World Thai Boxing Association founder Ajarn Chai Sirisute began actively teaching Muay Thai in the United States in 1968. Ajarn Chai is credited for bringing Muay Thai to America and founding the world’s largest Thai Boxing association.
- When did you begin your Muay Thai Training?
Man, I would say yesterday (with a smile)! But you are talking about training, since I was probably 6 or 7 years old.
- What made you decide to begin training Muay Thai?
My father, he wanted me learn. Also, a Muay Thai training camp was closeby; the camp was just next door.
- Do you also train in other martial arts?
Boxing… I’ve also trained in Karate. I wanted to understand Karate so that when training students in the ring, we could work counters with them. It is also because I respect every martial art, that is why I learn.
- Do you encourage your students to train in other arts?
Yes, I do. I always tell my students to study other martial arts which is not a common thing in Thai Boxing. Look at Guro Dan, he has been cross-training in other arts for years and encouraging others also. You just don’t see a lot of Thai Boxing instructors tell their students to seek out other arts. Just as well, you typically don’t see a lot of Karate people telling their students to seek out other martial arts as well.
I have a different position because I want my students to be the best; that’s why I always encourage them to go learn something else. Right now, I steer people towards grappling to become a well-rounded martial-artist but it is up to the individual student. Learn anything.
- What do you think of reality fights, ultimate fighting, and no-holds barred events that have gained so much popularity over the years?
I think for martial arts, it is the right time and place. The right people are involved.
You can see which martial arts are strong and which ones are not. I see two types of martial arts used the most – Muay Thai and Grappling. But, you know what I don’t understand… Is why they don’t allow Thai Boxers to use their elbows in American competitions (Kickboxing), but they let “Ultimate” use everything? They say Thai Boxers can’t use elbows in kickboxing. Again, I know that the right time, place and format must exist but Thai Boxing is in every country of the world right now.
- Aside from Muay Thai and martial arts, what else do you enjoy?
I like nature. I love the mountains and oceans. I like fishing and used to hunt a lot. Lately, I have been thinking about why it is okay to take one animal’s life but not another. When you get older, you start to think more about people’s rights or animal’s rights or life period. That’s why I don’t hunt as much anymore.
- Is there any advice you can give to people just starting out in martial arts?
There are different reasons why people sign up to learn martial arts. You have the people who see their friends doing it and want to learn. Then you have those who are getting beat up and want to defend themselves. Who learns the quickest? The one who gets beat up, because they have a reason. Whatever style you choose, find a reason that motivates you and don’t give up.
This interview with Ajarn Chai Sirisute was conducted by Dean Lessei, the TBA Director for the State of Iowa after the Labor Day Camp in Beliot, WI. September 1, 1997.
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