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Interview with Master Chokechaichana Krutsuwan
By Lakhvinder S. Madahar (Lucky)
February 14th Valentine’s Day is usually reserved for someone very special in your life, but for my students and I, this year it was an exception. As we were busy going through the finer points of Muay Thai, something very special, under the watchful eye of Master Chokechaichana Krutsuwan. Although Master Chokechaichana Krutsuwan has been to these shores on a number of occasions, it was my first meeting with him. This came about with the help of his friend and student Kru Tony Myers. I asked him to conduct a seminar with Mr Pimu, as Master Chokechaichana Krutsuwan is affectionately known. It was a late booking and the only available date was 14th February, that suited us all. Under the circumstances, it worked out quiet well, if you didn’t mind the 27 unhappy spouses (just joking) of the twenty-seven students that still turned up to take advantage of his visit.
I was pleasantly surprised, to find Master Chokechaichana Krutsuwan very friendly, humble, and very open with his knowledge. More importantly he was very easy to talk to about his art and the incredible knowledge he has gained in his many years in professional Muay Thai camps and rings in Thailand.
In Thailand Master Pimu is renowned for his directness and sometimes painfully truthful comments made in interviews on National Thai television. After a very enjoyable seminar at the Coventry Phraya Pichai Muay Thai camp. Tony and I were honoured to be a given the chance to interview a man who has had over one hundred Muay Thai fights and by many considered to be one of the top coaches in Thailand and the world.
Lucky – Thank you for conducting a very enjoyable seminar for my students and myself, and to take the time out of your very busy schedule to talk to us.
Master Chokechaichana – Thank you for inviting me over. I am glad everyone enjoyed it so much.
Tony – To start off could you tell us where were you were born and when you started to learn Muay Thai?
Master Chokechaichana – Yes I was born in Bangkok, I’m not going to tell you when I was born, as I don’t want to give my age away. I started to learn Muay Thai in Bangkok. I was very young; I think it was about seven or eight years of age, when I started to train. First I trained with Lerngsak Sorlupitak, a champion renowned for his kicking and kneeing ability.
Later I had the privilege to train with Adul Srisothorn, a very famous boxer known as the “diamond crown boxer”, because he was a six-time champion. He had an all round ability, a good puncher, kicker and good with kneeing techniques. Basically very good in every way including excellent defensive techniques. In his fights he would attack continuously, and when his opponent counter attacked he came back with really good counters of his own. He taught me his unique style of boxing. Unfortunately I trained with him for only a short time, because his career was cut short, due to his premature death in a car accident. He was one of the all time great Muay Thai fighters.
Tony – You started training when you was seven or eight years of age, do you remember your first fight?
Master Chokechaichana - No, I can't really remember it very clearly. My first fight was when I was seven or eight years of age and it was very long time ago. In Thailand, when young boys start their training, they will start to fight more or less at the same time. Where I trained in my first gym everyone was very young, some boys were only two or three years old, when they learned to box. We learned the basics and then went to fight in the ring. After the fight we would go back to our teacher and he would tell us what we did wrong, we would then work on our bad habits and fight again. When the young boxer are new to the sport they are very keen, as the teacher teaches the young boxers they are very eager to learn and go into the ring to fight as soon as possible.
Tony – How many fights did you have all together and where did you first start to fight, was it in the provinces or in Bangkok?
Master Chokechaichana - I started to fight in the provinces back home. This is not the case for all the young boxers; some of them fight in Bangkok. This is because sometimes in Bangkok, promoters are looking for new boxers to match more experienced fighters at a specific weight. I cannot remember clearly how many fights I have had, now, I think easily more than one hundred, it is too many to remember. You see I started to fight at a very young age. In my fight career I did not win a stadium title but did defeat the champion in a non-title fight. I never got to fight him for his title due to my ring career being cut short by a serious shoulder injury. However, I did represent the Thai Navy in Muay Thai.
Lucky – I First heard about you, from Bob Spour (my instructor) when he told me about a famous teacher in Thailand he had met who had several Thai champions in his camp. Can you tell us something about them?
