Master Airr Phanthip began training Muay Thai-Lao in 1978, at a refugee camp in Ubon, Thailand. He was originally a refugee from Laos after the Vietnam War. There, Muay Thai fighting is a way of life; a way for some of refugees to survive. Fighting for money is a way to support themselves and their family.
When Master Phanthip came to the United States, in 1980, he tried kickboxing to make money in San Antonio. It was difficult for him to find bouts. Once opponents saw him fight, they were not willing to step into the ring with him and the way he fought Muay Thai-Lao.
He was a strong fighter and his trainers did not know what to do with him. At that time, the new martial art, Muay Thai had not arrived in the U.S. However, he continued to train Muay Thai.
He also went to school and focused on his studies. He works for himself managing engineering, construction, and design.
In 1984, he began training others in the traditional Muay Thai. He runs his gym much like the refugee camp and traditional Muay Thai-Lao where he started his training.
Master Phanthip has helped teenagers and adults who were homeless, hooked on drugs, and struggling with alcohol. He does not ask for money; he cares about the people in his community. He teaches respect, culture, and physical fitness at Nak Muay Thai-Lao Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Master Phanthip was inducted into the Master Hall of Fame, in 2015, and the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2014, and in 2016, he was voted Master of the Year. He never stopped training, never stopped pushing himself, and never lost hope for the members of his community.
Currently, Master Phanthip is training new and experienced (amateur and pro) fighters while he is still learning himself. “Master” is an honor given to him by the Muay Thai-Lao community. He does not call himself Master, he says he is still a student himself. He is a humble man, who works hard to take care of his family with seven children, and his community.
The Muay Thai master has also been in a couple martial arts movies. He played a Muay Thai fighter in “John Kincaid Unleashed,” released on Jan. 25, 2017, and a whipping guard in “Kickboxer: Retaliation,” which will be released on Jan. 26, 2018.
In the movie, “The Stomp Kid,” he plays the body guard, along with his 6-year-old daughter Saiphapon Phanthip. She also grew up with Muay Thai-Lao. She trains hard to learn the techniques and the culture, as well as in her acting career. Master Phanthip was also the assistant director of this movie.
When told he was amazing Master Phanthip simply replied, “No. I just work hard and learn every day.”
By Jeanette Smith