April 11, 2011 | Dallas TX | Written by: TXMMA.com
With a laundry list of pupils including Pete Spratt, the Njokuani brothers, and recent UFC ‘Fight of the Night’ awardee Edwin “El Feroz” Figueroa, few instructors in Texas and around the world can boast the accolades of legendary Muay Thai fighter and trainer Saekson Janjira.
Looking back many years ago, Saekson Janjira first forayed into the sport of Muay Thai not out of passion but out of necessity.
Hailing from the popular beach resort town of Pattaya, Thailand, Janjira’s family did not have the luxury of riches to spoil him with while he growing up. In fact, they had very little money at all.
There were no times sitting under beach umbrellas sipping mai tai’s with little umbrellas in them like so many tourists do, only learning Muay Thai so he could make money to eat and support his own.
“I was 8 years old and I started (Muay Thai) because my family had no money,” says Saekson. “If I had money I don’t think I would have ever started because Muay Thai hurts.”
Almost an ironic statement for a man who, throughout his fighting career, was known for bringing violence with his patented array of brutal leg, body, and head kicks in order to hurt his own opponents until submission.
With little choice but lots of heart, Saekson spent countless childhood hours honing his skill in the “art of eight limbs.”
Recalling training growing up as being more about technique, tradition, and form rather than just strength, Saekson worked to achieve specific personal goals, chief amongst them proving his worth in the stadiums of Thailand to earn money and respect.
“No amount of training can replace the hard lessons learned in the ring,” I’ve often heard. As is such, Muay Thai competition in Pattaya and cities all over Thailand remain the principle way for young fighters to prove their worth.
Nowhere is the level of Muay Thai higher than the capital city of Bangkok.
A mere two hour drive away from Pattaya, fighting and winning in Thailand’s thriving urban metropolis is often the end goal for serious Thai fighters – with the most money being paid out to those who can succeed in the famed Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, known the world over as THE symbol of modern Muay Thai.
I asked Saekson what it was like to fight in that environment.
“What does it feel like to fight in the UFC?” he says. “Everyone who fights wants to fight in UFC and K-1. Lumpinee is the same thing. Lumpinee doesn’t take bullshit people.”
Despite the level of competition in Bangkok, Saekson Janjira showed no fear in working to reach that level. When I asked him what his fondest memories were of that time period, Saekson recalled a humorous adventure of sneaking off to test his skills in Bangkok.
“My friends and I, we changed our names to go fight outside of Bangkok and we bet money on the fights. We knocked all the people out and nobody knew who we were because things weren’t televised then. Then after that, we went and got hookers and massages and had to sneak back into our camp so our teacher wouldn’t know.”
I’m sure many of us can recall times where we’d go off and test our limits as adventurous young men. Regardless, I’m pretty most of them don’t include sneaking off and changing our names to go get elbowed, knee’d, and punched in the fair for a few dollars, or baht for that matter.
We’ll leave the rest to imagination.
From there, Saekson Janjira blossomed into one hell of a fighter, achieving heights in Muay Thai only few would accomplish in their respective fields throughout a lifetime.
A veteran of over 200+ fights, Saekson Janjira is a former champion of the famed Lumpinee Stadium, also achieving world titles in the International Sport Muay Thai Association, World Kru Muay Association, and an alphabet soup full of other organizations as a thirty-year veteran of the sport.
All in all, those experiences growing up and fighting in the heartland have prepared Saekson Janjira to become the Kru (Master teacher of Muay Thai) he is today.
With over twenty-five years of teaching experience (fifteen in California and ten here in Texas), Saekson has trained many fighters, like the ones mentioned at the beginning of this article, to reach great heights in the world of fighting using their ‘Saekson Janjira Muay Thai’ skills as a base.
Regarding those fighters and what they had in common, Saekson credited their natural skill sets for their success.
“They have the talent. They were easy to teach. I just bring the talent out in them. They were fast learners from the beginning,” he says about guys like Spratt, Figueroa, and others.
What does Saekson believe others need to become as successful as his star pupils? “One thing is heart. And if you have a brain you’re gonna be good. If you don’t have a brain you’re gonna be a stupid fighter. Also, learn to love Muay Thai. Everything you love you can get it.”
Going further, I asked Saekson to give me a comparison regarding the level of Muay Thai here in Texas to that of the sport in Thailand. He says there is no comparison.
I am certain there are many reasons for that answer but principally, Janjira believes that existing rules set forth by the state’s governing body (TLDR), essentially prohibit Muay Thai is its true form, stifling the ability to grow the sport and its’ fighters to their full potential.
“Talk with the Commissioner and let us fight all the time here in Dallas.” he says. “Doesn’t matter if it’s pro or Amateur- think about an MMA guy- he might be really good on the ground but when he stands up he doesn’t know anything. How can he be good at stand up? Think about George St. Pierre- he’s not that good at stand up. Jose Aldo is the one in the UFC who looks really good at stand up, but if he fought with a Thai person I don’t know how he’s gonna look.”
Saekson Janjira is really passionate about his belief in Muay Thai as a necessary skill for today’s fighters. That’s why he wants everybody to come train real Muay Thai with him.
“Come learn real Muay Thai,” he says, “not just 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, over and over. We don’t do aerobic kickboxing here. You’re going to learn from the best. I guarantee. It’s not bulls--t.”
Based on everything I’ve learn of this man, I’m inclined to believe him.