Ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, children of all ages! My-Thai.org is proud to bring to you a very unique and insightful interview with a former Muay Thai World Champion and, more importantly, overall incredibly inspiring person. All my interviews on my-thai.org are special and lots of fun but I can honestly say that this talk left a lasting impression on me and I’m sure it will have the same effect on you. So without further ado let me introduce you to: ZaZa Sor Aree. (btw. this is her first ever Interview in English. Yeah!)
First of all thank you very much for joining. I know you’re super busy and I appreciate it a lot that you took the time to meet up here! Before we start with the hard hitting (ha!) questions, could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
My real name is Angsana Khamhanpol but my ring name is ZaZa Sor Aree.
Why is that your ring name? How does one get a ring name?
There are different reasons. Some people don’t want to reveal their real names, others just want to have a ‘cool’ nickname and others again would choose a name that has some kind of special meaning.
My name however is not really special ;-) My nickname is Za. So that’s how I got my ring name.
What’s with the “Sor” in the name. I see that a lot with fighters.
That stands for the teacher. In this way you pay respect to your coach who taught you and helped you sharpen your skills.
Before we talk more about that, let’s get to know you a bit better. What about your personal background? What do you like to do?
Well I always liked doing something adventurous and I always liked to do sports. Actually, when I was younger, I used to do horse riding. I even became the sub junior champion of Thailand :D
At one point I had to stop though. It was simply too expensive and I didn’t want my parents to worry about financing this hobby anymore. That’s how I came to Muay Thai. My dad used to be a fighter too so he inspired me to try Muay Thai.
Oh and now I just graduated from University! :-)
Congratulations again! :-) Will you further your studies by applying for a Master program at some point?
Yes. That’s my plan. Not sure when though. Right now I don’t have that much time since I’m working on my comeback. I really want to study more though. Later on.
What subject are you looking at? Sticking with the English major?
I would like to study something related to logistics I think.
That does not sound too ‘adventurous’ to be honest ;-)
Yeah that’s true. But I have to think about my future and about what could help me for future business ideas. Logistics could be beneficial.
That’s a smart approach. Can’t argue with that! Are you actually from Bangkok? Born and raised here?
No! I’m from Saraburi. It’s around 2.5 hours away from here. My family still stays there. Even though my mom is from the south and my dad is from the east. But now they stay in Saraburi.
You do spend a lot of time in Bangkok though, right? Is there anything you like in particular? Or do you like home better?
I do like my hometown! But Bangkok is obviously a good place to hang out and to meet friends and to simply do different kinds of things. There are simply so many places to go to which is quite nice.
Do you have any hobbies besides Muay Thai?
Of course! I like to sing!
What kind of songs?
Pop songs. Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift or even Mariah Carey. She’s great.
What about male singers? JB?
Za: YEAH! I like him!
Oh no. Now you are less cool! ;p
Why do guys always hate JB?
Because we’re jealous! ;-)
I knew it! :D
I have to admit it ;-) Do you also go to concerts?
Not really. I don’t have so much time. So when I’m free I only go shopping or just relax.
Do you do girly things?
Yeah of course! Hanging out in the mall etc. But to be honest, when I need to buy something, I have to go alone. When I go with my friends it never works out – you always have to wait for a long time until everybody made her choice. That’s kind of annoying.
I’m glad you say that! Girls, listen! :D
All girls know that! ;-)
How do you split your time usually? How long do you stay in Bangkok?
I am in Bangkok when I have to do some jobs or get some work done. Otherwise I am in either home or training. I don’t train in Bangkok, I train in Prachuap Khiri Khan.
I used to train in my Dad’s gym but as he grew older and when I entered University and didn’t have time for professional Muay Thai anymore he didn’t want to continue training that much anymore and therefore stopped. Subsequently others also stopped and now the gym isn’t there anymore. So now when I’m working on my comeback I had to find another gym. The one in Prachuap belongs to a friend so I decided to go there. It’s the Siangboxing Gym and they will soon open a gym in Bangkok as well which will be called Pinto Fight Studio.
