Jayy Tonkin is not your average 18 year old. Over the past few years, Jayy has been living in Thailand as a full time fighter. He has fought some of the best fighters in Thailand, including the legendary Singdam Kiatmoo9, who he even managed to drop with an elbow in the first round.
Before moving to Thailand, Jayy was getting into trouble in school. After getting suspended 3 times in a single year, Jayy needed a change. He had a choice, he could either continue heading down his path of destruction or he could pursue his dreams of becoming a Muay Thai champion.
With the support of his parents, Jayy packed his bags and moved to Thailand with his father. This would be the start of a long journey that would see Jayy move all around Thailand pursuing his passion for Muay Thai.
The first time I met Jayy, I knew he was talented. At only 14, Jayy was going toe to toe with full grown men at the gym. At an early age, Jayy showed a competitive spirit and a hunger to be the best – a trait that you cannot teach in the gym.
When Jayy turned 15, he had his first professional Muay Thai fight against a 22 year old from England, winning by knockout in the 2nd round. Since his first fight, Jayy has accumulated an impressive 23 fights, with a record of 16-6-1.
In this interview, Jayy shares what it is like to live in Thailand as a full time fighter in Thailand – discussing his daily routine and how he manages to stay motivated when he is preparing for a fight. He also talks about some of his fears, and why a strong support system was important for his development in Muay Thai.
Check out the full interview below:
You have been fighting in Thailand full time for most of your teenage years, what did life look like before Thailand? Was Muay Thai your only passion or did you compete in other sports in Australia?
I was a real sporty kid into all types of sports especially football, where I played at quite a high level for about 4 years until I started to do Muay Thai.
What made you start training Muay Thai? Was it something that you wanted to do by yourself or did your parents push you into it?
It was my decision completely. My Dad wasn’t too happy about it at first as I had played football for 10 years and he coached me for 6 of them and my Mum didn’t really know what it was ha ha.. I was bored of football and wanted to try something new, a more physically contact sport.
Since you moved to Thailand at 15, what have you done about your schooling? Have you gone to school or has training and fighting been your life in Thailand?
At school I had real problems focusing I just wasn’t interested in anything at all and didn’t even bother trying. I got in a lot of trouble in my early years being suspended from school 3 times in one year for drugs, vandalizing and beating kids up, so school wasn’t really my strong point. Since the move to Thailand I have been learning the Thai language on and off, but really just been focusing on training and fighting!
Do you ever find yourself looking at your friends Facebook pictures and wishing you could be back in Australia, doing what normal teenage kids do? I can’t imagine that many kids your age would want to put in the hard work in training and risk injury to pursue their dreams.
When I’m going through the rigorous fight training and cutting weight for a fight, I do. I think to myself I could just be sitting back relaxing at home going out and partying with my mates but instead I have to diet, train twice a day and starve myself sometimes. But after I win a fight that’s when I realize it’s all worth it and one step closer to being the best fighter in the world.
Life in Thailand
Describe a typical day for you in Thailand? Give us your training schedule for a typical day building up to a fight. How much do you train, run, sleep, eat, etc.?
So I start the day off at about 6:30 am go for a 8-10 km run, then 15 min skipping, bag work and pads then finish off with some weights and ab work (mornings are lighter) finish training around 10:00 am eat breakfast usually have a nap for 2 hrs then eat lunch.
Afternoon training starts 3:30 pm with a 4-6 km sprint run with hill sprints, then 15 min skipping, clinching 20-30 min, pads 5×4 min rounds, then usually some sparring (boxing or Muay Thai), finish off with bag conditioning and ab work. Eat dinner and usually in bed around 10:30-11:00 pm because I’m buggered
When you aren’t fight training, what do you do for entertainment? Do you have any other hobbies that you pursue outside of training?
Every 2-3 months (usually after a big fight) I go down to Phuket see some friends and party a bit. 1 week in Phuket is enough because as a lot of people will know the nightlife is pretty crazy here ha ha.
The Thai language is hard to learn for english speakers. One of the problems a lot of foreigners have with learning Thai is they live in tourist areas where most Thai people speak pretty good english. Have you managed to pick up Thai yet or are you still working on learning it?
Yeah when I was living in Phuket was quite hard to pick up the language as everyone basically speaks English. But now living in Bangsaphan a rural part of Thailand the past year it had been a lot easier as they don’t speak a lot of English here. I’m not fluent yet, but I feel like I know enough Thai to get around
Injuries and Dealing with Fear
There is no denying that Muay Thai is an extreme sport that takes a big toll on the body. What are some of the injuries and ailments that you have suffered while training and fighting? Do you ever take time off from training to give your mind and body a rest?
