martial arts

Profiles in Muay Thai: Global Edition – Vol. 2 – Damien Alamos

I began writing this article the morning I received the news that Damien Alamos had successfully defended his Lumpinee Title in an incredible fight with Thai contender Arunchai Pranyeesiphok. However, this profile on the young French Muay Thai sensation has been in production for what seems like months now. Gathering research on a particular fighter in order to coherently and fairly tell their story is hard enough but when most of the information you receive comes from a fighters humble but incredibly proud father, you definitely take your time to make sure everything turns out perfect.

From Left to Right: Steve Zaidi, Pentai, Pen-Ake, Num Noi, Damien Alamos

From Left to Right: Steve Zaidi, Pentai, Pen-Ake, Num Noi, Damien Alamos

I have been hearing about Damien Alamos for over a year now. His exploits may be unknown to those who don’t follow the Muay Thai circuit in Thailand closely but for those who do, the young French star definitely looked like he was going to amount to something special. Most die hard Muay Thai fans now know of Damien Alamos due to his historic Lumpinee Title win over Kongfah Auddormueng. Before Damien, only one other “falang” (foreigner in Thai), Frenchman Mourad Sari, had managed such a feat. And at only 21 years of age, many knew that Damien Alamos’ story had only just begun.

However, long before Damien won his title in Lumpinee and at the time of this writing, defended it, Damien was already proving to be a formidable Muay Thai talent in Thailand’s extremely competitive and demanding Muay Thai circuit. But how did a 21 year old French kid from Bordeaux become Thailand’s current falang sensation? Read More

TSC presents “Profiles in American Muay Thai” Vol. 8 – Tiffany VanSoest

By Galen Okazaki

On February 25, 2012, Tiffany VanSoest will climb into the ring at Lion Fight Promotion’s Battle of the Desert 5 at the Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas. She’ll be looking to improve her professional Muay Thai record to 2-0 as she takes on Vivian Leung who currently owns a 2-0 record.

While fighting is her current vocation, more than anything else Tiffany VanSoest is an athlete and self diagnosed adrenaline junkie. Her athletic career began at the tender age of five when she kicked her first soccer ball. She continued to play soccer for club teams throughout grade school and junior high and for a championship team in high school. While in high school, Tiffany also found time to pole vault. She ended up being a league champion and she set a school record that was only very recently broken. As for soccer, she continued to play for two more years at the college level for a nationally ranked team (Cal State San Marcos). The only reason she stopped playing soccer was so that she could focus on her fight training. Along the way she also played basketball, baseball, golf and she has also been a lifelong surfer.

In light of all of this, how did she become interested in fighting you ask? *Ahem* turtles…as in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Watching the Ninja Turtles as a child, Tiffany knew she had to learn a martial art and was finally able to talk her parents into letting her enroll in a karate class at age eight. So she started to train at the United States Karate Organization in Riverside CA. She enthusiastically took to the sport and within a year she was competing in tournaments. By age 17 she had was a 2nd degree Black Belt (Nidan) and she had won USKA State, National and World titles. While she was highly successful and did well with the point scoring, she found that she really liked the full contact sparring the best. Read More

TSC presents “Profiles in American Muay Thai” Vol. 7 – Jose Palacios

by Galen Okazaki

The first time I saw Jose Palacios fight in person was in March of 2011 when he fought Joey Pagliuso. It was a tough fight that almost went the distance. But with only 15 seconds left in the fight, Jose unleashed a head kick that knocked Joey out cold. A few months later I saw Jose fight in person again at Battle in the Desert 2, when he took on Scotty Leffler. In a blur, he knocked out Scotty with an overhand right 20 seconds into the fight. At this point I really started to take notice of Jose Palacios, how could you not? His next fight with the up and coming Artem Sharoshkin at Stand Up Promotion’s National Muay Thai Championship fight card was highly anticipated. That fight ended up going the distance with Jose winning it by unanimous decision. With three strong wins in a row over well regarded opponents he had improved his professional Muay Thai record to 5-2. Jose had made a career breakthrough and he was on the rise. Next up, was a fight with the re-emergent Kit Cope and his 23-0 pro Muay Thai record at Lion Fight Promotion’s Battle in the Desert 4.