So now when you prepare for your fight you are staying in Prachuap?
What did your family say when you decided to start with Muay Thai?
They supported me right away. They support me with anything! They believe in me and let me try everything.
Wow! Your mom wasn’t scared?
No she wasn’t. She was very supportive. She knows that when I want to do something, I will do it.
That’s great! So much support from your family. Do you have any siblings?
Yes. I have an older sister and a younger brother.
Are they fighting too?
Why are you laughing? That doesn’t sound very nice ;-)
It’s just they don’t like fighting. And well my younger brother is only five years old. So there’s not need to fight for him, yet. Sometimes I would try to make him fight a little bit but he doesn’t like it and since he is the only son and the youngest he’s a bit spoiled and can do whatever he wants. Guys! ;-)
Young boys in Thailand are always lucky. They can do whatever they want ;-) How old have you been when you started Muay Thai?
And you started with your dad, right?
What is one of the most distinguishing features of Muay Thai. What makes it so special? For me, when I started, I was impressed by how fast and how much one has to think. There’s so much more to it than just punching or kicking.
Exactly! Mind over emotions! You need to be smart and thoughtful to be successful in Muay Thai. Then you have understand what will you do if your opponent tries to hit you, how can you counter, how can you score. And, very important, always protect yourself!
Good point! That’s something many beginners underestimate I think. When did you decide that you want to fight? Did you start Muay Thai as fitness first or did you say right away “I’ll fight!”.
I wanted to fight right away! I had my first fight 1 1/2 months after I started training.
That is fast!
Yes, that was really fast. I wasn’t sure if I was really ready but opportunity came, and I took it!
[Tweet “”When opportunity comes, take it!” – ZaZa Sor Aree”]
That’s a very good approach. Did you win?
Yes, I won! If I would have lost I might not have continued ;-) Kidding. Who knows. I’m happy I won.
How many fights do you have by now? Do you now your record?
– 41 Professional fights
– 30 Wins (11 by KO)
– 11 Losses
How did it feel when you started and you got hit in the face for the first time?
Oh god it hurt! I was kind of shocked and thought I have to figure out a way to not get hit again.
That seemed to have worked well then!
It did. I had to learn to control my emotions and leave them out of the picture.
So you don’t get angry when you fight?
No. When we fight we shouldn’t think about the other person. I don’t even think about who am I fighting. If we would fight now I would not think about hitting you as a person, I would see you as some kind of shadow and simply try not to let the shadow hit me and being faster than the shadow.
That’s a great way explaining it. Never heard that before. Cool! So it’s not personal.
No, it’s not personal. Except, well,…..if they are bitchy outside or next to the ring and say inappropriate things. Then I will be all like “I’ll kill you!” ;-) That didn’t happen to often, actually only twice, and I got angry into the fight. But that doesn’t help at all so one should always try to remain calm with a clear mind.
Oh is there something like trash talk in the ring?
No way. I don’t have time for things like that. I focus on the fight, I can’t talk to my opponent in between. I would only lock eyes with my opponent maybe.
Ah like a stare down!
Yes, right. Being all focused.
Cool. Do you actually also had Amateur fights?
Yes I did have fights for IFMA (International Federation of Muay Thai). Those were Pro-Am fights. I won the silver medal there in the weight class of 51 kg.
Wow. Congratulations to that as well! So your weight class is the 51 kg class?
Yes. 51 – 52 kg.
I know lots of fighters try to make it down one or two classes for their fights. Do you also try to lose a lot of weight for your fights?
I only lose 1 or 2 kg before a fight. But I try to do it reasonable. I don’t cut a lot of weight one week before or so. I try to lose it slowly to avoid getting weaker. Also it tires you to lose weight so I try to keep my weight quite stable these days. I’m not that young anymore so I have to be more careful ;-)
Well I would argue you’re still young – But I don’t want to argue with you ;-) How does your nutrition look like? Are you very careful in regards of your food?
I try not to eat a lot of fat and oily food. I would try to eat a lot of healthy food, protein, meat, some rice and vegetables. A snack once in a while might be ok too.
How often do you fight?
Well before I had my break I fought every month for about three years. Now that I am just coming back I don’t have a real plan or schedule yet. I just fought in April and then now again soon.
Is it difficult to get fights?
Kind of, yes. Mainly because of my background of being a champion and now wanting to come back. Not many girls want to fight me.
Ha, they are scared! ;-)
There’s no reason to be scared! I didn’t fight for a long time. I’m not as good as back then anymore. I just want to fight again! So right now I’m trying to find matching fights which is not that easy. The only girls who are willing to fight me right now are the ones in higher weight classes so they would have a distinguished advantage when taking me on. In my own weight class it’s quite tough to find opponents.
Also some of the young upcoming fighters don’t want to fight with me since they say the respect me and therefore don’t want to fight. That is very nice of course but I would like to fight more again.
And it would be a great chance for them to take you down. If they beat you they would become more popular.
Right. So it would be more difficult for me because I had to win. But I really would like to fight! :-)
The pressure would be high on you then though.
That’s right. But that is life. We can lose or we can win. It all comes down to ones dedication.
[Tweet “”Lose or win. It all comes down to ones dedication” – ZaZa Sor Aree”]
Understand. But you said you found someone eventually, right? When will it be?
In about 2 weeks. Around the Hua Hin area. I’ll fight a local fighter there but still need to finalize everything.
I’ll announce it on my-thai.org and make sure we’re coming down with a few fans ;-)
Is there something that you like the most in training? Sparring? Pad work?
Right now I would say I like boxing the most. Simply because boxing is my weak spot and I want to improve it. My punching always has been quite weak and I never really used it as a weapon. It was just there because it’s part of it but it wasn’t good.
Punching doesn’t get you many points in Thailand though, right?
True. But when you fight with foreigners the punching does matter. They come a lot over punches. And I do like boxing actually. Also the sparring.
Do you follow pro boxing as well?
Do you have a favorite boxer?
Now I have to stop liking you!
I only like his skills. Not his personality. But his skills are unquestionable. He’s got a great technique. I do like Pacman too! He seems to be a very nice person and also a great fighter.
Did you see the fight? It wasn’t that exciting, was it?
Yes not that exciting for someone who wants to see entertainment. I tried to watch the technique and tactic more closely though and therefore it was worth watching.
Understand. Does make sense! Is there also a Muay Thai fighter that you like to watch?
Yodsanklai is a great fighter and I like to watch Saenchai too. His style is really cool and fun to watch.
I agree. I love Saenchai’s ‘Matrix’ move :-) How would you describe your style?
I would say I use my knees a lot, and a lot of clinching!
Not the punching. Yet! ;-) Oh talking about knees. Did you watch Buakaw vs. Yi Long? Muay Thai vs. Kung Fu?
Yes! In the first round I thought Yi Long had a plan. He thought he could knock Buakaw down. And he was very close but Buakaw found a way out and then came back strong. In the third round he even hit something like a ‘swinging punch’ which is not a Muay Thai move and not allowed according to the rules but it might be ok overseas.
I read the fought mixed rules. Buakaw wasn’t allowed to throw more than one knee when clinching for example. But this now brings me to the question: Would you fight with another Martial Art?
I did! I fought in Japan’s “Shoot Boxing”. They mix evertything together. Muay Thai, JiuJitsu, Judo,…. you can do everything. Use the triangle arm lock, whatever…as long as it’s stand-up fighting. No grabbling on the ground though. It was very difficult for me and I ended up losing all of my three fights there. I even got knocked out! That’s when I realized I have to improve more and work harder.
Wow! How does it feel to get knocked out?
Za: Terrible! I was very disappointed with myself. I felt like I failed myself and the country. I was the first female representative of Thailand in this event and I felt like I failed. So I was really disappointed.
What’s your take on other marital arts? Do you say Muay Thai is the best?
