Tag Archives: Muay Thai

Appreciating multiple perspectives: One Example

There are multiple sites of learning, multiple forms of education, and multiple kinds of learners. From time to time, I (Yiola) have shared posts on Muay Thai as an alternative site of education with a focus on the teacher/student relationship. Muay Thai is a beautiful martial art that originates from Thailand. Most would likely watch Muay Thai and cringe, call it brutal and see it as violent.  It would seem to be a sport that gains  popularity through the thrill of watching and cheering and betting and celebrating in celebrity style the fighters. In the video I share here, World Champion Simon Marcus shares his perspective on the sport.

The way he describes his experience is remarkably peaceful and remarkably personal.  He talks about himself as student of the art and how his teachings bring out his best personal self, where he finds his “most peaceful” moment. He talks about his gratitude for his teacher and the respect for his learnings.

One may perceive the fight as brutally violent while another perceives the fight as moment of peace and clarity ~ a fine example of multiple perspectives. “A Brutal Ballet” indeed.

Education is about knowing yourself, knowing your ability and opening yourself to exciting possibilities for development, growth and achievement. Teaching is about being open to multiple perspectives and appreciating the multiple ways our students find knowledge, achievement and peace… and finding ways to embrace and invite multiple perspectives into our learning environments.


And now for something totally different… but not really: The power of the teacher/student relationship

In teacher education, and on this site in particular, we often discuss the power of the relationship between teacher/student for fostering student success.  My blog today is about the teacher/student relationship but not the kind we  typically discuss in teacher education where we look to the classroom teacher and the child in a school setting. My blog today is about a Muay Thai (martial art)  trainer and his fighter.  There is much to learn about teaching and learning from the martial arts world. While the two contexts, martial arts and traditional schools, are vastly different the elements of the teacher/student relationship are transferable. In my experiences as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, and student and fighter of Muay Thai, there is much to be gained from thinking about and understanding the elements of such relationships and thinking about them in relation to one’s own practice. My partner is a martial artist and trainer of world class fighters. I have observed his practice for over a decade, watching closely and listening carefully in order to better understand his interactions with his students/fighters. One thing is for certain, the relationships involved for students who achieve greatness and significant improvement in, not only the martial art but also,  their overall quality of life have consistently demonstrated the following as leading elements to their success:

1. Love. Both teacher and student must love what they are teaching and learning.  Passion, excitement, and engagement seem to be necessary components for building a love for learning and achievement.

2. Respect. Both teacher and student must have respect: respect for themselves, each other, and the discipline they are learning. Respect includes training for the discipline itself. Consistency, practice, repetition, commitment to improvement  is part of demonstrating respect.

3. Belief.  When a student is able to visualize their success and believes they can achieve that success, they most likely will. Their teacher instills the belief and supports its development. Belief is likely to be most difficult because it requires trust, vulnerability, and will. However, belief is what generates the most power to achieve.

Love ~ Respect ~ Believe

My partner, Ajahn Suchart, believes. He believes in his students and he shows this in a number of ways: in his genuine care and belief in his students, in his belief in his own pedagogical content knowledge, in the giving of knowledge, his commitment to students’ development, in the time he devotes to his students. Over the years I have asked students “what is it about this place (Siam No1, the martial arts school) that make you love learning and strive for success?” The dominant responses are  “Ajahn Suchart believed in me”, “He is one of the few teachers I felt truly cared about me” and “Ajahn Suchart’s passion for Muay Thai is contagious”.  I am certain that the art itself, Mauy Thai, is a leading factor for wanting to improve and excel, yet just as with regular classroom teachers, it is the teacher and their commitment and belief in their students that holds much of the power to influence the learning experiences and achievement of students.

And when the teacher truly believes in their students, the possibilities for student achievement are endless… students are empowered to achieve.

Ajahn Suchart’s first World Champion, Clifton Brown, wrote this on social media:

Without the patience, dedication, sacrifice, of time, mind, and body, of Ajahn Suchart, I would not be the man I am.

When people comment on my power as a fighter, strength of my body, beauty of the technique I don’t believe they truly understand, it was buit by this man. Standing immovable at 5’5 taking us hitting him full out, for years. Pressuring us, more than any opponent could. Turning coal to Diamond… Yet, more than his physical dimensions, it was the immovability of his spirit, that forged me, and others into men.

I have become what I am as a man because of you, your faith and belief in me and my potential, even at times when I didn’t believe myself.

Thank you Ajahn(Professor). I love you.


Image is of Ajahn Suchart with World Champion Clifton Brown.

Ajahn Suchart and his students exemplify the elements of an effective teacher/student relationship. The image below reflects the beauty of a teacher/student relationship:  students’ successes are the teacher’s  fuel to continue teaching with passion, commitment and determination.


Watching Ajahn Suchart teach — with utter passion and complete belief — reminds me of what teaching is all about — believing — genuinely believing — in students and through this belief, helping reach their potential and fulfill their dreams.

I am inspired by Ajahn Suchart. His work as a teacher has left significant imprints on the lives of many. As a teacher (educator) this is what I strive to achieve as well — an imprint on the lives of my students.

