I had heard that Thai female muay khao (knee fighting) star Saifah was training out of a new gym in Chiang Mai, the city I fought out of for my first two years in Thailand, as well as an old trainer of mine, Taywin, acting as head trainer there. It really intrigued me, so after my fight in Chiangrai I drove the few hours down to Chiang Mai to check it out. I climbed the metal stairs of what looked like a snazzy community recreation building and was pleasantly surprised to see Saifah right there, across the indoor artificial turf, training two women. She’s tall and has a kind of elegance about her, so she’s really easy to spot.
I talked with the manager, a very nice lady named Sonia and took a tour around the facility, which I’ll be posting later; but what I was really excited about was meeting and talking to Saifah, who is one of the biggest names in Thai female Muay Thai, and because of her size (fighting between 53 and 56 kg), she’s also a fighter who has faced some of the better known western women who have come to Thailand to fight. She’s been fighting these top western women for a while now. She’s 21, at an age when top female Thai fighters can run out of fight opportunities just because they are too good, but still don’t have the option to fight internationally readily available. She’s a multi-time champion and I was happy to be able to talk with her.
Her titles include: Thapae Stadium Champion 115 lbs; Lanna 8 Northern Districts Champion 115 lbs; Thailand Champion 118 lbs; WPMF World Champion 118 lbs; WBC World Champion 118 lbs, and she’s fought well over 100 fights.
I also really wanted to film our conversation because Thai women almost never get to be seen and heard directly due to language barriers. My Thai isn’t fluent yet, but it is good enough for conversation, and I think it is important for western female fighters to get to know some their Thai counterparts. Many of these women were raised in Muay Thai since they were kids (Saifah began at age 10-11), and they have a relationship to the sport and art that many of us dream we could have, and if I can I want to help bridge that gap. I also feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to meet these women – I kind of fan-girl sometimes.
All this being said, she is just awesome. She’s funny, sweet, confident and I loved talking with her. Hope you like meeting her too:
Below is a quick paraphrase transcript of our short conversation:
I ask Saifaa how much is training – she tells me 390 per hour and women are welcome. (This is the regular price of training, not private session, but women can train with Saifaa for this hour). *we laugh because she is modest about holding pads herself but not being a special trainer.
Talking about Cocopuff fight: Saifaa says she didn’t train for the fight, that she was called to come fight one day before the fight.
Sylvie: “no running”
Saifaa: round 4, no power. Weapons no power (her strikes weren’t strong) *making the clinch motion* I locked good but couldn’t KO with my knees because no power, “no power, cannot!”
Sylvie: are there women for you to fight in Chiang Mai?
Saifaa: I already beat Cocopuff. No, not many – I can fight with Miriam and Marloes, but I beat both of them already. That’s only two opponents.
Sylvie: what about this Australian you just fought?
Sylvie: on Muaythai Day
Saifaa: Oh! She was 60 kg. *points to self* 54 kg
Sylvie: Did you weigh in?!
Sylvie: … why was it like this?
Saifaa: promoter no… *shaking head*. 55 is okay, but 60! Oh… no.
Saifaa: strong. She big, she *elbow* hurt, bruise (shows with her hand a swollen eye and shakes her head) Oh… hurt.
She strong, she big, she “bpen muaythai” (is skilled)… everything
Sylvie: mai bpen rai (it’s okay)
Saifaa: mai bpen rai… “you want? you want?” yeah, okay but come down to meet me in weight and you die!
You can find her Awakening Profile page here.
Saifah Instructs Part Time at the Gym
It was just great walking around the gym and seeing her with her students. These are not private lessons, but rather she’s acting as a trainer just taking these local Thai women on through training, pushing them through drills, giving them padwork and teaching technique. Kevin filmed this stretch where she’s teaching reverse elbow, and breaking it down really well:
Saifah teaching reverse elbow, above
As she’s one of the best knee fighters in Thailand if you are a female fighter around 56 kg and in Chiangmai it might be worth your while to see if she would train clinch with you. The 390 baht price quoted in the interview is the basic training fee, and she mentions that she is the one who takes female students. I’m not quite sure how to work it out price wise, she is very humble about not being a proper “trainer”; it could be fun to work clinch with her if you aren’t an advanced fighter (and you would not likely be facing her, that would be a little uncool).
This photo below is awesome, giving a little girl padwork. It was found on the Chiangmai Muay Thai Gym Facebook page.
As it turned out Taywin didn’t arrive at the gym before I had to go, so I didn’t get a chance to catch up with him, but I will soon. I’ll put up a video tour of the gym that I shot a little later, but if you are interested in trying out the gym you can find it here a few blocks from the 3 Kings Monument inside the old city: