in Thailand, a gym that gives young Thai female fighters the kind of opportunities that young Thai male fighters regularly are trained in. A gym like that would be really interesting, and we’d open to western female fighters and students as well. I could see something like that happening as I remain an active fighter. I’d also like to get involved in advocating for better futures for the female fighters of Thailand.

These are women with great knowledge (largely ignored by the west) who have devoted their lives to the art, many with over 100 fights; but most find themselves without much opportunity in Muay Thai after the age of 19 or 20. I’d like to be part of the work to change the future in the sport for Thai female fighters, building career paths. But I’m a long way from these things right now. Right now I’m just fighting and growing, fighting and growing. If you ask someone climbing Everest, as they are half way up the summit: where do you see yourself in 10 years? They see themselves on Everest. Why? Because everything is Everest when you’re on it. Everest is you.

Thanks for doing this interview Sylvie. I wish you the best in your fighting career and hope you continue to chase the dream.

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