Muay Thai is Life

Muay Thai is Life speaks with UK fighter Andy Howson – Featured Fighter of the Month

Every month, Muay Thai is Life designates a fighter from the Muay Thai scene worldwide as our “Featured Fighter of the Month.” Said fighter will grace the landing page of our Official Muay Thai is Life Facebook page, while we will also feature an interview with said fighter here on our official website. Our last two fighters have been from across the pond, including this month’s talented nakmuay, Andy Howson. Andy has fought against top talent from around the world including Thailand, Holland, UK, and the US. Andy took the time to sit down with Muay Thai is Life and tell us a little about his career and what he has planned for the remainder of the year and on into 2012.

MTL: Andy, thank you for taking the time to speak with us at Muay Thai is Life, for our American readers that may not be familiar with your fighting career, tell us about where you train, how many fights you have, and what titles you currently hold

Andy: Hey, its no problem, thank you for the chance of the interview. My name is Andy “Punisher” Howson I’m 32 years old and I train out of Richard Smith’s Badcompany Gym here in Leeds, UK. I have had 57 fights 49 wins, 7 losses and 1 draw with 22 by way of KO or stoppage and I am the WMC (MAD) World Champion, ISKA World Champion, ICO World Champion, WMC Intercontinental Champion, WPKL Intercontinental Champion and the WAKO PRO European Champion.

MTL: A lot of people don’t know but world champion fighter and your Bad Company gym teammate, Liam Harrison, is your cousin correct? You guys have been training together for quite a while, so I wanted to ask, who started training in Muay Thai first? And talk to us a little bit about how you guys ended up training together at Bad Company

Andy: Yeah that’s right, Liam is my younger cousin of 6 years and we have been training together at Bad Company under the guidance of Richard Smith for almost 13 years now (Ouch! Bet he’s going to feel old now when he reads this, lol)

Well basically I found out about the gym through one of the guys I used to work with (Desmond Claxton). He was training to go into the Marines and was training at Badco (Bad Company) around 3-4 days a week for help with his strength and conditioning, he ended up deciding to fight and asked if I wanted to go along and watch and support him, I went along and loved it and the following week I went down to training with him and that was it, I was hooked. A lot of people don’t know this but Liam was playing Football (Soccer to you guys =) lol) at a pretty high level all through school but I asked if he wanted to come down and watch me training 1 night and he too loved it and was training with me just 2 days later and look what’s happened from there…we’ve created a monster! :D.

MTL: Aside from yourself and Liam, Bad Company Gym is home to a few other big name fighters such as Jordan Watson, James France, and Rich Cadden to name a few. In your opinion, why has Bad Company had so much success in building top quality fighters? What’s the gyms secret? Also, what is it like training with so many top level fighters?

Andy: Well to be honest with you, I really don’t believe there is any secret to it, it’s all down to individual hard work from each of us and a desire to be a success and be champions and fight the best. And obviously Richard has a lot to do with that, in fact he is key to myself, Liam’s and the gyms success full stop. I can’t lie, I have totally taken him for granted in the past but he truly is an amazing coach, not 1 class at the gym is ever the same and he is always coming up with new tricks, etc… even after over 20 years in the game. It’s no wonder though to be honest because you don’t go away to Thailand as much as he has and not learn a hell of a lot you know? And his wife Lisa also let me in on a little secret a few weeks back too. She’s been catching him watching fights on Youtube and rewinding certain bits and slowing them down, etc and modifying them and things like that. Now I’m going to guess there’s not many coaches out there that go through that just to bring something new into the gym, but the simple fact is he really loves the sport. I think another good quality about our gym Badco, is that no 2 fighters are the same or have the same style, me I like to have a war, I have no idea why cause I can be technical when I need or want to be, but I just love to get involved and give the crowd some excitement, Liam is known for his knockout power mostly in his left hook as everyone knows and loves to kick legs but honestly he is 1 of the most technical fighters I have ever sparred with, Jordan is just so slick and has amazing balance and is an awesome kicker. I think that’s a great quality about Richard, he doesn’t try to change our styles, just works at it and molds it and brings them all together as a package.

MTL: So you recently decided to come back to Muay Thai after retiring from the sport for a while. What prompted the decision to come back?

Photo by Marty Rockatansky

Andy: Yeah, I’m making a come back already after been retired for like 3 months, lol. To be honest with you I had kind of fallen out of love with the sport a bit in the last couple of years and it had/has shown in my last like 5 fights, I wasn’t taking training seriously, wasn’t dieting right so struggling at times to cut the weight which effected me in a few of my fights. I don’t know what it was but I was working full time again and was finding it hard to juggle work and training every night, and training hard to fight at the level I fight at was killing me, I was exhausted and I put it down to just getting older if I’m honest with you. I decided after my last fight that would be it, but then 3 days after that last fight and announcing I was finished I was made redundant (layoff) from my job which was a massive shock to me and made me have to rethink a few things, and in the mean time I was busy in the gym working pads with some of the guys and going to a few shows and it just ignited that flame again. I just had to come back, and I’m so glad I did, Cause I have a few bits of unfinished business I have to sort out before I can retire a happy man.