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Jose and his coach Rudi Ott

Jose Palacios was born in Managua, Nicaragua. When he was six, his parents left for the United States with his two older brothers, leaving Jose and his younger brother behind. The feeling of abandonment left Jose with a healthy dose of anger as he ended up getting into many fights as a young boy in Managua. After he turned eight, his parents finally sent for Jose and his younger brother. The reunited family settled in the San Francisco bay area. What Jose remembers of his early childhood was that he wanted to be a fighter. In Nicaragua, boxing is a very popular sport and it was the fighting style that Jose always wanted to pursue. Once here, his family was not able to afford to send him to any kind of formal martial training, so he and his friends formed fight clubs and fought in garages, alley ways and other hidden venues. Read More

TSC presents “Profiles in American Muay Thai” Vol. 6 – Lion Fight Promotions

The Building of Lion Fight Promotions by Galen Okazaki

The year 2011 is now generally recognized as the biggest year in American Muay Thai to date. The quality of the shows and the talent on display (both US and International) were unprecedented. Much of the success of 2011 can be attributed to the meteoric rise of the newly launched Las Vegas based Muay Thai fight promoter, Lion Fight Promotions. With their four headline events last year they were able showcase many of the top American fighters as well as a number of highly ranked international fighters. Now at their new venue, The Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas, with their stacked February 25th (2012) fight card headlined by a Joe Schilling vs Simon Marcus main event, they are continuing their upward momentum into this year. From my years of corporate experience, I know that success stories like these are not simply a result of luck, they require hard work and most importantly a vision. I sat down with Scott Kent, the President and CEO of Lion Fight Promotions to find out more about how together with former professional Muay Thai fighter, Christine Toledo, they were able to make this vision come true.

Scott Kent has been a long time business executive in Las Vegas. He has also trained in Muay Thai (both here and in Thailand) for a number of years and he has developed a great passion for it. In the late 2000’s he was doing some consulting work for a hotel, booking boxing and Muay Thai events. During this time, he met Christine Toledo while officiating at an amateur Muay Thai event. Christine had been training and fighting out of the Las Vegas area for a few years at that point.

Soon the hotel had been working with, asked Scott if he could get his promoter’s license so they could work with him directly. Scott jumped at the opportunity and he also knew that he wanted to partner with someone who was knowledgeable and well networked within the Muay Thai community. He talked to Christine about the opportunity to build a Muay Thai promotion and quickly brought her on board. As the two set out to build their promotion, they wanted to ensure that they always had what was best for Muay Thai and its growth as their mission. In an effort to ensure this, they took the unprecedented step of soliciting the opinions of fighters to find out what they like, what they don’t like, what they need and what would they like to see from a fight promotion. From these discussions, they learned that many fighters felt that a promoter who had some business sense and a plan was very much needed to help the sport grow. In addition, the promoter needed to have the right connections to help market and create venues. In their view, the sport had been in a holding pattern for a number of years in terms of growth and the right person with the right connections was needed to help it grow.

They also heard that fighters would like to know when and where they’re next fight would be. The inconsistency of fights was hindering the development of many of the fighters. Based on this, Scott and Christine set out to build a ‘home base’ for US Muay Thai fighters. They felt that being in Las Vegas was a huge advantage in that it was already recognized as the ‘Fight Capital’ of the world and they would be able to work with the respected Las Vegas State Athletic Commission (take that CSAC!).

This has indeed proven successful as Scott points to Chaz Mulkey’s 2011 season. Chaz had been one of the fighters to speak to Scott and Christine and he told them he wanted to fight the highest level of fighters, preferably international ones. Since then, Mulkey’s career has taken off with his 4-0 record last year (all Lion Fight Promotions events), which included victories over highly regarded international opponents Ken Tran(Canada), Remy Bonnell(France) and Simon Chu(England). Scott attributes some part of Chaz’s success to his ability to know well in advance where and when his next fight will be. Read More

MTiL interviews Joe Schilling about his bout with Simon Marcus – Training Pictures – Battle in the Desert Fight Card!

