top of page
  • TikTok
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Twitter

About Us - Our Story

Ajarn Burklerk Pinsinchai is our Technical Consultant. 

Part One - The Beginning 1994 

In the early 1990s, a young Tae Kwon Do champion with a passion for kickboxing embarked on a journey to Thailand. His curiosity was piqued by the growing global fascination with Muay Thai, a martial art style that was gaining unparalleled recognition at the time. In an era before the advent of MMA, Muay Thai was widely revered as the most authentic and practical martial art form in existence.

During that period, Thai Boxing gyms in Thailand hesitated to accept foreign students. These gyms operated as full-time facilities, housing stables of professional fighters. The idea of introducing foreigners, who might only train a few times a week back in their home countries, was met with scepticism. It was akin to walking into Mike Tyson's gym in the USA and asking, "Can I learn here?" or showing up at Manchester United Football Club and saying, "I'm a fan of soccer; can I be a part of the team?"

Consequently, this led to the proliferation of rather unrefined versions of Muay Thai gaining popularity globally. Karate, Kung Fu, and Kickboxing dojos began incorporating "Thai Boxing" into their training programs as it became a trendy addition. However, their approach typically involved minimal modification, primarily incorporating elbow and knee strikes into their existing practices. Expatriate Thais also joined the trend, offering Muay Thai instruction, but often with limited actual training experience, relying instead on their childhood exposure to Muay Thai in Thailand.

During this period, the individual behind "Muay Thai Fever," Derry McCourt, embarked on a holiday in Northern Thailand. Word had it that there was a gym in the city of Chiang Mai in the north that welcomed foreign students. After spending a few days exploring Bangkok, he set his sights on the northern region. Witnessing the remarkable level of skill displayed in the stadiums of Bangkok left a lasting impression on him, prompting him to even try training at a gym there. At that time, Jitti gym had not yet gained its established reputation; it was simply a punching bag tucked away under the stairs of a guest house on Ko San Road. Undeterred, he continued his journey northward.

Upon reaching Chiang Mai, he discovered that his contact had, in fact, returned to the UK. Left to his own devices in the pre-internet era, finding a gym became quite a daunting challenge.

 On a more optimistic note, the Muay Thai fight scene was buzzing with activity, particularly involving Dutch nationals who were making significant strides at the highest levels. Dutch fighters such as Ramon Dekkers and Rob Kamen were garnering widespread recognition within the Muay Thai community. They were joined by notable figures like Danny Bill from France and Ronnie Green from the UK, who were all capturing the attention of enthusiasts and practitioners alike.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fortune smiled upon him as he strolled along the streets of downtown Chiang Mai, Derry chanced upon a sign in English that caught his attention: "The Moon Garden Gym." Located down a nondescript side street, the gym was a modest setup, featuring little more than a few punching bags hanging outside of a bar and guesthouse. The establishment was overseen by Andy Thompson, a passionate Canadian Muay Thai enthusiast who was, at the time, away for work but followed a month-on, month-off schedule. Little did they know that Andy would go on to become a highly esteemed figure in the Muay Thai community. 

 

Guided to a nearby guesthouse, Derry encountered a group of Dutch individuals who would go on to become enduring companions in the world of Muay Thai. Although the unfortunate news was that The Moon Garden was shutting its doors, there was a silver lining - Andy was launching a new training camp, and both Derry and the Dutch group were invited to be the inaugural trainees at this exciting new facility.

Initially named "Sau Patasanak," the gym underwent a name change later that year, becoming "Kietbusaba." However, when marketed to foreigners, it adopted the moniker "Lanna Muay Thai." Andy's vision was to welcome foreigners for training and establish a Muay Thai business. However, during that time, Thailand had not yet fully embraced the concept of tourist-oriented Muay Thai. Andy faced frustration as the Thai coaches were adamant that foreigners could only join if they adhered to the same rigorous training regimen as the Thai Nak Muay, a stance that left him exasperated.

These words were like music to Derry's ears. Having recently left the British Army, he approached his martial arts training with unwavering dedication and seriousness. During this period, the camp was taking shape, and a new head coach had been brought on board who was an ideal fit for the role. Kru Kom, also known as Akom Payakaroon, emerged as an exceptional coach with roots in the esteemed "Sityongtong Gym" in Pattaya. He not only possessed exceptional coaching skills but also stood as a paragon of moral integrity, setting a lofty example for all those under his guidance. As a Muslim hailing from southern Thailand, Kru Kom empathized with the discrimination faced by foreigners and women within the Muay Thai community. Despite warnings of potential curses, he gladly trained anyone who displayed genuine dedication and seriousness towards the sport.

 

The commitment to rigorous training was the crucial factor. I wonder how many Muay Thai enthusiasts visiting Phuket for a few weeks would have been able to endure the demanding daily regimen at the early Lanna Muay Thai Camp. Each day commenced promptly at 5 a.m. with a10-kilometer run, followed by 30 minutes of skipping, and then the training sessions kicked off. This included shadow boxing on a rough concrete floor, followed by work on bags, pads, and clinching techniques.

In the afternoons, there was another 5-kilometer run, followed by 40 minutes of skipping, and the same training routine as the morning, but with the addition of sparring sessions. Derry often found himself sparring well into the night on the grass outside the ring, without the use of gloves or shin pads. Three or four times a week would go and have show fights at the tourist "Bar Beer Centre" in Central Chiang Mai, getting paid $7 and often not back to the gym until after midnight. That Bar Beer Centre is now called "Thapae Muay Thai Stadium," we nicknamed it "The Cathedral of Despair!"

Another rule mandated that residents had to stay within the gym premises, and the lodging provided was far from the luxurious spa-like accommodations that modern tourists enjoy in Thailand today. There was only a single four-person room available, and often, we would simply sleep in the ring itself. As for meals, they were hearty, and spicy,  Northern Thai dishes, with no special catering to the delicate palates of foreign visitors.

Derry swiftly acclimated to the everyday regimen, accepting the accompanying discomforts with equanimity. Given his background as an ex-infantry soldier, he found these challenges well within his capabilities, prompting him to decide on an extension of his stay beyond the initial six-week trip. Throughout those formative six months, he immersed himself in the world of genuine and traditional Muay Thai, an immersion that would leave an indelible mark on his life.

A common saying often heard around the camp, especially before heading out for a run, was one person proclaiming, "We've got Muay Thai Fever!" and the chorus of voices responding emphatically, "... and there ain't no cure!"

275490300_679223696652623_82017443122954
155093_115638115169632_4452575_n (1)_edi
Muay thai Chiang Mai
Muay Thai chiang mai

Part 2 - Life as a Fighter

After six months of rigorous twice-daily training, Derry was primed for his first bout. His prior experience as a regular contender in the tourist bar beer center show fights, coupled with years of participating in Tae Kwon Do tournaments, had prepared him for the prospect of facing formidable opponents.

He initially began his competitive journey at the temple fairs, known as "Muay Wat," which were semi-serious events held annually at Buddhist temples. If you ever find yourself in Thailand, we highly recommend attending one of these vibrant events. The level of competition varied; often, it featured local boys from the village who had trained for a few months leading up to the event. They would return to their regular jobs or school after the fair. Additionally, seasoned Thai Nak Muay fighters sometimes used temple fairs to stay sharp or recover from layoffs. These events could pit you against either a former top fighter or the neighborhood mechanic. They were immensely enjoyable, with the crowd and even the judges frequently inebriated. While they were not to be taken overly seriously, a fight was still a fight, and they adhered to full Thai rules, consisting of five rounds, each lasting three minutes. He accumulated around 30 such Muay Wat fights, although they were typically not recorded or officially included in a fighter's record.

Derry had honed his skills and was finally prepared for stadium fights. Over the course of the next six years, he engaged in 40 stadium fights, managing to secure victory in exactly half of them, with no draws. During the late 1990s, there were not as many championships and show promotions available for competition, but he managed to secure a remarkable opportunity—a World Title shot.

While attending the World Muay Thai Council's inaugural Professional Thai Boxing Instructors course at Rangsit Stadium in Bangkok, he stood out and was chosen to participate in a 4-man tournament for the 72 kg World title, held over two nights. Regrettably, he lost the first bout but, as a result, earned a ranking of 4th in the world rankings. He was subsequently selected to compete at Channel 7 Stadium in The King's Cup, a remarkable honor given that to this day, Channel 7 maintains a steadfast policy of not featuring foreign fighters on their shows. Following several more impressive performances in Bangkok, Derry eventually returned to the UK to earn some money.