Master Chokechaichana - Yes, This was about five years ago, in Major-General Pinsinchai’s camp. I had five Rajadamnern champions at the time. It is a famous camp in Thailand, the champions training there at that time were New Sanchen Pinsinchai, Sancheng Pinsinchai, Weelachart Pinsinchai, Pongpayak Pinsinchai and Thailand Pinsinchai – who defeated the great Sukhothai Taximeter for the Rajadamnern title.
I have left Pinsinchai gym since then, and with a help of a very good friend Marco de Cesaris of Italy set up our own gym, the E.P.M Gym. This came about through me coaching many European fighters. I felt that a gym just this purpose was a good way forward for us.
Lucky – Have you trained anyone else to championship level?
Yes, since I have been coaching I had produced many champions. My first distinguished champion was about twenty years ago and he was called Tawanok Sitpunchai. He was champion three times and is considered to be one of the top ten best boxers of all time. I also trained Jai Pet Sak Tarwa, and Somsong Pajunpai, these champions came to Europe and were still active ten years after they had retired in Thailand and still remained undefeated.
I took Atapong Fanta, Keeosot Lookmerng Pair, and Lum Dtai Sit Adoonchai to fight the best fighters from France, Holland and Germany. They remained undefeated against even much heavier opponents. Other boxers I brought to Europe have included Sanchen Pinsinchai (he is still champion) to fight a French “world champion” and Simai Shor Suan Auan to fight Swedish “world champion” Patrick Erickson. Both of my boxers easily outclassed the champions.
As for the European fighters, I have trained over twenty French champions including “Sari” who was the first non-Thai boxer to win a Lumpinee title (the Lumpinee Junior Welterweight Championship). I coached Dida Dafat before his victory over the famous Dutch fighter, Rammond Dekker. In Italy I have coached Mattio, who won the World Muay Thai Council Professional World title at 86 kg.
Lucky – That’s an impressive record, to say the least. There aren’t too many people that can match that. You have been in England many times and to many gyms. Do you think the style in many of these gyms is correct Thai Boxing, or is it mostly Kickboxing?
Master Chokechaichana - I have seen many fighters both in the ring and visited many gyms. Sadly some of them are not performing correct Muay Thai. I think the main reason for this is, because their instructors are not Muay Thai instructors. Their background is probably something like Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung fu or kickboxing. They think by simply wearing a pair of Thai Boxing shorts and including knees and elbows to what they are already doing, will turn it into real Muay Thai. Unfortunately they don’t know anything about when to use punching techniques, when to use the elbow techniques, when to use the kicking techniques, or when it’s the right time to use the knee. They don't know when to relax and when to use the clinch or even how to clinch. They are just teaching to build up their business, to make money.
You see many fighters who don’t know when to attack or when to go into defensive mode. They don’t do the right thing at the right time, they simply keep on attacking and attacking, and in just one round they get tired very quickly.
I know Muay Thai very well that is one thing I am sure of. I have been doing Muay Thai since childhood and can give the correct advice and answer to every question on Muay Thai.
Sometimes I cannot talk about who is good or who is bad, or is right or is who is wrong. I know everything that goes on, but I feel it is not my place to criticise. I have a favourite saying regarding this. If you are a stone, you know you are a stone, and if you're a jewel, you know you are a jewel; you don't need anyone to tell you. Like any human being I am not right all the time, sometimes I can be wrong too.
“If you know everything, then you are a God”
Master Chokechaichana Krutsuwan
Lucky - On the subject of shin conditioning, many instructors tell fighter’s to tap their shins with empty coke bottles filled with sand on a daily bases. What are your thoughts on this?
Master Chokechaichana - This is bad practice, I was horrified when I first saw some students doing this, and there is no need for it. There is a risk of shin injuries and it is time wasting.
If you work your kicks on the Thai Pads or on the heavy bag and play sparring on a daily basis, that is all the shin conditioning needed for any level of competition.
