Muay Thai is considered one of the most challenging sports on earth because, to be a fighter, you will need to be prepared to be hit by bare bones. Muay Thai is also highly technical, and with more elements to learn than other combat sports, it should only be taught by an expert.
When we got to catch up with one of the UK’s Muay Thai legends Jesse Saunders, we were thrilled to learn about his journey in Muay Thai.
Jesse has dedicated his life to the sport and pretty much seen every aspect of it. Jesse has been a fighter, a referee and runs his own Muay Thai club in Guildford, Shin Kick Muay Thai, producing some of the best champions in the country.
We have had the privilege of training at Shin Kick ourselves to see first-hand the excellent level of coaching that goes on there.
We asked Jesse…
Dan: How did you get into martial arts?
Jesse: I started Muay Thai in 1985, at the age of 14. I was very small, and I got bullied a lot. I had a friend at school who was Thai. He had a cousin move to the UK, and he was a fighter. His name was Pachit. My friend told me that Pachit was teaching Muay Thai. I went along, and trained with him for about three years. I then moved to Woking Thai under Mick Murphy, and had all my fights under him, and ended up teaching for them too, before opening my own gym in 2007.
Dan: What made you want to have your own club?
Jesse: It was a dream for many years, but in 2005, I went through a divorce, and felt that I wanted to do what I wanted to do. It was a huge thing for me, to give up a very well paid job, to start a gym in an old shed in the back garden. Ive never ever regretted that decision, in fact, I feel it was the making of me. Many people talk about doing it, but not many do. It is a tough road, but very much worth it.
Dan: What do you love most about martial arts?
Jesse: The respect and integrity from most… I think, that especially in Muay Thai, there is incredible respect. It makes me so angry when I see boxers and MMA fighters throwing insults to each other at weigh ins. I find it embarrassing and cringe worthy. You very rarely would see a Nak Muay behave in that way.
Dan: Is Muay Thai your favourite discipline and why?
Jesse: Probably for the main reason above, but also it is the sport I’ve always done and love. I have tried my hand at boxing and BJJ, and took enjoyment out of them too, but for me, Muay Thai has something so raw. I also love that everyone knows each other, that the sport has a certain humbleness about it. You can meet some of the best Thaiboxers in the world, and they genuinely are the nicest, approachable guys and girls in fight sports.
Dan: What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Jesse: Probably starting my gym back in 2007. I have achieved a lot with my fighters, and I am so blessed to have had so many great people through my gym door. Its not really about what wins and titles we have, its about how this sport has changed so many lives, and for it to happen to them through my gym, is very humbling.
Dan: What are your plans for the future?
Jesse: To keep going and to have my fighters reach their true potential. Nothing makes me more happier, than to see a fighter that I have trained, especially from scratch, go on to become a great fighter. I have been very fortunate to have had some great fighters come through, especially when they have started as kids.
We have some great potential coming through at the gym, so im very excited to see how the next 5-10 years go.
Dan: And lastly, who is your favourite fighter of all time?
Jesse: So many favourites, so hard to pick just one…I would say, Anuwat Kaewsamrit was awe inspiring. Just loved his style. Littewada was another I loved to watch, and I got to ref him, which was amazing. UK based, there has been many that I have loved to watch, but top of that list has to be Liam Harrison. No other British fighter has achieved what he has.
Dan: Thank you for your time Jesse, We wish you all the best for the future!
Watch the video below of Jesse demonstrating how not to hold Muay Thai pads.