Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?

Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?

Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?Loads of people come to Thailand with visions of taking a few Muay Thai lessons and going home the next Tony Jaa. Problem is, not many recognise the reality of getting even past the first base as far as Muay Thai (Thai boxing) is concerned… Unfortunately, there’s a less glamorous side to Thai Boxing that involves getting out of bed in the morning and plenty of sweat hitting the concrete. Oh, and yes, believe it or not you might get hit once in a while! Dominic Lavin takes us through the bits martial arts films and the travel brochures tend to miss out. He also interviews a few of the people training at Jitti Gym – a well respected Thai boxing gym… and we interview Dominic… Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?


“What the f*** am I doing here?” those are the exact words that went through my mind just after I’d climbed into the ring. My corner men were rubbing my legs, 400 blood thirsty half tipsy spectators were gazing in my direction and my opponent was in the blue corner, limbering up and avoiding eye contact.
 
That was back in 1994 and I lost the fight by the narrowest possible of margins. I’ve seen video footage of the event since and from a judges perspective the only thing that gave my opponent his one point margin was one more head kick than I’d thrown. Six months later a career change meant I had to retire from the competitive side of Thai Boxing but I’ve trained on and off in the sport throughout the remainder of my life. When people find out you’ve boxed they want to know what it’s like, does it hurt? Is it fun? Is it dangerous? It’s that long since I fought myself memory prevents me from giving a fair answer but as I’m in Bangkok and training pretty regularly at a gym I’ve known for 10 years or so I thought other people (who’ve fought in Thailand while my fights were in the UK) can give me a better insight into the sport.
 
On Monday at about 2:15 pm I got the underground to Rahcadaphisek station. I left by exit number 1, turned left through Rachada Night Bazaar and within thirty seconds or so I was at the back of the gym compound that sports the sign Jitti Gym International Muay Thai Training. I decided to have a cigarette before going in. As I drained the life out of a Marlborough Light I could hear the pop pop pop of heavy plastic skipping ropes on the concrete floor and smell the linament from over the wall. I walked round to the front, pulled back the ornate blue and gold gate and entered the gym. It was smiles all round. Last night, Richard from York had fought at Rajadamnern Stadium (ranked even higher than Lumphini Stadium in boxing circles) and won in the second round.

Two and a half minutes into the round a man wearing a taxi drivers bib stood by a large urn of water shouts rieu rieu rieu rieu (quick quick quick quick quick) and the pace intensifies. I find it hard to lift my legs and after another thirty seconds my spirit lifts as here the word break. The man in the corner hands me a cup of iced water, I pour some of it on my head, face and down my back then drink the rest. It gives me a moments’ salvation from the searing heat, but within seconds warm beads of sweat force their way out of my skin. I lift my arms above my head to help me breath better and as my heart beat starts to return to normal round two starts. Somehow I complete the second round without suffering too much more delirium and the start of round three (where I get my second wind) is delayed while a dog chases a cockerel round the ring and the trainers shoo them out. The fourth round is torture and I only just manage to stay on my feet, so call it a day, climb out of the ring and douse myself in iced water, while the rest of the gym continue oblivious to my plight.

After sitting on a bench feeling sorry for myself for seven or eight minutes I feel guilty about my indolence and decide to work on a big leather punch bag. I maintain a low to moderate pace, boxing mainly with the occasional kick or knee thrown while the guys from Leeds and the youngsters throw themselves into their training relentlessly. A while later I get called over to train with Daomai, the boxing coach. He smiles, slams the focus mitts together, points at my stomach and calls me Sweat Pea. I’m assuming he’s referring to the slightly podgy American heavyweight rather than the featherweight Colin Sweat Pea MacMillan from Sheffield.

He holds the left pad up and I jab. Bam Bam, he shouts and I jab twice. Two, he holds both pads up and I throw a one two combination. Four, I throw four as he smacks the pads down onto my hands. My right knuckles and wrist hurt but I ignore the pain and try and punch as powerfully and quickly as possible. Doamai adds in hooks and uppercuts and makes me block and roll from his punches. After two and a half rounds I want to lie in bath of iced water for the rest of my life, again I sit down for a while before going back to a bag while the rest of gym continue their relentless efforts to knock the stuffing out of the pads.

Eventually people switch from pad work to light sparring and clinch work. I decide to join in and get gracefully wrestled into a corner by one of the pad men, who proceeds to gently knee me around the abdomen. When the smell of cooking rice wafts out of the kitchen I get pangs of hunger and decided to call it a day.
    
After showering I return and the rest of the people are either playfully and respectfully sparring with one another or indulging in excruciating looking exercises. By six thirty everyone’s gathered round a big table in the kitchen, having a laugh and eating and that’s when I interview a cross section of the regulars at the gym and KhaoSanRoad.com interviewed me!


 
jitti_damriramJitti Damriram, age 46, Gym Owner, home town Burriram
 
Q How did you get involved in Thai boxing?
 