Lucky- Thank you for clearing this very important misconception. I heard some time ago that wrestlers from India and Pakistan fought Thai Boxers. Do you know anything about this?
Master Chokechaichana - Oh Yes, my second teacher Abul Sristhorn fought one of the wrestlers. As mentioned before he was an all round good fighter. His opponent was a wrestler called Singha and it was a freestyle type of a match. All over Thailand people know that he beat an Indian wrestler known as Singha.
Tony - That must have been quite some time ago, was that one of the earliest freestyle matches, how long ago would you say that was Master Pimu?
Master Chokechaichana - I think about over forty years ago, I was about ten years of age.
Lucky- I think you’ve just given your age away there!
Tony – The big secrets out, now Pimu. They were having Thai boxing matches against other martial arts even before forty years ago.
Master Chokechaichana -Yes, when it happened I was very young, and all right I am fifty something now. That was the first time Thai Boxer’s fought in a freestyle match. Yes I think that was the first time any Thai boxer fought in a mixed style match.
Lucky – Did the matches with the wrestlers happen again afterwards or was it just a one encounter?
Master Chokechaichana - They (Thai boxers) defeated the wrestlers even after giving away a lot of body weight. The matches against the wrestlers only happened once. With Karate, Kung Fu and other martial arts they have had matches many times. Against Burmese boxers they fight every year, sometimes even twice a year. Fights with Burmese boxers are different to modern MuayThai fights because they have different rules. They allow the use of the head butting and the hip throws are still allowed. Even with these rules, ninety-nine percent of the Thai Boxers still win.
Tony – Do you remember or know about fifty years ago when Gung Fu fighters and Karate fighters fought Thai Boxers At the Kanamlong Stadium in Bangkok. How did the Thai Boxers do against the Gung Fu/Karate fighters? Did they win or did some Gung Fu /Karate fighters win?
Master Chokechaichana - I do remember them taking place, but cannot remember too much detail or any dates. I know kung fu and karate fighters have fought Thai fighters more than once. I think you can say that Thai Boxers won ninety – nine percent of the time. I cannot remember who fought or who won in which particular contest.
On another occasion Thai Boxers went to China to fight mixed style fights with five kung fu men and five Karate men. Only one Thai boxer lost, that’s all.
Once I think the Chinese boxers wearing the gloves in the first encounter and they complained that they could not use their deadly hand techniques, and the second time they were allowed to fight without the gloves and they still lost.
Tony - I watched a video in your gym of a Brazilian fighter called Pele, a black boxer of about seventy kilos. He had good MuayThai technique and was a good grappler. He made very good use of Muay Thai. Basically using good clinch work keeping his body away from the Gracie stylist and attacking with his knees. He defeated all of his opponents knocking out the finalist with a knee to the head
It’s a pleasant change, from the Ultimate fighting bouts or the freestyle bouts. Where I have seen many times, fighters claiming to represent Muay Thai as their style of fighting, but when you see them fight it is very clear, that they are not Thai Boxers, but are kick boxers.
Master Chokechaichana -Yes, Pele is very good, I don’t know much about his background or where he learned his Muay Thai in Thailand.
Lucky - I’ve heard a lot about an old form of Thai Boxing (Muay Chao Chur). Was Muay chao Chur a form of boxing for the battlefield used with Krabbi Krabong or did they compete with it?
Master Chokechaichana - Muay Chao Chur means bandage boxing. Boxers fought (competed) with bandages/rope wrapped around their hands and not the boxing gloves as we see now. Muay Cho Chur is also called Muay Boran or "old boxing". Muay Boran is a form that developed a long time ago. It has a lot of extra techniques that you do not see in todays Muay Thai matches. A lot of dangerous striking, locking, and throwing techniques. As a result of using these many boxers were disabled and some even died from broken necks, being thrown dangerously on them.
Muay Boran differs in different parts of Thailand; the south would be different, let’s say from the north, the core techniques are the same, but each region had its own style.
Lucky – Is this still taught for the self - defence purposes to the Police, the Army or to other groups?
