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Posts Tagged ‘thailand’

Martial Arts Odyssey: Muay Boran 1

In Uncategorized on November 21, 2015 at 7:46 am

Before there was sport Muay Thai there was ancient Muay Thai, Muay Boran. Modern sport Muay Thai contains about 20 movements. Muay Boran contains hundreds. In the 1920’s when Muay Thai was codified as a modern sport His Majesty the King called the great masters together to write a book of modern Muay Thai. All of the techniques in that book have been recorded for history. All of the techniques excluded from the book are considered Muay Boran. Unfortunately, Muay Boran has never been codified. So, different masters know different techniques. Fighting Muay Thai is a way of earning a living in Thailand, but there are no Muay Boran fights. Consequently, young people abandoned the study of the art. Most masters haven’t passed on their skills to a younger generation. And now, most of the masters are old, dead, or dying. As a result, Muay boran is an endangered art. The master featured in this video is Adjan Sok Chai from Surin, Thailand, the first teacher of film star Tony Jaa. He can be seen in many of Tony Jaa’s movies, wearing almost the same clothes he wears in the video, the clothes he wears every day.
Martial Arts Odyssey: Muay Boran 1

Martial Arts Odyssey Re-Release (Part 1)

In Uncategorized on November 15, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Back to the beginning, rereleasing all of the videos
By Antonio Graceffo

Martial Arts Odyssey, the video series which follows the Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo on his journey through martial arts across Asia has been running since 2007. The video series grew out of a series of magazine articles and books which began in 2001, when Antonio left New York to go to Taiwan, learn Kung Fu and Mandarin and then train at the Shaolin Temple in Mainland China.

Since the beginning there have been about 400 martial arts videos, featuring the Monk studying diverse martial arts, such as Kuntaw in the Philippines, Muay Chaiya in Thailand, Selambam in Penang, Vo Co Truen in Vietnam, Bokator in Cambodia, shuai jiao in China and many, many more.

In order to share all of these wonderful martial arts with a new generation of fans, Antonio is rereleasing the episodes, in the order in which they were originally released, at a rate of one per day.

MAO: Kuntaw in the Philippines was the first episode shot and the first episode released, in 2007. At that time, Antonio didn’t even own a video camera, so the video was shot and edited by a TV crew in the Philippines. This video features Grand Master Frank Aycocho.

Digging for the Truth: Angkor Wat, from the Philippines, Antonio flew to Siem Reap Cambodia, where he and his Bokator instructor Grand Master San Kim Saen collaborated with a New York based film crew to shoot this documentary about the traditional Cambodian martial art, Bokator.

Between 2007 and 2008 numerous episodes were shot with borrowed equipment, but Antonio lacked expertise and money for editing, so the tapes collected in a backpack until late 2008 when they were finally edited and released, but not in the order in which they were shot. The third episode to air was MAO: Training with the Shan State Army 1, which was shot in 2007.

This video was shot in Burma during the saffron revolution when foreigners were banned from entering Burma. It is thought to be the first video ever to feature the kung fu of the Shan ethnic group, called Lai Tai. MAO Laitai 1

Pra Kru Bah, the muay Thai monk is the abbot of the Golden Horse Monastary, Wat Achatong on the Thai Burma border. In 2003 he took Antonio in and became Antonio’s first Muay Thai teacher. He taught Antonio Muay Thai, Thai language, and Thai culture. It was in this monastery that Antonio first heard about the war in Burma and vowed to someday help the Shan people. Prah Kru Bah Story Part 1

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a lecturer at Shanghai University. He is also a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling, in Chinese, with expected graduation in June of 2016. He is expected to graduate his China MBA, from Shanghai Jiaotong University, in January, 2016. Antonio is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey”, “The Monk from Brooklyn,” and several others. He has published hundreds of articles in the fields of linguistics: second language acquisition, as well as martial arts. Antonio is the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
The Monk from Brooklyn, the book which gave Antonio his name, and all of his other books, the book available at amazon.com. His book, Warrior Odyssey, chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia, including stories about Khmer and Vietnamese martial arts as well as the war in Burma and the Shan State Army, is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
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Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Martial Arts Styles Do Exist