So much has been said already about Lion Fight Promotions upcoming “Battle in the Desert “5 event on February 25th, that as a newly coined “Muay Thai Journalist”, I have found it difficult to conjure up anything new and exciting to bring to the masses that hasn’t otherwise already been said somewhere on the “internetz”. And just whenIi thought I was fresh out of new ideas, MTiL’s intrepid West Coast director, Galen Okazaki calls me up and tells me that he is heading to The Yard in Los Angeles to snap a couple of training pictures of Joe “Stich’Em Up” Schilling and do a short interview with him. My reaction to such news can best be described by using Charlie “Tiger Blood” Sheen’s now iconic phrase: “Winning!”

So with all that said, below you will find our most recent interview with Joe Schilling as he discusses his upcoming fight with Canada’s Simon Marcus and responds to some of the things Marcus said in his interview with Greg Boasberg at Totalmuaythai.com

Needless to say, as our good friend and contributor John Wolcott indicated on our MTiL Facebook Page (Like Us!)that “if you guys aren’t excited about this fight, you might not have a pulse!”. Well said, John, well said.

Echoing, John’s sentiments, this truly is going to be, not only one of the biggest and most anticipated bouts this year, but the entire card of Lion Fight Promotions “Battle in the Desert 5” is going to be, up until now, the year’s best card. And being that we are only in February, that is a good sign of things to come for the U.S. Muay Thai Community in 2012!

Here is the full pro fight card for Battle in the Desert 5:
Joe Schilling vs. Simon Marcus
Chaz Mulkey vs. Gregory Choplin
Coke Chunhawat vs. Matt Embree
Jose Palacios vs. Shane Oblonsky
Vivian Leung vs. Tiffany Van Soest
Scotty Leffler vs. Sheldon Gaines
Anthony Castrejon vs. Francisco Barragan

And now without further ado Mr. Joe Schilling:

Pictures of Joe Schilling training for his upcoming bout with Simon Marcus – Photos by Galen Okazaki

 

TBA Muay Thai Classic Event Review + Photos

I have to preface this entire review of the TBA-SA Muay Thai Classic by saying that this event is, with no equivocations, the best amateur Muay Thai event in the United States. I also have to say that it is important for media outlets such as Muay Thai is Life and other Muay Thai news websites to cover these amateur tournaments since they are integral part to building up the sport of Muay Thai in the United States.

In U.S. sports, the term “amateur” has somewhat of a negative connotation. People assume that an amateur event is either going to be improperly or poorly put together or that the athletes are “absolute beginners” with “little to no skill”. In the case of Muay Thai in the U.S., this cannot be further from the truth. In combat sports, the term amateur, simply means you are not getting paid to fight or earning any money from your participation in an event. This does not mean that amateurs cannot fight in events where they are not required to wear protection, such as headgear or gloves. Or that they can’t fight in bouts where the rounds are just as long as those who fight pro, or that the rules (save for elbows being thrown) have to be any different from their pro counterparts.

Because the U.S. Muay Thai scene is still in it’s infancy, many of the so called “amateurs” at national amateur tournaments can sometimes have even more experience than those that fight professionally. They fight anywhere and everywhere, whether it be here in the United States or in Europe or Asia. It is for this reason that many times during tournaments such as this past weekend’s TBA, you can also see some of the best Muay Thai in North America.

Now, while the TBA-SA required all of its participants to wear protective gear (shin pads and headgear), the fighters that participated in this event showcased Muay Thai skill that far exceeded that which is commonly associated with the term “amateur”

To start things off, let me discuss the overall organization of the event. This years TBA-SA Muay Thai Classic had over 400+ registered fighters. Previously, when attending events that had a large number of participants, the registration and weigh-in process was an absolute nightmare. However, this would not be the case at the Muay Thai Classic. In the weeks leading up to the event, the TBA-SA allowed fighters to schedule weigh in appointments. Each weigh-in appointment block was about 15 minutes in length and was open to about 8-10 fighters. Fighters would not be allowed to weigh in until their specific weigh in time. And those that failed to schedule an appointment would have to wait until the entire process was done in order to weigh in.

