Thailand is the birthplace of Muay Thai and one of the top destinations in the world for fighters preparing for combat.
Besides Muay Thai, there is also a strong BJJ scene and Thailand recently saw its first homegrown Thai black belt graduate.
Meet Niti Techottiasnee, Thailand’s first native BJJ black belt and owner of one of Bangkok’s first BJJ schools EMAC.
I had the chance to sit down with Niti and talk about Muay Thai and his experience in BJJ.
Here is what he had to say.
Niti, you started in the traditional striking martial arts before starting Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Can you tell us a little about your background and BJJ history?
My first martial art is Tae Kwon Do. After I accomplished my black belt I also tried Muay Thai and Aikido too, but I found out that every time when I experienced street incidents I always ended up on the ground somehow either top or bottom. From that I kept looking for ground fighting system until I saw Master Royce Gracie fight in UFC.
After I keep looking for BJJ class in Thailand in 2003, I found Gionata Bellagamba (purple belt that time) who brought Master Helio Soneca (my first instructor) who showed me lot of simple moves but very efficient in jiu-jitsu. From that day I fall in love in the art and keep working with Gionata to bring many Black Belt from Teresópolis Brazil to teach us more jiu-jitsu. For subsidizing the cost of tickets and tuition fees, I decide to open a BJJ class in my own Tae Kwon Do school, so I can have group of people who can train with me when I don’t have instructor here in Thailand. I kept doing that until I found Professor Adam Kayoom, who promotes me the belt from purple until now. Between that time I also have chance to learn with many professors. Sorry to say that too many too list all the names out here!
Muay Thai has a long tradition in Thailand. How have the Thai people reacted to the introduction of the new fighting style of jiu-jitsu?
In the the early years, Thai people don’t like grappling sport much. I believe there might be culture conflict (Thai people don’t really touch each other body if they are not a good friend). Even I try to introduce to many Muay thai fighters many of them seem don’t really want to train (possible if they compare what they get paid from their Muay Thai fights).
But now since MMA is so popular and we step into social media era, people get to know very fast how effective Jiu Jitsu is ether for self defense or for life style.
Why are the Thai people so open and interested in the fighting arts? What is it about Thai culture that makes for great Muay Thai fighters?
To be sincere, since I live in the grey world, cannot refuse that most important part that keep driving Muay Thai culture and development is “Gambling”. Many children that family cannot afford to raise them, sent them to Muay Thai camp so they can train, fight, and earn money. From that point they have chance to go to school and become solid Muay Thai fighters.
What does it mean to you to be awarded your black belt after so many years of training? What are your goals in jiu-jitsu now that you are a black belt?
For me it means a lot of responsibility. I can’t disappoint my instructors since they trusted in me. I feel I need to train harder and learn a lot more, especially more advance in basic, teach “simple moves that effective” sound like easy but it’s definitely not. My major goals are to grow up BJJ community in Thailand and keep improving myself more.
As the first Thai black belt, do you feel a responsibility to grow BJJ in Thailand? What is important for the growth of BJJ in Thailand?
In my opinion, even nowadays we have a lot of online support tools but the more important thing is to teach people respect, discipline and get rid of own ego. This is my first goal and priority since I was a white belt, I would like to grow this beautiful art all over Thailand, not only in the sport combat skill but also its unique culture as well.