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Making friends

I had a little time in between classes at the beginning of the week and decided to take a road trip to Had Yai to meet Ajarn Chiwin, who teaches Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Muay Thai and Thai sword work. Ajarn Chiwin is a past student of Kruu Thong, and studied Muay Chaiya alongside my teacher, Ajarn Lek.

It's a long drive, so I invited my new friend George who is training at Suwi Gym in Phuket, and will soon be partaking on his own journey of discovery, venturing in to Iisan to train in another old style of Muay Thai (details to folow!).

I heard about Ajarn Chiwin through Federico, an Italian who is dedicating his free time to learning Thai swordwork Muay Thai (apart from other styles). I met Federico through's forums, and decided to take the trip to Had Yai so I could meet both Federico and Ajarn Chiwin.

After a greuling 7 hour drive (and getting lost on the way!) we found Ajarn Chiwin's school of Tai Fu Do, and were met by the Ajarn and his wife Cat, who welcomed us in and provided us with a room.

My time was short (I had a class to teach the following evening) and so we wasted no time, first A.Chiwin showed us around his school. The ground floor is for general training, with several punch bags, Mook Jong (wooden dummies) and plenty of sticks! The second floor has a small shrine, a variety of traditional swords (including several authentic antiques) and is has a padded floor. The third floor has rooms for students to stay, with lots of room, showers etc. I can imagine training here being very comfortable and relaxing experience. A.Chiwin offers very cheap room rates, and welcomes anyone who shows a desire to learn.

After the tour, we sat down and talked for nearly three hours (in Thai, respect for George who sat through this and showed great patience!) about teaching in Thailand, muay thai chaiya and traditional Thai swords. Ajarn Chiwin has an impressive collection of authentic Thai swords, and is extremely knowledgable about their history and use.

A martial artist with plenty of experience in a variety of martial arts, he had plenty of great advise for me to help me in my new path of teaching.

After a short break for lunch, we returned to find students at the school warming up for classes. He has some very capable students, and I really enjoyed the variety of forms and exercises in the class, some of which I recognised from many years of watching old kung fu movies :).

Then followed the Muay Thai Hadpayud class, which has it's roots in A.Chiwin's time learning with Kru Thong, and has evolved with his experience in his other martial arts.

After a great evening meal, we got an early night, as I new I would have a full day of driving if I was to get back to Phuket in time for class.

Many thanks to A.Chiwin for welcoming us into his home, and giving me lots of great advice. My only regret is that I didn't have more time to spend, but I know I'll be seeing him soon in Phuket, as he's keen to try some of the local sea food!

Thanks again to Federico, I hope you have a safe trip back to Phuket!

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Is the style effective?

Yes, very much so. I've spent most of my life studying one martial art or another, and many of the concepts in Muay Chaiya are very progressive and sometimes almost beautiful in their simplicity. The basic guard is strong, a lot of emphasis is put on footwork and the style of fighting is very pragmatic. One of the basic principles is to hurt the opponent's weapons (e.g. arm leg etc) at any given opportunity, hence the focus on blocking with the elbows and knees. The elbows and kicks are the bread and butter of Chaiya, but a huge amount of work goes into developing a student's 'boxing' skills. Many techniques have a feel of western boxing and Jeet Kune Do concepts mixed together, and quite often the shortest, most simple route is the best (no superfluous moves).
In recent years, Baan Chang Thai have produced several capable students, including Tae Chaiya (as seen in the ‘Chaiya’ movie who is one of the best stand up fighter’s I’ve had the pleasure to know) and has proved himself in the ring on many occasions, Kruu Aof is Baan Chang Thai’s main teacher (under Kruu Lek of course!) who is also a very capable fighter, great teacher and close friend. Kruu Pedro who’s persona reminds me a stalking tiger, has proven himself on many occasions. And there is also young Yao (sorry, not sure of surname who has had little problem proving herself in the ring (check out the youtube video YouTube - (Female fighter) Yao fights Muaythai @ Phuket Thailand for a nice example of the Muay Chaiya ram muay and a good fight).