MTL: Now, we recently saw you in Liam Harrison’s corner at the Warriors Cup XII event in New Jersey where Liam faced off with Justin Greskiewicz. Rumor has it that you have been in talks with Weapons 9 promoter Christian Tran about fighting at the next Warriors Cup in December. What can you tell us about that? Are you ready to come back to fight in the United States?

Andy: Yeah that’s right you saw me in the corner mostly jumping around and making a fool of myself, I get way too excited in the corner when it’s for Liam, ha ha it’s a bit harder with us being family, he says the same too.

But yes I was asked by Christian if I would like to fight on the next show he has in December and jumped at the chance, I’m really looking forward to it as we where treated so well when I came over with Liam. Christian is a great guy as is all his team and gym so I’m really excited about it. I have no idea who I may be fighting as of yet but that is all to be sorted out with Richard but he is currently away in Thailand and not due back for another week or so, but I’m sure Christian and he will be talking and arranging things soon so I will keep you posted.

MTL: Speaking of fighting in the United States, your U.S. debut was at the Muay Thai in America card in California when you lost a very controversial split decision to Romie Adanza. Are you looking to get back in the ring with Romie anytime soon?

Andy: I’ve been looking to get in the ring with Romie since the decision was given that night! I’m a fair guy and I have had more than enough fights to know when I have won or lost a fight, and I think I can safely say I am a very sporting guy inside the ring as most people who have seen me fight will know, but when a decision is SO bad like that? Well I want, need, and have to have revenge for that! And to be fair I fought Romie at a lower weight than I have ever fought before. I came in at 117lbs when I’m normally a 124-127lbs fighter, and I had gone 5 rounds only 6 days before against Dean James and was banged up. I body kicked and long kneed my way to what I (and John Wayne Parr, who was in my corner for the fight) thought was a more than comfortable points win, but it wasn’t to be. It’s no reflection on Romie or his team, Romie is a great guy and we got on really well and shared a few beers the next day, but to say I was and still am gutted about the decision is an understatement. But fingers crossed I have something hopefully in the pipeline to be over there in LA for the rematch in January and I wont have fought 6 days before and be banged up so it’s going to be a totally different story.

MTL: So coming from the strong Muay Thai scene in the UK and having attended a few shows here in the U.S., what is your opinion on the growth of Muay Thai in the United States? What do you thing about the level of the fighters currently coming out of the U.S.?

Andy: Well to be honest, I have only been to the 2 shows over there and what with fighting on one and having a fighter on the other, I didn’t really get to see much of the fights. However, from what I have seen and having trained with some guys myself, things over there are really picking up and it’s a great sign for the U.S. Muay Thai scene. Obviously you’ve got Kevin Ross who’s doing his thing and seems to be improving with every fight but there was also a few of the younger fighters on the last show that impressed me, and a few of the boys who fought on MTIA with me such as Nat McIntyre and Andy Kapel, both fought really well. Poor Nat drew the short straw fighting Neungsiam but showed how tough he was and stuck in there for the 5 rounds, and Andy is just a strong strong guy! But things are looking good, from the standard of a couple of the guys at Bryan Doblers gym in LA where I trained there is some talent coming through there and also at Christians gym in New Jersey.

MTL: So aside from the possibility of fighting in the U.S. in December, do you have any other fights lined up before then? What can we expect from you in the remainder of this year and in 2012?

Andy: Well I am hoping to fight in October if I can get the chance, would be nice to have a warm up fight to shake off the ring rust before heading over to fight for you guys, then also fingers crossed I have the Romie rematch in Jan, I dont know if you guys over there know but myself and Liam with 1 of our best friends Clint are now also promoting shows and will be having our 3rd HGH promtions event in Febuary next year so I think I’m going to jump on in and fight on that too. Then, I don’t know, to be honest I have had people ask me about possible fights in April and May also but like I say that all depends on Richard and to be honest on how the fights before that go. I didn’t retire for no reason the first time around, lol.

MTL: Andy, once again, we really appreciate you stopping by to speak with us here at Muay Thai is Life. We wish you nothing but luck as you step back into the sport and hope to see you compete in the U.S. again very soon!

Andy: No problem, thank you so much for the interview and I look forward to speaking to you soon and fighting over in the states real soon. Take care.