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2015 at 10:22 am

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By Antonio Graceffo

Recently, I saw a Facebook video of a grappling competition, between a freestyle wrestler and a Brazilian Jujitsu practitioner. There are a lot of Youtube videos with titles like “Muay Thai vs. Kyokushin” or “Kung Fu vs. MMA” but what I liked about this particular video was that both practitioners were wearing the clothing appropriate to their art, which made them easily identifiable. The wrestler wore his singlet and wrestling shoes. The BJJ fighter wore a grappling shirt and shorts. The next thing that was special about this match up was that both men fought according to their distinctive styles. In this modern era of open grappling tournaments and MMA fights, most champion fighters are so well-rounded that the imprint of their original martial art is often barely visible.

The litmus test, for a fighter looking like his or her style, would be Ronda Rousey, who, in spite of being incredibly well-rounded, and in spite of having won her UFC 190 fight completely with striking, usually looks like a judoka. Watching her fights, it is generally clearly obvious that she comes from a world-class judo background. Lyoto Machida definitely owes much of his success to the fact that he fights like a karate man and both grapplers and strikers find it difficult to break inside of his unusual footwork. Another example would be Cung Le, whose san da background is evident in his MMA fights. But, when GSP defeated world-class wrestler Matt Hughes, did he really look like a kyokushin fighter? Or is there anything about Roy “Big Country” Nelson to suggest that his first martial art was kung fu?
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In this video matchup between the wrestler and the BJJ practitioner, the BJJ guy kept trying to pull guard, to take the fight to the ground, where he would have the advantage. The wrestler was clearly looking for, and got, the takedown, which is his strength. Once he engaged, the wrestler executed a suplex, followed by a high-crotch takedown. He slammed the BJJ guy so hard that the referee stopped the match.
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It was the comments posted on this video which caused me to write this article. “its not the name of the style… Its the practitioner”, “Jujutsu is wrestling, Judo – is wrestling”, “There are not ‘greco technique ‘ of ‘BJJ technique , ‘judo technique’ or ‘free style technique’ There are only ‘RIGHT TECHNIQUE’ and ‘WRONG’”.

Recently, I have heard a lot of people claiming that there are no martial arts styles, only “good technique” and “bad technique.” But this is simply not the case. Some techniques are similar across multiple styles, for example, a shoulder throw can be used in judo, shuai jiao, submission wrestling, or even san da. But other techniques are not. And if a particular style lacks a particular technique, the practitioners normally don’t drill the defense to that technique. Boxers, for example don’t practice sprawl, because there is no single or double leg takedown in boxing. Wrestlers don’t practice passing the guard, because that situation doesn’t exist in wrestling.
Styles definitely exist. And for that reason, when people wish to excel in mixed style events, like open grappling tournaments, or MMA fights, the best fighters tend to be complete fighters who train in multiple styles.

As anecdotal evidence proving the existence of styles, let me present the findings of my summer research. This summer, I travelled for three solid months training and filming Martial Arts Odyssey. My journey took me to Shanghai, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, New York, Singapore, and Johor Bahru. Along the way, I trained and/or filmed the following martial arts: san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, catch wrestling, sambo, submission wrestling, judo, boxing, and Brazilian jujitsu.

In san da training, we spent an hour catching kicks. Kick catching is not taught in Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, catch wrestling, submission wrestling, judo, boxing, or Brazilian jujitsu.

In Greco-Roman wrestling we were practicing dropping to one knee and executing a fireman’s carry (without touching the opponent’s leg). This method is not taught in san da, shuai jiao wrestling or boxing.

In freestyle wrestling we were working on cat’s cradle pin. This technique is not taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, or boxing.

In freestyle, we also worked on ankle-pick which is not done in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, judo, or boxing.

In shuai jiao wrestling we practiced jacket grabbing drills. These techniques are not taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, Kepap, catch wrestling, submission wrestling, boxing, or Brazilian jujitsu.

In kepap class the students were learning how to execute a knife attack. Offensive knife fighting is never taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, catch wrestling, boxing, sambo, submission wrestling, judo, or Brazilian jujitsu.

In Catch wrestling we were learning knee and ankle submissions. These techniques are forbidden, and thus not taught, in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, boxing, or judo.

