This man has been inspiring me for more than a decade. He gave me the spark of a fire that is roaring.
Many know my story: When I first saw Muay Thai in a movie, I loved it. It just… entered me in some way. But when Kevin and I tried the closest “Muay Thai Gym,” to our cabin in the woods, it was a huge disappointment. It wasn’t Muay Thai. So we kept looking and the moment I met Master K, at the time about to turn 70 years old and teaching Muay Thai 1-1 out of his basement home in New Jersey, I saw that thing about Muay Thai in him. I felt it. In truth, his Muay looked nothing like the Muay I saw in the movie, but I felt what he was; I felt it in everything he did and I was very sure I wanted to learn more. Master K had come to the US the same year I was born and, like a time capsule, he’d just carried his love for the art with him to the United States. He kept learning and borrowing from who he watched on TV, including western style boxers, so his Muay Thai was both old style and evolving all the time. It was his creation, and his memory. It was his Muay. One of my favorite things about him is that he would go down to his basement at 2 in the morning, after writing poetry on his computer, and work on his right kick because that one isn’t as strong as his left kick, or any sort of technique he felt he need to refine. He was still trying to improve… in his 70s, more than 50 years of his life dedicated to Muay Thai. He had 79 fights before retiring as a young adult to enter a career in banking and start a family. At the time, that was the highest number of fights of a single individual I’d ever heard of…
above, a video he shot of himself this week, just working on his elbows and Muay in his backyard, total Master K style
When I first came to Thailand to train and live, I recognized characteristics of Master K everywhere – his “Thai-ness” was suddenly both in context and in abundance. He still trains himself and a few students in his basement in New Jersey, now 81 years old (turning 82 in the summer). Because he loves it. Because it’s the rhythm of his heart. And he gave that to me, or at least he recognized it in me and fed it, stoked it like a fire. I love him. This video is him now, playing in his backyard, dressed for the cold, “Mr. Elbow KO.” He’s just incredible. Any tiny ounce of me that is like him is precious. Watching this video makes me miss him more than ever.
I’ve trained with possibly more legends and great krus of the sport than anyone alive, through the great fortune of my path and the support of many. I have to say that to this day I haven’t seen a more beautiful reverse elbow than the one Master K throws at 81. It makes my heart leap. And, of all the amazing men and women I’ve encountered only two vie for the one who loves Muay Thai more than anyone else. Dieselnoi and Master K.
For those new to this blog and me, my YouTube channel started with my training with Master K and filming our sessions together. You can get a very good sense of the kind of wonderful man he is by simply Googling “Master K Sylvie” videos, or searching my channel.
More Context: Master K as My Origin is told in this Short Film