Today we have an interview with Ajarn (=grandmaster) Marco de Cesaris. This Italy based Muay Boran trainer is the international technical director of the International Muay Boran Academy (IMBA) and biggest promoter of Muay Boran outside of Thailand. Besides being active in the political Muay Thai area, he is also the winner of the World Muay Boran Championship 2007 in Bangkok. He won the gold medal in the section ‘Individual Forms Look Mai’.
Hi Marco, thank you for doing this interview with us. Since you are one of the key players in Muay Boran in Europe, it seems to be a logical step to interview you for the new website of the Dutch Muay Boran Foundation. Muay Boran isn’t very well known in The Netherlands and many people don’t know you yet. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Marco De Cesaris and I was born and raised in Italy. My main interest for the last 32 years has been Muay Thai; I have been a boxer, trainer, referee, promoter, and I have produced 6 books and 18 videos on traditional and sport Muay Thai. I’ve authored roughly 300 articles on international Martial Arts magazines, all of them dealing with Muay.
When you check out the IMBA board, you are the only ‘non-Thai’ in the board and you have the important function of ‘International Technical Director’. It seems that in Thailand they understand and appreciate your remarkable talent. How did you get in touch with Muay Thai? Was it in Italy or in Thailand?
The first contact was in Bangkok back in 1978; at the time it was quite difficult to find a teacher or training camp, the falangs (foreigners) were not considered “clients” as they are now. My first formal training was in Paris with Roger Paschy (one of the pioneers of thai boxing in France).
Who are your teachers (in Italy and in Thailand) and how did you get in contact with the grandmasters?
Apart from Mr. Paschy - that I still consider my first Muay Thai teacher - I was trained for more than ten years by one of the best coaches in Bangkok (in my opinion), Mr. Chokechaichana Krutsuwan (Master Pimu). who was head coach at the famous Pinsinchai Gym. During the '80s and '90s I went there many times and I had the great chance to be able to train with some of the best boxers in Thailand.
When I finally got contacted by Master Woody (Ajarn Chinawooth Sirisompan), he opened up a whole new point of view of the art of Muay; he introduced me to the Thai Grand Masters (Yodtong, Posawath, Sane) and my adventure with Traditional Muay started. That happened in 1993 and since then I never stopped studying Muay Boran.
You have trained a few champions in Muay Thai. Who were these and are they still active as fighters?
Before starting Muay Boran I was just crazy for competition. I had the great honor to train with some legends of thai- and kickboxing, such as Rob Kaman and Andre Mannaart in The Netherlands. I consider both true gentlemen and great fighters. I have trained withJoe Prestia, Didier Le Borgne and Kouider in France and they all helped me to get experience as a trainer.
The result was that I trained Matteo Minonzio to win WMTC, WAKO Pro and IAMTF World Titles, Franz Haller to win the WAKO Pro World Title and many other fighters to win Europeans and International Titles in Thai Boxing. When I started to devote myself fully to Muay Boran, I stopped training pro athletes and I don’t know if they are still training or not.
Did you ever fight in competitions yourself?
Yes I have fought in Boxing, Savate and Thai/Kick Boxing. However, most of my fights were in Sanshou (Kung Fu with Taiwan rules): the rules were very similar to Kiokushinkai and that gave me the idea to start Modern Muay Kard Chiek fighting, that is basically similar to Kiokushin with thai grappling included.
Can you name some of the advantages a competition fighter gains from incorporating Muay Boran in his / her training?
Muay Thai is a Martial Art. Everybody should learn the whole spectrum of techniques included in the ancient curriculum of Muay Boran. If a sportsman wants to prepare for a fight he/she will only have to take away the strategies and moves that are not allowed in a given fight sport. By regular training in Muay Boran he will add to his knowledge a lot of actions that can be used not only in sport but in self defence, military training and so on.
When did you switch from “regular” sports Muay Thai to Muay Boran?
When I met Master Woody and he enlightened me..
In what way does Muay Boran differ from Muay Thai?
Muay Boran does not exist. It is a mixture of many traditional fighting styles developed in centuries all over Thailand. The best techniques from every style (Korat, Lopburi, Chaiya, Uttaradit, Pranakorn etc.) were included in what we - Master Woody and I - chose to call Muay Boran. Actually many names were given during the years to traditional Muay, like Pichaiyuth, Siam Yuth, Ti Muay, Sillapa Muay Thai, Mae Mai etc. We have chosen one that in our opinion was best suited to help the rebirth of that ancient Martial Art.
Muay Thai is the modern version of the old Art; it was developed on the basis of Western Boxing from 1929 onward. It is the latest application of the traditional techniques, developed in modern times for ring fighting.
Do you need to have experience in Muay Thai, kickboxing or any other martial arts to train Muay Boran?
Not at all. All that is needed is dedication, sweat and hard work. Everyone can be a Muay Boran player.
Is Muay Boran suited to train at every age?
I have mature students (more than 50 years old) that enjoy training so much. Moreover they take part in seminars, grading sessions and Forms competition, they perform better than a lot of young people. On the other hand some of our gyms have special classes for children, from 8/9 years on.
What were the reactions when you started to focus fulltime on Muay Boran and started with the IMBA?
Not many people understood my decision. They thought I was part of the Thai Boxing world and I was betraying somehow my origins. I never worried about that, I knew I was on the right path and facts are confirming I was right, now.
The IMBA is growing. Every year new countries are coming to train with you. What is your goal with the IMBA and how do you see Muay Boran in the future?
IMBA is a dream come true; trainers and students from 20 countries learning the same curriculum and speaking the same technical language who work as a family; that doesn’t come easy. We are not a Federation, that was not my goal; my idea was to create an International Martial Art School where you progress technically and where politics is not involved. My project for the future is to go on this track, just like we have been doing.
How did you get in touch with the Dutch Muay Boran Foundation?
When I met Dale Tan we both were National Reps in the IAMTF for Holland and Italy and we both were not happy with politics involved in big sport organizations. When I explained to him my idea and showed him our curriculum he chose right away to join us and to start learning Muay Boran with us. He was already a Karate Master and Thai boxing expert but he didn’t think twice to come to us for tuition. Everybody in IMBA respects him for that, very much.
The Netherlands are quite famous for their high level fighters in thai boxing and kickboxing. Muay Boran still is very small, but the students training Muay Boran are very active and enthusiastic about it. What role do you see for The Netherlands in Muay Boran?
As I said, I have the greatest respect for fighters and trainers from The Netherlands. They are on the top of ring sports, all over the world. I am sure that in Muay Boran they will do just the same. In a few years I saw a great progress in the general level in Holland and Dale Tan and his son Sander are leading the national movement in a very good, professional way. The results are already showing.
You are teaching people all over the world. Where and when can we see you and train with you?
I normally hold international seminars twice a year in Italy and two/three times a year abroad. Last year I was in Mexico and Holland. Next year I should be coming to The Netherlands again. You can keep in touch with Dale Tan for further information.
Is there anything else you want us to know?
I hope more and more martial artists will get to know Muay Boran. Especially dutch practitioners - who have a long tradition as martial arts enthusiasts - will surely appreciate the beauty and effectiveness of the art. I am always ready and glad to host everybody who wishes to learn more about that.