As a martial artist training for 30 years one of my dreams, like that of most dedicated martial artists, was to have the chance to train in the country where a style comes from. While my primary style has been Tae Kwon Do, I was taught to seek out other avenues to learn taking me on a journey to earn ranking in Jujitsu, JUDO, and Kobudo. One style that I had some limited training in with a friend as a teenager was Muay Thai. I was instantly in love with the style, but never found anywhere to train in traditional Muay Thai here in the states. Recently I not only had the chance to train, but do it at the premiere gym in Bangkok Thailand, Master Toddy’s Academy. This unbelievable experience not only gave me the dream come true chance to train overseas, even for just a short time, but also gave me the chance to sit down with Master Toddy himself to learn more about this amazing style as well as his career in both martial arts and film.
Bobby: Can you tell us how you got started with Muay Thai?
Master Toddy: The gym wasn’t far from my house. The father was teaching the son and I grew up watching him training. I liked it so I started training, but I got more serious because one day I saw a guy beat up a woman and I didn’t like it. So I decided I had to be good at the martial arts so I could help in this kind of situation. So I trained harder and started from there.
Bobby: While there is Muay Thai in the states it’s different than it is here, can you tell us about Muay Thai for those that may not know about it?
Master Toddy: Muay Thai itself is art form, a competition that comes from the war where the Thai used to fight with Burma and Cambodia when we had no weapons used the feet and hands to protect the countries. When there was no war, they kept it as a competition. Muay Thai is different than any other martial art because we keep tradition from day one. We have certain technique unlike any other, for example when we do a roundhouse kick, in other martial arts it’s a snap kick where you hit with the foot, but in Muay Thai we use the shin, makes is harder. We use knee very well and have many different types of knee strikes. We have what we call clinching that can be used for the ground work very well, that is why it helps in MMA, because we can stand up and clinch as well as go on the floor. But Muay Thai is stand up fighting, so we don’t do on the floor so we are not used to that, but we can stand up clinch very well and knock a guy out or choke them out while standing. We keep the tradition like the Wai Kru where the fighter pays respect to their parents, the country and the teacher before they fight. All of the movements warm you up and tell where you come from and what kind of gym you come from. They have Mongkol on their head that shows you qualify from your gym and that you have a teacher and not just make yourself up and become a fighter. So the Mongkol is like a black belt and says you have a teacher.
Bobby: Obviously a lot of it is based on individual skill level, but how long does it typically take before someone is ready to step into the ring?
Master Toddy: Personally I can train someone for 3 to 5 months and they would be ready for an Amateur fight with no elbows or knees to the face, don’t forget, I’m American too. (laughs) A lot of my fighters won the World Championship over here because if you are 150lbs and you come to train with me and say you want to be a World Champion, then I look at who is the 150lb World Champion and then we train from day one on how to beat them and then we challenge the guy and mostly we have won the fights. That’s why I am well known with a lot of World Champions, that’s how I did it. It’s not just train and train, and then go fight, we aim from day one.
Bobby: You mentioned the amateur fighters, is there different techniques allowed depending on the level of fighter that you are?
Master Toddy: Yes, we make up when I was in England and America we got to give people a chance because they come from different martial arts. That’s why it’s called kickboxing because it doesn’t specialize in elbows and knees. So you don’t bring the Thai fighter who uses the elbow and knee to fight the kick boxer so you had to adjust for example you are allowed to do this elbow, but not this elbow. It’s like who can beat basketball of America? Nobody, so if I take Thai to go play against America and you bring your best team to beat us, you have to give us a chance. So you adapt and adjust to make us even and make it fun to call it a sport. I tell my Thai people all the time, because typical Thai people always want to win, I always say What if we play soccer, English football, if the Liverpool team comes and plays against the Thai team we would lose terrible, so we have to give others a chance to be known in the art because Muay Thai has been with the country since day one. We protected the countries until we had the country, so Muay Thai was born before we had the countries so we want to give other people a chance.
Bobby: So when you have someone like myself from other disciplines that come to train, how hard is it to take what may be a good thing in their system, but a bad habit yours to train them in Muay Thai?
Master Toddy: It’s harder than someone that has never done it before, but I was doing Muay Thai from 4 years old until I was 12 and then turned to Tae Kwon Do which helped me. Tae Kwon Do in Thailand is like Mauy Thai without gloves. With the Tae Kwon Do, you have to turn the body to the side and keep the feet flat, but in Muay Thai you have to be on the ball of your feet because you swing the whole body. If you know the principles and basics of that, you can adjust it. The best thing for people who have done other martial arts and want to do Muay Thai is that you have to do homework. With the different systems you have to learn to adapt, so you have different styles and learn to blend them together. So I write a song for you using the different movements and you will know which steps.
Bobby: You’ve trained a lot of fighters, but some of them were famous people. Some were famous for fighting and others from TV and movies like Gina Carano and Jason David Frank. How did you get to become the go to guy for the famous people as well?
Master Toddy: It’s just my name, people believe in me. A lot of people from the UFC want me and said “I need to win this fight.” I say ok and told them to work with me for 3 weeks and if they win they can pay me, if you lose it’s free of charge and they love it. And I have never lost one. (laughs) I never advertise, but this kind of thing gets the word around. When there is somewhere that good, people find it and they come to you.
Bobby: Being a fan of Gina Carano I have to ask, was she one of the first American females to come here to fight and win a title here in Thailand?