Part 2 of Galen Okazaki’s MPL “Stars and Stripes” pictorial – Simon Marcus & Nathan Corbett

Part 2 of Galen Okazaki’s pictorial of the Muay Thai Premier Leagues inaugural event at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California on Sept. 2nd, 2011. This set features shots from the match ups between Simon Marcus and Artem Vakhitov and Nathan Corbett and Tomas Hron.

 

TSC presents “Profiles in American Muay Thai” Vol. 1 – Joe “Stich ’em Up” Schilling

Story and photography by Galen Okazaki

It is the rare athlete that can compel us to rise to our feet. In basketball it might have been Michael Jordan and the anticipation of one of his thunderous dunks. In football it might be a savage Ronnie Lott tackle or in baseball a 100 mile per hour Nolan Ryan fastball. All of these are powerful physical displays that evoke something primal within us. So it would only make sense that in the fight game, the most primal sport of all, it would take someone who fights with power, fury, and the ability to put down their opponent in the blink of an eye. In boxing, I give you Mike Tyson and in American Muay Thai, I give you Joe “Stich ‘em Up” Schilling.

When Joe Schilling enters the ring a pulse of energy always surges through the crowd. Standing 6’3” with a mean ass glare and the prisoner’s jumpsuit that he wears for his walk out, Joe is every bit of bad. And his fight game is what you expect it to be, what you want it to be: aggressive, powerful…relentless.

Born in Dayton, Ohio, Joe grew up as the youngest of three children. With his father leaving the house when Joe was just a baby, it was up to his single mother to raise three children, two of which were very unruly boys. From as far back as he could remember, whenever Joe would threaten to run away from home, California was where he was going. But after being kicked out of four schools before he reached high school it wasn’t looking like Joe was going anywhere. During that time the only place where Joe found focus and passion was a kickboxing gym. At age 15 he had the choice of continuing to run wild or staying out of trouble, he chose the latter. He spent most of his free time training and hanging out at the gym. In time he started working with some of the patrons on their technique. Many were professional people, lawyers, business men and the like, yet here they were, attentively listening to a 15 year old kid. For the first time in his life he had the respect of people like this and it felt great. This experience would have a profound effect in the shaping of his future. He had a gift for training people and he loved the feeling of respect it garnered.

At age 17, Joe was kicked out of his home for good. On his own, he took odd lot jobs and lived wherever he could. For a period of time, he and his brother Kevin were able to live in a small property that his grandmother owned but when she passed away, they were back out on their own. It was during this time the Joe first started fighting in Tough Man competitions. By age 20, Joe had had enough of this life and was ready to move to California to pursue his passion for Muay Thai. Using a small amount of money his grandmother had left him and a $200 gas card from his mother, he jumped in his car and moved his life to California (the gas card being used up somewhere in the middle of Texas).

After making it to Los Angeles, Joe completed a personal training program and found work as a personal trainer at a Los Angeles YMCA. Soon, he was training at the LA Boxing Club, which has spawned many champions in both Boxing and Muay Thai. It is here that Joe met his current trainer and business partner, Mark Komuro. When the LA Boxing Club shut down, the two made their way to a gym which used to be a jail in the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles. Being in a lower income area and a converted jail, the gym had a Spartan simplicity and toughness about it. As it turned out, those were the only things that Joe and Mark liked about the gym.

It was during this time that Joe found out that he and his girlfriend were expectant parents. With a son on the way, Joe searched for a means of being able to support him without giving up his dream of becoming a professional Muay Thai fighter. That was the seed of his idea to open a Muay Thai gym. He started to work on Mark about opening their own gym and after several months of being verbally worked over, Mark relented and the two struck out to start their own gym. They soon found a location, now all they needed was a name…

While training at the former Lincoln Heights jail, Joe was being announced in fights as fighting out of, “The Jail”. Wanting to keep the theme that a jail embodies, Joe and Mark eventually asked themselves, where is it that prisoners do their physical training…“The Yard”. And so it was that The Yard Muay Thai was opened at 1335 Willow Street in Los Angeles, California.

Joe had his first professional Muay Thai fight on September 30, 2006 against Lawson Baker. He took the fight at 185 lbs (his current WBC USA Super Middle Weight title is at 168 lbs) on 10 days notice. During this fight Joe recalls striking his opponent with all his might, only to watch him continue to advance un-phased. After being dropped multiple times and nearly throwing in the towel, Joe finally found the one weapon that worked…elbows. 47 landed elbows later, Joe won his first professional Muay Thai fight with a split decision. From this fight on, he learned that he needed to be more serious about his training and work on his power.

