By Shaun Boland
ANDY THOMSON – MY TEACHER, MY FRIEND
‘Our memories are the torch which carries their light’
I first contacted Andy back in 2000 after finding his Lanna Camp Muay Thai site on the web. I ordered a batch of equipment for my gym and went on to do this for a couple of years. On my 3rd trip to Thailand in 2003 I met with Andy, we had been corresponding and I’d sent him a few articles that I had written for Combat and Fighters magazine here in the UK. I was surprised to see that Andy had copied some extracts and put them up on the notice board at Kiat Busaba (Lanna Muay Thai). This would be the start of Andy and I engaging and sharing philosophies over the next 15 years.
My first training session with Andy was all about the basics; something he would continue to teach even to seasoned fighters. It was primarily about guard, stance and footwork in order to execute the correct technique. I can still hear his unique laugh – ‘Hah, Hah’ when he ‘kissed’ your face with the leather focus mitts for dropping your guard. Andy rarely used the traditional Thai pads opting for focus mitts to catch your kicks, knees, elbows and punches. He told me that he could feel the technique that way and more importantly the student learned accuracy in technique.
I trained with Andy and his team annually for 11 years, sometimes twice a year. He was so excited when he announced to me his plans for his Hill camp. Myself and a couple of his students travelled with him to the borders of Chiang Rai climbing up Doi Modt (Ant mountain) to see the land that he planned to build upon. We stayed the night and were entertained by the local Lahu hill tribe, who put on a traditional dance and slaughtered a pig as a meal for us, which was a great honour.
Andy built his hill camp, Lanna Doi Modt, and I was to stay and train there several times taking my fighters to train there too. I was honoured to be there when Andy received a Thai blessing (Tam boon) for the Hill camp from a forest Monk. Andy looked so happy and proud that day, it was a great privilege for me to share this moment with him.
Andy came over to the UK in the Spring of 2013 and helped my fighter, Leigh Edlin, to prepare for his up and coming European Title fight against Italy’s champion. During his visit I booked Andy to do a seminar for my gym. I stepped back and watched as Andy taught, the concentration on the students faces was inspiring, every eye remained fixated upon his every movement and words, such was his skill as a teacher, the likes of which I have seen only on a few occasions. Andy was in the corner on the night Leigh fought for his title – Leigh won the ISKA European title that night in great form. We all had a picture together, which now adorns the walls of Chao Phraya Muay Thai academy in Lincoln as a mural. Little did I know that, although I returned to Thailand in 2005 and continued to write to Andy, this would be our last time together.
Andy was at his most happiest at the hill camp, I wrote two articles for Fighters magazine for him, getting a 4 page spread on both. Sadly, through reasons I will not go through on here, Andy had his hand forced and was under pressure to leave the Hill camp. Andy wrote to me about what he went through and how depressed this was making him, it was to be a hard couple of years for him. He rallied through though and finding someone to love, Tukkata, gave him renewed focus. Andy moved to Hua Hin to continue teaching his passion and his life – Muay Thai. His other passion was of course his dogs and it was not unusual to be greeted by a ‘pack’ whenever visiting Andy. He had plans to build a dog shelter this year, but unfortunately this was not to be.
Andy’s passing has reverberated through all those who knew him, met him, had trained with him and shared a beer. Andy told me that when he first puts a fighter into the ring he is not looking at whether they win or lose – to him this is not important. What is important is their heart and fitness; he needed them to commit in training and to commit in the ring. He told me he could not teach that, it has to come from within. These principles are still being taught at Chao Phraya Muay Thai academy in Lincoln by my student Leigh Edlin who is now the Chief instructor there.
It is important that we continue to remember Andy, he wouldn’t want too much fuss, but through remembering him he will always live on through us.
Andy, thank you for your wisdom and friendship 🙏🏻
Shaun Boland is the Chief Instructor and Founder of Chao Phraya Muay Thai in Lincoln, UK. This post is a part of a larger collection of pieces written in memory of Andy Thomson. View the collection here.