When I go and train private sessions with these legends from the Golden Age of Muay Thai, or even just retired fighters who experienced highly competitive fights in the National Stadia of Bangkok, there’s something very unique about each of them. I’ll hear the some of same things from a few of them – how you follow the movements of someone trying to turn you in the clinch and that’s like dancing, you just let them lead; or how important energy is for a Muay Khao “knee fighter” – but all of them are expressing something about who they are as a fighter, something unique. Like, a particular personality: their fight ethic remains even with 20+ years out of the ring. It’s incredible. It’s beautiful.
The first time I went to see Hippy, he almost didn’t work with me. Part of his fight ethic comes through in his distance to training. He likes to be the head of the gym, the supervisor and watchful eye while his also-very-accomplished-and-experienced trainers do the labor part of holding pads. My camera ran out of battery on that first visit and we didn’t get to share a lot of that training session, but this time around was different on a several points. Hippy was happy to work with me this time, giving me a dose of his detail-oriented diagnosis of perfecting technique for the purpose of power. “I want you to knock out,” he told me on the phone before I even booked a session with him. I’d trained with him the first time before my fight against Loma, which I lost miserably, and he’d checked up with me afterward to see how it went. When I told him, he was firm in wanting to work with me on having KO power, which he repeated when I showed up at his door for this session. In fact this entire session was devoted to having knock out power.
What Power is Really About: Spacing, Timing and Relaxation
Here’s the thing about “real” training: it’s not a collection of tricks. Hippy’s elbows are something truly incredible. They’re fast and astoundingly powerful, but they’re also really tight – like they don’t extend beyond his own face almost. But he didn’t work with me on those. They’re just a piece of his overall ethic, which is delivering absolute power with every strike. Sure, you can dance around and teep the legs and jab to annoy your opponent and keep them at the distance you want, but once you make up your mind to really throw a strike, it’s meant to end the fight. That one strike. Hippy in his fight years was a playboy through and through; he barely trained for fights, was never conditioned the way top-tier fighters ought to be, so, as he tells it: his goal was to fight sabbai, sabbai, and then in bursts do damage and end the fights as soon as possible so he could get back to smoking, drinking, and playing snooker. He said he was gassed out in a fight, early on, and his mother yelled at him from the corner that he’d better not lose (I’m sure there was money riding on it), so he just went in after his opponent’s legs and bashed them up enough to stop him. Alright then, a day’s work done. This is the story he tells now – surely he was conditioned to a high level, you can see it in archive footage, but this is the impression of his fight ethic, this is what fighting is for him. You relax, you knock out, you go back to snooker.
above, 5 minutes of my full hour with Hippy Singmanee and his team of trainers – see the full hour here
And that’s what Hippy worked with me on: developing power. He taught me how to train, which is immensely important. This hour long session may not be the most exciting to watch, its not filled with 20 techniques, but it is one of the most influential sessions I have had with a legend. It’s that whole “teach a man to fish” kind of thing and, honestly, even a year ago I don’t think I would have been ready for it. It’s similar enough to what my original teacher Master K taught me years ago, in that power comes from the technique that Master K insisted on and he taught me how to self-diagnose and fine-tune technique for power, but I could tell in working with Hippy now how much I missed simply by not being ready for those lessons when Master K taught me back in the day. For example, Hippy started me out on the bag, having me push it and then as it swung back toward me using timing to throw my kick for what Master K calls “double impact.” Other trainers have taught me this: Namkabuan loves to shove his opponents against the ropes and strike as they bounce back – double impact. But what Hippy is teaching me is about feeling, about timing and creating fight scenario against a bag, which is usually about as different from an opponent as I can imagine. In a fight you don’t stand close and bang out 10 strike combinations like you can on a bag; in a fight you gauge your distance, move with your opponent’s movements, and time out your strike to when you can deliver the most power possible. Hippy taught me how to do that on a bag. And the greater lesson I learned overall was how strong a tendency it is to turn an exercise into a drill, and as an American to turn a drill into a “who can finish fastest?” competition. It’s not about that. It’s about going slow, it’s about being consistent and relaxed more than anything. Hippy assistant coach, Aom, was instructed to only count the kicks which were well executed and maximum power. When trying to get to 100, if you only count the strikes that are correct, you have to slow down to make each one right, rather than blasting through with disregard for quality control just to get to 100. This was an incredibly meaningful and valuable lesson for me. It has changed my work on the bag. It has built a bridge between something I spend hundreds of hours doing in practice and how that connects to the few minutes you have in the ring for a fight. You fight like how you train, so train consistency.
