Thohsaphol Sitiwatjana, 63, Boxing instructor and founder of Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy
Tell us your story
I’m from Bangkok. When I was around five, I saw a woman being attacked by men on the street — it was painful to watch. That partly inspired me to become a Muay Thai master. I started training with my dad, who, when I was eight, sent me to train with Ajarn Sanong Rakwanich at Muangsurin Camp. When I was 14, Ajarn Sanong passed away, and the boxing training job became mine. One day, when I was 19, one of my former students, Joie Vejjajiva, told me about an audition for a martial arts role in a James Bond movie (The Man with the Golden Gun). I went and got the job. Once the shooting was done in Thailand, I went to Manchester in the UK to study, and later started my first Muay Thai school. After running the school for 20 years, I wanted to grow my business so I moved to Las Vegas.
Was it all fine and rosy?
I struggled in my first two years in America, partly because I was too strict and honest. One of my students told me that Americans don’t like how I spoke so frankly. I needed to find a way to encourage people and not let them down. I later got used to the culture.
What brought you back to Thailand?
The tsunami was the turning point. I wanted to help bring people back to Phuket, one of the main areas heavily affected by the tsunami, so I teamed up with Oxygen TV for a reality TV show called Fight Girls. I flew five American boxers to Phuket with me for the shooting. After the first season, I planned to do a second—but it didn’t happen. I made a decision to start my own show, Tough Girls, from my newly opened Bangkok-based boxing school.
Can you share with us some boxing tips?
Always keep your eyes on the enemy’s eye, no metter what. Many people look high when they punch high. And when they punch low, they look low. That’s why your enemy can read you.
You offer classes for kids. Why is it necessary for children to learn self-defense martial art?
A number of kids in Thailand have been kidnapped and killed. I’m not surprised because, in our culture, Thai parents teach their children to be polite and friendly to everyone. For example, when a stranger comes to pick up a child at school, the child will potentially still wai them. The thing is, how can the teacher know whether the person was assigned by the parents or not? One solution is to have a password between you and your kids. That’s part of what the children will learn in the self-defense class. It’s not all about fighting, but how to deal with these unexpected daily situations.
Private training session: B1,000/hour
Group training session: B500/hour (the price of your package can be varied)