In sambo we were learning knee compression submissions. These are not taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, judo, or boxing.

In submission wrestling we worked on turtle defense and reversing an opponent who was turttled up, so you could get the pin. Turtle position doesn’t exist in san da, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, or boxing.

In judo we learned how to use the opponent’s gi top to choke him. This is not practiced in: san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, Kepap, catch wrestling, submission wrestling, or boxing.

In boxing training, my coach, Paddy Carson, was helping me improve the rhythm of my three-punch combinations. Punching isn’t taught in Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, catch wrestling, submission wrestling, judo, or Brazilian jujitsu.

At Brazilian jujitsu class we were learning spider guard. These skills are not taught in san da, Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, shuai jiao wrestling, catch wrestling, or boxing.

Styles clearly exist. For this reason, to be a complete fighter, one must study multiple STYLES.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
The Monk from Brooklyn, the book which gave Antonio his name, and all of his other books, the book available at amazon.com. His book, Warrior Odyssey, chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia, including stories about Khmer and Vietnamese martial arts as well as the war in Burma and the Shan State Army, is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brooklyn-Monk/152520701445654?fref=ts
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com
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Brooklyn Monk and The Cell Doctor (Part 1)

In Uncategorized on June 21, 2015 at 6:28 pm
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A lifetime of accumulated sports injuries finally caught up with the forty-eight year-old Brooklyn Monk. Hoping to avoid expensive and very dicey knee surgery, he heads off to Pattaya, Thailand to meet Dr. Peter Lewis, a sports medicine physician from Australia, operating out of Surecell Clinic for Platelet Rich Plasma therapy, a new scientific breakthrough which is having wondrous results in the treatment of knees, elbows, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Listen as Antonio Graceffo, the Brooklyn Monk interviews Dr. Lewis about this revolutionary alternative to invasive surgery.

Watch: Brooklyn Monk and The Cell Doctor (Part 1)

Watch: Brooklyn Monk and The Cell Doctor (Part 2)

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a PhD candidate at Shanghai University of sport, writing his dissertation on comparative forms of Chinese wrestling. He is martial arts and adventure author living in Asia, the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
The Monk from Brooklyn, the book which gave Antonio his name, and all of his other books, the book available at amazon.com. His book, Warrior Odyssey, chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia, including stories about Khmer and Vietnamese martial arts as well as the war in Burma and the Shan State Army, is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk: Thailand Judo (Parts 1 through 3)

In Uncategorized on April 26, 2015 at 10:50 pm

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Just a few weeks into his formal study of judo PhD candidate, Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo, a wrestling major, heads to Bangkok, Thailand to train judo with pro MMA fighter and judo instructor, Shane Wiggand.
Watch Brooklyn Monk Thailand Judo (Parts 1 ) on youtube:

Watch Thailand Judo (Parts 2 ) on youtube:

Watch Brooklyn Monk Thailand Judo (Parts 3 ) on Youtube:

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.
Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army. The book is available at http://www.blackbeltmag.com/warrior_odyssey
See Antonio’s Destinations video series and find out about his column on http://www.blackbeltmag.com
Email Antonio
Antonio@speakingadventure.com
website
http://www.speakingadventure.com
Twitter
http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk
facebook
Brooklyn Monk fan page
Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE
http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D
Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/
Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)
http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Card Sayings 2

