The Return of Ajarn Chai
(This Saturday/Sunday (July 15 & 16, 2017) at OCKMMA)
Everyone knows that Ajarn Chai founded the World Thai Boxing Association.
Everyone knows that Ajarn Chai taught our very own Ajarn Daniel Sullivan Muay Thai.
Everyone knows that Ajarn Chai is part of OCKMMA’s lineage.
But who IS Ajarn Chai?
Surachai Sirisute was born in Bangkok, Thailand on October 16, 1948. He is the son of a prominent lawyer and was encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps; go to law school; and practice law. Sirisute, however, had other ideas!
“I would kick my father’s heavy bag every chance I got”, remembers Sirisute. “I was a handful to my parents. Sometimes my dad would have me kick the heavy bag just to wear me out”.
Sirisute studied both Muay Thai and karate beginning at the age of six. Sirisute taunted the boys in a neighborhood Karate school taught by a Master Chen – who became Sirisute’s first teacher. The young Sirisute boasted that he could beat any kid in school – and Master Chen was shocked as he watched Sirisute mop the floor with his older students.
Sirisute earned his black belt in Shorin-ryu at the age of 12. He also entered the ring as a Muay Thai fighter – and had 72 fights.
Sirisute learned Muay Thai from Ajarn Suwong. “This is the champion that will spread Muay Thai to the falang (foreign lands)” said Ajarn Suwong – and this dream became Sirisute’s life’s work.
Sirisute retired from the fight game and came to the United States in 1968. He had long hair reaching to the middle of his back and was in superb, physical condition as he stepped off the plane for the first time. He soon discovered that 1968 America was vastly different than the Thailand fighting circuit.
Sirisute found his way to, of all places, Woodstock New York. “Man, I thought Americans were completely crazy” said Sirisute as he witnessed the extreme behavior of the Flower-Child era first-hand at Woodstock.
But this was to be only the beginning of his American Adventure – for Sirisute, with a well-developed penchant for mischief, befriended a young man – who just happened to be a bona fide member of the Hell’s Angels. Before Sirisute knew it, he was teaching this notorious gang Muay Thai. “I had no idea who they were until the FBI explained it to me” shrugs Sirisute. “So, then I trained the FBI”.
However, Sirisute never forgot his vision – and he was determined to spread Muay Thai around the world. The early years were lean because Muay Thai was unknown – and hostility from other martial artists was fierce.
In those days, the standard practice was to smile, close the door, and beat the tar out of all challengers – and that is exactly what Ajarn Chai did. He was constantly defending challenges from other martial artists who found, much to their surprise, that this unknown Muay Thai fighter was unbeatable.
During the 1970s and early 1980s Ajarn Chai taught at several Southern California colleges including Chaffey College, Claremont Men’s College and Cal. State San Bernardino. Ajarn Chai also trained students in his backyard – which he had converted into a Thai fighting camp.
Many of Ajarn Chai’s early fighters (Mike Goldbach, Reggie Jackson, Glen Hernandez and Don Boyd) trained in Ajarn Chai’s backyard. It was this core of fighters that followed Ajarn Chai to Thailand in 1982 and became the first American team to compete in the Muay Thai World Championships.
In 1978, Sirisute met a young, Filipino-American junior high school teacher named Dan Inosanto. Ajarn Chai and Inosanto trained in Ajarn Chai’s backyard and they soon became close friends.
Everybody knows the story of how Ajarn Chai told Inosanto to “kick leaves” and then went shopping – leaving Inosanto sweltering in the summer heat. When Ajarn Chai returned several hours later, Inosanto was so exhausted that he could barely stand – but his hands were up and he was still kicking.
Sirisute exclaimed, “Oh my God…I forgot all about you,” and then held his sides and let out a piercing, falsetto cackle. (Actually Sirisute had not forgotten Inosanto but was testing him). Their friendship grew – and, through Inosanto’s contacts, Sirisute was able to greatly expand the awareness of Muay Thai.
By the early 1980’s word of Muay Thai had spread throughout the martial arts community. In 1983 Inosanto introduced Sirisute to Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys. The diminutive 5’5″ Sirisute was undaunted when greeted with skepticism by the players.
“I just pointed at him [Tony Dorsett] and told him to hold the pad for me,” explained Sirisute. Taken aback at the jackhammer like impact of Sirisute’s right leg on the Thai pad, Dorsett exclaimed, “This guy isn’t human!” The Dallas Cowboys were soon throwing Thai kicks and skip knees, and the Cowboy’s incorporated Ajarn Chai and Muay Thai into their pre-season conditioning.
Sirisute currently runs a Muay Thai camp in Oregon each year – attended by more than 200 students from around the world. He founded the World Thai Boxing Association of the USA in 1968 and has expanded it to more than 18 countries. He maintains a busy seminar schedule traveling around the world teaching Muay Thai today.
You too can train with this legendary fighter and teacher. He is returning to OCKMMA for our annual, Muay Thai Seminar THIS Saturday and Sunday – June 15 & 16, 2016. Call OCKMMA now (949-833-8338) to reserve your space.