“It is more than just a training camp; it’s a right of passage among foreign fighters that symbolizes that they have come of age in the Muay Thai world.”
sityodtong camp, pattaya
I have been in Thailand for work this week and since I seem to have a little bit of time this morning, I thought I’d quickly put this post in before the colourful details of my great visit to Sityodtong in Pattaya escape me.
When I first knew that I would be coming to Thailand for work, I didn’t think much of it. Not that I don’t absolutely love Thailand to begin with – it’s one of my favourite countries to visit – but it was just going to be another work trip to me. But when I realized I’d be coming to Pattaya – the true home of Sityodtong Muay Thai and Evolve – I got very excited indeed.
It probably made things even better that Kru Toy, one of my instructors at Evolve and the Grandmaster Kru Yodtong’s son, was going to be coming back in the same week for his holidays. When he heard I would be in the area, he invited me to come for training and I quickly looked into my schedule to see if I would be able to do so.
When the day came, Kru Toy picked me up from my hotel and took me to the training camp. As soon as I walked onto its premises, I felt like I was in the presence of greatness.
“Kru Yodtong is the best and most well known teacher of Thai Boxing inside Thailand and around the world. He is and continues to be the individual most responsible for promoting Muay Thai to the world…. From Rob Kaman to Raymond Decker, anyone who is anyone in the Muay Thai world, has made the pilgrimage and have gone to Yodtong’s camp Sityodtong, to learn from the master himself.”
This was where Lumpini champions were made.
This was these champions lived, trained and grown up.
I was in absolute awe.
Then of course, Kru Toy introduced me to his father.
Grandmaster Kru Yodtong
I had read about his history and what he had done for Muay Thai internationally. I had see his pictures and known his face. And here he was right in front of me, saying hello to me in a friendly manner as a wai-ed at him.
with Grandmaster Kru Yodtong
I sat around with Grandmaster Yodtong, Kru Toy and some of the family for awhile before training commenced. Kru Toy took me around the school premises and showed me some of the memorabilia around the place which was a bit of a history lesson. I saw a lot of familiar faces of champions who have taught me or ones I’ve just seen around Evolve. It’s funny how you don’t think about these things when you’re walking around them back home. They’re all so humble and friendly.
can you spot yoddecha in there somewhere?
As I prepared myself for training, Grandmaster Yodtong took it upon himself to help me wrap my hands. I was surprised and knew this was a special honour, so I sat quietly whilst the great master did his thing.
a moment of great honour
I later found out that he hardly ever wraps anyone’s hands and Chatri even said that in all his years of training under the Grandmaster, he had never had his hands wrapped once! Although I did not know this at the time, I knew it was special anyway.
When I was ready, the school assigned Kru Nuch as my teacher for the day. This was going to be a a few hours of one-on-one training, something that I have not experienced before. At Evolve, a big part of our warm-up is 5-10 minutes of skipping. Here at Sityodtong, I was asked to jump on a big lorry tyre for 10 minutes.
Seemed simple enough – But after what I’m sure was less than 5 minutes, the outer muscles of my calves started to ache. No, sting. Ouch. Whatever it was, my legs felt like they were WRECKED when I got off them tyres. The little kids there jumped on them for ages. I felt like a wussy.
Then it was training time. Kru Nuch got into the ring with the pads and did five rounds with me – I’m not sure how long a round was but I was sweating like a pig. We worked on my kicks, push-kicks, blocks and combinations. Kru Nuch had a lot of comments about my technique which I’d not heard before and I guessed it was because he was watching me with ‘new’ eyes. He reminded me a lot of Kru Nueng: cheeky, fun, always faking and catching me off-guard!
In between the rounds, I felt like a fighter. Kru Nuch would feed me water – more so I wouldn’t have to take my gloves off – and pour water over my head and shoulders to cool me down. When the five rounds were over, I thought that would be it but it was not. I got out and did another few rounds of punch practice with him on the mats. We worked on my punches, elbows and combinations. THEN it was push-kick and attacking with the bag.
I actually don’t know how long training was. Kru Toy reckons it was more than 2 hours but I think it was more like two. Whatever the case, I was absolutely knackered after. I was beat.
I thanked Kru Nuch, gave him a big sweaty hug and then sat around stretching whilst he continued to train some of the other kids around the school.
kru nuch, my trainer for the day
After some stretching, I had a shower and sat around watching the little boys clinch and spar. Now I know why they are so lethal and good when they get to an older age and they are champions by the time they are 20. They were so little but already their technique and reaction-time was so advanced!
I also saw a lot of familiar faces that afternoon. Kru Tum from Evolve was training some of the younger fighters there, and Kru Noi from the Pomo gym was also there. I truly was at the home of Evolve :)
with kru tum
with kru noi
Sityodtong is truly an international camp – Just like me, there were a lot of other foreigners around me who had obviously made the pilgrimage to the camp for training. There was a girl from Hong Kong on the bags, a few guys from Japan and a number of other farang around. I really want to go back again someday… And I know Hubba would love the workout too!
After training, I bid fareful to Sityodtong.
Kru Toy and his lovely wife took me and Edith out that evening for dinner. And Kru Nueng came in all the way from Bangkok as well. I felt very special indeed.
Boy, did we feast!!! It was probably one of the best Thai meals I have ever had. I’m kinda drooling this morning just at the thought of it =P
And you know…. It’s funny but I really felt like I was with family in Pattaya – They really took care of me and made me (and Edith) feel very welcome. And for this, I am forever grateful.
I did not get to say goodbye to the Grandmaster but I have a feeling I will be back again.
I know there’s going to be an anniversary celebration back at Sityodtong in Pattaya in November – Something I hope we’ll be able to make it to, but I have a sinking feeling we will be moving house at that time and might not be able to make it.
Whatever the case though, I know I want to come back.
And I will :)