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm

a1 Gi Joe 12 c a1B BB Destination Shaolin a2 green horent a3 seamonkey

The Last Thai Sword Master

In Martial Arts on November 5, 2007 at 6:11 am

By Antonio Graceffo Flashes of steel the clank of metal, blades blazing like fire: This is a practice session for Kru Pedro Villalobos and his trainer, Adjarn, one of the last living masters of Krabi Krabong, the Thai art of stick and sword fighting.  “If I do not block, he will definitely hit me.” Says Kru Pedro Villaobos, the founder of the school of Muay Thai Sangha, a religious form of Muay Thai Boran, in Chiang Mai. For years, Kru Pedro traveled around Thailand, finding and training with the best masters for the various forms of Muay Thai, Muay Thai Boran, and Krabi Krabong.  While professional, sport Muay Thai slowly drives all other historical and artistic forms of Muay Thai into extinction, Krabi Krabong is quickly disappearing. Many of the teachers dont take new students. Some dont take any at all. The Adjarn is considered to be one of the last great masters. He hadnt accepted any students in years, but after seeing Pedros diligence and extreme desire to learn, he agreed to take him on, as his last student.  For myself, I was grateful for this rare opportunity to watch the practice. Before Pedro could even pick up his swords, in the presence of outsiders, he had to ask permission from his teacher. “If I demonstrate to anyone, without his permission, he said he would never teach me again.” The two men fought, with one, real, heavy metal sword in each hand, swinging, blocking, advancing and retreating for a half hour. By the end of the session, Pedro, who is in world-class physical condition, was dripping sweat. The Adjarn looked barely winded, which is amazing, considering his age of around sixty.  In a rare interview, the Adjarn imparted the wisdom gained from a lifetime of studying the sword.  

“Real fighters have to use their intellect.  They approach each other not just for show. You have to practice your sword techniques on your partner.  Know when he advances and know when to parry.  He goes for your head, you go for his leg. Each person has their own gracefulness.” Here, the Adjarn was talking about how we all have our own style and ability.    “If you’re talking about the ancient sword fighting, that’s not how we practice today. For them, sword fighting was life and death. They practice throughout their entire life as well. Every facet of their life revolved around the sword technique. The ancients engaged in massive sword battles, consisting of hundreds of fighters. Today, we practice two forms (katas), and the fighters are already tired.  If they tire so easily, they don’t know the real way.  In the old days, fighters knew they would be cut, or die. So, they made their skin thick, and the swords slipped off on contact.  Then they could do real battle quickly.  Here we practice for art. But, in earlier times the practice had a purpose, war.”   “The same is true of Muay Thai. It used to be for real fighting, not only just for gambling and money. They knew how to defend in all situations. They knew how to avoid the unnecessary battles as well, and only engaged the enemy when needed.”   “If you engaged in too many sword fights, the blades would chip and split. The swords had to be of high quality. And they infused them with blessings and other ancient magic. The written histories are full of sword fighting and splitting swords.”   I didn’t even begin to believe I was worthy of studying with Pedro’s Adjarn. But I wanted to get a  taste of Krabi Krabong, so I traveled to Surin province, where I took some lessons with Adjarn Sak Chai, a trainer of Khmer movie fighters. He is an expert of Muay Thai Boran, Krabi Krabong, and gymnastics, all aimed at performing in Thai action cinema.   

The Adjan taught me some techniques fromKrabi Krabong, the Thai art of double sword and stick fighting. He practices by attacking a tire, mounted on a wooden pole, which serves as a wooden man. The long stick is similar to bo the staff used in other martial arts, but it is very heavy, not flexible like the ones at Shaolin Temple. Often, the Adjan took the long staff by the end and swung it like a baseball bat.   The short sticks were heavier and longer than Arnis sticks. The important thing to remember here, is that they aren’t sticks at all. They are swords. If you were a master of Arnis you probably couldn’t apply your skills to these longer, heavier weapons. The Adjan taught me a basic patter; strike to the left shoulder, strike to right shoulder, strike to the top of the head. When you swing the sword in Krabi Krabong, you have to get a real wind up swing, twisting your body and reaching far back behind you. Then you let it fly and the weapon cuts your opponent in half.   After doing the basic three strike combo on a tire for a while, I was permitted to practice with a live partner. I attacked, stepping forward with each strike. The opponent defended, stepping back at a forty-five degree angle, blocking as he went. Then he attacked, and I retreated and blocked. We practiced again and again, until we could do the patter at speed.  In rehearsing for movie fighting, we did the same, basic pattern. On film, however, you use a lot more energy and add in a great deal of shouting and snarling. It looks really mean in the cinema. But it was fake. Pedro’s Adjarn was the real deal. Pedro’s Adjard said.  

