Kiti Nopphakhun has a similar story to many Muay Thai fighters in Thailand. He comes from a poor area in the north of Thailand called Sakhonkorn where the majority of people survive from plantation, and food is a privilege only during rainy season. He started fighting when he was 10 years old because he needed money to eat, help at home and to buy school material. He would receive 20 Baht (US$0,50) at every winning fight. “My father liked that I had fights. He used to fight too but without gloves, like the old days. My mom didn’t like it but I had money to help her at home so she accepted. Whenever I got hurt, she cried”, he tells.
The difference is that Kiti was a fighter by nature and his abilities, will power and extreme resistant bones made him famous in the Muay Thai field. When he was 13 years old, lookouts from Bangkok invited him to train in the capital. “We slept in the training’ space and they fed us, but we had to fight. It was tough and they demanded a lot from us. I fought and won every time”. The price he paid for his victories was spending two years without fighting because no one wanted to bet against him fearing of losing money.
Kiti changed his name and went south to try his luck. Over there, he had more victories and his life summarised on his ability to win and earn money. “Once I had a very bad infection on my leg and it had lots of wounds and pus in the shin. Before the fight, as usual, a doctor came to examine me. He pressed the wounds very hard and that hurt a lot but I didn’t say anything because if I complained, I wouldn’t be able to fight and I needed the money to send to my parents. It was 200,000 baht (US$6,000) for the winner and I won. I only kicked with the healthy leg”. He was 17 years old.
Kiti fought more than 300 times, lost 40 and never had one single knockout. He has always been really disciplined. “I wanted to win and when I lost, I would get upset. Sometimes I would get nervous because I knew my opponent was better than me but then I trained harder. I have never been afraid of my opponent. I trained, learned a lot and ended up winning. My bones are resistant and the others are afraid of kicking me and getting hurt”.
The champion is Buddhist, 42 years old and has a small height which misleads people. Currently, he works as a Muay Thai instructor in south Thailand and stands out from other instructors who we also met due to his big heart, competence and patient to teach. Kiti gives himself to any student that has will power and that trusts him to learn Muay Thai. He goes beyond the fighting techniques and, with his broken English, teaches the philosophy of the combat and gives lessons for the daily life. Believe it, to have a man like him as a mentor was one of the best experiences we had in Thailand. At the end, he makes it clear: “to fight, one has to have a good heart, who don’t have a good heart will never become a good Muay Thai fighter”.
*All the pictures were taken from Kiti’s Facebook account