A Glimpse of Evening Training: New Students and Technique

On Wednesday night Petchrungruang had two new boys at the gym. Kru Nu instructed them to bounce on the tires for 30 minutes first, an order which made their father gasp. But the boys happily bounced away on and between the tires because, 1) kids have endless energy and 2) bouncing on tires can be pretty fun. The extent of that warmup even for such young kids has two purposes. The first is to get the boys accustomed to discipline and following the orders of their trainer. If they can’t handle that part, they can’t train Muay Thai. The second is to tire them out just a little bit so that they can focus on the narrow tasks assigned to beginners. When young boys first arrive at the gym for Muay Thai training they are always very eager to hit things, but in traditional Muay Thai camps you have to build up to that. Discipline first, form and technique, and then after time put in to these elements and heart has been demonstrated, then you can hit something.

When Kru Nu was a young boy just starting out in Muay Thai, he hated it. For months he would just shadow blocks and knees back and forth across the dirt floor, before they had a ring. He thought Muay Thai was boring. The gym only had one set of pads and only the fighters got to hit them. When the finally got a hanging bag, only the fighters were allowed to kick it. Kru Nu tells the story of kicking the bag when nobody was looking and hurting his leg on the cement-like filling (sawdust that had gotten wet and dried a million times is like cement; it hurts). Only after months of this monotonous marching of blocks and knees and holding stance did little Nu finally get to start punching the pads.

The new boys at the gym still have to go through the process of discipline and patience, although not nearly as long as Kru Nu did. These two boys were finally let into the ring and must first wai to the Buddha and the spirits of the ring. Then Bank put their little bodies into a proper stance, which they had to hold for a few full rounds. The boys wobble and look around, struggling to hold the position both out of physical difficulty and out of lack of mental focus. They just get repositioned if they fall out of line. Then Bank showed them how to march back and forth taking a single step and throwing a 1-2. The older boy had this one down really nice right away and the younger one wasn’t as coordinated, but when he got to the edge of the ring and punched the ropes he was immediately made aware of how hard the ropes are on tiny hands… just like little Nu kicking the bag.

In this video you can see the two little boys leaping into the ring to wai to the shrine and then begin their stances with Bank. Yonis is on the pads with Kru Nu – he’s about 9 years old and has a couple of fights already, but his training is really good.

 

As the light dimmed, Sun (fight name Petchburapa) had a long session on the pads with Bank. Sun and his family just moved next door to the gym and so the whole family is there late into the evening session, watching Sun develop as a fighter and his younger siblings help Podee as clinching partners. Kru Nu steps in a few times during Sun’s work with Bank to demonstrate some techniques. Kru Nu is an incredibly gifted and patient teacher, something he’s passing on to his son Bank as he’s grown up in the gym and has begun instructing as well.

Here Kru Nu shows how to escape a body lock by wedging one leg into the inside of the opponent’s knee/thigh, putting the other hand on the opposite side hip – both of these are to control the knees of the opponent – and then pulling one arm back through to the front of the opponent’s shoulder to create space. Then he pivots on his standing leg while pulling with the arm that’s been pulled back and positioned on the opponent’s shoulder, creating a turn that breaks the lock and opens the opponent to a knee. Watch at the end when Kru Nu explains the importance of a strong forearm on the front of the opponent’s shoulder in order to control their grip:


And in this next video Kru Nu explains how to tuck the chin and stay facing forward with a long block to guard against punches. He shows a somewhat comical “don’t do this” example of turning your face away from punches, which will get you slammed and make you unable to respond right away, and instead shows how you can remain in position for a counter by staying straight and pulling your head down (tucking your chin) to take any punches that might get through on the crown of your head – which is hard – rather than on your nose or chin, which hurts and can cause damage. Sun’s teeps were getting awesome on this day, so the counter given as example is a nice, long teep:

Angie Fights at Thepprasit in Highlight

Our kathoey fighter Angie has been gaining attention from promoters who are interested in bringing her to their shows around Thailand. On the 28th of August (2017) Angie will be facing a larger opponent in a highlight fight at the local Thepprasit Stadium. There is a 200,000 Baht side bet on the fight, so Kru Nu has been paying close attention to Angie’s training. And she’s just getting stronger.

Angie Petchrungruang will be facing Siansu Humuaydujaruat, who has more Muay Thai experience in his background and outweighs Angie by about 12+ kg. However, Angie trains better and harder, we expect that Siansu only has a few good rounds in his gas tank. The buzz around this fight is pretty high and confidence in Angie’s prowess as a fairly new fighter is solid.

