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“One day, I’d like to have a network of Muay Thai gyms throughout Japan. If I set my mind to it, I’m sure I’ll succeed. After all, when I arrived in Japan, just about all I had in my suitcase was a pair of boxing shorts, and look at me now.”
It is easy to feel at home at his gym in Abiko, Chiba Prefecture. Many women come here to get their weight down. Members, who vary in age from 6 to over 60, train under the hands of Thai coaches and Muay Thai world champions hired by the gym.
Muay Thai is a Thai term meaning “combat sport of Thailand.” Muay Thai began there in the 14th century. Boxers use their fists, of course, but they also use their knees to kick and their elbows to jab.
Weerasakreck was 15 when he began Muay Thai kickboxing in his hometown, Yasothon, Thailand. He showed great potential and when he was 18 a scout placed him in a gym in the capital city, Bangkok. The potential quickly became solid success and he started up the ranks. Then in 1991 he landed in Japan to challenge the Japanese kickboxing champion.
It just so happened that in the early 1990s, around the time he arrived in Japan, combat sports were taking off. Middleweights and heavyweights were storming Japan with a new style of kickboxing, and it became common for different combat sports to be held the same day in the same ring. TV coverage was extensive, of course. And when the Muay Thai boxers showed their stuff, the sport attracted instant attention. Membership at his gym soared.
“I want more Japanese to learn Muay Thai kickboxing. It’s another way to learn Thai culture.” When Weerasakreck Wonpasser (41) speaks, his firm voice certainly holds your attention. That is his fighting name—his name outside the ring is Klahan Prapun.