I wouldn’t say that Muay Thai is the best. They all have different advantages and are interesting in their own rights. I personally wouldn’t want to fight MMA though. That’s just too brutal.
So you’re not a Ronda Rousey fan?
Oh god! Every arm belongs to Ronda Rousey! ;-) I do like MMA and her style but I don’t need to fight her ;-) I’m actually very much looking forward to the fight between Aldo and McGregor. That should be a great bout. McGregor’s style is very entertaining. Like a crazy person :D I like that. But Aldo is also very very good.
That’s the second time you mention crazy fighting style. I can see a pattern! ;-) What is your go to move by the way? Is it the knees to the stomach?
Either that or the elbow. I actually cut my opponents back then a few times. But as mentioned before, I try to improve my overall game.
How is it with the Muay Thai culture? Does that play an important role for you?
Definitely. Respecting the culture, the rules, the teacher. That’s all very important. If you want to fight Muay Thai you have to respect the rules and the history. If you don’t respect the rules, don’t fight!
Sometimes I would see foreign (female) fighters complain about certain rules in Muay Thai. That women can’t box at certain venues or are not allowed to enter the ring like men but have to do it under the rope or that we can’t skip the rope like men. That’s culture and doesn’t mean to disrespect us or anything like that. It’s part of the history and therefore should be respected. If you don’t respect the Muay Thai rules, don’t fight Muay Thai.
Since you can’t fight at Lumpini or Rajadamnern is there a place that you would like to fight at? I heard about the Muay Thai Angels. Is that something you’d be interested in?
That is interesting indeed. That was a really good event last time and I think they will have another event in August. If possible I would like to fight there again. That’s a good promotion with lots of good and hot fighters.
That sounds like you fit the description very well!
Every fighter in there has a good character. The organizers really look at that. They choose fighters after their characters.
Well. A fighter who just graduated from University and works on her comeback sounds like a good character to me ;-)
I hope they will see it. After I stopped for a while they might have forgotten about me.
Now you’re coming back though! And we’ll make sure to spread the word for you of course :-)
When talking more about the culture. How is it with the Wai Kru for you? Do you have a long one?
It’s not that long I think. However I make sure to do it nicely and slowly and very well. It’s there to pay respect to your parents and teachers and also to warm up and stretch your muscles. So it really does matter. When fighting on TV however they sometimes would tell you to do a quick Wai Kru since TV time is expensive and they want to broadcast the fight and not the Wai Kru.
Did you ever get injured from a fight?
Yes I did. At the back of my knees. I had to sit out for quite a while. A few weeks without training and two months no fights.
Nothing else though? You had a lot of fights already!
Luckily not much more. Muscle injuries occur all the time of course but that doesn’t count as real injury ;-)
Wow that’s great. Protecting yourself seems to work!
Yes. You have to know how to fight but you also have to know how to protect yourself at all times.
How is it with your training? Will you do weight training by yourself or with your coach for example?
We’re old enough to know that by ourselves now. So we do it alone. That’s our responsibility. Running and weight training. If you don’t do it well enough, you will get hurt. So it’s your choice to do it. Do you want to get hurt or do you want to get fit and get to be the best?
[Tweet “”Training hard or not. Your choice. Do you want to get hurt or do you want to be the best?” – ZaZa Sor Aree”]
How does a ‘normal’ training day look like for you?
Usually I would get up and then go for a run. Afterwards then bag work and shadow boxing. I would start with shadow boxing and then do the different bags. Punching bag, kicking bag, etc. After that is finished we might do some techniques. If we don’t do techniques we will do more weight training and abs training.
So we’ve got running, pad work, bag work, some day technique, weights, abs, and we also have to sleep a lot to recover. In the evening we might go for a short run again then, do some rope skipping and then do shadow boxing, pad work and bag work again. In the end we then would do clinching and sparring and then weights and abs again.
Do you actually have time for friends and entertainment when preparing for a fight?
No. No time for anyone. Just sleeping, eating and training. Repeat.
How is the acceptance of female Thai fighters among the guys?
