above, 5 minutes of my 56 minute session with Andy Thomson. The full Muay Thai Library can be immediately accessed for a suggested pledge of $5.
Andy Thomson is a legend in the North of Thailand. He and his partner Pom started the Lanna Muay Thai camp (Thai name Giatbusaba) over 20 years ago and are responsible for the first wave of western fighters having the Thailand training/fighting experience up in the North. They also brought up Thai boys, who have achieved titles and fame (Nong Toom, the “Beautiful Boxer” is from Giatbusaba) and a great number of the current camps in the Chiang Mai area are headed by trainers who spent some of their formative years at the Lanna camp. Having worked as a trainer for over two decades in the country, Andy has been a mentor, father figure, and practically a guru for countless fighters over those years. It’s not hard to understand why, as even just short exposure to Andy, when he explains a technique or a concept to you, has become such a legend. He has an incredibly active mind and is always thinking of new and better ways to do things, carving them out of old and very practical methods for strength, conditioning, and technique.
When I shot this video I hadn’t trained with Andy in probably a couple years, as he departed from Lanna shortly after I arrived there and retreated to his Doi Modt “Hill Camp,” which is something of a bootcamp hideaway in the hills of Chiang Rai. He has currently moved from there and is a trainer in Hua Hin at Cong Carter Gym. Up there, taking on small groups of devotees to sleep in straw bungalows and train under the grass roof with improvised equipment, Andy created a perfect little test kitchen for his “mad scientist” approach to Muay Thai. In this 5 minute video he explains the reasons behind his style of pad-holding. Andy is the only person I’ve seen hold pads the way he does; I’ve seen other trainers try to emulate it but to no avail. Same concepts, but Andy’s been perfecting it for over 20 years. He holds the pads very close to his body and kind of catches the strikes in a soft “cradling” of the strike, almost like how a catcher allows the baseball to just drop into his mitt. By keeping the pads so close to his body and not reaching out, as so many padholders do, Andy is able to get his students to map their strikes onto an opponent’s body. This collapses the subconscious differences between hitting a bag or pad and hitting a moving opponent – someone with an actual body. In the first bit he explains how you can push back a little bit on the strikes to build endurance, as a technique to tire your student out, but he still only really leans into the strikes rather than reaching for them. He also explains how telling even a new student to kick through the target, rather than aiming for the surface of the pad, improves everyone’s kick. This is one of Andy’s specialties: he explains concepts in an incredibly approachable and accessible manner, so you can adjust your technique immediately. There is also no “right” or “wrong,” but only the effectiveness – do what works for you. At the end of the video he explains how he’s come to use no-pad sparring with his students in order to really teach control and understanding of one’s movements and techniques.
In the full video, available to my patrons, Andy offers a number of different drills that allow you to practice very basic and fundamental elements – which are very important to Muay Thai. In this 5 minute video he talks a bit about bringing “chaos” into the padwork, because fighters have to learn to constantly adjust from being struck, slightly off-balance, and with someone else’s will trying to mess you up. All of his training is creating rhythms and symmetrical movements to improve speed, balance, strength and to map out and develop your own style. In the longer video he puts me through a few of these training drills, which I have brought home with me and train in my own gym. He also spends some time talking conceptually about training practices which I think are invaluable to both fighters and to trainers. In most of my training with legends I am learning from ex-fighters and champions, men who are legends as fighters and happen to be brilliant at passing on that knowledge. Andy is somewhat unique in that he’s a legend as a trainer – an absolute master of teaching and molding fighters. A lot of what Andy talks about and demonstrates in this lesson will change the way you approach your training, and for teachers, coaches and trainers he offers a great deal as well. It’s really a special addition to the library, because Andy is such an incomparable man and mentor.
This is from my Patreon Only post on the full video:
In this private session with Andy you get a taste of his methods. Thais are very dedicated to repetition in training, which is how you get movements to become muscle memory and increase speed, power and balance, but Andy comes from an adaptive western mindset, so the way he breaks things down and puts them into drills is very compatible to western minds, eager to learn but struggling with the “slow cook” way that many Thai kids learn. Andy will develop a drill that at its surface looks like a combination. But, while you are using a set of strikes on repeat, it’s not meant for you to memorize the pattern but rather that the pattern becomes the tool by which you are learning balance, speed, power, and how to be less predictable. He is creating a flexible, thinking, balanced, explosive fighter. In this session Andy lays it plain that you have to make yourself uncomfortable in order to train that discomfort, ultimately being able to strike out of being slightly off-balance, after being hit, while you’re trying to be evasive or when you need to drive forward. It’s the same as kinesthetics to train balance or explosive movements, or how doing curls isn’t ultimately meant to make you good at curls but is a method by which you increase strength and stability in those muscles so that the next time you need to pick up a heavy log you’ve got the appropriate strength and balance to get that done.