The plan was effective and the weigh-ins were effortless. My only qualm with the whole registration process was the rules meeting complete with a high school style roll call. The roll call served two purposes: Check to see that fighters did in fact attend the rules meeting and give each fighter their fighter pass. Now, I do agree that it should be mandatory for fighters and trainers to attend a rules meeting to avoid any problems later during the competition but to stage a roll call in order to check if everyone is there seems like a waste of time. However, in defense of the TBA, it seems like the roll call is a necessary evil until the U.S. comes up with a unified set of pro and amateur Muay Thai rules that each and every sanctioning body must follow, thus making these rules meetings a thing of the past.

When it came to fight time, the event really did go off without a hitch. All large brackets were set to fight first. Fights were numbered in sequence and the venue had 3 rings where any and all fights would take place.

Save for a few intermissions and a minor unforeseen hiccup, the event ran smoothly and the fights didn’t go too far into the night. Well, maybe a little. The TBA officials we spoke to said that due to such a huge turnout they are looking into possibly making the event 3 days rather than 2. This could be a good and bad thing. Good, because the event should be able to run smoother than it already runs; Bad because weigh-ins would take place on Thursday, which would mean participants would have to take an extra day off from work and purchase an extra day at a hotel. I guess fighters, trainers, and officials will cross that bridge when they come to it.

One thing that I appreciated about the TBA and something I believe the IKF should consider doing, is dividing the competition into A,B, and Novice divisions. If you have 3 fights or less, you can choose to compete in the Novice division. 3-9 fights puts you in the B Division. And 9 fights or more puts you in the A Division. Now the A Class is open to fighters with any record if they choose to challenge themselves, but if they want to see how they stack up against similar competition than they can improve their chances by joining a division with fighters that match their respective skill level.

As for the competition, as I had mentioned previously, many of the fighters that attend the TBA have a skill set that far exceeds what many would consider “amateur”. In the A class, you can find fighters with over 50 amateur Muay Thai fights! Some of their amateur fights come from competing at the IFMA World Championships in Thailand, where the word “amateur” is loosely defined and has more to do with the fact that protection is worn rather than the fact that you have fought professionally elsewhere. Therefore the level of skill that you see from some fighters at the TBA exceeds that of even some of the pro fighters I have seen in the U.S.

Adding to the level of skill present at the tournament were our always tough neighbors to the north. Yes, Canada. Say what you want about Canada. You can say that their beer sucks, that their accents are funny, that hockey is the only sport they’re good at, or that their entire country is like a loft above a really great party. However, what you can’t say is that Canada’s Muay Thai scene takes a backseat to that of the U.S. Because honestly it doesn’t.

9 teams from Canada participated at this year’s TBA: Southside Muay Thai, York Muay Thai, Krudar Muay Thai, Mike Miles Muay Thai, Samir’s Combat Reaction, Pound 4 Pound Muay Thai & MMA, MAS Academy of Martial Arts, Warrior Muay Thai, and 8 Limbs Muay Thai. Making it seem like, as one coach jokingly put it, the “Canadian National Championships”.

I may be off on my statistics here, but I think that more than half of the titles at this years TBA went to Canada. They’re that good.

But besides that, their were obviously tons of teams from the United States that showcased some very solid Muay Thai, way too many to list obviously, but you can be sure that they made the U.S. Muay Thai scene proud.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed with all of the teams that participated at the event. And if all of these fighters represent the future of Muay Thai in the United States, or North America for that matter, then let the whole world be put on notice. We are no longer going to continue walking in Europe and Asia’s shadow.

Below are some pictures I took of the event. I wanted to take more shots than this but being a competitor, corner, and photographer, all at once, turned out to be far more difficult than I had anticipated.

For more information about the TBA check out www.thaiboxing.com and for more information about the TBA-SA Muay Thai Classic check out www.tbasanctioning.org

Also, if you were a competitor at this weekend’s event, we would very much appreciate if you took some time to complete this Muay Thai Fighter survey. The Muay Thai Injury Surveillance during Fight Events study is an innovative research study investigating injuries incurred during MuayThai fights. If you are 18 years of age or older, please share your experiences in our approximately 10 minute online survey by visiting: www.survey.pitt.edu/muaythai