Known as "the Art of Eight Limbs," Muay Thai is an ancient Thai combat sport that's seen a huge growth in popularity in the United States over the past few years, and a new, locally produced documentary explores one man's journey to learn the art of the fight.
Directed by Mer Aldao, Win. Lose. Forgive. is produced by Kurt Hoffman, a student of Phas3 Martial Arts owner Ben Brown, whose work to become a Muay Thai trainer, under the tutelage of champion fighter Jongsanan "Woodenman" from the El Niño Mixed Martial Arts Training Center in San Francisco, forms the core of the 27-minute documentary.
Win. Lose. Forgive. offers a glimpse into the heart of Muay Thai, as much a spiritual discipline as a sport, in which the hands, feet, elbows and knees are used to brutal effect. "Muay Thai is an open art," Jongsanan says, one in which it's important to listen first, and "don't question-mark yourself at all."
One of the film's most powerful moments arrives when Brown tells of the first time he trained with Monlit Sitpohdaeng, voted Thailand's top Muay Thai trainer in 2010, and how excited he was to show off his skills to the master. Instead, Brown receives a swift lesson in humility when Sitpohdaeng parks him in front of a mirror for an hour after pointing out everything he's doing incorrectly.
"Finally, I figured it out," Brown recounts for camera in his earnest, urgent manner. "Who the hell am I to come in here and show him how good I've gotten? I'm gonna come in here and show him how great I am? There's no great. I don't know anything."
It's just one of the many lessons learned in a film loaded with musings on fighting, discipline and the beginner's mind and life.
'Win. Lose. Forgive.' premieres on Saturday, July 20 at Third Street Cinemas. 620 Third St., Santa Rosa. 5:30pm. $5. www.winloseforgive.com.