Interview with Grandmaster Toddy Part 1: Muay Thai Legend, Total Badass, & Crocodile Wrestler
One of my goals is to fulfill my life’s dream of training with the best martial arts masters on the planet; a luxury traveling has afforded me. I got to live out that dream while in Bangkok, Thailand when I studied under Muay Thai legend Grandmaster Toddy. Having trained an abundance of champions in both Muay Thai and the UFC, Grandmaster Toddy’s legacy is cemented in history. Over a month of arduous training I got to know the man behind the legend and he agreed to let me interview him. Without further ado, my EPIC interview with Grandmaster Toddy:
ST (Shameless Traveler) - Is it true you have the best hair of all the Grandmasters in Martial Arts? You have more hair than I do.
MT (Master Toddy)- I never dye my hair. I don’t know how I have a lot hair, at least you have hair on your chest haha. I’m about to be 60, I’ve been to the dentist two times in my life, I can eat chicken bones and even croc bones like rocks. My teeth are strong, my nails grow fast, and I’ve never had broken bone. Even after a big accident there is nothing wrong.
ST- You were a very successful fighter, who was your toughest opponent and why? What is your favorite fight you’ve had?
MT- I think in all the fights I had I was a very aggressive person, because all my trainers would say, “Take it easy, Take your time.” But I’d never give them a chance. I’d become like a bull; I’m strong. All my fights I mostly I win by K.O. I don’t ever let them have a chance, like Leah (Peaderson, a lady fighter at the camp that shortly after became the champ in Denmark).
But the fight I’m most proud of in my life that I had was not in ring; it was when I fought with 15 people in a street fight. They still talk about it today. I was in college then and we were fighting with another college. We were in Siam Square one day, 1971 I think, and I am full of confidence in my fighting skill. With my five friends we saw our rivals crossing by. In time I don’t know how many, but there was a lot of them, there was at least 15 of them and they see me. That time the square was under construction, so these guys, our rivals, go pick up boards, and it’s just me and four friends. I said, “hey, we’re fighting, we’re not backing down”. My friend said, “you’re crazy, I’m going”, so I walk to them by myself, and I look back and my friends are far way and no one is behind me. I think to myself, “I can’t go back now” That’s when I landed the best shot I ever had. I ducked under a board and jumped into the air and then kicked this guy in the neck. As soon as he hit the ground another one came in and I started punching and kicking and that’s all I remember. I fought them all and a crowd was yelling and cheering; they were waiting for businesses to open. I still have a lump on my back to this day. My clothes were all ripped up and I fought and fought until police came and that’s when I looked around and my enemies were laying everywhere. I stood with 15 people with boards and they couldn’t put me down. Then the police tried to take me away and the people in the crowd said, “take the other guys!” The people told me I was great in the fight and I said why didn’t you help me?! But my one friend did come back to help me and he got cut, so we went to hospital. All the boards had nails in them and I didn’t even have a scratch, but my whole body had marks everywhere and my clothes were ripped. When I walked away everyone was clapping and cheering. I made a commitment and stuck to it like I’ve always done. I think that was tougher than being in the ring, the ring was easy. I’ve wrestled with crocodiles, my dad had crocodile farm. I’d just jump in and wrestle them; after that I’m not scared of people anymore. And that is the tip I tell fighters every time I corner them in fights. I say, “We’re ready, you trained good, this guy nothing, you’re going to fight a champion someday, this guy is a step, he’s just a step. Our goal is to be a champion.” And then you look at your opponent across the ring and he is nothing, and then you beat them. Even when you get hit you still believe it.
ST- What separates your students and fighters from other schools in Muay Thai? Why do you think people seek you out from all over the world?
MT- Because I give special treatment to each individual. I know what you need and I don’t change everything you’ve got, I improve everything you’ve got already. I’m well known for finding a reason, a different way to teach you how to think. I know how to give a good explanation and I demonstrate with my explanation. In my way I will stay to make sure you understand technique, I will make the student see it in their memory. And then their graphic memory becomes easier and faster. (Master Toddy is displaying how to throw a left jab at the proper angle while telling me this).
