I had the opportunity to meet this group from various gyms around Australia, as they all came together for a training excursion at two gyms in Pattaya: Sityodtong and Winner Muay Thai (the new gym from Tum, who used to be at Sityodtong). The leader of this group is Matthew Ball, who was kind and generous with me. Below is his description of the organization that brought these students, aficionados and travelers together:
The Bob Jones Martial Arts organization was the first group to introduce Muay Thai to Australia and New Zealand on a large scale back in the mid 1980’s and have around 100 Muay Thai clubs under its banner. They have also been running annual training camps to Sityodtong since 1988. Matthew Ball has been tour coordinator since 1996 and runs SMAC Gym in Australia. The group you spoke to had members from 8 different gyms covering three states. With people ranging from professional fighters to those just starting out and older members who just love everything Muay Thai.
Matthew had contacted me and asked if I would be willing to meet the group and “tell my story” as someone who has made Muay Thai in Thailand my life. My initial response to the idea of giving a talk about myself in front of a group of around 30 persons was something just shy of terror, but after expressing this to Matthew he came up with the great idea of him kind of informally interviewing me in front of the group and leaving open the floor for questions. Sounded great. So Kevin and I went down to this huge, beautiful lobby of their hotel and recorded the informal Q&A, orchestrated by Matthew’s wonderful and insightful questions. As a man who has devoted most of his life to Martial Arts, he had a keen understanding for what the challenges and rewards of my life are and asked focused, interesting questions. I also got some great questions from some folks in the group as well.
above, the YouTube of our 1 hour together
I really enjoyed this experience and was fortunate enough to train with a handful of the attendees as well. Two of the men came to Petchrungruang a few times to train privately with Yodkhunpon (who they’ve known for years and who also loves to bring me into his lessons as an example and just to play around; I’m lucky like that), as well as meeting with a group of the women over at Winner Muay Thai Gym for a bit of clinch work the day after this talk. I feel very fortunate to meet people like this. We all have different backgrounds and goals, but our love for Muay Thai is a strong binder.