Phanee Wang - Singapore's rising female Muay Thai fighter, with over 100 fights recorded at just the birth of her career. Phanee gives us insights to her Muay Thai profession and her transition to a Muay Thai coach in hopes to promote the sport.
Phanee, second from left, after the 2009 World Championships
When did you start learning Muay Thai?
I started learning at 6 years old, but only pursued it professionally after my PSLE. At the age of 12, I went to Thailand for to train for 6 years. There, I trained 6 – 8 hours a day, every day and was selected to represent Singapore in the SEA Games and World Championships.
I won a silver in the 2008 SEA Games and a bronze in 2009 World Championships.
How do you motivate yourself?
The key is to persevere. No matter how badly you get whacked and knocked out, you just get up and fight your way up. As this is a contact sport, you are bound to get a lot of injuries such as bruises but your hard work does pay off.
Is Muay Thai a violent sport?
People get the impression from movies, but it is not like what they perceive. We do have strict rules and regulations. So when you go for a match and if it gets too intense, the referee will always be there to stop the fight. Muay Thai is an art of 8 limbs, so we use punch, elbow, kick and knees. It is a great art for self-defence and fitness!
There are also different ranks. Right now I am red-yellow, which allows me to teach, but that said I am still some way from being a grandmaster, which is the gold band (Mongkol, in Thai). There are about 12 ranks in total. For the basic to intermediate it takes around 2 to 3 months according to the Thai standard. In order to become grandmaster, you need to be around 60 years old and above.
When did you become a Muay Thai coach?
In 2011, about 5 years back. I also set up my own Muay Thai School running in a few clubs. It is my pride and glory to start my own school, which was not easy, but this allows me to pass down my skill and passion to the next generation. I sincerely like teaching and it is my passion now.
It is different being a professional fighter and coaching because for fighting you just need to train but for coaching you need to guide your students and this requires patience. Guiding refers not only to physical but also the mental aspects. My students range from 4 to 60 years old, but the average is from 20 - 30 years old. When people say age is a factor for Muay Thai, I tell them that is not true. My students do it to keep fit, be strong, and try something new.
Did you get any advice from other people when setting up your business?
When I first started, I had a senior who helped me and explained how I can grow my business. The main reason I did it was because I had the heart for teaching and wanted to continue to spread the art of Muay Thai, especially since I started since I was 12 years old. I did not want to waste my skills in it.
Started at Yew Tee Community Club (CC) and now I have spread to 6 branches at Jurong Safra, Anchorvale CC, Woodlands CC, Paris Ris East CC, and Bespoke Fitness at OneNorth, which is a gym. I hope to continue to expand my business.
What I am doing now is to train my students up to become trainers. I am very selective because I want them to be able to guide and coach other students as well. This takes careful management because of the mindset in Singapore. People here put sports and Muay Thai behind in terms of priority so I have to change their mindset and their view of the sports to encourage them. This is where the mental comes in, and I try my best to set a good example.
Muay Thai Bootcamp
Do you go back to Thailand to train?
Yes, I still go back to visit my grandmaster. I also bring my students to visit him. At the end of the year, I bring some of them for a bootcamp, which is usually a 5 day, 4 night event for them to get an authentic Muay Thai experience. The trip is heavily subsidized by the Muay Thai association there.
I am a qualified coach in Singapore and Thailand recognised by the World Muay Thai Organisation, Kru Muay Thai Association and the Singapore Sports Council.
What do you tell your students?
I always make sure they look after their health, and not over train. I want them to grow up to be strong. Sometimes if you overdo the training, instead of helping it becomes a disadvantage due to injuries and fatigue.
We have two groups of students, the recreational group and the fighters group. The latter is more intensive as they are geared for competitions. We do not easily accept students and they have to be physically very fit. We take part in local competitions organised by KBX.
I also tell my students to be humble. I dislike people who become over arrogant when they win in competitions. Some people show off by climbing up the ring but I do not like that. Even if you win, you do not have to show off because there is always someone out there who is better than you and who can defeat you.