My founding teacher Master K is who gave me my unending passion and respect for Muay Thai – many of you know him through the countless videos I put up of my early training. But he did not only give me this. He has extraordinarily beautiful Muay Thai, Muay Thai that is not only incredibly beautiful, but almost profound in the depth of the principles he teaches. People may not know it, but the core of why I came to Thailand to fight was the dream of one day bringing – even if only a small bit – of his Muay Thai into the ring. The reason why I fight so much, so often, is to expedite this process of acquiring the skills (and experience) to do so.
Around the NY “scene” it was often whispered or said blatantly that Master K taught an “old” Muay Thai, a Muay Thai that people no longer fought with (he is 76 years old now). These people only looked with surface eyes; they couldn’t see what he was teaching, and worse could not see what he was preserving and passing on. What is interesting is that I’ve grown quite far from Master K’s original teachings, lots of very noble teachers, lots of fight experiences, working towards what works for me – letting go, gradually of the beautiful Muay Thai that hypnotized me for those early years. You have no idea what it’s like to watch a 70+ year old man levitate in the air and thud the bag with explosions that resonate like thunder – to this day it is the most beautiful Muay Thai I have seen, and I’ve seen a lot first hand. Wanting to be beautiful myself though often has led me to be hesitant, self-doubting, tense in a way that made me even less beautiful. I’ve had in many ways to let go of the beauty of Master K’s Muay Thai, I’ve had to let go of being beautiful myself.
The photo composition is from last night’s Queen’s Cup fight. I am posed in a defensive stance with knee up, arms framed. I was struck by how much this posture – which works exceedingly well, and helped me in the fight – was similar to one of the iconic photos I’ve memorized from Master K’s website and book, a photo taken long before I met him. What is so interesting is that I’ve re-discovered this stance/attack. Several of my instructors here touched on it, but it was first Sakmongkol in February who really started pushing it. He relies on this heavily in his style – he never goes backwards. And now Kru Nu of Petchrungruang has been teaching this posture at length to me, again because he doesn’t want me moving backwards. Mai suay, he says when I back up (“not beautiful”), indicating that receding in a fight is not beautiful fighting – it looks bad. And, one of my favorite fighters in Thailand, Tanadet (“Poda”) uses this to great effect. Master K is actually kneeing in the photo, I am defending, but the body purpose is the same. The photo is very meaningful to me, because it seems that somehow I have brought one small, small piece of Master K with me into the ring, on my biggest fight yet. Almost unconsciously, through a circuitous path of teachers, it finally came. Not a technical masterpiece, to be sure, but a work in progress, an amalgam of all my instructors, beginning first with Master K to whom I owe everything.
You can find Master K’s website here. He still teaches out of his basement – a homemade mini-gym – in New Jersey. He is one of the most incredible people you will ever meet, and he still takes on students, passing on incredible Muay Thai.
This post is a kind of post-script,or update to my previous post: The Art of Choosing Your Muay Thai Style.