Every month, people come to Bangkok, Thailand from all over the world to get certified in the MTIA Muay Thai Instructor Course by Master Toddy himself, who certifies them to Trainer, Kru and Ajarn levels. Afterwards they go back to their countries to spread the beautiful art of Muay Thai, and they teach Muay Thai in a traditional yet modern way. Most importantly, they teach it properly.
The Muay Thai Instructor Course is given by Master Toddy just as elegantly as he teaches his Muay Thai students to fight. Like anything, there is a system to learning the system. The experience being passed down is immense, and Master Toddy’s ability to so expertly and concisely pass along these Muay Thai training techniques – as well as business secrets on how to successfully run a Muay Thai gym – comes from an extensive background in teaching Muay Thai instructors how to teach and make their business grow.
I sat down with Master Toddy to try and figure out how and why he can produce so many successful Muay Thai instructors, and not just only Muay Thai fighting champions.
How is Thailand?
MT: I didn’t think my business in Thailand would grow so fast… I was successful in England and did very well in America, and Thailand was not intended as a stop for me. But right now, my business is growing faster than I expected, so I cannot leave yet.
Why is your Muay Thai instructor course effective?
MT: Hahaha, because I made a lot of mistakes! I’ve been through two decades in Thailand, nearly 2 decades in England and 2 decades in America. I’ve been to different countries, I learn and I remember. That’s the secret to my success today.
How did your Muay Thai Instructor Course begin?
MT: When I was young in Thailand, I went to the Muay Thai school first. They tried to kill me. They gave me one technique, 3 months I had to stay there and jab, skip rope, clean the gym, and run. To me, maybe that’s good for some karate movie, but in real life nobody is going to stay there, especially in this generation.
The second technique I learned was clinching. They almost killed me! Without warm-up or anything. I had been skipping rope and running, so I would have been perfect for kicking, so why clinch? They threw me and spun me around all over the place for a couple of months to make my neck strong. And many more. If I go back now, I would never last this long. I remember every single day, I loved to learn Muay Thai but I hated the way they taught and tortured me.
So I was rough and tough, went to England, and started a teaching business. Of course, all my old students know how rough and tough I was. I built champions in less than one year. I had quite a lot of champions, but at the same time I was broke. Because I didn’t know any other way of how to treat students. I remember the first girl, Lisa Howarth, wanted to train with me and I didn’t even accept her! And she was to become the first female British Champion… The sign outside the gym said “If you’re not tough, don’t join me.”
A couple of years later, our fighters went to Holland and France to fight, because there was no other gym in England. That is why I started the Muay Thai Instructor Course. I advertised: live, eat, breathe Muay Thai with me for 6 months, and you can be a Muay Thai trainer. Guess what? I had about 100 people join. In just about 2 weeks, I only had 10 left. I didn’t allow them to stay in a hotel, they stayed on the hard cold wood floor with the kicking pad as a pillow. They were Lisa Howarth, Pele Nathan, Harry Warburton, Barry Norman and a few others. I trained them 6 months solid, and 3-4 months later I organized InterClub. We were packed in my gym, and they brought some great fighters. They had never taught Muay Thai before, and in only 3 months we were packed with great fighters from all over England!
What happened next, the Muay Thai school started growing faster than anything in England, and InterClub is the best thing that ever happened. Everybody came, everybody was doing it, that is how it grew.
Again, I was still rough and tough. All my students were teaching fighters only, because that is how I trained them, directly from Thailand.
Until I went to America.
What changed in your Muay Thai teaching style in America?
MT: I first went to the US, and in one year of teaching I had 70 students. I thought that was quite good, and in the first year I had 3 world champions, right away. But my financials weren’t that good. I was comfortable, but it was still not good enough.
Then one day I wanted to see how other gyms do in America, so I was traveling and going to all different gyms, and my neighboring gym had 200 students, and I went to see them teach, they were teaching them nothing. Playing games, jumping around, and they don’t even know how to kick!
To me I was so surprised, how are these people paying to train and the guy is teaching you nothing?
I came home and I thought, I will try to change them. I thought I had to give them advice and try to teach them to train people like me.
And suddenly, in my head something clicked. How can I change them, if they have 200 paying students, and I only have 70 students? I am the one who is doing something wrong, and they must be doing something right because they keep growing!
I started to understand people, I learned how to understand people. When you can’t change everybody you have to change yourself – that is what I learned.
In short, I needed to figure out a way to keep the level of Muay Thai teaching high, but at the same time open myself up to beginners. That is one of the many, and probably the most important lesson that I teach in my Muay Thai Instructor Course.
What did you change? How can people taking your Muay Thai Instructor Course benefit from this experience of yours?
MT: I used to teach a 2.5 hour class, I cut to be 1 hour and charged more. I changed my equipment to be softer, to enjoy more. I smacked myself and told myself, “You can’t use sand to fill the bags, you lunatic! This is not Jean-Claude Van Damme. It’s realistic, real people”. The most successful thing I fixed is how to teach which technique and when.
For example, not allowing inside kicks while sparring or grabbing the leg. If you don’t kick good, you don’t block, and many more. Because those Muay Thai techniques kill the beginner.
I changed the heavy sparring to be smart drills, 30-40 percent. People enjoyed more.
As soon as I changed my teaching technique, I had 500 students in less than 3 months.
What about the business side of your Muay Thai gym?
MT: A lot of gyms you go to, they don’t open until 4 or 5 o’clock. I figured how to get people in during the day, and it earned a lot of extra income. Because business people mostly don’t go exercise at night, because they’re too tired and have family. Daytime is the best for them. So I changed my opening hours. Then I started teaching a women’s class, so we had a lot of women at our gym. Then I kneeled down to teach the kids class, and that was it. That made it more popular than anything.
Then I kept my fighters on one side, still teaching them rough and tough! But not the same time with everybody. Only people who want more, rough and tough on one side. That is why I became very successful with my curriculum. You remember in the beginning I was being tortured. Kicking hard wood, clinching until I almost broke my neck, working on one technique for months… I made sure that I would not do that to my students!
What is your motto for your Muay Thai Instructor Course?
MT: Just because you are rough and tough, that doesn’t mean you have to do that to your students. What are you trying to do, teach Muay Thai or show everyone how tough you are? You need to use a step-by-step process, so that people don’t get hurt, don’t quit, enjoy more… and the rough-and-tough will come later!
When you come for the Muay Thai Instructor Course, I will train you, you will enjoy it, but I will give you rough and tough anyway… just don’t do it to your students haha!
Written by Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy