The social dynamics of muaythai part one: No easy path

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I was handed a piece of paper and was told to look it over.

On it read: Muay Thai Instructor Certificate. This is a 1 Day…ALL DAY intensive certification. KRU. All applicants must have a minimum of 4 years experience in any stand-up fighting style.

Any stand-up fighting style? One day? I’ve been studying muaythai for 7 years. For the past 6 years I’ve been taking annual trips to Thailand to train at some of the best gyms in Bangkok. For weeks to months on end I’ve trained, clinched, sparred, ran, ate, drank, traveled, cornered, interviewed, and shared laughs with some of the best (and not-so-best) fighters and coaches in Thailand. Even after all this time and involvement I feel like I am just now digging beneath the surface of this complex culture and sport. How, in just one day, can someone possibly convey the intricacies of the most dynamic striking art on the planet?

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In the land of milk, honey, and capitalism, however, this is a growing trend. These certification seminars pop up every so often and usually the person holding the seminar has no idea what real muaythai is. Their gyms are based around mixed martial arts programs; they rarely have any fighters in local muaythai events; and their idea of a “great muaythai fighter” is Wanderlei Silva. Although I feel like extending my most gracious thanks to these money-seeking misers, I feel the most sympathy for the soon-to-be-certified one day krus. Is the world moving that fast where taking the time to learn and master an art is becoming a thing of the past? What can you walk away with after training one day in any sport, never mind muaythai? This is why the rate at which people are learning bad muaythai far exceeds the rate at which people are learning good muaythai. At least in the West.

When I read about stuff like this it angers me, but only because I am passionate about muaythai, almost to a fault. Over the years muaythai has become, like for so many of you, something quite personal. Muaythai has brought me out of dark places; and it has introduced me to great people that I would have otherwise never met. Muaythai is a constant reminder of why I live, it is the reason behind most of my choices in life, and since discovering it, it has been my sole path. Without it, I might still be lost, spiraling out of control in a life of selfishness and self-destruction. But despite the benefits that muaythai has provided me, it is the people who benefit from it least that I think of the most, especially when I read about one day kru certifications.

I wonder if these one day certificate slingers would feel any different if they visited Thailand and seen firsthand the conditions in which most of the muaythai populace lives under. You have trainers who live muaythai day in and day out, staying at gyms far away from their families. They earn what little they can to send back to their wives and their children. They sleep in the gym. Eat in the gym. They punish their bodies and poison their health. They raise champions in ways that don’t necessarily include winning a belt. They teach humility. They live lives worthy of passing along wisdom. They’ve spent years upon years mastering their craft of holding pads. A trainer is a communicator: they speak not only to the person, but to the person’s soul and heart. They inspire and make you feel like you can accomplish anything.

In my short time on this planet I have yet to meet one person who could bottle-up these qualities and sell them in one day. They’re selling a dream. But one not worth chasing.

If you want to learn muaythai with the plans of one day teaching it to someone else, do it the right way. Put in the time and the energy and the effort. Make the mistakes. Learn what it means to hit plateaus only to fall backwards again. You don’t have to be a world champion for people to want to learn from you. But you need passion. You have to love muaythai, to the point where when you look at yourself you don’t see a person in muaythai; you see muaythai in the person.

A great teacher isn’t made in one day over a handshake and a certificate.

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About Author

John Wolcott currently lives in Thailand and works as a freelance writer and videographer. He owns and operates Thailand Journal where he writes about his experiences abroad.

6 Comments

  1. Nice one John. A couple of years ago I went to the fights at the excel arena in London. It was being held in conjunction with the Seni Martial Arts expo. I’ll try to find the picture, but one of the exhibitors was selling certificates… his entire pitch was that he would certify you a black belt, Kru etc.

    I didn’t see anyone buying anything from him, but I’m sure he does decent business.

  2. Maybe it would help if people began to realize that “Kru” is not a martial arts designation in Thailand. It is a very common word and just means “teacher”. Your 3rd grade teacher is your Kru. One does not “attain” Kru status in Muay Thai like some belt that is achieved.

    Those guys in the poster sure look pretty ripped.

  3. I would love to see some of the technique on these so called “Kru’s” after 1 days training!

    I remember it took my body about 6 months to even start to realize the subtleties within the Thai round kick.

    I guess this is more focused on personal trainers and gym trainers wishing to add another dimension to their services? The sad thing is though is that I bet they will do quite well out of it financially.

    Do the course, get the cert, buy some pads and get some one to pay you for teaching them Muay Thai! Easy!

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