One of my favorite drills that Andy puts me through is stepping backwards and striking in a variety of patterns. All of them are meant to get me more comfortable with striking while moving backwards, but they also teach me balance on any of those strikes from any angle at all. The progression of footwork, from a simple step back and kick to a step-step-switch and kick leads to a kind of symmetry, being able to strike from either side instead of having to land on the right foot before I can throw anything. Everything Andy preaches is about balancing the body and he’s always hounded me for not doing enough Southpaw stance work (I’m Orthodox), because why wouldn’t you work on your weak side? He also shows me around his gym and we get to see his improvised equipment, and he gives me a wonderful talk about why he has started implementing sparring without shinguards for his fighters – a point which was reiterated by the great Chatchai Sasakul just last week when I trained and filmed with him again (will be up in a few months)…patrons read the rest here
If you are interested in joining the Muay Thai Library filled with long form videos with legends, you can do so for a suggested pledge of $5. You get immediate access to the entire collection which is currently over 10 hours worth of video. New video is added more than once a month. See below what is there:
The Growing Technique Library
Next Up: Kem Sitsongpeenong (early April)
Andy is absolutely unique in the lore of Thailand Muay Thai. An instructor for more than 2 decades, a mentor to so many, he innovatively teaches a Muay Thai emphasizing symmetry, strength, balance and explosiveness, expanding what the body can do under duress, holding pads like no others do.
Karuhat Sor. Supawan Session 2 – Float and Shock (82 min) watch it here
In this session one of the greatest fighters who ever lived really digs into what must lie beneath techniques, a general state of relaxation and rhythm, the thing that made him one of the most dynamic fighters Lumpinee has ever seen.
The Clinch Techniques of Yodwicha – Session 2 (34 min) watch it here
This is my second session with Yodwicha, you can see the first further down below. This one really gets into the specifics of clinch technique and defense. One of the best clinch fighters in Thailand, co-Fighter of the Year, sharing his unique attack style.
Yodkhunpon “The Elbow Hunter” pt 1 – Slicing Elbow (37 min) watch it here
Simultaneous Raja and Luminee title holder at 118 lbs, Yodkhunpon was one of the most feared elbow fighters in Thailand, and in this session he teaches the looseness and spacing that made his lead elbow such a viscious weapon. He also shuns the traditional rocking chair knee, and instead teaches a powerful stand-in crossing, open-hipped knee that compliments his elbows up top.
Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj – Advanced Clinch (52 min) watch it here
The Golden Age Lumpinee and Rajadamnern Champion, a legendary Muay Khao fighter who fought all the greats instructs on the finer points of clinch technique. Small differences that make big differences. Advanced tips on the swim-in and turn, and the importance of going from long distance techniques to short distance grab and lock.
Karuhat Sor. Supawan – Be Like Sand (62 min) watch it here
2x Golden Age Lumpinee Champion (112 lb and 122 lbs), Karuhat is considered elite among the elites. Mixing an explosive style with constant off-balances, angling, and melting aways, he was nicknamed the Ultimate Wizard. I can only describe the things he’s teaching here as: Be like sand. This is very subtle, advanced stuff, far above combo techniques or specific defenses. It may take a few viewings to absorb what he is teaching. Everytime I watch this I learn something new.
Namkabuan Nongkipahuyut – Explosive Attack (28 min) watch it here
266 wins, 15 losses, 2 draws. Namkabuan may be the best fighter I’ve ever seen, and it was an intense privledge to train with him. I can honestly say that it changed me as a fighter, inspiring to become more. He combines Muay Khao fighting with technical precision and explosive energy. The knee he teaches in this session is really like no other I’ve seen, like it is shot out of a cannon.
Hippy Singmanee – Developing Power (69 min) – watch it here
Two-time Lumpinee champion Golden Age legend Hippy Singmanee takes me though one of the most unique and valuable hours I’ve spent with a top trainer. He is building ground up how power and relaxation are related to each other. This session has been highly influential upon my own training. Learn how spacing+timing+relaxation produces dynamic power.
Yodwicha – Clinch and Muay Khao (Knee) Specialist (35 min) – watch it here
Yodwich shared the Fighter of the Year award as only a 16 year old, and his success in the Lumpinee ring made him one of the most feared clinch fighters in Thailand. In this session he goes through his favorite Muay Khao techniques, shows why he prefers side-attack locks, and turns.
Dieselnoi Chor Thanasukarn – The King of Knees (54 min) – watch it here
Dieselnoi is the greatest knee fighter who ever lived, and it just wasn’t because of his height. Spending this hour with him lets you feel how much love and energy he pours into his Muay Thai, even at this age, the real secret to what make him dominant in the Golden Age of the sport. There is nobody like Dieselnoi. Nobody.
Joe Hongthong – Developing Muay Khao Style (87 min) – watch it here
This is nearly an hour and a half of straight on Muay Khao instruction. Joe was a top stadium fighter and he’s watched me fight for several years, so this is Advanced Level tweaking, as he teaches how to bring elbows and knees together, discussing the ways that dragging back can work for a forward fighter, and the differences with more technical (femur) approaches. Muay Khao is a technique unto itself.
Pi Earn – Head Trainer of PTT Petchrungruang (34 min) – watch it here
PTT is the rising star of my gym Petchrungruang. He was so sought after he turned down title fights at Lumpinee and Rajadamnern and instead signed with Thai Fight where promoters feel he’s going to become an International star. Pi Earn has been a trainer who has sculpted PTT’s methodical Muay Khao fighting style, and in this session he starts right away making the tiny changes in my technique that are necessary for the strong, forward fighting approach that he favors.