Featured Image: Kru Ricardo Perez drilling kickswith his fighter Markell McMillan (@chocolatethundermt)

Since my introduction to combat sports in Feburary 2015, I have always been amazed by and grateful for the brilliant coaches and trainers I’ve been blessed to have access to.

From the amazing family at Krav Maga Worldwide and my first muay thai coach Akkim Lee (A4 Fitness) to the world class veterans like coach David Huey & Kru Santi Sakkomkai (Muay Thai America Gym) coach David Huerta (Robot Fight & Fitness) Coach Victor (Thai Boxing Institute) and Kru Rod Mckiver (Team Victory Muay Thai); I find it imperative to celebrate and investigate the persons whom we call “coach” and “kru”.

Episode Part One

Duration 1:07:20

Dino Spencer is a veteran martial arts and boxing coach who currently owns and operates The Legendary 5th Street Gym in South Beach, Miami.  He trains world class professional boxers, doctors, teachers, lawyers, entertainers, tourists and supermodels all equally and right alongside one another.  His knowledge and love of combat sports is hard to rival; and his Italian-American demeanor is as infectious as it is authentic.  Fuh-gedda-bah-dit!

In the first half of this episode I connected with my good friend and the absolute first person whom ever helped me don a pair of boxing gloves, coach Dino Spencer of The Legendary 5th Street Gym.  Dino shares his insights on boxing versus muay thai, the pros and cons of owning a gym and personal stories with boxing legends Angelo Dundee, Ferdie Pacheco and The Greatest of All Time, Muhammad Ali.

At first, I was taken a back when I learned that Dino had opened a gym in South Beach, Miami and called it the “5th Street Gym”.

I thought that was a strange kind of vague name for a gym.  But I wanted to get a peek of what he was doing so I searched the term online and ran into this book: Tales From T he 5th St. Gym.  As soon as I saw The Champ on the book’s cover I wanted to know more.  So, I purchased the audio book and began taking in the folklore and magical tales told by the book’s author Ferdie Pacheco.  Man, the book is a history lesson in the journey of american boxing and The 5th St. Gym is right at the heart of if.  I  use the stories within the book to look up classic boxing bouts online and watch them with the added context.  It’s not always a journey of roses and the book shines light on our entire society as you read on; but I can’t recommend the book highly enough.  I’m most looking forward to visiting the gym and banging pads and sparring in that environment.  It’s gotta be some kinda magic around that place no doubt!

Dino and I also get into ways to best continue the growth of our beloved combat sports and the brands who shape the way that thai boxing is being adopted into american society.  Enjoy the conversation, take notes and make it a point to get down to sunny South Beach and break a sweat with the legends at this legendary boxing gym!

Episode Part Two

Ricardo Perez is the owner Team Toro Janjira Muay Thai (Westmont, IL).  He is the head trainer at Team Toro, head coach of the USMFs “Team USA” and a partner in the emerging amateur muay thai competition bodies: The Farang Fight League and Midwest Muay Thai.

In the second half of the episode I caught up Kru Ricardo Perez of Team Toro Janjira Muay Thai. Kru Perez is undoubtedly one of the busiest muay thai trainers and gym owners in the country and likely the most important muay thai advocate in the midwest region of the United States.  Being an original Chicagoan I was excited to go home and explore the midwest fight scene by training in as many gyms as my time there would allow.  I was able to get around and get plenty of training in at facilities including Krav Maga Illinois (Highland Park, IL) headed up by Coach Jesse; as well as Reach Fieldhouse, Chicago Kickboxing Club and Hybrid Marital Arts.  Of all the locations that I visited my drive out from the city limits to Westmont proved to provide the most authentic thai boxing experience I was to find in the Chicagoland area.

Ricardo opened up and really shared with me the intimate details of what it really means to coach and mentor in a sport as demanding and potentially dangerous as thai boxing.  We talked about his own teacher Saekson Janjira where his gym Team Toro derives it’s name.  We talked about the state of Muay Thai in America, his aim to grow the sport’s visibility and popularity whilst maintaining it’s technique, culture and tradition.  We agreed that it’d be a great idea to try and connect our west coast and midwest scenes in a future cross-promotion.  I’ll be sure to carry this message to the west coast area fight promoters and look for ways to support that effort as well.

Ricardo also shared the rare story of what it looks like when one of your fighters suffers a severe injury while in the ring.  On Feb. 16, 2016 one of Ricardo’s most prized fighters, Markell McMillan aka Chocolate Thunder suffered a life-threatening head injury with only minutes left in his fight.  It’s an occurrence that has left a permanent mark on the coach as well as the gym and his entire team of fighters and students.  Some are still hesitant to get into the ring since Glory 27.

I am grateful to coach Ricardo Perez for welcoming me into Team-Toro to practice the sport of Muay Thai that we all love; and for sharing with me his story here on the Teep This Podcast.  Please enjoy the interview, images and videos; and follow Kru Perez and Team-Toro Muay Thai on Facebook and Instagram.

Featured Musical Guest

Mibbs, of Pac Div, has arrived.  What began as a collaborative effort between two talented brothers and their longtime friend has now evolved. Mibbs is branching out – new venture, new energy and new sound. Building off of his initial success with Pac Div and their countless tours and shows with the likes of Snoop Dogg, N.E.R.D, Kid Cudi, Q-Tip, Nas and more, Mibbs is finally grabbing the mic on his own. In an ever-changing industry, plagued by a formulaic approach, Mibbs is looking the other way and breaking fresh ground. With so much more to offer than just one “style”, Mibbs plays with varied musical influences and genres, pushing his audible vision past the current constraints in hip hop. This is what Mibbs has been waiting for. You’ve been warned. There are no rules. Anything goes. Mibbs over everything.

Listen to The Program and more music by Mibbs on Soundcloud.com

As always thank you for checking out the Teep This Podcast. Thank you for your interest in muay thai and please comment below and remember that sharing is caring!  Live well, love much, laugh often and train hard.  Sawadee krap.

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