Angie will continue to train hard while also working full time, she owns and operates a small beverage shop on Thepprasit Soi 12. Kru Nu is amping up the intensity in her training in these last couple weeks, before tapering her off just before the fight. Regardless of outcome, we all know Angie will put out a great fight

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Petchrungruang and our fighters are proudly sponsored by Royal Thai Residence on Thepprasit Soi 7

Wan Wai Kru – Honoring Teachers Day

Wai Kru Day is a chance for students to honor their teachers, pay respect and solidify the student/teacher relationship of passing on knowledge in any given study. For Muay Thai students, this is a day to formally thank our instructors.

Petchrungruang is over 30 years old and many krus have been part of the family gym in that time, and some of the students have grown into teachers themselves for younger generations. Kru Den was a teacher to Pi Nu, who is now the head instructor of the gym and a kru himself. Filippo was a student of Kru Nu and now teaches at the gym as well. It’s a wonderful, living process.

Every year there is a National Wai Kru Day held in all the schools across Thailand and the Thai government comes up with a “motto” for each year. This year (2017) the motto is to the affect that a good teacher is also an image of the Buddha for his/her students (“ชาติพัฒนา ด้วยครูดี มีคุณภาพ ศิษย์ซาบซึ้ง ในพระคุณครู”). The patience and loving kindness expressed by the teachers of Petchrungruang absolutely embody this motto.

For those who were not able to make it to this year’s ceremony but consider themselves students of Kru Nu, here is a short video of the blessing he offered in the ring during the ceremony. In short: work hard, be a good person, and take care of yourselves.

And here are some wonderful photos of the ceremony as well.

All the students in afternoon training, teachers from front to back: Kru Watt, Kru Gai, Kru Filippo, Kru Den, and Kru Nu

Thongchai and Dti led the Bot Wai Kru chant – everyone creates a link by touching each other so that a single offering is given to all the teachers and by all the students at once

Wai Kru

The Buddha was brought in to the ring for the ceremony (there is always a statue above the ring as well)

Kru Den giving his blessings.

3 Fighters in Saraburi June 9th – Angie’s First Televised Fight

On June 9th Kru Nu will drive a group of fighters up to Saraburi for a card, a portion of which will be televised. Mahaheng (Team), Geng Gat, and Angie are all fighting and Angie’s fight will be broadcast on Channel 24.

This is a big step for Angie, our kathoey (“ladyboy”) fighter who has been training for only a little under 2 years. She’s had difficulty finding opponents to face, since the Muay Thai Authorities want her to fight with men but she’s still a beginner and an adult, so the men she’s facing are far more experienced and often quite strong. They don’t take it easy on her. But Angie has a solid record and has beat some good opposition in a string of wins, so we all feel very confident in her upcoming match this Friday.

Mahaheng is the most experienced of the 3 fighters and will be the final fight of the card. He’s a solid fighter and is sure to give his opponent a hard time in the clinch.

Geng Gat is the most recently signed fighter to Petchrungruang Gym. He has a couple fights at Lumpinee and is still gaining experience, but with a winning record against good competition.

 

Petchrungruang fighters are sponsored by Royal Thai Residence.

 

Petchrungruang Cleans Up at the Pattaya Marathon

Team Petchrungruang

 

This past weekend, on May 27th, some of our fighters took the morning off from their regular run and participated in the Pattaya Marathon instead. It’s pretty much the same distance as our Silverlake runs (9K) with most of the boys entering the 10K portion of the run. Honestly, it’s a chance for the fighters to do something fun as a group and usually walk away with trophies and medals because they finish faster than most of the “amateur” runners, given that as fighters they run everyday.

Kru Nu is incredibly proud of his son, Bank, who finished 8th place overall out of around 2,500 participants. That means he placed in the adult categories as well, despite only being 16 (for a few more months). But the Petchrungruang Team had 3 finishers in the top 20, which is very impressive: Bank at Overall (8), Pi Nok (Kru Nu’s older brother) at Overall (11), and Sun at Overall (17).

Starting Line

Pi Nok

Gan

 

Sun

 

Bank

Three Fighters at Lumpinee – 2 June 2017

On the 2nd of June we have three of our top fighters on a single show at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok. It’s always exciting to have a few of the fighters getting ready together, so their training is amplified as a team and influences the energy of the whole gym.

 

 

(Fight #5) Thongchai is charging toward his 17th birthday in August and this fight will be his first in over 3 months in Bangkok. There was a misunderstanding and false accusation against him in a televised fight at Omnoi – Thonchai was cleared of any wrong doing and the referee was subsequently suspended (for wrong doing) – so this is a bit of a big fight for him coming back after a long lay off.