Master Toddy: She was not the first one, but seemed like it. Gina Carano and another girl, LaTasha Marzolla, she was Miss Playboy. She needed to lose weight for the magazine so I trained her; I know how to make people lose weight fast. She lost 25lbs in 3 weeks and then she got the center and front page cover for Playboy magazine. I brought five girls into Thailand and all of them were so charming that the press was everywhere. We were on the front page of the newspaper every single day. When we fought with the Thai we had a very hard time. Gina fought a man; he was not a she but a he if you understand. (laughs) She was very good and has a mustache which is why we joke about it all the time. This was the hardest fight Gina had ever had and she came back to the corner and said, “I can’t go no anymore, my legs are dead from her kicking my leg.” I told her it was ok and to relax and remember cobra. Just put the hand higher, because it is too low, so the cobra takes longer to strike. Then get your body to the side and when you let it go, it goes over everything and then down and she went out like that! Now if you watch her she uses that all the time. It’s because when the river come, we build the bridge over and that’s what our people use a lot. We call it the cobra and it was incredible because no one that Gina was going to last that round, but she came out so strong and knocked the girl out in front of millions of people on TV. They had never seen a girl fight like that and be so pretty, so that is why everyone remembers Gina. Another girl came before her Angela Rivera who is now married to John Wayne Parr. He comes to train with me and they met at our camp. We don’t just make champions, we make families too. So many people met in our gym and got married. (laughs)
Bobby: Maybe you should charge extra. (laughs)
Master Toddy: (laughs) You’re right.
Bobby: I know that you appeared in one of the early James Bond films, how did you get involved with that?
Master Toddy: Bruce Lee was very famous then, so everyone wanted Kung Fu in their movie. The director of the James Bond told me that if I wanted to be in the movie to fight with the Chinese Kung Fu. I was 17 years old and said I would fight, so I was the first one that walked in and I beat them one by one, I beat 6 people. They told me I looked to young and too slow, so it wouldn’t look good for the movie, but they let me in and that’s how I got into James Bond. At the time we had Gina Carano producer called us to do a program and this guy wanted to fight with the girls so we got Gina to fight with him, but at the same time I called her from where I was at and asked what she was doing now and telling her to not forget to use her roundhouse kick, crocodile kick and on the phone with her all the time. She just on the phone saying yes sir, yes sir, but the director was the one that owned Charlie’s Angels and I called him all the time and told him man this is the real thing, so they backed us up and made the first documentary called Ring Girls which was all over the world and was a real story. It had Gina in it and they also followed me all over the world which is how it got started. It kept growing more and more, then I thought about the title Fight Girls and bring that to Oprah Winfrey to get involved because she owned Oxygen. When we made the first Fight Girls a lot of people watched it and loved it so the ratings were very good. We did the second part until they sold to ABC and I still do it now.
Bobby: So now you are running your gym and doing the show?
Master Toddy: Yeah, I do Fight Girls and another coming called Real Street Fighting that’s going to be around the world. I also have Showtime on their way here; the same team that filmed the Pacquiao fight in China are coming here. They want to see my production, so we are going to get big. I have never done TV before and I will be a producer, but I love it. Anything you love and find interesting you can do. We don’t just teach technique, but we also pass on the confidence and you feel good about it. When you feel confident and go to fight you will win, if you have the good energy you can do it. I do not only just teach kick, kick, punch, punch, but I motivate them and make them line up their mind to win. Every day and every word is encouraging so that they get better every day. You never say a negative word, because if you put the negative words in their head, some people will take that with them, so we always try to make everything positive all the way to the day of the fight. We do everything to make the opponent think it’s not their day. Even when you shake hands with the other fighter the way you look at them is so confident that it says, “I’m not worried about you. How you doing, you alright? You going to have a good time with me?” That kind of thing and it makes your opponent so nervous and then they don’t do their job as good as they are supposed to be.
Bobby: Can you tell people a little bit about how they can come here to train?
Master Toddy: People come from all over the world to train here with me because they do not believe I am in Bangkok, Thailand. I am really here in Bangkok, Thailand the capital of Muay Thai, the home town of Muay Thai. It’s easy to come train with me, even if you are a beginner or a multi-time world champion, I have the skill to help you to improve your skill level. We have rooms for you to sleep, eat, breath and train 24 hour with me. We go to see Muay Thai fights, because we are in Bangkok you can see fights every single night. All the champions fight in Bangkok, so you can see world class fights. Two weeks to one month, you can improve your life in Muay Thai skill because you eat, breath and live with it.
Bobby: I really appreciate you taking the time to do this; it is a real honor sir.
Master Toddy: It was my pleasure.
After we finished our conversation I had the honor to get to have Master Toddy himself teach me a couple of techniques before I headed out to step into the ring for a 2 hour Muay Thai session. My training was led by Ajarn Poun (Ajarn=Master) who introduced me to a wide variety of Muay Thai strikes that while all were things I had done in Tae Kwon Do, opened my eyes to a wider range and in some cases more effective way to execute them. He was an excellent instructor who was not only encouraging, but pushed me to my limits making for easily one of the best experiences of my martial arts life. This experience has not only re-energized my mental and physical direction in the martial arts, it has also encouraged me to do more. My goal is to return in the next couple of years if at all possible to stay for at least two weeks to train at Master Toddy’s gym in hopes to continue to better myself through Muay Thai and to be a part of the fighting family of the legendary Master Toddy’s Academy.
For more information or to book your training head over to http://www.mastertoddy.com/