A To be honest I like all sports, football, takraw, boxing, but I liked cooking, washing, cleaning and ironing my clothes and my friends called me “ladyboy” so I had to fight to show them I wasn’t.
 
Q What level of success did you achieve as a Thai boxer? 

A I reached number 5 at Rajadamnern stadium, but as a boxer not a Thai boxer.
  
Q What does a typical day involve for you?
  
A Right now, I wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning and then check that they go running and start to prepare the food for them and I look after them like my babies you know, my family. I see that they have enough sleep, enough food and things like that.
  
Q What do you like about Thai boxing?
  
A I think it’s got into my bones I love it I couldn’t do any other job you know.
  
Q What do you dislike about it?
  
A If something’s not correct, that’s when I hate it.
  
Q What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you in Thai boxing?
  
A Many Champions all over the world know my gym is one of the best ones, because we’ve run for a long time. Before we started to train farangs for nothing that was when we were near Khao Sarn, then when they started to want to come and train they had to give me 50 baht. Then many more started to come, so we needed more pad men, we needed more trainers and I was lucky that I had many friends and ex students who were top champions already. They wanted to come to work for me because they could see the opportunities in the future to go and work abroad teaching people to fight.
  
Q Has there ever been anything bad that’s happened?
  
A It was a long time ago there was one Japanese student, he was stupid and got too excited about a fight, he was training for a fight in Cambodia, he trained too hard and then got nervous. He didn’t eat or sleep properly and went sparring full power. With the heat his system went into shock, and when he left the ring he went into the shower and passed out and hit his head on the floor. He died in hospital that day.
  
Q How many champions have you trained?
  
A Many, I can’t remember them all, but Rajasak was the best he was Rajadamnern Champion at four weights.
  
Q Did he fight at Lumphini as well?
  
A At the time the promoter at Rajadamnern didn’t allow the fighters to fight at Lumphini, but he fought many Lumphini champions and beat them.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt?
  
A I had one fight where I couldn’t remember what happened, I got stopped. The guy was 5 kilos heavier than me, because at that time I was top at boxing and nobody wanted to fight me, so I had to go up 5 kilos. I did ten rounds and then I just blacked out. When I got out of the ring I couldn’t remember my opponents name, then I got back to the gym and I asked my friend where I was, I didn’t know where I was. He had to give me some pills, valium or something like that to help me sleep and relax. The next day when I woke up I was fine.
  
Q What other interests have you got?
  
A I’d like to move up and be a promoter, that’s my dream, my aim. I also like football and takraw.


  
Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?Rajasak Sorvorapin, age 38 home town Burriram
 
Q How did you get involved in Thai boxing?
 
A To be honest I like all sports, football, takraw, boxing, but I liked cooking, washing, cleaning and ironing my clothes and my friends called me “ladyboy” so I had to fight to show them I wasn’t.
 
Q What level of success did you achieve as a Thai boxer?
 
Q How long have you been involved in Muay Thai?
  
A Since I was twelve years old.
  
Q What level of success did you achieve?
  
A At Rajadamnern I was recognised as fighter of the year for two years.
  
Q How many fights have you had?
  
A Over two hundred.
  
Q What is your daily routine?
  
A Drinking (laughs). Handyman as well, repair buildings that sort of thing.
  
Q When you’re training people what does that normally involve?
  
A 5 in the morning I wake up, go for a run and then training until around 9 o’clock.
  
Q After training what do you do?
  
A Many things relax, go shopping, get a massage then train again in the afternoon from 3 until 6.
  
Q In Thai boxing what’s the best thing that happened to you?
  
A The first time I won a title at Rajadamnern.
  
Q What’s the worst?
  
A I had a motorbike accident that stopped me fighting.
  
Q What do you like about Thai Boxing?
  
A My brothers and my father were fighters. I have Muay Thai blood.
  
Q What do you dislike about it?
  
A I don’t like some of the bad people involved.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt?
  
A The worst was when I had just started to train and fought without having trained properly.
  
Q What other interests have you got?
  
A I want to be a good trainer and teacher so that I can travel abroad and see other countries.


 
Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?Komgiat Sortanikhun age 33, home town Khon Kaen
 
Q How long have you been involved in Thai boxing?
 
A Since I was 16.
 
Q Why did you get involved in Thai boxing?
 
A My father was an ex champion, he encouraged me and I loved it.
 
Q How good were you? 

A I fought for titles many times, but didn’t quite beat the Champions. There was business and money involved.
  
Q What does a normal day involve for you?
  
A As well as training people at the gym, my girlfriend sells food. I help her with the cooking.
  
Q What do you like about Thai boxing?
  