“In ancient times, when an enemy appeared out of the blue, they had to face off and see whose style was superior.”   “Bang! Boom! Pssshhh! The best and fastest one would win! This is the real fighting. Today, fighting is all a big show. It’s not real, only exercise and theatre. We must attempt, now, to preserve the old sword fighting methods, not just make a show of it, practice the real way.  You must be serious and not slap each other with the blades like if it were a game. You must practice with all your heart and devote your time to it like it was your life, as the old practitioners did.  If some one wants to come study with me, I must first examine their behavior and dedication. Otherwise, they will waste their time and mine.  This style is mostly one of defense and not offense.    “The sword is a weapon, but the fighter is the brain. The pain of loss could lead to your death.  I even fear for my life at times.”  

Antonio Graceffo is an adventure and martial arts author living in Asia. He is the Host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” The Pilot episode, shot in the Philippines, is running on youtube, click here.  The Monk From Brooklyn – Kuntaw in the Phillipines Antonio is the author of four books available on amazon.com Contact him Antonio@speakingadventure.com see his website www.speakingadventure.com

 

Muay Thai Chakrit

In Martial Arts on October 20, 2007 at 5:54 am

A Brooklyn Monk Training in Bangkok

By Antonio Garceffo

 

Coach Adjan Chakrit moves in circles, holding up the focus mitts, he calls out the commands. “One, one two.” I throw a straight left, right combination. “Four!” That means, left, right, hook, straight. This part is easy for me. I have been boxing since I was twelve years old. But now he calls for two kicks on the right side, followed by two kicks on the left side. The energy required to throw a kick, versus a punch is incredibly draining. My balance is off now. My weight is all over the place. More punches, more kiks, a series of elbow strikes.

 

“Block!” he yells.

 

Instinctively, I drop my elbow to protect my mid-section. Wrong move! His kick catches me just below the ribcage. This is Muay Thai, not boxing. I have to remember to block by brining up my shins, instead of bringing down my elbows.

 

“Front kick.” He yells, before I regain my balance.

 

“Knee, knee, straight, block.”

 

In addition to dealing with the unusual commands in the foreign language, I am fatigued, and my brain is not working as sharply as it should be. There is a long delay before I can react to the commands. Once again, the coach’s shin catches me in the mid-section.

 

Muay Thai is an ancient martial art which a lot of people believe was developed first  in Cambodia, and later adapted by Thailand. The Khmers are angry that the Thais have put their name on the art. Monks and scholars I have spoken to in Thailand believe it is very possible that many of the techniques or refinement of this form of combat were adopted form Cambodia. It is certain, however, that there was some type of unarmed combat technique in Thailand before the Khmer influence.

 

Written records of Muay Thai date back approximately five hundred years. At that time the bouts had very few rules. The competitors fought essentially bare-fisted with their hands wrapped in ropes.

 

During the 1920s and 1930s, when Thailand was modernizing, the art was further refined into a professional sport. The first stadiums were built and the ring and gloves were added. This period is really the birth of modern Muay Thai. Today, Muay Thai is a big professional sport in Thailand, with somewhere in the order of 60 – 90 thousand professional fighters. In the west, we would expect good professional fighters to have worked their way up from the amateur circuit, but in Thailand there isn’t much of an amateur Muay Thai circuit. For the most part, Thai people can’t see the point of getting beat up for free. As a result, there is nearly exclusively professional Muay Thai.

 

Muay Thai has been added to the SEA Games (South East Asian) and it will most likely be added to the Asian Games, which will probably promote an amateur version of the sport. Thailand and Cambodia have had a long running feud because Cambodians feel the art should be called Bradal Serey or free fighting. They are angry about the fact that in Thailand branded the art as Muay Thaii. As a result, Cambodia refuses to compete in the Muay Thai championships in the SEA Games and refuse to join the World Muay Thai Council which governs professional Muay Thai. As a result, Cambodia can’t fight for the championship. Vietnam and Lao are both Communist and support Cambodia, by also refusing to compete in Muay Thai in the South East Asian Games.

 

Training in Vietnam a few weeks ago, I discovered that they didn’t have any kickboxers or professional fighters in the whole country. Consequently, their refusal to compete in the SEA games is not so significant.

 

Thailand and the Philippines are doing extremely well on the international fighting circuits, in the lower weight divisions. Japan hosts the K-1 which is basically the Super Bowl of professional kickboxing. Now, they have opened smaller weight divisions to allow Southeast Asians to compete. Japan is, in a way, becoming neutral ground for the politically charged sport of Muay Thai. There is also the ISKA, a professional kick boxing league, based out of the USA, which is also seen as a neutral title. Cambodia, Vietnam, and Lao could compete in the ISKA or K-1 without using the name Muay Thai. While Thailand has been quick to join international boxing leagues such as WBA, WBO and others, the neighboring Southeast Asian nations have been reluctant.

