So this is actually my second attempt at writing on this subject. My first one ended up just being a long rant of me venting over the frustration that had built up over years...this one kind of is as well. I realized, however therapeutic it may have been, that it wasn't exactly helping educate or change anything, which ultimately I hope will happen.The subject at hand is the over abundance of "kru's/ajarn's" here in America, and I use the term with as much sarcasm as humanly possible.
It all starts with education so we can't hope to change and improve things until people understand what it is that they're dealing with. I myself have been guilty of witnessing this over the years and keeping my mouth shut, for various reasons. Sure there's a part of me that just wants to call all these individuals out and make them look a fool. Actually for years I thought it would make for a great tv show. Traveling around the country to different gyms and putting these people on blast? Still do actually ha. But once again, however funny it may be, I don't think that it would really be beneficial to us as a whole.
I think a large contributing factor for our slow progression, when it comes to Muay Thai in the United States, is the over abundance of misguided people, at every level. I first started noticing this years back when I was still at Toddy's. He would hold these 'instructor/kru certification courses' every few months or so. It would just baffle me, not only how awful these people were, but the amount of students and schools that they would have. I'd sit there thinking to myself "How in the hell is this even possible? Do their students just not realize that they have no clue as to what they're doing?" You think back to the years before the internet, before MMA, when the majority of people really had no idea as to what does or doesn't work in actual fights. You had all kinds of people getting away with teaching their students the most ludicrous things because no one really had any idea that it was all BS. They assumed that what they were being taught was in fact reality, and how could you blame them? I could go on and on about this for hours but you get my point. So one day I finally asked one of their students, because I just had to know, "So do you not realize that your teacher has no idea what he's talking about or what?", in as respectful a manner as I could muster. They went on to tell me that basically it was that or nothing. They just didn't have any other options and it was better than trying to train themselves off of videos. I could see their point, although I think that most would have been better off doing karate in the garage. It hit me that there just weren't any real Muay Thai gyms out there, well only a handful of them anyway, and the majority of people were stuck with whatever was offered near them. Most places would say "Muay Thai" on the door but in reality it was just a karate school that would teach a few Thai techniques that the instructor probably got off of watching Bloodsport. Over the years it's gotten more and more difficult to just sit back and watch all of this unfold.
Now let's get a few things clear, I'm in no way saying that these people can't or shouldn't teach. What I am saying however is that they, the majority of them, are completely misrepresenting themselves and this sport. It would be as if someone took a week long course in school and then was suddenly certified to have all the knowledge one would acquire throughout an entire scholastic career. All they did was pay a few bucks for a piece of paper. So basically you have a person who has done karate, some other style, or sometimes nothing at all, who spends a week taking a course and now is certified to teach Muay Thai. Does no one else see the madness in this?
Let's take jiu jitsu for example. It's not just about having a black belt, it's about who did you get your black belt from, what's the lineage? That is usually a good indicator as to how meaningful it is. Obviously there are going to be teachers out there who aren't strict in this process and are only interested in promoting as many students as possible because on the surface it looks good. It's the same with having a championship belt. Too many people assume that just because someone has a belt it means that they are legit. Well anyone can win a belt, hell you can just go online and order your own with your name engraved on it and all. It's about who did you fight for the belt, what did it take for you to even have the opportunity to challenge for it, so on and so forth. Just because someone is a kru/ajarn doesn't mean that you should automatically assume that they actually know what it is that they are talking about.
Now I'm all for people wanting to further their knowledge of the sport and help themselves improve in their teaching abilities, but call it what it is. Recently Kirian, owner/head trainer at CSA, held a coaches seminar where he, over the course of a few days, broke down his techniques and different approaches that he uses for training his fighters, as well as everyday students. At the end of this there was no arm band/mongkol presentation, as you will see at most of these kru certifications. It was just a course for these trainers to learn from someone who had been in the game for a long time, and I had nothing but respect for the people taking it. If you go around calling yourself kru/ajarn because you paid someone for a piece of paper, you should just throw yourself in front of traffic. All you are doing is spreading the disease of ignorance.
Kru/ajarn is a term of respect. If someone introduces themselves as such or even requires you to call them that then it's usually a good indicator that they are full of it. Very few of even the highest level Thai trainers here go by kru/ajarn, and if anyone deserves the name it's them. Why do you think that is? Then you got every other jerk on Facebook with the screen name "kru/ajarn so and so", or they introduce themselves as such. Every time I see this I just want to set the world on fire, or at least the United States. I'm not out here to call anyone out or to hurt anyone's feelings but we need to help Muay Thai grow and it all starts with education.