Most men are cool with it. Once in a while, when I was younger, boys would make fun of it and say that female fighters are too rough or something like that. But by now most of the time the feedback is positive. Lot’s of people think it’s cool when a girl knows how to fight.
How long do you want to keep on fighting?
Until I can’t fight anymore ;-) Actually I do have a plan for the future. I would love to have a personal business. A small one. Like a cafe or maybe have an own farm at home. So I think I might be able to fight another 4 or 5 years. Plus I’m a woman so I have to be a bit more careful than male fighters in regards to my future and possible family plans.
Do you see yourself as a coach in the future?
Not really. But I like to teach Muay Thai. Right now I sometimes teach at Royal Cadet Police Academy. That is lots of fun. But I don’t think I could be a real coach. Not yet. There is so much more that a coach has to do than just teaching technique. Teaching the police cadets is great fun though.
Zaza sor aree vs. Krataithong (HIGHLIGHTS) – 26/04/2015
Posted by Zaza Sor Aree – ซาซ่า ศ.อารีย์ on Monday, April 27, 2015
Makes sense again. Do you have some kind of motivational routine when you have to prepare for a fight? Or is it just ‘let’s go, fight’.
Let’s go, fight! ;-) I don’t have much time to think about something like this. Preparing, eating well and trying to find enough sleep is hard enough. Other than that I try to relax as much as possible and keep all my power for my fight.
When are not preparing for a fight and have some time off, do you go out and party?
Not that much. I do like to meet friends of course, hang out, relax. But I’m still quite careful and responsible since I need to stay in shape. I don’t get drunk but sometimes you need to have fun with friends and have a bit of a social life :-)
Totally agree! When I checked your social media presence I saw that you posted a few video clips from your work on a TV show, right? Is that something you would like to do more often?
Yes. I like that a lot. It’s very nice when they invite me and talk with me about Muay Thai or interview me. That’s a nice feeling.
Have you been nervous when you went on TV the first time?
The first time I was a little bit nervous, yes. But afterwards it got better. I know now what to expect and what to do so it’s mainly fun.
What do you usually do on those shows?
Similar to what we do here now. Interviews, talking about Muay Thai, showing a bit of Muay Thai. That’s about it.
สามสนิท กฤษณ์ ตั๊ก ป๋อง | 19 มิ.ย. ช่วงคู่หูแบทเทิล (Samsanit TV Show on WORKPOINT ENTERTAINMENT)
Posted by Zaza Sor Aree – ซาซ่า ศ.อารีย์ on Monday, June 22, 2015
What do you think about Muay Thai becoming more popular now? Lots of foreigners come to Thailand to learn Muay Thai but they not always take their time to learn about the culture. They’re just here for the fight.
I think it’s good that Muay Thai becomes more and more popular and I like that foreigners are interested in Muay Thai. However I also think everyone who wants to fight and learn Muay Thai should take the time to learn about the history, background and culture as well. That’s part of Muay Thai and therefore quite important. Being respectful towards Muay Thai is crucial.
Did you ever fight a foreigner who was not that respectful?
I didn’t know my opponents that well so I’m not sure about that. However I saw a few fighters on Social Media who complained a lot about Muay Thai rules and Thai culture and tradition which was a bit disappointing.
Talking about social media. Do you check it by yourself?
Yes sure. And if the messages make sense and are supportive I will happily respond and talk to everyone. If the message are strange though I won’t do that.
Are there lots of those strange messages?
Oh yes. Lots of them. Many users try to flirt or whatever. That is a bit annoying but I simply let them talk and don’t really care about it.
How is when you knock out your opponent? Do you feel sorry or excited, happy?
I don’t feel too sorry for the opponent. It’s part of the fight. I will feel happy that my fight is over and ended in a positive way for me but I definitely will check on my opponent and ask whether she’s ok afterwards and tell her that if she continues training we might be able to fight again in the future.
Oh god that’s so nice. Stop being so nice. You’re a fighter!!
Fighting teaches you how to be respectful. You know how to harm others so you have to be respectful towards other and not try to intentionally injure them. It’s all about respect.
