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My Private Lesson with Samson Issan. Legends in Residence at Petchrungruang Gym

Shae Dekel

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Muay Thai is a long journey. Like any journey in life, there are defining moments that stick in our memories, whether they are moments of hardship or moments of victory. For me, I have two moments that resonate with me as my hardest training sessions. The first one was two days before my last fight in Australia, I was cutting weight and had dropped 8kg in a week, causing myself to be severely dehydrated. The session itself wasn’t overly hard but, especially as anyone that has trained in Thailand knows, proper hydration is a key to being able to perform effectively, and I struggled to even get through my usual 5 rounds of padwork. 

The second session that comes to mind when I think of my hardest training was more recent. 

My gym, Petchrungruang in Pattaya, runs a program called “Legends in Residence”, where they bring former Golden Age Legends to the gym and puts them into contact with the up and coming Thai Stadium fighters. Luckily for me a byproduct of this is that anyone who is training at the gym gets to interact with these legends and learn from them. 

Through this program I have been able to have private sessions with Dieselnoi (my personal pick for the GOAT), Namkabuan, Chamuakpet, and Samson Issan. Every private was different and I was able to glean so many different techniques and nuances from each session, with each legend tailoring the session not only to their personal style but also to mine. 

Each lesson was hard, there is no sugar coating that this is Muay Thai and it’s not meant to be easy, but my lesson with Samson Issan was, without a doubt the hardest session I have ever had. 


I think I’m fairly fit and decided that before my lesson with Samson I’d do a small 5k run and my usual pad work with Kru Gai. To be honest it should have been a telltale sign of what was ahead when Sylvie gave me a little smirk when I told her what I had planned on doing as I was stretching before pads. 


You could feel the energy pulsing off Samson as he entered the gym. Our private started off fairly basically as he got me to do a little boxing padwork with him performing the ever so slight corrections to my technique as expected by a former WBC Boxing Champion.


Slowly he got me to do more techniques, adding in knees, elbows, and kicks. After a few rounds I felt tired but nothing more than what I usually feel when doing padwork. And then the tables turned, instead of me coming forward and hitting the pads, Samson started to dern (walk forward), something that he is well known for. This is (please excuse the language) where I realized I had fucked up by doing my earlier work at the gym. To put things into perspective, I am a big guy. I’m 6’5 and weigh around 87-88kg. Samson is a solid build but quite small compared to me (as you can see in the videos that Sylvie posted of him and I on the Petchrungruang page and the image of him and I on this post) but he just kept coming forward. He was the bull and I wasn’t even the matador, I was the red rag. 


As a tall fighter I am used to people having to come forward and close the distance with me but I have never felt so overwhelmed as I did when it was Samson coming forward. No matter what I did I could not stop him from advancing. At about this time I got a slap on the shoulder from a watching Dieselnoi who proceeded to demonstrate what I should do. Now I ask you, where else on earth could you see two legends of the Golden Age playing around like this? 

Eventually, with the instruction from Samson and Dieselnoi, as well as Sylvie, I slowly learnt how to use my long guard to juggle Samson as he came forward, which then let me knee and teep him as a way to strike. This was invaluable to me. As I mentioned before, I am used to people trying to get close, so to learn how to keep my distance, defend, and then strike such an aggressive/skilled forward fighter is something that will serve me over and over again. 

By now we had probably been training for 40min and I was absolutely exhausted! Let’s just say it was lucky that I only had had a small breakfast. 


We finished off the lesson by working on a combination of elbows/teeps/knees on the bags, with Samson still expecting an extremely high work rate. Well, I say extremely high but to Samson it was just the expected work rate, what he did every day for countless years, and helped lead him to titles at both Lumpinee and Rajademern. 

At the conclusion of my private with him I was absolutely mentally and physically exhausted. I struggled to walk the 100m to my condo yet I was also ecstatic. I couldn’t move from the couch but I also couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Not only was that my hardest ever training session, it was also one of my best and most memorable. I was able to learn so much, not just technique wise, but also gaining an understanding of just exactly how I should be training every day if I want to be a fighter. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I’m not going to be a “Dieselnoi” or a “Samson” but, if I can take what I learnt from this private and apply it to my training, I can most definitely be the best version of myself possible


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That's beautiful to read, just because I can feel you just throwing yourself into it. A few photos from Samson's time in the gym to add to the color:

Samson and Dieselnoi.jpg

Samson Feeling.jpg

Samson and Arjan Gimyu - two faces.jpg


The last of these is really beautiful. Samson is sitting with Arjan Gimyu, a legend of the Golden Age himself, but as a Trainer. They probably had not seen each other, close like this, since 1992, when Samson beat Arjan Gimyu's heavy-fisted fighter Lakhin, two times out of three, to win the Fighter of the Year Award. That no doubt was a painful result, but somehow it was beautiful to see these nemesises, now sitting together on a bench, in the gym together.

In fact, they even collaborated in training together, when Arjan was holding, for Sylvie, culminating with Arjan even holding for Samson:

Gimyu, Samson on Sylvie Combination.jpg:

Gimyu, Samson on Sylvie on pads.jpg

Gimyu, Samson and Sylvie.jpg

Gimyu, Samson on Pads.jpg

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