I'm in no way saying these courses are a waste of time or even that the people who do them deserve to be shot. What I am saying however is that we need to stop this downward cycle of ignorance that is running rampant. The same goes for the belt system that some use in their gyms. Now I understand the reason for it, as it helps give the non fighters goals and ways of tracking their progress and I've seen first hand some of these programs be quite effective. But when you have people saying that they're "black belts" in Muay Thai, as if it's Jiu Jitsu or something, you just have to think to yourself "who in the hell is teaching these people?" You can't blame the students, as they truly know no better. It's one ignorant trainer, or someone whose trying to cut corners or make themselves seem more knowledgable than they really are. They then pass this on to their students who in turn will ultimately pass it on to their own. The real issue here is that the ones at the forefront of this aren't thinking about the damage that they are doing. Over the years the sport will continue being watered down as the ignorance passes from one generation to the next. You are basically helping destroy the sport that you love and all because you wanted to make some easy cash, whether you realize it or not.
As I said, it all starts with education. Do yourself a favor and figure out who it is that you're learning from and if they even know what the hell they are even talking about. Overall I'd say that about 99.9% of the "kru's/ajarn's" here are basically full of it. Unfortunately the majority of us really don't have any other options, but do yourself a favor and at least know what and who it is that you're dealing with.
P.S. If you're offended by this than you're probably one of the individuals I'm referring to!!!
"Face your fears, live your dreams"
...and part 2
Well apparently I have to spell everything out, even though I felt that's exactly what I had done with yesterdays post. Once again common sense isn't all that common. So for those of you that need a road map here ya go. As I stated, just because someone has one of these kru/ajarn certificates in no way means that they are frauds and deserve to be killed, just as it doesn't automatically mean that they are automatically qualified trainers. All the certificates in the world can't help a horrible coach. I also stated, quite clearly, that I have seen the belt/arm band/short systems put into use quite effectively from time to time. What I was saying is that people need to be clear as to what exactly it is. Can you have a black belt in Muay Thai? No! Can you have a belt in a particular system that someone has developed (E.G. Duane Ludwigs Muay Thai system)? Of course, and Duane happens to be one of the people who uses this effectively and I have nothing but respect for him, his students and his teaching abilities. He's not saying that his students have belts in Muay Thai. He is saying, however, that they have belts in his particular Muay Thai system...see the difference? The problem is that a lot of the people using similar systems don't exactly make it clear to their students, or anyone else, what it is that they are doing. Because of this you get a lot of assumptions and false information.
Please do not contact me and ask if your trainer is legit or not. One, I could only inform you on what I've seen first hand and what I've heard. Regardless, my opinions shouldn't matter. A good trainer is a good trainer and just because I think they are the biggest frauds of all time doesn't necessarily mean that you can't learn something from them.
A lot of people like to point fingers at Toddy as one of these “frauds”. One reason is his belt system, Tae Kwon Do background, reality shows and a long list of other things. Regardless of any of these Toddy is one of the most amazing trainers I have ever had the pleasure to work with. There's no way I would be where I'm at today if it weren't for his teachings. He has helped me, and countless others, reach great heights in Muay Thai, as well as other fighting styles. You can't argue with results. Instead of asking me what I think of your trainer, ask yourself this, “What fighters has this person produced, what high level people have trained with him and what is the skill level of the majority of their students?” It's always helpful to get the opinions of people who have actually trained under an instructor, especially the higher level ones, but the easiest way is to use your own damn eyes.
Hopefully this will help clear up some confusion on my last post...although I doubt it. Take it for what it is, an opinion, right or wrong. If something works the results will speak for themselves, if someone's a fraud eventually it will come to light, even if it takes forever.
As I said yesterday if this offends you then it was probably directed at you, deal with it! Just because you have one of these certificates doesn't mean I was talking about you and just because you don't doesn't automatically mean that you are in the clear. There are countless awful trainers out there, more bad then good unfortunately, even ones who are in the spotlight as legitimate. Again do yourself a favor and figure out who it is that you are learning from and if they even know what the hell they are doing. If that's all you got to work with then I feel for ya but sometimes you'll be better off learning from a book or video tapes alone in the garage. Best of luck!
“Face your fears, live your dreams”