 

 

(Fight #6) Yod PT has had a busy year with a few tournaments in the Bangkok stadia. He’s steady when he’s training and looks fit and healthy for his upcoming match, a very experienced and slick fighter. He’s the pre-Main Event for the show.

(Fight #1) Alex was the youngest westerner to fight at Lumpinee when he debuted the night before his 13th birthday a couple years ago. He has over 50 fights under his belt at the age of 15 and maybe a dozen or so of those at Lumpinee Stadium in Bangkok.

Kru Den helping Alex with his situps after training

 

 

 

 

Generations in a Family Style Muay Thai Gym

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.

 

Seven Fighters Tonight in Ang-Thong

This afternoon (25 March, 2017) a caravan of vans, trucks and cars will be departing from the gym to drive about 3 hours up to Ang-Thong. Petchrungruang has seven (7!) fighters on the card and, in true Thai style, we’re bringing an entourage of family, teammates, and gymmates to help in the corner and cheer.

In each of the photos below one fighter is missing. First, Team wasn’t pictured because he wasn’t added onto the card until the next day (short notice, but we’re always training so we’re always ready); then in the second photo YodPT was absent. So, put the photos together and you’ve got the whole group.

From left: Podee, Gaengat, Alex, Thongchai (Bank), YodPT (Dti), Angie, and Kru Den (missing is Manahaeng)

From left: Thongchai (Bank), Gaengat, Alex, Podee (front), Manahaeng (Team), and Angie (missing is YodPT)

Running for Muay Thai – Every Day

Running is an important part of Muay Thai, especially for fighters. Having strong legs and good stamina can be the deciding factor in a gueling, 5 round fight. At Petchrungruang, our boys run every morning, rain or shine.

For the last two weeks Kru Nu has been offering a special run on the weekends, when the boys aren’t in school. We meet at 5:00 AM at the gym and pile into the gym van, Kru Nu in the driver’s seat and we head out for about 20 minutes into an area between Pattaya and Sattahip. The rural roads are quiet, without a great deal of traffic, and we start running before the sun is up. It’s dark, so Kru Nu drives the van slowly behind the group of runners and his headlights illuminate enough of the road for us to keep our footing. There are enormous fields and vinyards on either side, and as the sun rises there is mist on the fields with the enormous, gold Buddha painted on the side of the Khao Cheetjan mountain.

Khao Cheetjan mountain behind the group

 

On the first excursion the group ran from Silver Lake to the Chinese temple, took a photo (below) and then continued on to the right, down some narrow country roads to find another temple a few kilometers away.

Chinese Temple behind the group, from left: Sylvie, Alex, Ouan, Team, Gaengat, Bank and Carabao

Running to the second temple down the narrow country roads

 

On our second trip out, the following weekend, Kru Nu changed the course. After reaching the Chinese Temple we headed off to the left (instead of right) and ran halfway around a lake. The sun rose as the group rounded the last bit, the pink sky reflected in the still, mirrored surface of the lake. Truly beautiful. We stopped to take a photo as we headed back to our starting point to complete the run.

Bigger group the second weekend out! By the lake.

 

 

In all this second run was 11 kilometers, from Khao Cheetjan to the edge of the lake and back again. The next day a few of the boys woke up at 2 AM (on a Sunday) in order to drive out to Rayong for a mini-marathon, 10.5 km:

The group before the start of the race, wearing the Royal Thai Residence shirts made by Sun’s father, from left: Pi Nok, Ouan, Gaengat, Bank, Alex and Sun

 

The boys were entered into a few different age categories but a number of our fighters took trophies as they placed in the top of their groups. When you start each day with an 8-11 km run, a 10K is easy. It’s all part of Muay Thai.

Thongchai at Omnoi – A Correction

Petchrungruang specializes in raising young Thai boys to be Bangkok Stadium fighters. It’s a small, family style gym that grows champions, rather than purchasing them for a stable of elite fighters like some of the bigger-name gyms. It’s just a different business. Head trainer Kru Nu is very proud of his fighters and never over- or under-sells them. He knows everyone is on a different road and he is patient in figuring out what each fighter wants out of his own path. This is especially challenging with his own son, Bank, who fights with the name Thongchai and has been steadily building his career at Lumpinee and Omnoi in Bangkok.

This past Saturday Thongchai fought on TV at Omnoi stadium. He faced a strong opponent who appeared to be a slow starter in the fight, not taking out his very well-timed throws until the third round. Thongchai, on the other hand, started out strong and perhaps erred in bringing out his weapons too early, showing good punches and kicks in the first two rounds and then facing greater difficulty in round three. Lots of fights show reversals in round 3, which is the first real “scoring round” of a fight. After a very dominant turn in the clinch which landed Thongchai in the ropes, his opponent took a lead and Thongchai became more hesitant in the clinch, choosing a waist grab that doesn’t score well but is more stable. Watching from home on the TV, there was a definite shift in how Thongchai approached the fight in rounds 3 and 4, but it wasn’t difficult to explain. He just wasn’t making good choices.

