When talking about martial arts, people will think of Asia. After all, the region has been home to martial arts for the past 6,000 years.
But what makes mixed martial arts (MMA) stand out from other forms of self-defense?
According to Chatri Trisiripisal – better known by his ring name, Chatri Sityodtong – training in MMA unleashes one’s “greatness”.
“I believe that every human being has the greatness inside of them, but we need to unleash that greatness,” said Sityodtong, 46, in a recent phone interview.
“The best way to do it is to train in martial arts. When you learn martial arts, you learn courage, strength, kindness and discipline. You will learn so many things about life. Those lessons and values will help you to succeed,” he added.
Born in Pattaya, Thailand, he used to watch Muay Thai (or Thai boxing) on television. Sityodtong fell in love with it and decided to learn the sport.
“When I was in my teens, I decided to pick up Muay Thai. I was very blessed to train under Kru Yodtong Senanan (trainer and owner of the Sityodtong Muay Thai camp in Thailand),” he explained.
The Asian financial crisis in the 1990s led Sityodtong’s family into poverty. His father – declared bankrupt – left the family with nothing. Ever since then, Sityodtong became the backbone of his family.
“My mum and I survived on one meal a day and it was a very, very difficult time,” recalled Sityodtong.
Unfortunately, Sityodtong received a scholarship and pursued his studies in the United States, graduating with an MBA from Harvard Business School. To help support himself through school, he took on various jobs including teaching Muay Thai.
Because of their financial situation, his mother ended up living with him in his dorm.
He slowly dragged his family out from poverty (and put his younger brother through university) when he became successful with his Internet software company. It was a start-up company with two of his friends. Soon after that, he started his career in Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
He went through a tough life but he overcome it all. And it’s all thanks to the values that he learnt from martial arts.
According to Sityodtong, the biggest misconception about martial arts is people think that it is all about violence, which is untrue.
“Over 30 years of learning martial arts have taught me to be humble, kind and compassionate to others. It gave me courage and strength to overcome adversity in life. That is the beauty of martial arts,” he enthused.
He even turned something that sounded crazy into reality when he he quit his job in Wall Street to do what he loves: martial arts.
“I was making millions of dollars on Wall Street but all of the money and material things didn’t make me happy because that’s all external stuff,” he said.
“Everybody was against me. They said I was crazy! But I felt like I had to listen to my heart. I had to listen to what I love the most in life,” added Sityodtong.
“I wanted to embrace martial arts fully, and show Asia’s greatest cultural treasure to the world.”
Today, Sityodtong is the chairman and CEO of ONE Championship, Asia’s largest sports media property with a global broadcast to over one billion homes in 118 countries.
When he turned something that he likes into a billion-dollar business, he admitted that it was not easy. Fears and insecurities haunted him. But because of his deep love towards the sport, it helped him to overcome the obstacles.
Of Japanese-Thai parentage, Sityodtong was crowned the “Most Powerful Person in Asian MMA” by Yahoo! Sports last December. His business empire has also been featured in various news channels such as CNN and ESPN and media publications.
“I never thought that I could go this far. I think that I’m the luckiest man on earth. I am blessed because I get to meet many kind people in my life,” mused Sityodtong.
Today, he is giving back to the community especially in regard to underprivileged children.
Sityodtong serves on the board of directors of Project Sunshine, one of the largest volunteer organisations in the world for terminally-ill children with cancer, HIV, and other illnesses. Through one of his companies, Evolve MMA, he is also active with Boys Town Home, Singapore’s home for orphans and troubled children
In the Thai language, Chatri means warrior and this man is truly the epitome of one.
The unbreakable warrior spirit in him led him from poverty to become a successful entrepreneur and lifelong martial arts advocate.