To view Simon’s last competition click the link below… wait for the end to see the teacher rejoice in his student’s achievement:


Muay Thai is education: How martial arts impact learning

This past weekend my (yiola’s) family was involved in a Muay Thai Expo.  Muay Thai (or Thai boxing) is a martial art that originates from Thailand  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muay_Thai  and is now taught all over the world.

My partner is a Master of Muay Thai and has schools here in Ontario: http://www.ajahnsuchart.com and http://www.siamno1.com.  This past weekend we held a Muay Thai expo in Toronto. People from across Ontario, Quebec and Mexico attended. Here are some images from the weekend:

a local instructor gives a talk on Being a student: An approach to learning muay thai
A local instructor, Kru Nick Bautista, gives a talk on: Being a student: An approach to learning Muay Thai


Master Suchart taking a group through the physical practice of traditional Muay Thai
Master Suchart taking a group of students through the physical practice of traditional Muay Thai


World Champion Simon Marcus showing specific technique for defence
World Champion Simon Marcus showing specific technique for defence

As I observed the teaching and learning that took place this weekend I was reminded how valuable this type of education is to a society.  From all walks of life, students come to learn a tradition, a martial art, and a way of life.  The outcomes are far reaching and extend to many areas of life including: heightened self-confidence, increased physical fitness and technical skills, and improved health. Through these developments individuals are able to participate in their communities in more creative and productive ways.

I watched on in amazement as each instructor brought to the Expo their expertise and passion for learning.  The instructors’ ability to demonstrate martial art while also teaching elements of the martial art was inspiring to me as an educator. The tone,  language, sequence of instruction, and balance between physical practice and presentation were effective and kept students/participants engaged for 5 hours of learning each day. Students learned a great deal about Muay Thai and I suspect that they walked away from the experience  more confident, stronger, and educated in the art of Muay Thai. Moreso, I know that many students of martial art are able to take their learning and apply it to their lives in general.  Teaching and learning martial arts (and most sport for that matter) extends beyond the art/sport itself into the realm of human experience: morality, ethics, and everyday life.

In teaching sport as a particular kind of human practice, however,  it is the physical educationist’s responsibility to see that the ethical principles upon which it is based are properly understood and that the manner in which a sport is conducted is in accord with its rules and in keeping with the best traditions of its practice. The physical educationist can guarantee nothing, but as an influential guardian of an ethically based practice he can do a good deal to uphold its highest ideals, its most cherished traditions. As in all forms of learning much depends on the attitudes and judgments that are brought to bear upon what is done and whether what is taught and encouraged, is regarded as worthwhile in the context of life. Like morality, sport is a species of evaluation, a kind of appraisal of human conduct. 

Taken from:  Arnold, P.J. (1984).  Sport, Moral Education and the Development of Character. Journal of Philosophy of Education 18(2). 275-281.

Children, teens, adults have much to gain from learning a martial art. Well beyond how to punch, elbow, knee and kick Muay Thai teaching and learning has the capacity to influence and foster character development in many ways.

The Power of Believing

Building on Clare’s blog from yesterday and the notion of connecting well-­‐being to schooling, I (Yiola) feel compelled to share with you the story of Simon Marcus. He is a member of my extended family and one of Canada’s top athletes in the sport of Muay Thai. In fact, Simon is a 5 time World Champion.


Simon’s story is not uncommon: a Black, male disengaged with traditional school. As a child, he was an active boy and excelled in sports but had very little patience and interest for learning inside the classroom. He has shared his schooling story with me numerous times and the story has been consistent, “It is not that I was not capable of doing the work, I just had no interest or motivation”. As his schooling years progressed he found himself deeper and deeper in spaces of alienation and low expectation for successful schooling. And then, he met Master Suchart, a Master teacher of Muay Thai.  Through a pedagogy that engaged him (physical literacy), a teacher that knew how to connect to his well-­‐being, and a developing belief in himself as a learner and a winner, Simon went from detentions and failure to being on top of the world. The one statement that rings in my ears about Simon’s journey to success is this turning point, “I knew Master Suchart believed in me. His belief in me made me believe in myself”. The ideas of well-­‐being, trust, care and belief paved the way to Simon’s success. A teacher’s role in the well-­‐being of a student is key: the social conditions created in a classroom, the relationships fostered and the pedagogical decisions a teacher makes are key.

From my own experiences as a Muay Thai fighter, I can say it is much easier to prepare for and pass a science test at school than it is to prepare for and step into a Muay Thai ring and yet the big questions worth exploring are: how did the teaching and learning at the Muay Thai school connect well-­‐being to schooling success? What process took place for Simon to connect with the learning, embrace the teacher and believe in himself? Perhaps the kinesthetic element of the pedagogy, perhaps the content, perhaps the teacher as role model and unconditional supporter, perhaps the challenge and, very likely the overheard whisperings of his teacher: “see that  boy over there, he’s my future champion”.


Simon’s victory in Buenos Aires, Argentina against Argentina’s #1 fighter.

yiola 2

Simon with his teacher, celebrating a victory together.