A I like the technical side of it, being skilful.
  
Q What do you dislike about it?
  
A I don’t like the clinching and knees, but I like left kick left punch.
  
Q What’s your proudest moment in Thai Boxing?
  
A I fought a guy called Chamophet who had about eight or nine titles.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt in the ring?
  
A Only cut. 
  
Q What interests have you got outside boxing?
  
A I love cooking Isaan food, laarb and som tam.


daomai_setcordomDaomai Setcordom, age 40 and still handsome, hometown Burriram
 
Q When did you start Muay Thai
 
A I am more of a boxer than a Thai boxer. I started when I was fourteen.
 
Q What made you start boxing ?
 
A When I was young I had rough friends around me and I needed to be able to take care of myself.
 
Q What level of success did you achieve ?
  
A I was ranked second in the world by the WBC.
  
Q Who was the best person you fought ?
  
A I fought a Korean guy who was ranked number one by the WBA and 9 by the WBC.
  
Q What was the proudest moment you had ?
  
A When I fought Junior Frazer for the WBC belt.
  
Q How many fights did you have ?
  
A At least 75. 
  
Q What do you like about boxing ?
  
A I like having the punches and speed of a champ boxer.
  
Q What do you dislike about it ?
  
A I don’t like fighting relentless fighters.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt ? 
  
A In one of my fights I got my eye closed by the swelling.
  
Q What other interest’s do you have? 
  
A I have a food shop that sells barbeques and steaks. 
  
Liam Harrison, age 20, home town Leeds England
 
Q How long have you been involved in Thai boxing?
 
A Seven and a half years.
 
Q Why did you get involved?
 
A My cousin took me down to Bad Company Gym in Leeds where he was training at the time.
 
Q What level of success have you had?

A I’ve done quite well. I’ve won two world titles, one of them in Thailand against a current world Champion and I’ve had six fights in Thailand and five wins. I’ve had 35 fights in total.
  
Q What does a typical day involve?
  
A Training wise it’s a run in the morning, clinching, pads and sparring. About 6 hours all together.
  
Q What’s it like when you fight, what goes through your mind?
  
A I don’t know how to answer that one. I can’t explain it. It all just comes naturally. I’m happiest when I’m in the ring.
  
Q What do you like about Thai boxing?
  
A Everything. 
  
Q Is there anything you dislike about it? 
  
A Idiots on discussion boards mouthing off. 
  
Q What’s been your proudest moment in Muay Thai?
  
A When I won my world title. I t was in a province three hours outside Bangkok, Cha Am.
  
Q What’s been the worst thing?
  
A The first time I fought a stadium ranked Thai, I got my comeuppance big time. I went the distance but lost on points. I got kneed all over the place.
 
Q What do you think makes a good fighter? 
  
A A big heart and toughness will take you a long way, but you need dedication and have to be willing to put the time in. It’s hard work you have to train all the time day in day out. The harder you work the more you get out of it, these people here can make you a champion if you put 100 % in.
  
Q What other interests have you got?
  
A I’ve played football semi professionally. I had trials with Leeds, Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday but never made it though, I didn’t quite make the cut.


  
Do you have what it takes to do Muay Thai?Richard Cadden, age 29, home town York, England
 
Q How long have you been involved in Muay Thai?
 
A It’s about 10 years.
 
Q What got you interested?
 
A I was involved in Kick Boxing and the instructor stopped turning up at the gym. One of the lads I
trained with suggested trying Thai Boxing instead
and I enjoyed it. I starting kicking the pads properly instead of just flicking them like you do in kick boxing.

A Back home I work full time, so can’t train all the time, but I spend all my annual leave in Thailand. I’m a railway engineer. When I’m here I get out of bed at about 6, and run until about 8, then I do bag work and pad work until about nine. After that it’s a shower and sleep. I get up again at 3 and train again until half six, seven, then shower and eat then sleep because it’s so intensive.
  
Q What’s been the proudest moment for you in Thai Boxing?
  
A When I won my world title.
  
Q What’s been the worst thing that’s happened in Thai boxing?
  
A To be honest I’m a pretty positive person. If something goes wrong I take it in my stride. I just deal with it.
  
Q What’s it like when you fight, what’s going through your mind?
  
A I think about my family and all the people who are supporting me. When I say that I mean people like my trainers, my friends from the gym, my family and my girlfriend who give me emotional support.
  
Q How many fights have you had?
  
A 36, I’m not sure how many of them I’ve won. I think it’s about 24.
  
Q What is it you like about Thai boxing?
  
A Belting people in the face. Whacking ’em(laughs). It’s everything to do with the sport it’s the lifestyle. When I get in condition I like seeing my body change shape. There’s also the spiritual side as well. I read a lot, I like the Wai Kru, Ram Muay, the fight ritual and stuff.
  