Did your dad teach you that?
(lightens up) Yes, my dad taught me!
Very often when I meet fighters the Thai fighters are very humble, nice, polite and totally not in fighting mode whilst lots of foreign fighters seem to always be ready to go and bulked and psyched up.
If you’re good, you don’t need to show it. Just stay humble and polite. That’s good. Unless you are the best of the best of course. Then you can do whatever you want because nobody can take you down ;-)
Thank you for saying that. Now I can ask: Who is the best Muay Thai fighter? Lots of Thais say Buakaw for example isn’t the best because he’s not fighting Thai fighters anymore.
He’s great though. He came to a point where he is an international star and represents Thailand in all kinds of competitions abroad. That’s great. For me right now, here in Thailand, I would say Saenchai is the best.
I love his exciting style too. I saw him teaching ones. That was really cool.
He knows how to impress people! ;-) He’s really skillful and also quite funny!
Does the teaching of your dad, being humble etc., also affect your real life?
It does a lot. You live your life with more respect and you are able to understand challenges and problems better without picking fights with others.
Did it make you more confident as well?
Yes it did. In several ways. Also because some people would say I’m a freak because I like fighting which is kind of a violent sport. That also helped to stand up to them and become more confident.
Do you watch your own fights on video after the fights?
Yes sure. To see my mistakes, analyze and fix the problems that occurred.
Do you like to see yourself fighting?
No! I have to do it though. I have to figure out what mistakes I made in order to get better but I don’t really like seeing myself. I always think it looks terrible and I should have done much better.
What about when you prepare for your opponent. Will you study her too?
Yes I do that too. To know the background and to know what’s coming at me.
This means you will have a different strategy for each fight, right?
Exactly. If you don’t know your opponent it’s difficult to prepare.
Did you ever get into a real fight?
No. But someone once tried to get me into one. He knew I was doing Muay Thai so he tried to make me punch him or get involved in a fight with him but I stayed calm and walked away.
Of course. If you would have hit him everybody would have blamed you.
Right. So that was kind of a $%^& move by him but well, I didn’t do anything.
How do you stay cool in such a situation?
Just let it go. You think bad things but you don’t do it. Just let those people talk, that’s all they can do.
Now we already talked about Muay Thai becoming more popular and your TV experience. Let’s put it together. Tony Jaa is quite famous right now (Fast 7, Ong Bak), would you also want to do things like that?
That would be awesome if I could do something like that. I’d love to try. It’s really cool to see that on TV or the cinema so that would be an amazing experience.
Do you watch lots of TV?
Not that much. I watch a few workpoint channel shows. Mostly game shows or comedy shows though. No drama or lakorn shows.
What’s your favorite show?
The Walking Dead!
Oh really? So you’re into Zombies?
Somehow. It’s cool that it’s new and it makes you think ‘what would happen if it actually happens’. That adds excitement!
Funny you would say that since I wrote an article titled “3 reasons why Thailand is the perfect place for a Zombie outbreak” – So I agree, it can totally happen! Oh and we also had the Zombie run here! It’s a real topic! :D
Now that we’re coming to an end, what’s the motto or message you live by? I there something like that?
Just belive in yourself. Fight for your dreams and do what you want to do. And do it now. Don’t wait or it might be too late because time won’t wait.
That’s so true! Some real talk here!
I try to stick to the real world. Don’t just dream, but also do it!
Every semester I have a lecture about ‘dreams’. I will totally invite you to that next time!
That’s great. Students need dreams! It’s inspiration and motivation. When you grow up though don’t just dream, make it real!
[Tweet “”Dreams are important. They are motivation! But when you grow up, make them real!” – ZaZa Sor Aree”]
That’s a great message for the end! So now your famous last words:
Well I just would like to thank Muay Thai for making me who I am and also thank everyone who always supported me. I really appreciate that. For those who don’t like me: I’ll prove you what I am capable of doing! Thank you everyone for reading this interview and keep calm and love Muay Thai! :-)