A reporter interviewed Kru Nu at Lumpinee this past December 29th, 2017, at Angie Petchrungruang’s fight, where she KO’d her opponent in round 5. Angie has gained a name for herself as the first Trans fighter inside the Lumpinee Stadium ring, and the reporter was interested to know Kru Nu’s thoughts on “kathoey” fighters. Kru Nu’s answer, in short, is that Muay Thai is for anybody and everybody, regardless of age or gender, if they have the will to learn and train hard.
Here is a translation of the interview, as it was printed in Muay Siam on January 3, 2018:
Muay Thai belongs to and can be matched with any house, any city, belongs to Thai people of any age who have the will to learn – any person, any gender and any age are able to learn with Khun Anurak Rungruang, 44 years old at Petchrungruang Gym in Banglamung, Chonburi. He took over the gym from his father and has maintained it as an authentic Muay Thai gym.
Khun Anurak explains that the Petchrungruang gym has improved and expanded over the last 30 years, from it’s origin as a family gym started by his father (Khun Bamrung) and with only 3 fighters, 2 boys and 1 girl – siblings in the family. The gym was so small that, even though he thought kicking pads and bags was more fun, he often had to learn the art of Muay Thai more indirectly, without any equipment.
“I started training Muay Thai at 8 years old, then at 10 years old had my first fight at the Beer Bar in Pattaya. I won by knock out and was paid 70 Baht, which was a lot of money to a kid! At that time I used the fight name Witsanuchai Sit Arjan Lom. After that I started fighting regularly, sometimes win, sometimes lose and got the opportunity to fight in Bangkok for the famed promoter Onesongchai. I fought for him for 7 years, until the age of 21 years old. I competed in a prestigious tournament but lost in the final to Ratonchai Wor Worapon, who took the title.”
Khun Anurak says he fought until the age of 22 years old but then stopped for 3 years and when he came back for a few fights he just wasn’t fit for it (he had a knee injury, which required surgery). At that point he took over the gym from his father and became the manager and head instructor to mostly local kids and then international fighters began to join. The local kids train for free but international customers pay dues because they have a proportionately bigger income. Now the gym has more than 10 fighters who enter the rings of Bangkok.
Khun Anurak is sure to talk to all of the kids who train at his gym, so they understand more fully when learning Muay Thai. He also talks with the parents of his students, because as much as he can teach them and keep them fit in the gym, at the end of the day after training they go home with Mom and Dad and it’s up to them to help take care of the kids’ health for training – eat well, sleep well. For his contracted fighters, he doesn’t take any part of their fight purses unless they reach 10,000 Baht, at which point the gym takes 10% to cover the costs of travel expenses, equipment for fighting, etc. (Author’s note: this is very unique to Petchrungruang. Almost every gym takes 50%, regardless of the size of the purse. It’s so common, in fact, that the contracts that go through the official offices in each province and in Bangkok have 50% printed in the “blank” contracts.) He explains that he takes only this small percentage because his family isn’t struggling; he trains fighters because he enjoys it.
“Anyone working any job gets tired, but I’m only tired when my fighters lose or don’t fight well. If a nakmuay isn’t training, I won’t give him a fight. But if they train hard I will give them the opportunity to fight. I never punish my nakmuay if they aren’t training, but I always talk with them; using reason is always better.”
As for Angie, the Trans fighter who has gained a name for being the first to fight at Lumpinee Stadium, Khun Anurak says when he met her 2 years ago she just came to the gym to work out. She didn’t have any notion of fighting. But when he saw that she was serious and getting stronger and better, he asked if she wanted to fight. She accepted and had her first fight in Pattaya, against a female opponent. She also fought against men and after 10 fights she started getting bigger opportunities and the media took note. Khun Anurak guarantees that Angie is, in fact, a “real” Trans fighter – she has breasts and in her heart she is a woman, he says.
“My gym is open to everybody, man or woman or kathoey (Trans). Anybody who wants to learn Muay Thai, if they are sincere, that is enough.”
As for the fighters of whom Khun Anurak is proud, PTT Petchrungruang, Jatukam Petchrungruang (now Dawanchai P.K. Saenchaigym), Thongchai, YodPT and Alex, because they all started as young boys and have made a name for themselves and Petchrungruang in the rings of Bangkok. Every day his gym is full of students from every level, little kids just starting out train alongside Lumpinee fighters, everyone improving together. Like this, Khun Anurak maintains that Muay Thai as a martial art and way of life can continue forever.
(As a side note, but one that is lovely, while speaking with Kru Nu about this article he added that Muay Thai is a wicha – like a subject of knowledge – that stays in your body forever. When he was a baby learning Muay Thai, he didn’t like it at all, but his father made him train and learn. Now, Kru Nu thanks his father for that, for giving him this wicha that has allowed him to have this life he leads now. It is in his body forever, and he passes that on to all his students.)