Kru Nu, Thongchai, and Peter – disappointed after the fight

With one minute left in the 4th round the referee suddenly stopped the fight, sent the two opponents to their corners and then took a microphone at the corner of the ring and announced he was ending the fight. He said that the red corner (Thongchai) was throwing the fight and he was officially canceling the match. Thongchai looked totally confused as he heard this; then he climbed out of the ring, as did his opponent, while the crowd murmured and moaned. This happens sometimes; in some cases, a fighter is, indeed, intentionally losing a fight for gambling purposes and a referee is trained to identify it and call the fight a “no contest,” in which case all gambling is also nulled. In Thai it’s called “lom,” in English we say “throwing a fight,” or “taking a fall.” There was no further discussion or explanation. The broadcast cut to commercial and when it came back two different fighters were climbing into the ring.

What happened off-camera was that Kru Nu and Alim (Royal Thai Residence owner and patron of many of Petchrungruang’s fighters) waited in the conference room to speak with the promoter. If Thongchai was found to be throwing a fight, “muay lom,” he could be arrested, fined, and suspended or banned from fighting in Bangkok. It’s a very serious accusation, and a very serious transgression. But the promoter walked in and said that everyone could leave, implying that the claim made in the ring was not being upheld as an official accusation. In many ways that’s good, because Thongchai was not, in fact, throwing the fight. But in many ways this is also very bad, because despite the referee having made an error and a mistaken call in ending the fight, he was never put at fault for it. The only part that was broadcast was Thongchai being accused of cheating. There was no public apology or correction. On the records, Thongchai – a 16-year-old fighter at the beginning of his career in the big pool of Bangkok stadium fighting – remains at fault, although he did nothing wrong.

A clipping from Muay Siam the day after the fight, a statement by Witsanuchai (Kru Nu)

 

Anyone who knows Kru Nu is well-aware of how ridiculous the idea is that his own son would be throwing a fight for money. “We don’t do this for money,” Kru Nu explains, “we do this because we love Muay Thai. I love Muay Thai, it is my life. All my life.” The national publication Muay Siam printed a short statement from Kru Nu, fight name “Witsanuchai Petchrungruang”, where he says that if anyone shows him proof that his son was throwing a fight, he’ll shut the doors to his gym immediately. The Muay Thai community in Bangkok and in Pattaya know Kru Nu and admire him; he has a good reputation and that has been earned through 30 years of real Muay Thai. The difficulty is that this error on public broadcast television reaches many people who don’t know Kru Nu, and this accusation – even though it is false – is an unjustified blemish on the Petchrungruang name. Thongchai is still developing as a fighter and at times he can be slow, but because he is so physically strong, his physicality carries with it a kind of promise for affect that just might not play out in his current fighting style. That’s just part of the growing pains of becoming a good fighter. But the consequences of that style have been thrown out of context with this unfortunate call from the referee on Saturday. There are countless imaginable reasons why this call could have been made, ranging from the innocent: a referee just misinterpreting a “bad day at the office,” to the more nefarious complaints, which are floated frequently to explain any unusual moment in officiating Muay Thai, that gambling and big money is involved in influencing stadium fights; those possibilities are also baseless, so to make them against the referee is as unfair and unfounded as it was to make them against Thongchai.

The purpose of this post is to lay clear the events of what happened on Saturday. Many people watching on TV, or those westerners in the audience who do not speak Thai and therefore didn’t understand what the referee was accusing Thongchai of, have no context for what happened in that moment, why that call was made, or what happened after. This post is for explanation and clarification. Thongchai was not wrong. He absolutely was not throwing the fight – “for what?” Kru Nu shakes his head when he thinks about it; he doesn’t even gamble himself – and while a public apology may not be in the cards for how these things are handled, at the very least what Kru Nu wants laid out clearly is that the blame does not belong to Thongchai. It was a bad call, an unfortunate mistake by the referee. The honor and prestige of fighting in the big stadia of Bangkok means a lot to young fighters, but it also means high-stakes. The consequences for this bad call could have been very serious and the aftermath has been a solemn face on Bank back home and frustration and disbelief from Kru Nu. Training continues, the sweat and sounds of shins hitting pads fill the gym. A few of the nakmuay wear Petchrungruang T-shirts, on the back is written “We Are Muay Thai.” As the air clears, that’s the message that remains.

Another clipping from Muay Siam, disputing the call made against Thongchai yesterday