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EXCLUSIVE: Keep in Mind, Fundamentals are Forever

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

US-based Muay Thai instructor Danny Terrell offers his insight and wisdom for successful training – and his words are eternal.

Photo credit: Coach Danny Terrell

Introduced to him as Master Chai, Coach Danny first met Surachai Sirisute in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1993. Now known as Ajarn Chai, Sirisute is the founder of the World Thai Boxing Association (WTBA) and is credited for introducing Muay Thai to the United States in 1968.

Terrell was encouraged by world renowned Wing Chun instructor, Sifu Francis Fong, to train with Ajarn Chai. Sifu Fong told him, “Muay Thai will make you better at Wing Chun, and Wing Chun will make you better at Muay Thai.” With his instructor’s blessing, Terrell pursued training with Ajarn Chai.

He was “not particularly enthralled” by Ajarn Chai at first, considering him “a bully” due to his tough approach to training. However, he admits, it didn’t take long for him to realize how much Ajarn Chai really loved his students and genuinely wanted the best for each of them.

Terrell quickly learned from Ajarn Chai that success and competence in Muay Thai is based on three things: respect, discipline, and conditioning. And today, Terrell says he continues to embrace this philosophy with his own students.

Rank was never a priority for Terrell, as he was more interested in instilling “good information and good training” in his students. But after 30 years of selflessly giving his best to his students, Ajarn Chain “didn’t give [Terrell] a choice, and [he] was put through the gauntlet.” As a result, in August, Terrell was promoted to Ajarn, a master instructor.

Muay Thai Begins and Ends with Fundamentals

Continuing to embrace principles of respect, discipline, and conditioning, Ajarn Terrell asserts that every Muay Thai journey must begin with learning fundamentals. “Fundamentals are the basics, the essential skills, that every student must grasp to be successful,” he explains. For him, these include “learning a proper stance and learning how to use the body in a way that mobility and balance remain proper and correct.”

“If you can’t move properly, you can’t make your attacks or defenses properly,” he notes. “Body mechanics are a top priority for me to teach, because you can’t be efficient and effective with attacks and counterattacks without it.”

The same holds true for advanced students and fighters, Ajarn Terrell continues. “Even while training someone for a fight, I begin their training session with warm-ups like skipping [rope] and shadow boxing.”

“When someone is shadow boxing, [he or she] should be working on the fundamental aspects of Muay Thai,” he instructs. “Keep yourself smooth and relaxed, making sure that all your structures and body positioning is correct.” When a student or fighter “develops a method of delivery that is proper and correct, their ability to hit with power, speed, and accuracy will improve.”

“When someone’s structure breaks down, it’s often because they’re not being mindful of what they’re doing when they’re training,” Ajarn Terrell says. “For example, someone might start leading with their shoulder or cocking their arm when punching, thinking it’s generating more power, but what they’re actually doing is creating a bad habit that’s going to get them hit.”

Ajarn Terrell asserts that “reps are important, but mindful reps are the key.” While it may be said that “practice makes perfect,” he contends, “practice makes habit.” And for this reason, every Muay Thai practitioner should “re-embrace the fundamentals as they advance.”

“It’s easy to break away from the fundamentals we’ve learned, but it’s important we come back to them as quickly as we can,” he asserts. “To keep bad habits from sneaking in, it is important to have a coach or someone with a good eye who can offer the feedback necessary to get you back on track.” He also recommends using a video camera to view oneself or enable an instructor to “show you the things you’re doing – the little bad habits – that you don’t see.”

“Fundamentals are what will carry a student or fighter successfully through all of his techniques.” For Ajarn Terrell, “Fundamentals are forever.”

Click here to learn more about Ajarn Terrell, affectionately known as Coach Danny by his students.

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