You can come train with me and improve in such a short time and everyone knows that. I prepare the mind well, emphasis on the mind. Today we’ll learn about defense, the ways how to win, how they win, and how they lose. I break punches down to numbers for memory and then put it all together. And then you begin to do it and it clicks, it becomes easy and you remember. It’s about YOU. You understand, you have a picture of what you want to do and then you do it well, and that is the key of my success. Long answer, because I drill one thing until you really perfect it. I don’t move on or give you a lot of technique until you have perfected the first basic technique. I’ll teach you how to punch for a week and then how to defend the punch for the next week.
ST- Does your gym have a motto or like a saying that you go by?
MT- Heart of the lion. You have to practice, you have to believe, you have to have confidence and then you can’t back out. You have to have the heart of a lion. To be successful in anything, it’s heart first. If you’re tired and you don’t want to get up or you want to drink or you don’t want to train later, if you don’t do it you don’t have heart, I give extra rounds to tired people, then I push you when you are tired. Eventually anyone can be able to win themselves. You have to win yourself first, and then when you win yourself you can defeat your opponent. That is the lion heart; doing things when you don’t want to.
ST- What makes a great Thai fighter, what is your example of a perfect student?
MT- A good student listens, he respects, and he has loyalty to the gym, to the camp, that is a good student. But, a good student cannot be a great fighter. A great fighter they are born, they have guts, they learn fast, they stay focused, dedicated, disciplined, and prove themselves with smart thinking, smart moving. Like the dog that has five puppies, there is one of the five that is special and you can always tell from the beginning. When you train someone with experience you can tell just by their walking. I can feel a champion when they walk up to me, you can feel it when they talk, they walk, and when they move. For example Gina Carano, the 1st day she walked in my gym I told her you are a champion, you are a star, you are world class. After I trained her I wrote down, “this is a world champion.”
ST- What is the #1 problem or downfall of Muay Thai fighters today? Additionally, I’ve heard you speak about weaknesses in MMA that Muay Thai could fix, can you tell me a little bit more about that?
MT- They don’t punch right, they simply don’t punch right. This is why no Thai girl can punch, because they use the wrong tool. They use a huge pad for a little girl; they need to use better tools to teach. Thai people have small wrists, when you bang someone’s wrists with a huge tool they can’t develop right. They grab the leg a lot now, I hate it, because you destroy the art of the great kick. Muay Thai looked good with kicks, beauty is gone when you grab leg and thrown them down, they grab too much, they need to learn to defend. It only started 1980, at that time the kicks were so heavy we would break arms and legs when we fight, like a baseball bat. So the new generation invents a way so they grab the leg and push you too rope and then do flying knee, because of that is has made Muay Thai weaker. You don’t see good kicking anymore, people have become hesitant to kick, 70% of fights are knees. A weakness in this country is that they award the winner by whoever looks like they are in charge of the game; you have better balance, you look stronger, even if you don’t do anything you still win, and that makes me sad. For the foreigner around the world they see the fight and they feel it and they are like what the hell is going on? This other guy invests punches, elbows, knees and the other guy doesn’t do anything then wins. It doesn’t make sense, they other guy invested so much more, it needs to be fixed.
ST- Do you have any students, famous or not, that you are specifically proud of?
MT- I have a 100 of them I am proud of, Ronnie Green from England, I am very proud of him, Gina Carano, Kash Gill from England, it’s a long list, Ben Garcia. I’m proud because I taught them from day one, from beginner to world champion, and most proud because these people can get in ring and fight someone with 100 fights in front of them and he/she will find a way even in the last second to knock an opponent out and win the fight. Like Ronnie green, 1st student in England, fought a Thai that kicked him to pieces for rounds then in the last round Ronnie knocks him out and I was so proud of him.
Be sure to check back in tomorrow for part two of the interview, “Interview with Grandmaster Toddy Part 2: The Future of Muay Thai, MTV, and the Secret to Life.”