So patiently watch this 69 minutes of brilliance. It’s really like no other session I’ve had with a legendary trainer. He is forcing me to abandon many of the hard-earned bag drill habits that I’ve developed over my 4 and half years in Thailand, and instead focus only on the idea of power in the context of real fight circumstances. Use the bag to train spacing and timing. Use it to learn to float and relax in between explosions. Think about how to set up moments when you can just let go. Everything he is doing here is to open the door to a relationship with your target, and honing your technique, using energy. This is very high-level stuff, honestly something I’m not sure I would be open to even a year ago. Putting me on a bag for 20 minutes to slowly count kicks in a private session: This is some bullshit! (I may have thought). But instead this is masterful…this is golden.
If you’d like to watch the full hour between Hippy and myself become a patron with a suggested pledge of $5 – you can pledge as little as $1. You’ll have immediate access to not only this full length training session, but also a growing library of uncut training video from some of the best trainers/fighters in Thailand.
Who is Hippy Singmanee?
Hippy was an electric fighter with razor sharp technique, 223 fights, 161 wins (72 T/KOs – a high KO total for a light bodied technical fighter), 34 defeats and a surprising 28 draws. That means that almost half his fights (100) ended in either KO or draw. He was both the 105 lb (1986) and 108 lb (1988) Lumpinee champion, and fought over his weight as well. That he beat Karuhat two times, one of the elite fighters of the day (and my favorite fighter), alone just amazes me.
Above is a playlist of his fights. You can read about Hippy in this Siam Fight Mag interview
The Full Hour – What’s In It?
In the full session he works at length with me on a very basic technique, what I might call a walk-up kick. You shove the bag, let it swing, retreat, and then walk up for as hard of a kick as you can manage. It sounds easy, but it isn’t. Learning how to relax and blast 100 kicks in this way, paying attention to the things that are robbing you of power, or throwing off timing, learning how to relax between and be patient, this alone is an invaluable approach.
Then Hippy weaves this basic bag work into a larger context of how bodies move in fighting, how you relax and use distance to ultimately deliver blasting strikes. We corrects my footwork in padwork, and gives me a very basic footwork drill to keep things simple. It’s all about basics.
He then takes me back to the bag and brings the same principles to a walk-up knee. Swing the bag, step back, relax…explode. We also go through some clinch with Hippy with the aid of Arjan Dtum, an amazing knee fighting specialist who has trained many champions, adding in important details, especially arm position. He watched me very closely the whole session, and has such an Old School energy. And then the same principles are brought to the low kick on the bag. The entire journey though is an investigation of the relationship between relaxation and power.
So join Patreon, support the documentary work I’m doing with a suggested pledge of $5 (min of $1) and have access to the full session and many, many others.
above, a super, super slow motion video of Hippy throwing his left kick with power. Watch his unique use of his left arm and how he creates torque. See the incredible balance at the contact point.
My work with Hippy also lead to this article which you might enjoy, about the necessity of relaxation:
How to Train with Hippy Singmanee
I’m not going to lie, without a GPS marker the gym is very difficult to find. In fact armed with only an address we spent an hour looking for it in the Town in Town neighborhood, asking other gyms and businesses where it might be, and simply could not find it. So you need this map below.
This was my second visit to the gym, and here is a video walk through of the space. It’s a very unusual gym and as I haven’t been there during training hours I can’t really vouch for the kind of training that goes on. They seem to have some Bangkok fighters there, and there are tons of kids (many of them Hippy’s), giving a great energy to the space. Hippy is a great trainer and speaks very good English. But the gym itself is kind of quixotic. It has a very informal feel. You have Hippy the legend moving about as a supervisor, Old School Arjans like Arjan Dtum, a young Kru like Aom, and lots of kids. I’d advise it for the adventurous types, or if you just want to go and take a private with Hippy (which is 1,000 baht, though may include other instructors too). A month of training at the gym is 15,000 baht, with nearby hotels you can stay at.
Map of Hippy Singmanee’s Gym:
The Growing Technique Library
Hippy Singmanee – Developing power (69 min) – watch it here
Two-time 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 explosive 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 techniques, shows why he prefers side-attack locks, and turns.
Dieselnoi pt 2 – 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 (30 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 the 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.