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Featuring Ajahn Apidej Sit-Hirun, the Head Trainer of the Fairtex Camp.

This is a phone interview with the legendary muay Thai boxer Apidej Sit-Hirun, who was at the peak of his boxing career in the 1960s.

He was known for his unbeatable 3-step-quick kick; high, middle and low round kicks that would be heard across the stadium.

In 2005, he received a shield of honor and a formal reception from Samut Songkram Province for his devotion to muay Thai and for making a name for his hometown.

At the age of 22, Apidej became Southeast Asia's welterweight champion by defeating his Filipino opponent in the first round. He was Thailand’s welterweight muay Thai champion for nearly 10 consecutive years and one-time world welterweight first-runner-up.

Muay Thai welterweight champion in Thailand
This warm and friendly muay Thai master has been the head trainer at Fairtex Muay Thai Camp in Bangplee, Thailand since the early 1980s.

Q: Can you tell me briefly about your career as a muay Thai boxer?

A: I started with muay Thai when I was 12-years old to help my family earn a living. When I was young, I liked to fight other kids. I lived with my mother and step-father, he was Chinese and lived in central Thailand. My friends started to compete in muay Thai and that triggered me to do so too.

I set out on my first muay Thai battle under the name Narong-Dej. At that time I hadn't told my family yet, but my father quickly learned about it and followed me to the ring.

He was really upset and wanted me to get out of the fight right away to teach me a lesson by spanking me. However, the audience begged him to let me finish the fight first. I beat the opponent by knock-out in the second round. This made my step-father extremely proud. From then on, he never stopped me from fighting again.

Apidej later joined Sit-Hirun Muay Thai Camp by recommendation of his first muay Thai teacher Kru Suporn Wongsaroj. Then, his muay Thai career took off in a big way.

Q: What is the heart of muay Thai?

A: It's a Thai martial art that no one can take away from us and it's very difficult to imitate. Muay Thai is a beautiful art. Each movement has its name.

Q: Compared to other martial arts, what are the strengths of muay Thai?

A: You can protect yourself when you are bullied by only using your bare hands.

Q: What are the most common misunderstandings about muay Thai?

Q: Who was the first famous muay Thai boxer that you know of?

A: None. When I was taught history in school, I learned about a Thai boxer named Nai Khanom-Tom. He was a prisoner of war in Burma but when the Burmese found out that he was a muay Thai fighter, they let him challenge Burmese fighters. Nai Khanom-Tom won and the Burmese released him.

With the art of muay Thai, every one can use it directly or apply the techniques to different situations for self protection.

Q: Can anyone who is interested in muay Thai learn muay Thai? Are there any limitations on the students?

A: The ones who learn muay Thai should:

1. Have a passion for muay Thai. 2. Be physically strong (people with heart disease can't learn.) 3. Be in good mental health.

It doesn't matter whether you're big or small. I have a student who was over 100 kg (220 lbs). After 3 months of muay Thai training at the camp, his weight went down to 55 kg (121 lbs).

Q: How old are your youngest and oldest students?

A: Thais start when they're about 11-12 years old. Foreigners usually start when they're in their 20s or older. This makes it much more difficult to learn muay Thai, especially responding the right way to whatever comes up during fights.

Some westerners who were in their 40s and 50s studied muay Thai with me because they wanted to open muay Thai camps abroad.

Q: What are the most common reasons for students to join the school?

A: A passion for muay Thai and to learn self defense. Can I tell you just one thing?

Yes, please go ahead.

Once, I taught both male and female students in Arizona. During that time the female students went to Mexico on holiday.

You know how tough it can be there. One time bad guys were hitting on them and tried to molest them. Do you believe these girls could protect themselves with muay Thai?

I had taught them that if they meet strong men, aim for the secret spot...only once! They did protect themselves!

Q: So, you are saying that female students usually learn muay Thai for self defense?

A: Yes, but also to learn muay Thai. They're good at it! I have both male and female students.

Q: What are the basic steps of learning muay Thai?

A: 1. Muay Thai footwork 2. Shadowboxing 3.To learn the Mae Mai Muay Thai or muay Thai master tricks.

Q: How long does it take to learn basic muay Thai?

A: It depends on the individual, how fast one can get the feel of muay Thai.

Q: How do you teach muay Thai basics to beginners?

A: First I teach them muay Thai footwork.

Often when foreign students join the school, they can't wait to start fighting. This won't be of any benefit to the students since you must practice the muay Thai basics first. Then you can learn to fight with an opponent.

Q: How long does it take to learn muay Thai footwork?

A: Talented students can learn it in a day.

Q: What is the most difficult technique that beginners have to learn?

A: Muay Thai footwork. You have to be able to quickly get away from dangerous situations. Young students are better at this.

Q: What is the most common mistake students make?

A: They chicken out (during fights). I was like that until the day my teacher hit me. Then, I was encouraged to fight again.

Q: What facilities do the school offer the students?

A: We have everything. The school maintains an international standard.

Muay Thai training at Fairtex Camp in Thailand
Q: What protective gear do students wear?

A: During practice they wear hand wraps, boxing gloves and ankle guards. During fights, they also wear groin protection.

Q: Does the Fairtex Camp offer tours for people who are interested in muay Thai?

A: Yes. You can contact the manager to make an arrangement.

Q: What can individuals who are interested in learning muay Thai do to prepare themselves physically?

A: This depends on the physical built of each person whether you are tall, short, large or small.

Q: What are the most common injuries during training?

A: If you are physically strong, you won't get injured. But if you're not, the boxing gloves could injure your nose and lips.

Q: Do boxers go through mental training? How do you train your students?

A:Yes, they do. I tell my students that we don't practice muay Thai to fight with others, but to protect ourselves.

Q: How do students warm up before training?

A: Jogging for 1 hour in the morning. Then, they do muay Thai footwork.

Q: Do you encourage your students to compete?

A: Yes, but first they have to be physically and mentally prepared for the fight. Most students want to fight. They want to become boxers.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add to this interview?

A: Good muay Thai candidates need:
1. To be physically and mentally prepared
2. Permission from their parents (this is a critical issue with young Thai students)

Young students today are really good! They're only 11-12 years old.

Foreign students learn muay Thai when they're in their 20s and won't get as good as the younger students. The young students learn problem-solving techniques faster. Problem solving is the most critical factor here. Every part of the body can be a weapon to beat the opponent.

I would like to ask Thais to preserve this martial art. Please don't sell it just to make some money. Do you know what I'm talking about?

When Thai boxers fight foreigners, the Thai boxers will win for sure if they really fight.

One disadvantage in fights is that Thai boxers are smaller than foreigners. We need to realize this fact and maintain the quality of muay Thai.

If you are interested, you can read my biography at the Hua Mark National Stadium!

Many thanks to Ajahn Apidej Sit-Hirun for the interview and the photos.

Here's a link to Fairtex Camp in Bangplee, Thailand.

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