The main “injuries” have actually been sicknesses from infections to chicken pox. I had one pretty major injury in my lower back about 1.5 years ago which put me out for 4-5 months. One thing I’ve learnt from this sport is that taking time off to heal an injury is the quickest/smartest thing to do. Patience is key in this sport, even though we all hate it
Anyone who has ever stepped into the ring will tell you a huge part of fighting is the mental side. Being confident in yourself and learning how to handle pressure are two very important principles. Do you do any kind of mental training to help you with the mental side of fighting?
My first 10 fights I used to get really nervous and worked up but now I don’t even think about it until I step in the ring then I just switch to fight mode. I don’t think I need any mental training as I feel I’m mentally strong already
Fear is something that everyone has to face when they step into the ring. Whether it is fear of letting people down, fear of getting hurt or fear of your opponent. What are some things that you do to manage your fears and expectations before a fight? Do you find that the more fights you have, the easier it is to deal with your fear?
For sure the more fights you have the easier it is to deal with fear, but everyone is different and deals with it differently. Me for example, I know there are way worse things in the world than ‘me’ going into the ring to fight for 15 minutes!
There are people all around the world fighting cancer, living in war zones, kids living in poverty, etc.These people didn’t choose to go through that but I chose to fight, so I feel privileged and very lucky to be able to live my dream. I only have the fear of losing and letting my Dad down, but I know I will always fight my heart out till the end no matter what adversities I face in the fight…
Fighting every month, I can imagine that you must get tired of the grind. Going to training twice a day and preparing for an upcoming fight is extremely taxing on the mind and body. What do you do to stay motivated on those days that you are tired and don’t feel like doing it? Is a strong support network important for staying on course with your fighting career?
Look I love training twice a day and fighting once a month I think it’s great, but sometimes you get down and I believe a strong network around you is important. My Dad impacts on this a lot he knows how hard I train and how dedicated I am, so having him around when going through tough trainings, cutting weight or just having a bad day really helps boost me up and grinding it out each day
Your parents have been instrumental in your Muay Thai career. When we trained together, I remember your dad always there in the background wherever you went. How much does it help to have someone who has been supportive of your dreams? Do you think you could have accomplished what you did without your parents?
No way I would be where I am today without my Parents. The fact that my Mum actually let me go to Thailand and pursue my dream amazes me, as she lives in Australia I don’t see her very often, I go to visit her once or twice a year and vice versa.
My dad always has me first interest and goes out of his way for me to pursue my career of being a professional Muay Thai fighter. From the travelling to cornering me in my fights he is the main reason I am where I am now and I’m forever thankful and hope that one day I can pay him back and show him it was all worth it.
You recently established a gym in Thailand with your father. Can you tell us a little bit about your gym and where is it located? There have been other father/son gyms in Thailand that are very successful (Siangboxing gym and Muay Farang), are you hoping to create something similar?
It’s located in Bangsaphan Yai south Thailand. At the moment it’s just a small temporary gym just for fighters. We hope to establish a fight team which who will fight on all the big shows around Thailand and build a good reputation. In a couple years we will build a bigger gym which everyone will be welcome, but for now it’s not about making money or being commercial it’s about building my fighters and me successful fight careers.
In 4 years from now, what will life look like for Jayy Tonkin? I know 4 years is a long time, but do you see yourself still in Thailand or do you want to go back home and open up a Muay Thai gym? Ideally, what would you like to be doing in the perfect world?
I know I won’t be living in Thailand for the rest of my life, as for my destination I will go wherever Muay Thai takes me. But I want to be the best fighter in the world no less, so 4 years from now I hope to have beaten a lot of top name fighters and be in the ranks as one of the top fighters in the world.
Thousands of people dream about living and fighting in Thailand, but only a few people have the chance to do it. Is there anyone you would like to thank who have helped you along in your journey?
I feel extremely lucky and grateful that I’ve been able to live my dream because I know so many people around the world never get the chance too. I would like to thank Owen from ‘Fightlab’ my sponsor for helping me and believing in my fight career. My parents for literally everything, I’m so thankful for them and I’m one very lucky kid to have such great parents. I would also like to thank my mates in Aussie for supporting me!
To stay up to date with Jayy, make sure you Like Jayy’s fighter page and follow the young Australian fighter has he continues to get better. As long as he continues to put in the hard work, his future is very bright in the sport of Muay Thai.