 

Although Muay Thai encompasses a lot of religious, cultural, and political concepts, in practice, it is essentially Thai kickboxing. They hit with punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. The kicks are very special because they are hitting with the shins, not the feet. The elbows and shins are very hard and can cut you wide open. When someone tries to kick you with their shin, you can’t use your hand or your arm to block because you will get hurt. The way we block is by using our shin bone. You raise your leg up and take the impact shin to shin. You can imagine how much that hurts. As a result, a lot of the Muay Thai training deals with toughening the shins, deadening the nerves, and building up scar tissue. We call it hardening the shins.

 

In provincial training camps you will find poor Thais who see boxing as a way of earning money to help their family. They go to live in a camp and become pat of the stable of fighters. The camp arranges fights for them and takes a percentage of the purse. In return, the boys get free room, board, and training. In these camps you will see people doing all manner of crazy exercises to harden their shins quickly. They kick trees, kick bamboo, or kick metal poles. At night they sit around hitting their shins with sticks or with bottles. They smear all sorts of traditional medicines, potions and lotions, on the skin to quicken this hardening process. This type op training does work. They can go from zero to totally hardened shins in about 90 days, but it is a terrible experience, and the shins will be all cut, open, bleeding, and infected the whole time.

 

Modern coaches, such as my Bradal Serey (Pradal) coach in Cambodia, Paddy Carson, believes that your shins should just be allowed to harden naturally, over time by kicking the pads and kicking the bag. This is the same as we do for our hands and elbows.

In hardcore gyms the bags are hard to help you toughen up. In some of the foreigner gyms, the bags are softer and the coaches will do things like fall down or act like you have hurt them to pump you up and make you feel good. But take it with a grain of salt. Remember you re paying them a lot of money for that praise.

 

When you come to Thailand, you will have the choice between training in Bangkok or training in the provinces. If you train in the provinces you will be surrounded by poor Thai guys trying to earn money for family. Living conditions will be difficult. Training will be Spartan, but not necessarily better. The coaches in the provincial camps aren’t usually trained as coaches. They were chosen because they were winning fighters. Champion fighters aren’t necessarily the best coaches.

 

Provincial Thai people are very welcoming and will probably invite you to train with them. They may not charge you anything and just ask that you contribute for food. A provincial camp could be a great cultural experience, but if you are serious about learning to fight, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, or one of the more developed areas may be better for you. In a provincial camp, if you don’t know how to box already, you may not learn anything. Your training will consist of a lot of running and bouncing on tiers or jumping rope. You will be told to kick the bag but probably won’t be taught HOW to kick the bag. You may or may not get face time with the coach in the ring, working the pads. And you won’t get a lot of instruction. Also, if you don’t speak Thai, they probably won’t be able to communicate with you.

 

If you train in Bangkok, the average cost seems to be about seven to eight thousand Baht per month. And that is just for your training. Food and lodging are extra. The advantage is that a coach is assigned to you and get a lot of one-on-one instruction. At Muay Thai Chakrit, where I have been training, I can have as many rounds with my coach on the pads as I want. We usually do three or four rounds of just hands and two of kicks. In better gyms, the coach will also watch you shadow boxing and working the bag, refining your technique.  Some gyms actually offer courses where you can learn step by step and even take exams and earn certificates. But many of the gyms in Thailand which cater to foreigners are making the assumption that you have had some training before. And in fact, it is a valid assumption. A lot of the foreigners are here because they are competing in MMA or Muay Thai in their home country and want to get some training experience in Thailand. So, the training in the gym is focused on practice and conditioning and refining technique, but not necessarily on teaching step-by-step, from the ground up.

