Photo of three generations of the Rungruang family: Bamrung, Kru Nu, and Bank (three years ago when he was much smaller. Compare to Bank at 16 in the video below!)
There are many different “styles” of gyms in Thailand. There are Old School styles that try to stick to the old ways, favoring traditional and ceremonial styles over “ring Muay Thai” (Muay Thai for fighting); these gyms can be really beautiful spaces for the history of Muay to be carried on. There are also larger Commercial gyms, which deal in providing a “Muay Thai Experience,” mostly for tourists and longer-stay foreigners; these gyms largely do away with tradition but are focused on and adept with the business of Muay. And then there are Family Style gyms, which are carrying out tradition and the heritage of their own Muay through the literal generations of fathers to sons and daughters, uncles to nieces and nephews; these are fighter gyms, keeping up with the living, changing world of “ring Muay Thai,” under the rules and practices of this being their way of life.
Petchrungruang is a Family Style gym. Just as a farmer raises his children in this way of life, there are generations of fighters breathing life into the canvas, pads and bags of this Muay Thai gym. Our head trainer Kru Nu, along with his older brother Pi Nok, were the first students of Petchrungruang. Bamrung, their father, carved the gym out of what space he could find on the farm he’d grown up on. Clear out some ground here for the ring; cut down a pineapple tree to hang the first bag there. Small changes, the boys serving double-duty as both little farmers and little nakmuay. Gradually, the space grew more and more into a gym, and the life of farming gradually wore away. Now, Kru Nu runs the training at the gym, raising little Thai boys to be fighters and, for some of them, champions. His own son, 16-year-old Bank, has been raised in the gym. Three-year-old Nat will begin training in the next two years. It’s generations of Muay.
Below is a short video shot on just an average day of training. Kru Nu was asked to show an escape from the double-inside clinch lock. Kru Nu demonstrated with Bank. The technique is good and it shows how much Kru Nu can teach in just a few moments, as he is “Muay Gao,” a term meaning a teacher who knows through experience of being a fighter. But this short clip also demonstrates the relationship between Kru Nu and his son, a playfulness and maybe a little healthy competition. “I can still clinch with Bank because he respects me,” Kru Nu said one morning. “If he didn’t respect me, I would die after 2 minutes, because I’m old.” Then he laughed. A father feeling pride in his son’s strength, a mirror for his own passing youth. As much as one can see physical resemblances between father and son (and grandfather and father and son, really), you can also see similarities in their Muay. It’s as much an inheritance as any of it. It’s wonderful.