Always happy, always smiling is what I immediately remember about my main Muay Thai teacher Apidej Sit-Hirun, and the person who had the most influence over my Muay Thai game. He was Thailand’s welterweight Muay Thai champion for nearly 10 consecutive years, and a legend in the sport. As the head trainer at Fairtex Muay Thai Camp in Bangplee, he was always in the ring, ready to coach. As far as I know, I was one of the very few Westerners that he ever gave permission to, to teach under his name. I spent several years training with him on my frequent travels to Thailand, and for the few years I was sponsored by Fairtex, I had the privilege to be taught by this living legend three times a year. While he has now passed on, I still remember him fondly.
People often ask me, what did Apidej teach you?
I viewed him as a Muay Thai fighter from the old school. He wasn’t into fancy techniques, just pure simplicity that worked. While he likely never read Clausewitz’s On War, he knew well, that in the complexity of the fight game, and the need to react to it, that simple plans had a better chance of success. This in a nutshell described his teaching style.
When I first met Apidej, I immediately adopted the Crazy Monkey hunchback fighting stance, a stance that has worked well for me over the years. His first reaction was, “Very good.” In fact, he stood very much the same way, and unlike other camps I had trained in previously, he never tried to get me to do the ‘taping of the front foot thing’ in preparation for attack, which to be honest I really disliked. Everything Apidej asked you to do, was about maximum efficiency, and while he never said it, it was clear that he was less worried about how something looked, but more interested if it could land, and hurt the opponent.
What struck me about Apidej was always his calm demeanour, both in and outside the ring. He was always happy to see you, and would stop everything as you walked across the courtyard to the ring. Once you were in the ring, and working the pads with him, he would immediately praise you when ever you did something right. In fact his entire face would light up, smiling from ear to ear. When you messed up, he never made you pay for it, but rather, calmly and gently, but still with a sense of authority – showed you how to fix it.
I don’t think there was ever a session I did with him that he didn’t focus on the uppercut elbow. Most other Muay Thai trainers hardly ever touched this technique, but it was clear that it was one of Apidej’s favourites. In fact, it’s a really sneaky technique, and perfect for both inside and outside the ring in self preservation. I like it too, as the way Crazy Monkey is structured, when moving in on an opponent using CM2 hand defence, it is very easy to bring the uppercut elbow out of that motion. We spent an equal amount of time perfecting knees. The way I apply knees, and elbows today in Crazy Monkey, in fact the way I teach it, is due to Apidej’s influence.
Apidej also focused on what you were good at. He loved it when I would box, arguably my main strength. He enjoyed seeing how much power he could get out of me. A lot of things he did, was just what great coaches do. He kept things simple, he focused on your strengths, gave encouragement (especially when you were tired), and showed you how to fix things, without making you feel like a loser. I miss him greatly. Even when I was no longer practicing strictly Muay Thai anymore, and my sponsorship with Fairtex ended, I still went to train with him, because you just felt amazing in his presence. It’s rare to find a person, and a coach like that, in a world of martial arts often consumed with overinflated ego’s. RIP Apidej, you are missed greatly.