Wang Bo, formerly of Shaolin Temple, is the featured instructor in an online kung fu course from Black Belt. Titled Tree of Shaolin, it streams video lessons to your preferred digital device. Sign up here and start your journey along the 1,500-year-old Shaolin path!ON GOOD TEACHERS It’s very common for good teachers to connect with their fighters — even if they don’t call it “connecting,” Master Toddy says. “I might do more than other people because I come from the background of a monk. My family believed in the same things I do. My fighters do, too. “Like Lisa King — we connect every time she fights, and she wins. She has the spirit. Of course, everybody has bad days. If your spirit is strong, though, it won’t matter. You can still be strong and win.” ON MEASURING SKILL Master Toddy says people often ask him if the person with the better technique will win a fight. “No,” he says. “The person with the heart of the lion wins. It can help you beat someone who’s technically better than you.” The best test of skill in muay Thai is competing in Thailand — with no family and friends around you, he adds. “You can’t call yourself the world champion of muay Thai without having beat the Thais.” ON EMPATHY After one incident in Thailand, Master Toddy began cautioning all his fighters about unexpected mental conditioning. “I had one fighter who went there to train,” he recalls. “She was watching a fight, and a boy she knew got knocked out right in front of her. She felt that knockout and heard his head hit the floor. She said, ‘I hope that doesn’t happen to me!’ “Then everything started going wrong. I tried to get rid of her negative thoughts, but she got knocked out in the first round of her next fight. “Whenever someone gets knocked out, you shouldn’t look at the person getting carried out. You should look at the winner — and celebrate! Feel his victory!” ON CATCHING UP Thais start training in kickboxing at age 4 or 5, making it extremely difficult for an American fighter who doesn’t begin until he’s 25 to catch up. But Master Toddy has a solution. “I have them train certain things and fight smart,” he says. “For example, in Thailand, they don’t score much on punches because they don’t want muay Thai to become boxing. So training smart might include developing a big punch or a sneaky elbow. The Thais are so far ahead that a foreigner doesn’t have to win to be victorious there. If he goes five rounds with a Thai champion, he’s a winner to me. If he loses a split decision, I jump up and down!”
Silat for the Street is an online course from Black Belt Hall of Famer Burton Richardson and Black Belt mag. Learn the most functional silat techniques whenever and wherever you want on your smartphone, tablet or computer. Get more info here!ON PREPARATION “Prepare everything before a fight,” Master Toddy says. “Your clothes, gloves, even your toothpaste and toothbrush — everything you need to make your day. Then you don’t have to worry about the little things. You can focus on fighting and winning.” ON BEING BOSSY “I don’t believe in telling my fighters every move to make,” Master Toddy says. “Many fighters ‘die’ because their cornerman tells them what to do. You have to let the fighters make their own decisions. “I try to keep my instructions short: ‘What a beautiful day! You look good. I like your moves.’ Then, after everything positive has been said and the fight starts, I might say: ‘Breathe until you feel better. I believe in your right hand. Remember when you knocked out your last opponent with it? You can do it again.’ “With some people, though, you have to yell. It depends on the connection.” ON ANGER “Some instructors train their fighters to be angry,” he says. “I don’t like my fighters to get angry before a match. When you get angry, you drain your energy very quickly, and you can run out of gas. “My style is to tell them to relax, that when the time comes, they’ll do the right thing. It’s a Buddhist attitude.”
Announcing the Greg Jackson Mixed Martial Arts Core Curriculum, an online course from Black Belt magazine and the world’s leading MMA coach! Learn the best fighting techniques, combinations and strategies on your tablet or smartphone. More info here!ON THE BENEFITS OF STUDYING Much of the payoff of training in muay Thai isn’t about learning how to kick and punch, Master Toddy says. “It’s about the spirit, as well as discipline and mental training. That’s why we have the pra jiad, or armband. “We used to cut the clothes of our mother and father to make it. Then we would wrap them together with a small Buddha. If I hit your arm, it was weak. But if you wrapped the band around your arm first, you wouldn’t get hurt. It’s all psychology. That’s one reason we have to honor tradition. Muay Thai is not too much about religion; it’s more spiritual.” ON IRONY “Thailand is one of the hottest countries in the world,” he says. “How do I train my people to compete there? I turn the heater on in the gym here. I put them in hot water before they go so they get used to the ‘pressure’ of the heat and humidity.” ON BASEBALL BATS “I always try to encourage my students, but I punish them, too,” Toddy says. “I have a baseball bat, and sometimes I hit them until they do things right.” (laughs) Read Part 1 here. Robert W. Young is the editor-in-chief of Black Belt.