MTI STORIES 

THE  THAI PAD MAN

By Terri Cotta

".... I watched him as he entered the circle, his body glistening in the morning sun. He began to strap on his equipment, and with each movement of his body his muscles rippled under the hot sunlight. With a shake of his head, he turned to face me, and as he strode towards the center of the circle, I could see the defiant and confident look in his piercing eyes, I could see the smile on his lips, that echoed, over and over again, ' this is my domain and I will not let you leave, until I am finished with you'. My legs felt weak and my heart beat faster. My father turned to me and whispered, my son, "This man is the trainer of warriors, in this circle it is he who is king and you who are vassal", if you are prepared to become a warrior, then you must enter his kingdom ?..."

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Any good Thai fighter will tell that a, good pad man is worth a million dollars, they are few and far between, but if you find one, keep him, because he will make a champion out of you or your fighters. This is very true, but finding a good one is rare. One of the best pad men I knew many years ago was an English man called Neil, who had spent several years in Thailand working at several camps. 

 Being short and over weight to train properly, he opted to work in the ring holding the pads for other fighters. He spent time watching the trainers and picked up tips and training methods from others. He became very proficient with the pads, so much so that many Thai fighters wanted to work out with him. At first it was because they thought it would be amusing to work out with a "fat falang" but after a while they realized he was very tough with hidden strength and amazing stamina.

He genuinely was very good, taking much of the Thai fearsome round kicks at a leisurely pace. On his return to England, he had held pads for such Thai fighters as five time world champ Ronnie Green, Pele Mason, Lisa Howarth, among many others. As a none Thai pad man, Neil was an exceptionally good one. Arjarn Tony Moore of the BTBC from England, is noted as another good none Thai pad man with many years of experience, not just in coaching but versed in ring experienced as a former champion fighter as well.

In the USA, there are very few known pad men and even fewer good ones. Those that are, are the ones who have taken the time not only to study the art enough to understand the finer points of fighting, but to have studied enough to learn how to put a fighter through his paces. In this area the Thai's know best.

An example is Daniel, the trainer, pad man of former Lumpinni champions Bunkerd and Sakasam, who I had the pleasure of watching train at the Old Fairtex Muay Thai Camp in Arizona many moons ago. Daniel was very good, and was also one of the tallest Thai's I had met in the USA. He knew both the fighters very well and had held pads for them for many, many years, so much so that when Fairtex opened, Daniel came with Bunkerd and Sakasam as part and parcel.

Watching him work his magic was inspiring, and to see both Bunkerd and Sakasam be put through their paces with Daniel, was enlightening to say the least. To see them bow with respect to Daniel when the training was over was an insight.

With this in mind, it is not difficult to become a good pad man, having students would line up to work out with you. It takes a quick mind and of course knowledge of the sport. It also takes a pad man to know the fighter and to make sure he learns of his faults. A teacher once told me that if the pad man can hit you, then you are leaving yourself wide open to be hit not only in sparring, but finally in the ring.

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A good pad man can see things that in sparring even the coaches and instructors cannot, because they are usually outside the ring, or advising from the corners. The pad man like the referee is always in a better position than most. There are several things to take notice of when you take up the pad mans job. One: you have to be fit, Two: you have to be as quick if not quicker than the fighter, and Three: you have to have lots of stamina. Holding 10lb pads on each arm in eighty degrees plus temperatures, can make the pads feel very heavy after the two or three rounds. Add the extra discomfort of the belly pad and shin pads, and you will see how much the pad man has to endure when he is in the ring sweating it out with you, especially when you are only wearing shorts and a pair of 10 oz training gloves.

A pad mans greatest success is when his fighters have held their own in the ring, either winning or by using remembering faults he had corrected from you while training, or by becoming a champion. In the end the fighters get the glory, the trainers and coaches get the respect, the school or camp get more students. More often then not, the pad man, who made it all possible is forgotten.

All his sweat, and toil, knocks and bruises, aches and pains are forgotten or by passed. Most pad men never think in this area, to them its all part of a days work, the end results are to make better fighters and to produce champs for the camp.

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Its all part of the game in western circles to push this area behind, accepting it as part of a Thai typical training regime, but basing this on the standard martial arts and western boxing training curriculum . In Thailand, the pad man is given respect, all students in each camp at one time or another have to face him, be hit by him, to be forced to do things by him and to be pushed past the limit you thought did not exist by him. How to become a good pad man?, That is not easy, its not just standing in the ring and holding pads, its constantly being on the alert for a fighter who mistook a command and executed the wrong technique.
The pad man is the only other person in the ring so he inevitably is on the receiving end. As a pad man, you got to know your fighters, you have to think for them, making them see mistakes that they would not, make them practice on areas that they lack in and keeping them on their toes .A good pad man can feel a fighters strengths and weaknesses by the amount of power he produces with each executed technique. The pad man has to have two ears, one for the commands from the coach to the fighter, and two for the commands from the coach given to the pad man.

Albeit the pad man is the one who has nothing to lose, he is not stepping in the ring to fight, as a fighter you are! In the end, if you can find a good pad man, then try to keep him, he is worth his weight in gold,

As Samingdum stated   "...This man is the trainer of warriors, in this circle it is he who is king and you who are vassal", if you are prepared to become a warrior, then you must enter his kingdom ?..."

If you ask me, its a hell of a way to earn a living!

Copyright 1998 USMTA Inc. All rights reserved. Revised: October 16, 2004.