If you are a Muay Thai fighter, practitioner, or fan in America, odds are that Surapuk Jamjuntr has influenced you in some way. Surapuk Jamjuntr, better known as Kru Puk has helped the growth of the sport since he first arrived in the United States in 1978. His influence, and contributions have earned him the nickname "The Godfather of Muay Thai".
Kru Puk has been involved in Muay Thai since he was a child. Growing up in Sisaket a north-eastern province in Thailand, Kru Puk would walk past a Muay Thai gym on his way homefrom school. He would watch the fighters train and when they were done he would pick up a pair of gloves and repeat what he had observed the fighters doing.
"After they finished, I would put on the gloves and hit the bags, doing what I learned by watching," said Kru Puk. "The coaches took noticed of me and offered to train me. I was 10 years old then."
It didn't take long for Kru Puk to transcend his skills to live action in the ring, his first fight was at eleven years old. It was something he wanted, even as a child, there was no fear, as Kru Puk puts it he didn't know pain, hurt, or being tired, he wanted to fight and win. After winning that first fight he was hooked on Muay Thai.
Kru Puk continued his Muay Thai career fighting under the name Vayupal Lookpalabodee, and put together a record of 65-12-3. In 1978 Kru Puk came to the United States with his main focus being to further his education. Kru Puk already held a B.A. in physical education in Thailand. However, having to work full time and attend school forced Kru Puk to drop out.
"I started teaching Muay Thai in a community center in Los Angeles on the weekends," said Kru Puk. "Then I would help my friend, Nanfa Serchadeco, an Olympic silver medalist in Boxing and Rajadamnern Stadium champion, teach Muay Thai at the IMB Academy."
After being encouraged by Richard Bustillo to open a gym dedicated to Muay Thai, Kru Puk began to work for his current goal which is to spread not only Muay Thai, but Thai Culture.
"The respect that is mutual for all people, whether you are a doctor, lawyer or any man, the respect is the same," said Kru Puk.
After years of teaching Muay Thai, and spreading the Thai culture, Kru Puk became known as The Godfather of Muay Thai. He jokingly states that he should really be the grandfather of Muay Thai, but godfather sounds better because it makes him sound younger. After gaining so much respect, it would be easy for Kru Puk to rest on his laurels, but he continues to push Muay Thai. Not just to teach, but to help American's get recognition and respect in the sport.
In Thailand Muay Thai is a lifestyle, it is your job, in the United States your work you regular job and then train Muay Thai. Here gyms are run by a few people who teach classes of up to thirty students, which doesn't allow for too much one on one focus. In Thailand there is specific people just to hold pads for those training.
"Thailand they fight for a living. It’s their job to train. Here in America we have full time jobs and we train on our off hours" said Kru Puk. "Plus in Thailand there are several trainers & pad holders. Here the instructor has to watch a full class and your training partner becomes your pad holder. How do you stand out?"
Kru Puk is the president of the World Muay Thai Council of America. Their main goal is to increase the number of American champions. They want to establish fighters in every weight class that can compete world wide and gain the respect that many other countries have in Muay Thai.
"Muay Thai fighters in America don’t have the respect like they do in France, Holland, Germany and Japan," said Kru Puk. "If we establish a WMC American Champion, we can do this."
Kru Puk sees a bright future for American's in Muay Thai with so many qualified trainers from Thailand who are former Lumpini and Rajadamern champions teaching all over the United States. He see's American's being able to compete with the Dutch, French, Japanese, and Thai's.
Kru Puk's knowledge has not only been benificial to the United States, but other countries as well. When asked about one of his fondest memories in all his years of being involved with Muay Thai, Kru Puk talked about a seminar in Costa Rica.
"I remember I did a seminar in Costa Rica before a fight. They brought fighters all over South America to train with me. At the fight, I was sitting down far away from the ring when I looked up, there was a line 100 feet long of fans just wanted to shake my hand and have me sign my autograph," said Kru Puk. "They would say they heard so much about me or read an article about me. I felt like a movie star. I helped populate Muay Thai beyond America. I am so proud to help bring Thai culture, the art of health, self-defense, sportsmanship and respect all around the world. That day, my heart was big."
There is no mention of money, or accolades, just respect. Respect he received because of the respect and knowledge he shared with everyone. Kru Puk doesn't see it about himself, he see's it about everyone else and helping them progress through the knowledge of Muay Thai, and the Thai culture.
The movie The Godfather has the second most memorable quote in cinema history according to the American Film Institute. It was Don Vito Corleone played by Marlon Brando who said "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." Kru Puk a.k.a. The Godfather of Muay Thai made American's an offer they couldn't refuse. He offered the knowledge of Muay Thai, and the Thai culture. Through years of his dedication the United States keeps moving in the positive direction in gaining world wide recognition, and acceptance as a threat in Muay Thai competition. More importantly America's top fighters all show respect, one of the thing most important to Kru Puk.
Kru Puk was asked what advice he can offer to aspiring Muay Thai fighters, so what better way to end this article than with some words of advice from The Godfather of Muay Thai.
"Watch as many fights as you can. Watch sanctioned fights live. Watching live fights will be your additional schooling. The techniques you learn will make sense. Also you can see what people are doing right and wrong. Watching live fights you will feel the pain, and hear the power. That’s something a televised fight cannot do. Promoting an event in America is tough, especially when most promoters are losing money or breaking even. If you want to fight, don’t think about the money. Fight for your heart. If you build your name the money will come. If you build your name, you will build the sport. If you build the sport, you will build Muay Thai and Thai culture. If you build Thai culture, you build your heart."
Kru Puk teaches at the Muay Thai Academy in North Hollywood, CA. Their website can be visited by clicking here.