Q Is there anything you dislike about Thai Boxing?
  
A People on the discussion boards mouthing off. There’s one guy who’s shown a lack of respect, saying I’m running scared and have avoided fighting him six times. I’ve only known about two of them. The fight just never came off. It happens sometimes, but I’m going to fight him now, set the record straight.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt?
  
A Not really. 
  
Q Not even aches and pains from training?
  
A You always get things that happen, but you can work around them. I hate it when people wallow in the despair of injury. If your shins hurt you’ve got two hands and two elbows, you can still train around it. If your legs are knackered you can still box. There’s so many things you can work on because you need fitness, power, strength, stability and conditioning. I snapped a ligament on the outside of my knee when I was running once. My kneecap went down the side of my leg, I pushed it back in and limped back to the gym. I was out for about six months, the muscle definition disappeared in my legs, so I spent a lot of time down the swimming baths and doing weights and stuff like that. When I got back to the gym I’d changed shape, but just got back on with it. That’s an example of how you need to think positive about things. I could have used that as an excuse, but you won’t get anywhere without the positive attitude. You start to see things from a different perspective.
  
Q What other interests do you have?
  
A I’ve got a girlfriend back home and I’ve been into a lot of other martial arts. Tae Kwon Do, Jiu Jitsu, Kick Boxing.
  
Q What do you think makes a good fighter?
  
A Never say die attitude, passion and dedication.


 

dominic_lavinDominic Lavin, age 35, home town Wigan England
http://www.myspace.com/140525510
 
Q How long have you been involved in Muay Thai?
 
A Since about 92 I think.
 
Q Why did you start?
 
A I was a bit of a football hooligan in the early days and when I saw my mates going to prison for it I thought I’d better call it a day, but I still needed an outlet for my aggression. When a mate took me to see some fights I was hooked. It was handy as well because someone owed me some money and I wanted to know how to snot him properly.

Q What is your typical daily routine?
 
A It varies, when I’m in England I just work all the time, but when I’m in Thailand it’s different. For the first month or two on my visits to Thailand I tend to wake up at around four or five in the afternoon and wonder where my mobile phone, wallet and cash have gone. I have a shower then go downstairs. The apartment manager usually asks me to apologise to Mr & Mrs So and So in flat xxx for trying to get in their room using my keys at four in the morning, then I go and have something to eat and try and remember which bars I was in the night before. At around 7pm I start to drink. When the money starts running low I start training again to try and loose weight and feel better about myself and just get bevvied at the weekend.
  
Q What level of success have you had in the sport?
  
A I was never that good really I just liked a scrap. I had 3 Semi Contact fights which I won and four full contact, out of them I came second in all but one of them.
  
Q What was your proudest moment?
  
A I was awarded fighter of the year at Horwich Thai Boxing Club in 1994. I think at that time the club had about 9 members and two fighters.
  
Q What was the worst thing that happened to you?
  
A I got used to getting filled in after a while.
  
Q What was it like when you fought?
  
A It used to fill up my head space completely for about a week before the event. I never really got panicked by it I just went into a bit of a world of my own. On the night of the fight I had sort of an inner calm but wanted to get down to business as well.
  
Q What did you like about the sport?
  
A It was the adrenalin buzz of a combat sport. One-to-one with your opponent. In Thailand sparring’s pretty light, they can’t afford to get injured and save the heavy stuff for in the ring. Back in the UK some of the sparring sessions were like World War 3, it was great, very little technical merit but good honest battling. If I was lucky I could get a good half hour of heavy scrapping every day five or six times a week.
  
Q What did you dislike about it?
  
A one of the worst things was sitting in the changing rooms before a fight, waiting for your turn and seeing your mate come back in on a stretcher. Another thing that annoyed me was when loads of new associations started springing up in the UK. All of a sudden some bloke who’d had two fights got matched up with the caretaker at the church hall, won on points and was declared Buxton and New Mills Muay Thai Association British and European Champion at three weights.
  
Q Have you ever been hurt?
  
A I fought a guy called Craig Willis from Darlington. I don’t really remember what happened, but I think it ended in the second round. When I came round in the changing room someone told me that my nose was half way across my face and I had to reset it (push it back into place), it hurt like f***. One eye was completely closed and I could just see out of the other. I couldn’t walk properly for days.
  
Q What other interests have you got?
  
A A few really, drink beer and smoking tabs is the main one though. Seeing Wigan Athletic in the Premiership after all these years is truly amazing. I like the bars of Lower Sukumvit and their employees, listening to New Order and The Who, writing, reading good books and poetry, that sort of stuff.
  
A Not having me as your role model.
  
If you’re interested in training at Jitti Gym visit his website, www.jittigym.com, Jitti has an excellent reputation around the world and is happy to adapt training for everyone from complete novices to professional fighter.

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