When you talk about Muay Thai, you talk about fighting no matter what. Even other Martial Arts like Boxing, Karate and Taekwondo and so on, nothing beats Muay Thai in competition.
Muay Thai is happening every day in Thailand. It is everywhere. Every temple fairground to organised fights right through to different cultural celebrations, it’s a huge part of the Thai heritage and people are still as interested than ever, maybe even more so because of the up rise of Mixed Martial Arts, also known as MMA.
All Thai children all over Thailand get involved in Muay Thai as it’s practiced country-wide. It’s the national sport and is just as big as football is in England. You can watch it live on TV afternoon, evening and night and these TV channels are most popular because they are showing Muay Thai.
These days in Thailand, children will start training and fighting as young as 4 or 5. In no other country is it common that children get into a Martial Art this young where they can earn money to live, to put food on the table and put themselves through school.
Due to starting at such a young age, you’ll often hear that many fighters end up retiring from Muay Thai around the age of 20 because they think they’re too old to be competing any longer, especially with younger generations coming through.
In a lot of other countries, many people start competing in their teens and fight well into their 40’s or even 50’s. This is evident in bigger organisations such as Bellator or the UFC. Master Toddy himself even had many fighters above the age of 40 when he was in America, including one that was aged 57!
Master Toddy was in America when the UFC was born. He was intrigued by this new sport 'Ultimate Fighting Champion' that his good friend, Art Davie, had brought to fruition and how each Martial Art would play a role.
After watching the first bout, Master Toddy was blown away! The atmosphere was electric and spectators on the edge of their seats anticipating what each fighter would do next. The event was so well received that a second one was set up in Denver, Colorado.
Gina Carano, first International Woman’s World Muay Thai Champion and
former Strikeforce WMMA winner
Master Toddy learnt a lot from these first UFC fights because the fighters are all from different Martial Arts backgrounds so it makes it harder to predict what move might come next and how the other fighter would react. This attraction alone made the sport exciting.
Because it is mixed Martial Arts, it quickly became very popular; you could go to a bout and see Kung Fu vs. Muay Thai or Taekwondo vs. Jiu Jitsu! You’d hear people say things such as, ‘…that roundhouse kick was from Muay Thai,’ or, ‘…great Muay Thai elbow!’ people guessing what moves are from what Martial Art. This was also a turning point that helped Muay Thai grow even bigger globally.
MMA in Thailand was not allowed initially due to government restrictions. Prachya Pinkaew, director of ‘Ong Bak’, and Master Toddy went to chat to a local commissioner in Bangkok about an MMA fight, showing that it can be safe when organised and arbitrated properly. The show was allowed to go ahead and was very successful!
The sport is continually growing in Thailand and many gyms now offer MMA lessons and a lot of Thai fighters now also train in MMA to help them fight in different countries. As it's growing rapidly, the rules and regulations are changing from when it initially started in the country, especially as the government is more relaxed about it and are allowing foreigners to put on shows and teach.
We will be running MMA classes at the Academy from January 2017 as Master Toddy has trained many fighters, including Tito Ortiz, Gina Carano, Randy Couture, Stephan Bonnar and Bob Sapp as well as many others. They all came to Master Toddy to learn how to use their ‘weapon’ in MMA, as it’s different to a Muay Thai fight. They had to learn how to use certain parts of the body, accuracy, timing and that you can’t be grabbed when you’re kicked, otherwise that could mean big trouble if you don’t have good ground game.
The key to winning MMA in Thailand is that you need train slightly differently than in Muay Thai. You’ve got to stand lower, be quick to move and prepare for counter attacks, work out how to position your body to always be at an advantage and how to defend yourself well and get out of grapples.
Another difference is that MMA also uses different gloves to boxing gloves, so if you punch an elbow or knee you can really hurt yourself. Defence is crucial and as well as the ability to read your opponent. You need to fight clever. Ground work is obviously needed, so mixing that with Muay Thai you will make you very dangerous.
MMA is the future of Martial Arts.