by: Jason Hartigan and Brooks Mills
Master K, a veteran of over 75 fights in Thailand, now teaches Muay Thai in the United States. He is the founder of Suriya Sak Muay Thai, which is based in Virginia. Training both professional and amateur boxers, he has built one of the best Muay Thai camps in the country. Suriya Sak Muay Thai has produced four instructors in the Washington, DC metro area. Master K has also finished three instructional videos and his first book. He is definitely one of the biggest promoters of Muay Thai in the country.
The author, Kumron Vaitayanon (known to his students as Master K), grew up about 45 minutes outside of Bangkok, in the city of Prapradang, his father was the city mayor. At the age of eight, Master K asked his mother to buy him a heavy bag so he could practice Muay Thai. His mother, being aware of the whims of children, didn't want to buy him a heavy bag only to see it hanging unused after a short time. So she gave Master K a large sack of rice. Master K, disgusted but determined, hung the sack of rice and started kicking. It wasn't until he had kicked his way through several sacks of rice that his mother bought him his first heavy bag.
Master K trained himself through most of his childhood, getting lessons now and then from a succession of trainers, When Master K was 13 years old, the middle school he was attending had a Muay Thai tournament. Master K had to fight three times in one day, but he won all his fights, and became champion of his school. Shortly after that, his cousin began to train him on a regular basis, Master K's cousin was a professional Muay Thai Bantamweight champion, his fight name was 'Singha Pong Singha". It was the cousin who set-up Master K's first official professional fight
Master K recalls being nervous about that first fight. Mostly, however, he was excited about getting a chance to prove himself in the ring. At the sound of the bell for the first round, Master K and his opponent came out throwing push kicks, jabs, and other techniques with moderate power, each fighter testing out the other. When Master K gained confidence, he took a step forward with his rear foot and suddenly he struck his adversary with a front-leg round kick. Foot and shin wrapped around his opponent's neck, Master K dropped him to the mat. Master K was surprised to see his foe tying there without any attempts to get up. Today, Master K laughs when he remembers how angry he got and how he yelled at his downed opponent, "Get up? That was just my left leg, I haven't kicked you with my right leg! I haven't kicked you with my strong leg yet" It was on that day that Master K came to realize that his left leg was his strong leg. So, from then on, Master K used that as an advantage, fighting with his strong leg forward.
Master K worked very hard to develop all weapons of the eight limbs. Master K became well known for the power of his elbows, over half of his wins were knockouts from elbow techniques. It was not long into his professional career that Master K became known as "I Sawk Kwan" which means "Mr. Axe Elbow". Master K's propensity for elbows also led to his motto "elbow k.o.".
Master K went on to have over 75 fights before he retired. In his last fight, Master K had fought in an event that featured many other big-name fighters. After the night's fights, the audience would pick the best fighter of the evening, and that fighter would be awarded a trophy. Master K had fought a tough fighter but had won his match. At the end of the evening, the crowd acclaimed him as the best fighter. It was a major victory for Master K, opening opportunities for more important bouts. Master K did not take anymore fights after that; instead, he chose to retire and devote his time to pursuing his career in public relation and photography, then he became chief of public relation of the Government Savings Bank of Thailand for 23 years. In 1970, the bank sent him to the United States in order to study public relations and advertising in New York. During his 2year stay, Master K did demonstrations of Muay Thai around the New York, New Jersey area. Before he returned to Thailand, he met Nat Flasher, the editor of "The Ring" magazine. Back then, Nat Flasher was the only person respected worldwide to recognize champion boxers from around the globe.
Master K eventually returned to the United States because he wanted to make sure his children received a proper education. Although he stopped fighting professionally, Master K never lost his love for Muay Thai. He found himself as the years went on, teaching it to those who wanted to learn.
Master K has trained people from 13 to 50 years old. His students have been as young as sixth graders, and many others have been college students or had earned their Master's Degrees. These students have come from many professions, including members of the United States Secret Service from the White House. All of these students came to Master K to learn the true art of Muay Thai. Over the years, many of Master K's students have mastered their skills with enough proficiency to be ready to compete. Master K has brought these students to fight, test their skills, and gain ring experience in amateur Muay Thai bouts. They have fought in cities such as Philadelphia, State College and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, as well as Buffalo, New York. They came to these bouts fighting under the name of the SuriyaSak Thai-boxing Team. Because Master K stressed correct technique and the importance of stamina and physical conditioning, most of his fighters have emerged victorious from their matches. Of these fighters, many have achieved high ranking in their individual weight classes, and some have become Amateur Champions of the U.S. East Coast.
Many of Master K's students are currently training for professional fights. Master K and his team have participated in many demonstrations in the Washington, DC area, including the annual Thai Heritage Festival and the Asian-Pacific Cultural Festival. They are also part of the Karate College Seminar held each year at Radford University in Virginia. Master K has produced two Thai-Boxing instructional videos.
Now that Muay Thai has gained popularity in America, more people are searching out qualified instructors. There are also more opportunities, for those who are interested, to step into the ring and compete at Muay Thai. Master K is available to train anyone who wants to fight as an amateur or as a professional, or who just wants to learn self-defense and gain fitness.