Over the past 50 years, Thailand has produced some amazing Muay Thai fighters. The list of greats includes legendary fighters like Samart Payakaroon, Somrak Khamsing and Saenchai. While most people are aware of the big name Thai fighters, the trainers who helped produce these stars are often overlooked.
One trainer in particular that stands out among his peers is the late Yodtong Senanan (Feb 11, 2013). He was the founder of the famous Sityodtong camp that is located in Pattaya. Yodtong taught a style that always focused on technique over power and produced some of the best Thai fighters in the world.
“I believe in Technique, a technical style is much more effective than Brute Strength. With Technique you can avoid getting hit, you can learn to use tricks, and you can use counterattacks.” Yodtong Senanan
Since founding the famous Muay Thai camp Sityodtong, Yodtong produced a record number of champions in Thailand. With over 30 Lumpinee Champions and a total of 57 Muay Thai Champions under his name, Yodtong Senanan is known as the greatest trainer of all time. He built up a dynasty of Muay Thai legends which included champions like Samart Payakaroon, Kongtoranee Payakaroon, Nuengpichit Sityodtong, Detpitak Sityodtong, Chartchai Sityodtong, Yoddecha Sityodtong, and Daotong Sityodtong.
Following the success of his storied career as a trainer and gym owner, in 1991 Yodtong was awarded the best trainer in the nation by the royal family. He also achieved the highest honors in the International Federation of Amateur Muay Thai Association.
In addition to the long list of Thai champions he produced, he hosted a number of foreign fighters at his camp. Fighters that have trained at Sityodtong include legends like Rob Kaman and the late Rammon Dekkers.
Yodtong was born in Ban Pong in the province of Ratchaburi. His father was a Chinese immigrant from Hainan China. He started training Muay Thai at the age of 14 and had his first fight by 15. At 17 Yodtong would change camps to train under a new trainer Sewan Senanan, which is where he adopted his surname Senanan from.
Even though Yodtong had around 50 Muay Thai fights, he never did achieve the level of success as some of his legendary students. He was a natural teacher and loved teaching the art of Muay Thai. It was at his new camp where he would first start to train other fighters in the ring. At the age of 21, Yodtong would wind down his fighting career and become a full-time trainer.
Following his retirement from fighting, Yodtong would open the now famous Thai boxing camp Sityodtong at the age of 22. It wouldn’t be until 1971 before his first student Daothong Sityodtong would win his first Lumpinee Championship. Following Daothong’s success, Yodtong would go on to produce over 57 champions from his gym Sityodtong.
This is some old footage of Yodtong training some of his students:
Yodtong was known for emphasizing technique and skill. While he developed a broad range of fighters who utilized both skill and power, students like Samart Payakaroon were a shining example of fighters that truly mastered the art of Muay Thai.
Yodtong believed that in order for Thai fighters to become successful they needed heart. You could train someone how to perform a technique, but you couldn’t teach heart.
When Yodtong was asked what qualities he looks for in a good fighter he responded by saying this:
“They have to love Muay Thai and have a Strong heart. If they don’t look promising we can teach them, but if they don’t love Muay Thai and are lazy then we can’t train them.” Yodtong Senanan
Remembering the Legend
It is important to remember the people who have helped shaped the sport of Muay Thai today. Influential trainers like Yodtong helped developed some of the most talented fighters of all time.
For those of you who are looking to one day become a Muay Thai trainer, Yodtong Senanan is someone you should look up to. He will forever be known as one of the greatest Muay Thai trainers of all time.
This was one of the last interviews done with the late Yodtong Senanan:
Here is another interview he did with Yokkao in 2011: