Master Yodtong Senanan was born in the province of Banpong, which is about two hundred and fifty kilometers south of Bangkok. From an early age Yodtong had a fascination with all forms of fighting. He is the best and most well known teacher of Thai Boxing inside Thailand and around the world. He is and continues to be the individual most responsible for promoting Muay Thai to the world.
From Rob Kaman to Raymond Decker, anyone who is anyone in the Muay Thai world, has made the pilgrimage and have gone to Yodtong’s camp Sityodtong, to learn from the master himself. It is more than just a training camp; it’s a right of passage among foreign fighters that symbolizes that they have come of age in the Muay Thai world.
Yodtong considers all forms of combat “a science, which can be studied and ultimately mastered.” Yodtong Senanan’s world famous Muay Thai Boxing Camp, Sityodtong, is situated one hundred and fifty kilometres south of Bangkok, just on the outskirts of the city of Pattaya.
Yodtong provides the boys in his gym with their every possible need, including food, accommodation, clothing and of course training. Although some fighters at his camp never become good Muay Thai fighters, Yodtong still lets them stay and continues to look after them. He believes it is his obligation to help the boys when they don’t have anyone else to turn to.
GRAND MASTER YODTONG SENANAN
Yodtong has had a passion for Muay Thai from an early age. When Yodtong was a boy Muay Thai was a lot more dangerous. Boys were not allowed to compete in fights until they were fifteen years of age. So for many years Yodtong would just go to the various Muay Thai camps in his area and just stand and patiently study the other boys training .
Yodtong started to train properly when he was fourteen years old and he had his first fight shortly after his fifteenth birthday. His fighting name then was Erawan Detprasit Banpra, his real name is Erawan Sriwaralak , the name Detrprasit was the name of his camp, and Banpra was the name of the stadium where he often competed.
He continued to fight professionally until the age of twenty-one, after this time Yodtong was in semi-retirement, but would still fight if the money was right. In all Yodtong had a total of forty-nine fights, remembering that in Thailand at that period of time fighters did not fight as often as today, so his forty nine fights would be equal to about a hundred fights, by a fighter of today’s standards.
At the age of seventeen Yodtong changed camps and took the name of his new camp, Senanan, (this replaced his family name of Sriwaralak). It was at his new camp that Yodtong first began instructing the other fighters in the art of Muay Thai. It was apparent to everyone that Yodtong had a special gift for teaching fighters the art of Muay Thai.
After training several champions for the gym, Yodtong realized that instead of working for the manager of the gym, he should start his own gym, and this is exactly what he did. Thus, Yodtong built his first gym in 1960 at Mabtaput, which is in the province of Rayong, located south of Pattaya. Yodtong stayed at Mabtaput for approximately fifteen years until it was time to move and expand to an even bigger Muay Thai camp, which he did at Naklu.
Due to the large number of fighters training with Yodtong he had the need to change his camp yet again. This time Yodtong purchased several acres of land at Banglamung province, ( which is just a few kilometres from Pattaya ) and built the current Sityodtong Muay Thai Boxing Camp, (although the present gym is on the original property, the original gym was moved six years ago to it’s present site).
The Sityodtong Camp became the envy of other managers and fighters alike throughout Thailand. The fighters that live and train at Sityodtong have all their needs met there, and are not distracted by outside influences like other fighters in Bangkok. At the camp the fighters live in either the dormitories or one of the several houses on the property, depending on how successful they are in the ring. Also a full time cook is employed to create specific meals for the fighters. The fighters don’t have to worry about anything except training hard and winning fights.
In Thailand Muay Thai is not just a sport it is a science, and Yodtong believes that to really study and learn Muay Thai, it cannot be done on a part time basis, but requires years of full time dedication and intensive study. Maybe this full time commitment by the fighters at Sityodtong is the reason for their extraordinarily success. Sityodtong has produced a total of twenty-two Lumpinee Champions (Lumpinee is Thailand’s biggest and most prestigious fight venues) making it Thailand’s most successful Muay Thai Boxing camp ever.
Legacy of Sityodtong
The legacy of the Sityodtong Payakaroon Boxing Camp began shortly after Kru Yodtong had established himself as a great Muay Thai fighter throughout major stadiums in Thailand.
While Kru Yodtong was still pursuing a career as a fighter, he would assist in the training and development of other future champions. It became apparent to everyone that Kru Yodtong had a very special gift for training fighters in the art of Muay Thai.
Kru Yodtong’s knowledge of the science of Muay Thai, gave him the ability to see things that most trainers could not. He went on to train several champions for the Senanan Camp, before realizing he could produce his own champions for his own camp. So in 1960 he opened his first camp, the Sityodtong International Boxing Camp, and began to train fighters and students of Muay Thai. It was not long before Kru Yodtong had built a strong stable of fighters and a strong reputation for being a great trainer and manager.
Among his first few champions were two brothers, KongTolonee & Samart Payakaroon. They both held several Lumpinee Stadium titles and world titles in both Muay Thai and Boxing. Their skill was unsurpassed and they dominated the Muay Thai world for many years. This gave Kru Yodtong and his Sityodtong camp, worldwide recognition.
The Payakaroon brothers played a huge roll in the exposure of Kru Yodtong. Their success brought Kru Yodtong the fame and popularity he deserved. Today Samart is still an international singer and actor. KongTolonee is still with Kru Yodtong, training the next generations of champions for the Sityodtong Camp. The legacy lives on, as Kru Yodtong's son Angkarn Sityodtong (Kru Toy) continues to produce Muay Thai greats. Such as the late Samart II Chatchai Praisitong, Sanlium, Yodsaenchai, Dejpituk and many more!
Written by Damian Meyer – Australia