Master Chokechaichana -Yes, Muay Boran is taught to the Police and military. Muay Thai and Muay Boran are similar arts; it’s just that Muay Boran has some additional techniques. A lot of the throws were too dangerous for the ring, many boxers died from serious injuries. The boxers were twisting their opponents around and throwing them awkwardly on their heads.
Lucky – Thai Boxing is Thailand’s national sport/treasure and is fast gaining popularity in the rest of the world. Are their any other arts like Kung Fu, Karate, Tae Kown Do, basically martial arts from other countries practiced in Thailand?
Master Chokechaichana Yes, we do have other martial arts in Thailand and some individuals prefer to practice them, but Thai Boxing is easily the most popular. I mean there are Muay Thai bouts everyday and it is always on television.
Lucky- How do you think Thai Boxing has changed in the last, let’s say fifty years?
Master Chokechaichana - Fifty years ago Muay Thai used to have a lot more techniques, than it has now. It was not really that different, it was closer to Muay Boran than today's style. Some techniques were taken out for safety reasons and others fell into disuse because they were too easy to counter.
I don’t want my boxers to learn lots and lots of techniques; because I feel when they work on too many techniques they remain weak. If all their techniques are weak they will always lose when they fight. I teach them less technique, only what I feel they need. But I make sure they use very strong and effective techniques when they fight. Then they win their bouts and can become champions.
Lucky – Mr Pimu can you describe some of the techniques the boxers where able to use fifty years ago and are not able to use now?
Master Chokechaichana -Yes, the boxers were once allowed to hip throw, now referees say it’s a Judo technique. Fighters could also catch the kicking leg and then push or run their opponent into the ground, this is not allowed now. Kneeing to the groin was also a legal technique, this is not allowed any more. There were even cartwheel type kicks done in the ring. Kicks delivered while performing a cartwheel are not now allowed. They used to allow the fighters to hold the ropes while delivering kicks and knees, this is not allowed now as it was considered a negative gesture. Sometimes when a boxer catches an opponent's leg and throws him, referees have disqualified the fighter involved, calling it Judo, as with the hip throw. For me it is still Muay Thai; it is good Muay Thai.
Even in Thailand some referees do not understand Muay Thai that well. I think possibly because of the gambling that goes on with the Thai bouts some referees rather not allow some of the techniques that may be seen as fouls. The crowd may miss a technique by not looking carefully enough, so referees actually stop fighters from kneeing into the inside of the thigh, in case the crowd think it’s a foul blow to the groin. Similarly fighters may avoid this technique, because they think they may get disqualified and lose.
As a result the crowd, and even some of the referees think that some techniques are Judo techniques and are therefore considered a foul.
This affects the fighters in a way, that sometimes they are afraid to use some of the techniques in their arsenal, for an example: - when a fighter grabs the opponent’s leg (round kick) and then grabs his head and throws. The boxer who uses this technique knows it is a good Muay Thai technique, but sometimes the boxer will not use it, because they think the referee will call it a foul, that the technique is Judo.
From a personal point of view it is very important for me to preserve Muay Thai. The referees should also know their Muay Thai and not just the rules, but the techniques as well and when they know this. They should not allow themselves to be influenced by the crowd.
Lucky – From some of the things you said Pimu, about Muay Boran, many techniques were removed due to safety reasons or because they were to easily countered. Do you think there was ever a time, when old Muay Boran was an all out fight between two fighters?
Master Chokechaichana -Yes, it was all out fighting with head butts and everything. Now it has evolved into a much safer sport but still a very practical fighting art. Some of the more spectacular techniques are very easily countered and they are not used so much now. Once there was this boxer doing this turning elbow on his opponent and all his opponent did was just tapped his jab on the back of his head. so turning your back to your opponent is a big risk in any technique.
The rule changes in Muay Thai are not all bad. Some changes have been welcomed. Particularly not allowing fighters to hold the ropes and throw kicks, knees or any other technique and by not allowing boxers to trap their opponent between themselves and the ropes. This type of fighting is very negative.
