Life never turns out the way you think it should. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In my case, my misfortunes led to finding my passion and living it.
When I was growing up in Pattaya, I had a pretty comfortable life. My parents owned several shops that sold clothes and tapes. I was the only child, and I could do whatever I pleased since my parents were always working. After school, I would go home and play video games or play with my friends. There was nobody to tell me I had to do any chores or do my homework.
At 8 years old, I discovered Muay Thai. This was the same year that my world, as I knew it, came crashing down. My parents’ shops started closing down, one by one. When the last shop closed, my parents divorced, and my mother and I moved to a small rented room in town. To make ends meet, my mother would peddle desserts around town. She would wake up very early to make them and walk around and sell them. I didn’t know what was going on exactly, but I knew that it was bad enough for my mother to stop sending me to school.
Because I wasn’t in school, I was always getting into trouble. One of my uncles scolded me and figured that I should channel my energy into something more productive, like Muay Thai. This uncle took me to watch a show in the next village over. In the beginning, I remember not being too interested. Then, this fighter named Lakhai showed up. He was a little person, fighting an actual fighter. I was amazed that someone so small could be so brave and strong – he had put up a really good fight! That night, I packed my bags and moved to Sityodtong camp.
Three months after training and living at Sityodtong, one of our guardians took us little kids to watch a fight. The promoter approached us and said that one of the fighters, a kid, had dropped out of the fight. He said that he needed a replacement. “We have two kids here,” our guardian said, pointing to my friend and I. At this point, I was really nervous. I hoped with all my heart that he wouldn’t pick me. As luck would have it, the promoter chose me. “Do you want to fight?” he asked. Because it was my first fight, I was really nervous, and I remember my heart beating really fast. In my heart, I didn’t want to fight, but I told the promoter otherwise. “Yes, I’ll fight.” I told him cautiously. The fight turned out to be more fun than I expected. The entire time I was on the canvas, I wasn’t scared. Although I lost the fight, I did well, and I didn’t get hurt. To top it off, I won 200 baht.
The next day, I went home and gave my mother the 200 baht. “Look,” I told her, ”Here’s the money I won from the fight. This is for you.” She looked at me and smiled. I knew she didn’t want me to fight, but this was the only way I could make money for myself and not be a burden to her. Although she was against me fighting at first, she eventually gave in.
I loved being at Sityodtong. There were a lot of kids and we would play together after training. Lakhai, the little person whom I saw fighting, was also at Sityodtong, and I became his little brother. The kids and I would get into a lot of mischief and play pranks on each other. We would steal each other’s food and scare each other with ghost stories. It wasn’t safe to go to the toilet – there was always a chance that someone would throw firecrackers at you when you least expected it. I remember them dragging my bed outside while I was sleeping so I would wake up surprised and find myself in the middle of nowhere. The worst trick they played on me was when they took me to an abandoned house and tied me to a chair. I was screaming for hours. It was like growing up with a bunch of brothers; we were always up to no good.
There were a lot of superstars at Sityodtong, which inspired us kids to train hard. Chartchai Sityodtong, Yoddecha Sityodtong, and Yodsanan Sityodtong are just some of the fighters I looked up to. I remember watching Chartchai on TV and telling myself that I wanted to be just like him, that one day I would be a superstar too. Kru Yodtong Senanan, the founder of Sityodtong camp, trained us very differently, compared to other camps. He taught us to fight smart, in the muay femur style. He focused on technique, on studying our opponents and using their weaknesses against them. He made us work on our teeps, elbows, and head kicks – we needed deadly weapons to win fights. To train our teeps, Kru Yodtong would make us teep cement pillars nonstop and teep heavy bags, with a person holding and pushing them forward to create resistance. He also taught us that there were different kinds of teeps, teeps to mess with your opponent’s rhythm, how you could use your toes to poke, the teeps that could knock someone out – every move we learned had a purpose.
I reached the pinnacle of my career when I was 19 years old. I was winning fights and making decent money. When I was fighting, I would never go into a fight with the mindset to win – I was just thinking about what I would do after the fight. Out of all my fights, my favorite was my fight against Khun Pinit at Lumpinee. I went into the fight as the underdog. He was older and more experienced; he had fought many other superstars, and everyone thought that he was going to win. In the first two rounds, I was far behind on points, but I never gave up. My opponent was tough; he was a knee fighter and very strong, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to defeat him.
In the last few seconds of the third round, I was able to elbow him and cut him. This seemed to drain him, which psyched me up even more. By the time the fourth round rolled in, I was full of energy. I went in punching and giving my all. Nothing made me happier than when the referee held up my hand in victory.
Everything I’ve learned about life, I’ve learned it from Muay Thai, especially from Kru Yodtong. He taught me that being a great Muay Thai fighter wasn’t enough. Being a good person who contributed to society and made a difference was equally important, if not more valuable. He also taught me how to be a teacher, a job that I love. From the start of my Muay Thai journey, he told me that he wasn’t just teaching me Muay Thai to be a fighter, he believed that one day I would be a teacher too, so I had to be prepared for it. Back then; I didn’t believe him. What did I know? I was just a child. Looking back, there’s no doubt that everything I have and everything that I am today is because of Kru Yodtong and the valuable lessons he taught me. Without his guidance, I wouldn’t be here today.
Train with Muay Thai Legend Legend Yodteera Sityodtong at