A lot of the footage you see is of the more ‘flashy’ moves which are called the Look Mai (I believe this is why this was thread started) which are mostly advanced moves, and should only be used by experienced fighters. The core of the art is the basics, and the advanced Look Mai should be reserved for ‘the right moment’ in a fight, as they can be vulnerable to counter attack by competent, fresh fighters. To pull these moves of correctly when fighting a ‘real’ fighter, lots of practice and experience is required.

When fighting in Muay Chaiya, the range is primarily controlled using fast and hard kicks to the lower and upper legs and knees. Higher kicks are reserved for ‘the right moment’ as any proficient fighter knows that high kicks can put you in a very vulnerable position. Once the range is closed, the elbows really come into play, and Muay Chiaya has a variety, each with their one usage for both attack and defense.

Obviously, sparring is tricky in any martial art, and certain restraints have to be put down. When we spar at Baan Chang Thai, the only thing we remove is any dangerous Look Mai, and the elbows. Heaviness of sparring is up to the students! It’s important to note that we do learn to fight! Not the showy style that you’ve probably seen on a lot of online videos. Sometimes we enjoy western boxing if we feel lazy or just to preserve our shins, as attacking someone who blocks with the elbows and knees can be very painful! Experienced fighters (with the right attitude) are welcomed, as it gives our students the opportunity to gain variety in their training.

Muay Chaiya and Groundwork
Some people think that Muay Chaiya should have groundwork, and this I disagree on. Martial arts have this striking/groundwork 'separation' because each area is vastly different in style and concept, and there is a huge amount of detail to be learned within each style. Coming from a Jeet Kune Do background, I feel that if you want to be a fully rounded fighter, then you should mix the styles you learn, but the styles shouldn't be mixed for you to learn (if that makes sense). Find a great master in each field, and then master them to your own capabilities. Gone are the days where you had to sign your life to a single master!

I would like to mention the venerable Kruu Pedro who runs a Muay Thai school in Chiang Mai. Kruu Pedro as a wonderful person who has taken the task of seeking out as many of the authentic SEA martial arts to combine them into his own style Muay Sangka. Kruu Pedro has a great amount of experience in both Muay Thai and ground fighting and has practical experience in the ring, both in Muay Thai and MMA. If you want to learn a more ‘full’ system, then please check out his website to learn more.


Filming for the upcoming DVD of Muay Thai Chaiya Look Mai

So, the on the day before I left for Phuket, Ajarn Lek, Kruu Aof, Yee, Tae Chaiya and I went to Wat Phichaiyad in Bangkok to begin the filming for a new instructional DVD. This will really be a priceless item, as it will contain details and examples of all of the Look Mai (advance techniques) from Muay Thai Chaiya.

Although I wasn't appearing in the DVD (Tae and Aof look better on screen than me ;) I thought it was a great opportunity to brush up on my own knowledge as there are nearly 100 Look Mai techniques to learn! I am still learning the Look Mai, as one of my biggest hurdles is remembering the names in Thai, which quite often contain old Thai and have references from Thai history and folk law.

Although we only had time to film a few of the Look Mai in the one day, I made sure I took plenty of photos. I'll be posting these photos with an explanation of each technique over the next few months (I'll try and make sure I post one every week!).

Hopefully, you'll be able to get a feel for what's in store from the coming DVD. So stay tuned to!

In the mean time, check out some pictures from onset.


Leaving party

Before leaving Bangkok for Phuket, I decided to throw a leaving party at Baan Chang Thai to thank Ajarn Lek and students for taking me in and making me feel like part of their family. It was also a chance for me to invite some of my friends from outside of Muay Thai Chaiya and introduce them to the Baan Chang Thai crew.

Food aplenty and more than enough drink to go around, we had a fun night. Big screen Tekken, Twister and a dog bite (sorry Rikky!) ensured a very interesting evening!

Thanks to all for coming, and I'll be seeing you soon!

Check out more pics from the leaving party