Another change is that I think is for the better is making ‘not fighting’ illegal. Once this fighter kept running away from my fighter and leaning on the ropes. My fighter had to chase him to attempt to make a fight out it, otherwise there would have been no fight, just two people circling each other.
In the rematch he tried to do the same thing and so I told my fighter to stay in his corner in order to make the opponent come forward. He still would not come forward and fight, and then the referee stopped the whole thing and declared the match a no-contest. The crowd booed the other fighter, but my fighter was still cheered, because they (crowd) remembered the previous match.
Lucky- In most arts such as Tae Kwon Do, Karate and the Kung Fu arts the sidekick is one of their primary weapons, but in Muay Thai there is never too much emphasises on its development. Can you comment on this?
Master Chokechaichana - In Muay Thai there are many variations of the front kick (teep). In one version the hip is turned into a sidekick, this is the nearest technique to the sidekicks found in other martial arts. The Thai version is used generally as a counter attack or used with the toes twisted into the opponent’s bladder as an attack. The reason sidekicks are not found extensively in modern Muay Thai fights, being that if the sidekick is delivered from a side on stance is too easily counter. So like the turning and spinning kicks they are used infrequently.
Lucky – I read in Don Draeger’s classic book “The Asian Fighting Arts”, which was written in the late1960’s. Where he states, that the quality of punching in Muay Thai is not of high calibre: the jab is poor, the uppercut is almost nonexistent, and the hook is inadequate. The front kick invariably weak, a relatively slow action and that the round kick is not used effectively. Do you think that was an accurate picture of Muay Thai for that period of time or do you think he had misunderstood what he had seen?
Master Chokechaichana I think he definitely misunderstood, or perhaps watched some very poor fighters. There are many very strong punchers in Thailand many who have gone on to win international boxing world titles; the Galaxy brothers are a recent example. The front kick (teep) is arguably the most important kick in Muay Thai; it is sometimes used quite lightly to break an opponent’s timing but other times as a strong and damaging attack. Samart Payakaroon, a modern Muay Thai legend, used this weapon to stop and injure an opponent by delivering the kick into the bladder in a twisting action. As for Thai round kicks, they can be delivered very strongly when there is an opening. Maybe they didn’t look so strong, but anyone who has been kicked by a good Thai fighter will testify to their strength. Apidej was competing during the period you mentioned; he broke an opponent’s arms with his round kicks. There are many camps and styles of Muay Thai practiced in Thailand. They all emphasise different tactics, different techniques, and different strategies, to say this kick is weak or that punch is weak is wrong.
Lucky- How do you think Krabi Krabong influenced Muay Thai, do you think the Muay Thai techniques came from Krabi Krabong, as there is strong link between the empty hands and the weapons of the Filipino martial arts?
Master Chokechaichana -This is the chicken and the egg problem, which one came first. There are many similarities, but it is best to say that Muay Thai came from Muay Thai and Krabi Krabong came from Krabi Krabong. They were both used together, side-by-side, by Thai soldiers in the past.
Lucky – As a final note, is there anything you would like to say to readers that may help them in their training?
Master Chokechaichana -Yes, train your basics, spend a lot of time doing basics, build a strong foundation and your technique will be strong and powerful. Find a good qualified coach/instructor to train with safely. Spar lightly.
“If you play hard, you play for only ten minutes; if you play light you play all day and every day”
Master Chokechaichana Krutsuwan
Lucky- Thank you for a very enlightening interview Mr Pimu and Tony for all the help. We look forward to your next visit/seminar here in Coventry.
Master Chokechaichana -Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
Master Chokechaichana will be returning to England in Febuary 2002. If anyone is interested in hosting seminars in the future or wishes to train at E.P.M. Gym in Thailand you can contact Tony Myers on 07977669276.
L. S. Madahar is a full time Martial Arts instructor with over twenty – eight years experience. He teaches Muay Thai (Phraya Pichai Dab Hak camp) and the Progressive Kali~Eskrima System of the Filipino martial arts in Coventry. He is available for private lessons, group instruction and courses. For more information call Lucky on: - 07834 767 487 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org