You are hereArticles / Interview with Apideh Sit-Hurin
Interview with Apideh Sit-Hurin
Interview with Apideh Sit-Hurin by Terry
Apideh Sit-Hurin at age 60.
Apideh Sit-Hirun, whose real name is Narong Songmanee, is a legend in Muay Thai and is held in the same regard among Thais as is Mohammed Ali for American boxing fans. Apideh, who supervised at the Fairtex Camp in Chandler, Arizona until its recent closing, sponsored a Summit seminar in 1995 with himself, Ajarn Chai Sirisute and all the Fairtex Trainers. This interview was done after that seminar.
Originally from a small village in Thailand, the young Apideh dreamed of fighting in the ring. After only a few bouts the young boxer became widely known in his home region for his violent and powerful kicks. The aspiring Apideh later joined the Sit-Hurin Camp run by Kassem and Angoon Iampinyo. Despite his flair, some still doubted his potential since he was often unexpectedly defeated. But after rigorous training and firm determination on his part, Apideh successfully polished his tactics and became one of the best known Muay Thai boxers ever. At one time he held seven Welterweight titles in both Muay Thai and international boxing. This historic record has never been broken since.
Photograph by Terry Tippie
Apideh Sit-Hurin (left) explains how his stance makes use of a lowered front hand to draw in the opponent. Ajarn Chai translates from Thai into English.
Terry Tippie (T.T.): How did you get started training Muay Thai and how old were you when you first started training?
Apideh: I started training in 1948 at the age of 13. I liked to play soccer and basketball. I could kick the soccer ball a long way, and a friend said, "You have a lot of power. I'd bet you'd be good at Muay Thai." And after that I saw one of my friends, a classmate, go for a Muay Thai fight. People surrounded him and he became very popular. That really cheered me up and made me want to become like him. My friend said, "Hey, you can do this too." At first I trained Muay Thai just for fun and didn't think about turning professional. At that time I had a lot of raw power, but I didn't have skill at all. But after that I got Muay Thai on my mind. I just loved to train the boxing. My first instructor, Suporn Wongsaroj, was very good. After that I went to Bangkok and had three different trainers. Later I had to fight with my teacher for the title, and I won it from it from him. I had very good instructors.
T.T.: You turned professional and became Champion of Thailand five times?
Apideh: I found myself in the welterweight division, and eventually I won the title at both Rajdamnern and Lumpenee, the two main stadiums in Thailand. If you do this you become Thailand champion, so I got three belts all at the same time. I also got a title in International [western] boxing division too. It was the Eastern Division of Thailand, Philippines, Japan and Korea. I was a top contender for the WBA and WBC titles, but I didn't get a chance to challange for the championship.
T.T.: How often did you fight?
Apideh: I started at 13 and fought once a month until age 29. Every month. That's why my record is pretty high. More than 300 bouts. One of my oppponents, Dejrit Itti-Anuchit, fought with me 14 times because the people asked me to fight that guy. They like his style, the way he came up close. But mostly he got knocked out.
T.T.: You are famous for your fast and powerful kicks. What other techniques are your favorite?
Apideh: Besides the kick, my favorite technique is the elbow. Some of my opponents were experts, so I had to be sneaky. You know, dirty tricks. When you get it in at the right time you can knock the guy out with a trick. Like with the palm of your gloves hitting on the ear or to the chin. I know over here they don't allow you to use the open glove, but I used it and the referee didn't notice it. I had a lot of special tricks that I used to knock a guy out.
T.T.: Have you been busy teaching?
Apideh: I have been busy taking care of the business affairs of Fairtex camp both in Thailand and the United States. I don't hold pads much anymore, but I supervise the other trainers and give advice to fighters on fighting strategy. I trained this guy [holds picture] who is lightweight champion of Thailand right now. His name is Johnsanan, and he is very popular. [smiles]
T.T.: Do you have any advice for American Muay Thai students?
Apideh: I am concerned about the lack of leg strength in American students. In Thai Boxing they can withstand and take the full blow all the time. But some Americans don't know how to block it. That's why I want you to build up the legs through doing squat jumps. I used to do squat jumps for thirty minutes each morning. Sometimes you have to create your own combinations and patterns. Then you have to change your tactics so your opponent is kept off guard. When you go through the combinations, you can play around and create your personal combinations. Like when you kick and you miss, you can turn to the foot jab right away. Or when you miss the right cross, come with the short elbow right away. You have to listen to your trainer. The corner man can see what you can't. You have to know how to learn to correct your mistakes, so listen to your trainer. Once in a while at a critical time you can use some master tricks. Some of them can be difficult to see at close range, but if you do them right you can really surprise your opponent. Muay Thai can blend with the other sports, like Karate or Jujutsu. You can blend them together because the movements of Muay Thai are flowing, not stiff. You have to think that the guy next to me is better than me. So you don't brag and stay humble. This art is not for violence. Just for self-defense. Keep sharp inside and be humble. Try not to show off your Thai Boxing. That's not the way my teacher taught me. He was a decent person, a very nice guy. But in the ring we are different. You get a kind of a killer instinct.
T.T.: Has Muay Thai changed since the days you were fighting?
Apideh: Thai Boxing has changed a little. Now they like to clinch and knee all the time. They use a lot of energy. But in my time I wanted to save my energy and look for the right blow to knock them out.
T.T.: I noticed that the instructors at Fairtex each differ somewhat in their approach to teaching Muay Thai. Ajarn Chai also has his own approach. How do you feel about that?
Apideh: One advantage is that the American people know boxing. And in Thailand they can be really stiff on the footwork sometimes. If you mix up the boxing you can be really good in Thai boxing. Just kind of like a dancer. The upper body can be stiff because you have to block a lot of things. But you can mix it up with the boxing. Ajarn Surachai has studied a lot of boxing, and that is very appropriate.
Photograph by Terry Tippie
Apideh Sit-Hurin teaches the fine points of the Thai kick in Thai while Ajarn Chai Sirisute translates. Fairtex instructors Sakasem and Bonkerd observe.
T.T.: Your kick stance is somewhat different. You bring your front hand down and use your rear hand to guard close to your face.
Apideh: I dropped my front hand and used my shoulder to block. You can do that but you have to be alert and ready to block it.
T.T.: So you are dropping your guard to draw in your opponent's attack?
Photograph by Terry Tippie
Apideh gives pointers on the Thai kick to TBA Instructor Doug Pandorf.
T.T.: How do you feel about this weekend's seminar?
Apideh: I enjoyed it. Surachai really is a good teacher and he is very nice. Teacher and student can get close. That's the way I was with my teacher.
T.T.: Ajarn Chai has commented that Americans have a lot of good information handed to them. Do you also feel this way?
Apideh: Like we bend over a lot to give it to you. But I had to learn the hard way. When I started I had to practice footwork for two or three months. Then shadow boxing for several months before I could hit pads. Sometimes I learned cause I got hit. There is a lot of self-discipline in Muay Thai because you learn the hard way.
T.T.: You are leaving soon to go back to Thailand. When do you think you will be back in the United States again?
Apideh: That depends on Philipp [owner of Fairtex Camp.] When Philipp is in the US I am usually in Thailand. He's just in and out. Possibly every six months. Remember, everybody can learn the art of Thai Boxing. Everybody can learn. But it's up to you how you are going to pick up the skill. If you ask more questions, do more training, the more you gain.
Photograph by Terry Tippie
Bonkerd turns up the heat on the Thai pads as Apideh Sit-Hurin and Ajarn Chai observe.