How did you get started in Muay Thai?

Nattapong: When I was eight, and living in Korat, I went to watch my friend training for his tenth fight. He was 26kg and had nobody his size to spar with, so his trainer offered me 50 baht to train with him. Normally, I would make 5 baht helping out at a shop, so that was a lot of money!

What was it like sparring someone with nine fights?

Nattapong: I actually ended up punching my friend in the face, and he got upset because his nose started bleeding. His trainer stopped the training after that, and told me to come back and train regularly with my friend. We remained good friends – I cheered for him when he won his fight – it was a good win.

When did you start to fight?

Nattapong: I was interested in fighting, but my Grandma, who I lived with was worried for me. I stayed only with her after my parents separated, and other than a small allowance to take care of me, she didn’t have much money.
I wanted to fight so she’d have more, so after two months of training I agreed to fight, and started training twice a day – before and after school.
My Grandma, even though she was worried,  would make me two half-boiled eggs for energy every morning.

How did your first fight go?

Nattapong: I was scared at first, but once I got into the ring, that disappeared. I won the fight in the 3rd round by KO with a high kick to the neck. I won 200 baht and got tipped an extra 400 baht. My Grandma was outside the stadium because she was too scared to watch – so I had to run to her to show her I was ok and give her the money. She was very happy.

What were your other hobbies?

Nattapong: I used to play football, and I enjoyed it because it was very social. But after I won my fight, a lot of my friends started training Muay Thai with me. So not only did I get to make money from Muay Thai, but I also got to hang out and train with my friends from school. It was tiring to train and fight as well as study, but I enjoyed it.

Rumour has it, you met our trainer Yo a long time ago?

Yes! Almost 20 years ago when I was 12, he came to train in Korat with my trainer. He was five years older and I remember thinking his style was amazing – so beautiful and stylish – we call it Muay Femur. I would watch him to copy his timing and fight strategy.

How did you progress in Muay Thai after school?

When I was 15, I moved to Esarn, following an older camp mate. A lot of the good fighters train, so there were a lot of opportunities for me to fight. By then, I already had about 100 fights, and I stayed there for many years, learning, fighting.

What are the benefits of Muay Thai in your eyes?

I used to be a sick child who got really bad migraines often. After I started training, they went away and now I rarely get sick. Muay Thai is also very practical. It not only makes your body strong – it can help you protect yourself… and, you can look really good while you exercise haha.

How would you deal with a student who felt scared of training nexst to such “tough” people?

I would teach them step-by-step and remind them that those “scary people were once like you too”. I’d make them so strong they wouldn’t be scared anymore.


How do you teach people who come to you saying they are already experienced fighters?

I’d need to check their skill level first. I’ll get them to show me their shadow-boxing, kicks and punches. If they need correction, I’ll help them get better. If they’re already good, I’ll teach them something new.

How about those who have no interest in fighting?

I’d teach them fitness with a mix of technique. I will give as much technique as the student is willing to learn.

What is your secret for getting people to learn fast?


Taking things slowly. First, we’ll work on timing and balance, with no power. Once you have a good grasp of these, we’ll start increasing the power.

What do you enjoy about teaching Muay Thai?

Seeing students learn and progress for me. And when they’re up in the ring, I’m happy seeing them demonstrate good timing and technique, whether they win or lose.

What do you like about New Zealand.

My students in Thailand used to tell me it was such a beautiful place, and I’ve always wanted to come here, but never had the money to travel. Now, I feel really fortunate that I get to travel here for work. It is such a beautiful place and the people have a good sense of humour.

What are your goals for JAI students?

I want to help them level up! Please don’t stay at Kick Start (beginners class) forever!