Upon his return, Derry checked into The Flamingo Guest House, now owned and managed by one of the original Dutch acquaintances, Marcel. Marcel had some important news to share. "Have you visited the camp yet?" he inquired.

"Not yet," I replied.

"Well, there are two things you should know," he began, remember that this was a time before the rapid international spread of news over the internet.

"Kru Kom has passed away, and Toom is now known as Nong Toom," he continued. (Both of these events are depicted in the acclaimed Thai film "The Beautiful Boxer").

These revelations carried significant weight for Derry. Prior to catching the bus up north, he had spent a night in Bangkok, a time when planes were primarily used by the wealthy, and had seen newspaper reports about Nong Toom, the ladyboy Thai boxer who had drawn the largest crowd in Lumpinee Stadium's history, mainly due to strong support from Bangkok's sizable gay community. He had not connected the dots that Nong Toom was, in fact, the lanky and awkward schoolboy known as "Toom" from the gym, whom he had often escorted to school after their morning training sessions. It was indeed intriguing news.

The most impactful and shocking news, however, was the passing of Kru Kom. Derry was overwhelmed with grief. Kru Kom had taken him in and treated him just as he did the Thai fighters in his gym. He was only 34 years old and had a new born baby. His death occurred roughly a week before Derry's return to Chiang Mai. He was laid to rest the following day, following Muslim tradition. His demise was not quite as depicted in "The Beautiful Boxer" movie, where he is seen lingering in the hospital. In reality, he succumbed rapidly without much warning. After feeling unwell following a training session, he was rushed to the hospital and died from liver failure later that evening. It is suspected that he had sustained significant liver damage during his fighting career, but the locals believed it was a curse brought upon him for allowing females, foreigner's and ladyboys into the sacred boxing ring.

Fortunately, times have changed, thanks in no small part to the innovative thinking of Andy Thompson and Kru Kom.

Upon returning to Lanna/Kietbusaba and receiving the two pieces of news, Derry discovered that the camp had turned into a media frenzy. Nong Toom had become one of the most famous figures in Thailand, and the media were camped at the gates, hoping to catch a glimpse. With Kru Kom gone, the training atmosphere had shifted, prompting him to decide to switch camps. While this was not an option available to Kru Kom's other Thai students, Derry, as a foreigner, was able to make the change.

For the subsequent three years, he dedicated himself to training at Singprasert Gym under the guidance of Kru Yoi. Initially situated at the old Chiang Mai Athletic Stadium, the gym had undergone a few relocations and name changes (with fights occasionally being conducted under the Wat Kate name), but it consisted of essentially the same group of people. During his time at Singprasert, he faced off against several formidable opponents, many of them larger in size, and he noted that the training standard there was higher than what he had experienced at Lanna Gym.

To be fair, Andy had significantly expanded his knowledge and was gaining recognition in the local Muay Thai scene. However, Derry considered him a peer rather than a superior and was content with the extensive expertise he found in Kru Yoi, who, despite his age, had devoted five decades to the sport.

Part 3 - Fah Muang Neua - Chiang Mai Olympia 2000 - 2007

He continued to explore various gyms in Chiang Mai, where the gyms had become more receptive to foreign students and fighters. They had realized that coaching foreigners was often a more lucrative endeavor than training Thais.

With Thai fighters, they would heavily invest in nurturing a child's skills and development, covering their food, hospital bills, and school fees. In contrast, when it came to foreigners, they would simply join the gym, pay for training, and split the fight earnings. This shift in perspective occurred quite rapidly, and by the year 2000, Thailand was attracting a significant number of foreign gym tourists who came to train.

During this period, Derry connected with his second major influential coach, Kru Nai. Pongpan Supersorn was a double Northern Champion who had experienced a controversial loss in a Rajadamnern title fight, indicating his high-quality skills. Although his father had also been a coach, he had transitioned to driving a bus. Derry thoroughly enjoyed training under Kru Nai and expanded his repertoire with a host of new techniques. While Kru Kom had primarily focused on kick and block techniques, Derry recognized some gaps in his skill set, particularly in hands and clinching. Kru Nai filled these gaps, and he began to connect the dots.