 

Training in the other developed cities of Thailand can be much cheaper than training in Bangkok, but may offer the same quality of instruction. If you train in Chiang Mai there are live in camps which are as cheap as 8,000 to 10,000 Baht per month including your lodging

 

“Muay Thai is not just about fighting for money. It is our art, and I believe Thai people need to practice it. If we don’t, we will lose it.” Said Bom Apiwat, a university-bound student, practicing Muay Thai in Bangkok. In the remote parts of Thailand, professional boxing is seen as a last-ditch effort to get out of poverty, but a new generation of Thai young people are joining expensive gyms in Bangkok, training alongside crazy Farang (foreigners) training for the love of the art.

 

“I want to go to college and work in tourism, so I can travel the world.” Says Bom. “But first, I want to have at least one professional fight, so I can have the experience.”

  

Having experience in pro boxing or MMA can be a double edged sword when you are training in Thailand. While you are here to learn their art, you may not want to lose yours.

 

One of the arguments I get into with my coaches is that they want me to turn my hand over when I hook. Professional boxers don’t turn the hand over on a hook. My Bradal Serey coach in Phnom Penh, Paddy Carson also believes that the hook should not be turned over. He believes the reason all of the Asian martial arts turn the hand over on the hook is because their only experience in the past was amateur boxing. Whatever the reason, I don’t want to undo the things I do which work for me. I want the coaches to improve  my kicks and elbows and knees but leave my hands alone.

 

The next argument was that they wanted me punching form way out, more than eighteen  inches. But in boxing, I throw hooks and upper cuts from three inches. Working the pads the way they had me doing it in Thailand I was throwing out my shoulder. Some coaches told me that you can’t use the three inch punch in Muay Thai because you will get hit with knees and elbows. Now, I am waiting to see; are they telling me this because it is right, or telling me this because this is what they have always done? This is often the question you have to ask when you are training in Thailand; are we training to be more effective fighters or training to learn the art of Muay Thai better?

 

Today, the argument was that the coach said I was pressing him too much when we were working the pads in the ring. Every time I hit, I slide forward a bit. I do this to keep my weight moving into the punches and to make distance as an opponent will often back up when being hit. He said, “no you shouldn’t be moving forward like that.” But again this is a strategy that works for me. If I stay at a distance, the kicker will have an advantage. By coming in close, I can neutralize the kicker’s advantage and maximize my strengths which are boxing and grappling. This is what I have done in kickboxing in other countries. But again, I can’t say for certain that I am right, because maybe in Thailand, with the knees and elbows, this is not the best strategy. What I need, is to hear from the coach he has done research, and thought it through, and made an analysis leading to an answer based on fact, rather than “We teach you to do it this way because we have always done it this way.”  

 

You must be aware that a lot of coaches train everyone the same way. A good coach needs to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the fighter and tailor each fighter’s training to his abilities. Everyone is not a 19 year old Thai guy who weighs 60 kgs and has 0% body fat. A lot of the foreigners training in Thailand are heavyweights and tend to be in their late twenties or early thirties. In fact in my gym, the average age of foreigners is probably around 35. And most are my size or larger. Nearly all have experience in another martial art, boxing, kickboxing, or grappling.

 

You need to constantly ask your coach why you are doing this or that. Make sure what they are teaching you will work for you.

 

For example, the coaches wanted me to bounce. They said, “You have to bounce. Muay Thai fighters bounce.” I said, “no way!” I weigh too much. Bouncing would destroy my knees and I would tire out in less than one round. If you watch K-1 those guys don’t bounce if they don’t want to. You have to fight your fight.

 

Training in Thailand is a great experience. When you come here, you are free of all the other distractions in your life, like working, and you can concentrate on training, eating, and sleeping. If you chose a good gym or great one, either way, you will be getting hours upon hours of training which you never had in your home country. You don’t have to be rich to come to Thailand. The flight is a bit pricey, but once you land, everything is cheap. Excellent Thai food can be had for less than one dollar per meal. Lodging can be found for between three and five thousand Baht per month. Don’t wait till you are rich, or you will never come. Just hop on a plane and get in the ring.

 

Antonio Graceffo is an adventure and martial arts author living in Asia. He is the Host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” The Pilot episode, shot in the Philippines, is running on youtube, click here.  The Monk From Brooklyn – Kuntaw in the Phillipines Antonio is the author of four books available on amazon.com Contact him Antonio@speakingadventure.com see his website www.speakingadventure.com