Joe continued to win fights until he experienced a devastating loss to Wang Hong Xiang on August 30 2009. Again taken on short notice, this fight was in a kick boxing style that Joe was not comfortable with; Sanshou, a Chinese kick boxing style that allows the use of single/double leg takedowns and hip throws. During the course of the fight both of his knees were seriously damaged, requiring surgery and a year long recuperation. This time off from fighting allowed Joe to focus on other aspects of his game, especially conditioning. Perhaps more importantly, it gave him time to reflect on the importance of Muay Thai in his life.

Today, Joe’s professional Muay Thai record stands at 10-1, including recent impressive wins over a very tough Chaz Mulkey in December 2010 and a first round TKO over Chase Green in March of 2011 (in which he won his WBC USA Super Middleweight title). With a win in his upcoming rematch with Brandon Banda on Lion Fight Promotions August 20, 2011 “Battle in the Desert 3” card, he can secure his second title as the WBC USA Light Heavyweight champion (along with his current WBC USA Super Middleweight title).

As for the future, Joe is looking for opportunities to fight internationally. He’ll be doing this with an eye toward developing his resume on the international level in the hopes of one day becoming a world champion. Along the way he’ll continue supporting the growth of Muay Thai in the United States. Hopefully with his involvement in projects like In Search of America’s Muay Thai Team (a reality show which chronicles the selection process of a team which will represent the US in International competition), Joe will be able to accomplish both.

Joe Schilling is one of the most compelling figures in American Muay Thai today. With his blend of edginess that we Americans are so drawn to and his impressive fighting skills in this exotic martial art, his presence is vital to the growth of Muay Thai here in the United States. So if you haven’t had the chance, I would encourage you to go and see one of his fights, you will not be disappointed and I can guarantee you that his performance will make you rise to your feet.


Author’s Note:
This article is the first in a series of articles titled “Profiles in American Muay Thai”, in which I will be covering important figures in American Muay Thai from a human interest stand point. Please stay tuned as I have exciting profiles lined up for the future. Cheers! – Galen

The Mental Aspect of MuayThai

By Stephen Strotmeyer

MuayThai is no doubt a physically grueling sport. Nakmuay require a unique combination of anaerobic and aerobic fitness. They must withstand the punishment inflicted by an equally conditioned adversary. But MuayThai is more than mere physical weaponry. An often overlooked component of the fight game is your mind. Regardless of physical prowess, the time will come when you are tired or injured, yet must continue fighting. The option to quit never enters the mind of real fighters. Rather, real fighters fight regardless of the circumstances they face inside the ring.

MuayThai is NOT an easy sport. Fighter conditioning consists of running hills, sprints, and torturous intervals, mostly solo, outside the gym, as it is generally not a team sport. Intrinsic motivation is critical and it must compel you to keep training whether preparing for an amateur tournament or a professional world title. Ultimately, it is your desire and intensity that will drive your physical training, it is your mind that controls how you train and how you perform. Sure, trainers provide extrinsic motivation, but even the elite trainers in the world are only as good as the students they train. A fighter has to have a mindset hellbent on success, where MuayThai consumes your thoughts, becomes your obsession and your life. If you adopt a laisez faire approach, rest assured that someone else will be passionately pursuing championship dreams. Remember, this is not a sport you “play”; this is a sport where you can get knocked out.

MuayThai is a sport for warriors, those that are strong both mentally and physically. You are often alone before your fight as your trainer may have multiple cornering responsibilities, so you try to relax, envision the fight in your head. Many fighters break at this point – doubt themselves, question their conditioning, and ask that “AM I READY” question. Remember, you are not alone, rather one of many fighters who face similar internal battles prior to the actual fight. You have to work on actively controlling these racing thoughts and anxieties. Be a stoic, remain calm, and show nothing visually. When fight time comes, these thoughts will quickly vanish and you rely on your training and fight your heart out. This is a major reason why MuayThai is a hard sport, because beyond the physical demands, the mental can break those with a weak mindset. The mind can play tricks on you. It can convince you to doubt yourself and your training. For this reason, you must train the mind to work for you, not against. You must use your mind to give you confidence. Achieving this state of mind is through experience and hard work and spending efforts to develop mental toughness. Experience teaches you how to overcome these nervous, anxious feelings, and comes from actual competition.

You must fight and continue to learn. If you lose or get knocked down, you must make the decision to get back up and fight. When a fighter loses, many are hypercritical and pass judgment, failing to realize that MuayThai takes time to learn and master the techniques. Part of the journey is learning from losses and living to fight another day. Whether or not you succeed is your decision. You can instill the mental toughness and perseverance required of a champion. Dig down, deep within yourself to hone these attributes. Train hard and believe in yourself. Through hard work, you gain confidence in your training. MuayThai is a sport that does not involve luck; rather MuayThai is a sport that rewards those that work hard and overcome obstacles.