Together, they established a gym in the Sankhampaeng area of Chiang Mai, naming it "Fah Muang Neua," which translates to "Northern Sky Gym."

Fah Muang Neua Gym existed for approximately four years, during which Derry embarked on a steep learning curve. He began contemplating the idea of teaching Muay Thai and made efforts to learn the Thai language, enabling him to comprehend Kru Nai's more intricate instructions. Being in an environment with around 10 active fighters and witnessing Kru Nai's coaching methods as he prepared them for fights provided invaluable experience. They would travel to various shows across Northern Thailand, often cramming the entire team into the back of a pickup truck, returning late at night or in the early hours of the morning.

Kru Nai had a strong Isaan (North Eastern) style, and it was during this period that Derry truly began to grasp the nuances of the clinch game. Additionally, this was the early 2000s, and the golden era of Muay Thai had drawn to a close, primarily due to the ascent of clinch-oriented fighters who, while not the most exciting to watch, were favoured by gamblers who appreciated their ability to grind out clinch-based victories in the elite stadiums.

As a more well-rounded Muay Thai fighter, he continued to compete at around 75 kg during his tenure at Fah Muang Neua, participating in both stadium shows and temple/local fairs.

He made his way back to the Western world, initially spending a year in South Africa and then returning to Nottingham, where he aimed to share the wealth of knowledge he had acquired during his roughly 14 years in Thailand with his hometown.

 

To be continued......

Train with us In Thailand

Train with us in Thailand!
MT8

Coaching with my MT8 club in UK, Ajarn ParnPetch Rirom in attendance.

Ready to fight in UK

Ready to fight!!!

MTFG in Combat Magazine

MTFG was invited to write a series of articles for Combat Magazine. Kru Nai contributed.

Nelson Mandellas House

MTFG @ Nelson Mandella's house in Soweto, South Africa. Coaching Muay Thai in Joburg for a year 2010. This was the WBC belt Sugar Ray Leonard won in his superfight with Marvin Haggler.

Master Vohra

Master Vohra has always been MTFG mentor since he studied Tae Kwon Do and Kick boxing with him in the early 90s

Coaching in UK

Coaching in the UK Regularly got 40 students in a class

Coaching & Qualifications

MTFG achieved his Master grade in Tae Kwon Do in 2000 but by the time he did his exam he was already converted and committed to training and fighting in Muay Thai in Thailand. This was however a "Kukkiwon" (South Koreas Government recognised Tae Kwon Do Federation) 4th Dan which in the world of McDojo's is still a credible certification. 

The Tae Kwon do gym that MTFG trained at ran Kick Boxing classes and he attended these most nights when in the UK and often did these classes straight after Tae Kwon Do training. He graded quickly as there was no strict time limit imposed on waiting between Dan grades. In short this is a "Mickey Mouse" martial arts qualification not recognised by any government. 

The MTFG was in the right place at the right time. Whilst doing some training at Meenayotin Camp in Bangkok he was informed of the newly formed World Muay Thai Council opening a Muay Thai Institute in nearby Rangsit Stadium. He enquired about the course and was immediately accepted on the first ever WMC Professional Instructors course at Rangsit Stadium. 

The newly formed International Federation of Muay Thai Amateurs wanted to get some recognition in the U.K so they invited 12 UK Instructors to fast track to high grades so that they could get a foothold in the UK Muay Thai scene. The MTFG was lucky to be in the right place at the right time again and was invited to accept the grade of Kru Fuk Chuay (Assistant Kru) with IFMA 12th Kahn. 

The MTFG heard that Ajar Burklerk was opening in a gym in Chiang Mai and dropped everything in the UK to take the opportunity to train with the legend. After 2 years of daily training with Ajarn Burklerk the MTFG was asked to run the Chiang Mai gym whilst Ajarn concentrated on the Lampang gym. The MTFG was honoured to be made a Kru Muay under one of the most technical coaches of all time. 

bottom of page