Legendary Muay Thai Champion Coban: Showing NYC The “Beauty” Of His Fighting Science
By Rick Caudle
It has been said, “From a tiny acorn, the might oak tree grows”. A living example of that would be native Thai boxing instructor, Coban “The Cruncher” Lookchaomaesaitong.
From humble beginnings as a farm boy in a rural village in Northern Thailand, Coban, born Banlu Anwiset, now brings authentic Muay Thai training to New York City.
Born in a family of seven children near the Cambodian border, little Banlu carried water to the house and tilled the garden. He also hunted and fished, to help put food on the family table.
Banlu’s main job entailed taking care of the 9 buffaloes. This earned him the nickname Coban or “Cowboy” by one of his elementary school teachers.
At age 11, Coban saw Muay Thai fights at a street fair put on by the local Buddhist temple. He was so inspired, that went home, and stealing two rice bags from his father (for which later he was punished), fashioned a kick bag by stuffing them with sawdust and rice hulls. This was the beginning of a future champion.
He was naturally handy around the house, so to complete his need for equipment, he stole silk from his mother to make hand wraps. Later he would sew his first pair of gloves out of cloth, and stuffed them with old clothes.
At his first fight, he was paid 30 Baht (.92 cents in U.S. dollars). He bought some noodles to eat and some medicine since his body now hurt terribly. The medicine turned out to be vodka and sugar, which the old fighters told him would help to ease his aches and pains. He gave his mother the rest of the money, 20 Baht, and from then on, fought to pay for his education and to help his family survive.
Muay Thai is every boy’s dream in Thailand and there are no air-conditioned training halls there. It is hardcore workouts in wide-open pole barns, exposed to the hot tropical heat. Thai boxing is the national sport, rich with culture and honor, and more importantly, a way out of poverty.
By the time he was 15 years old he had fought 35 matches! And, that was with no teacher.
To date, Coban has fought over 270 matches. And, just to put it in perspective, Manny Pacquiao has 63 fights in his career.
Shortly after his first fight, he met a ringside judge and doctor, named Sam Rhung Jong Gon who invited him to come and train at the Public Health and Recreational Center in Buriram. Dr Gon took a liking to young Banlu and when he was about to go into high school, sent him to train at Camp Lookchaomaesaitong.
Coban fought hard and moved up the ranks, building a reputation as a tough fighter. As is customary, he took the name of the camp to show his respect, even after it closed down and he had moved on to different schools. He still carries that name to this day.
In 1985 Coban won his first Lumpinee Stadium Championship, and his Second Lumpinee Title in 1990. He then went on to get his Third World Championship in The Netherlands and his fourth in France, also in 1990. A year later he returned to Bangkok and won his Fifth World Championship. Later that year (1991), he won his Sixth in England and his Seventh in Australia.
In 1994, Coban relocated to California, winning yet three more belts.
Included in his career were four matches against the legendary Dutch kickboxer, Ramon Dekkers. This famous rivalry is known by Muay Thai fans worldwide and features some of the most incredible action you’ll ever see. Both fighters came out with two victories each.
Today Coban and his family are located in New York City, where a student can get all the same authentic training you get in Thailand, but without leaving the states. This is a great alternative for those seeking true traditional Muay Thai, but are not able to go to Thailand, because of money, time, or family constraints.
Coban feels his Muay Thai camp in NYC offers more than just a place to train. Coban explains, “We focus on much more than just technique. We offer a true taste of Thai Culture and how it relates to Thai Boxing. Muay Thai is my life”.
He also teaches his students about the beautiful spiritual and superstitious side of Thai boxing. He himself makes the mongkongs (head piece) and guides the students in the rituals surrounding them. Students can also benefit greatly from Coban’s many years of ring experience. Coban states, “Muay Thai is not just about a jab, cross, and knee. It has a colorful culture surrounding its origin. This is what we teach our students. The beauty of Muay Thai.”
Also available at his camp are classes in Muay Boran, the ancient forerunner of Muay Thai, often used by military and law enforcement. And, like most martial arts schools these days, they offer a supplemental Jiu-Jitsu program taught by Alliance BJJ.
One organization that has taken advantage of Coban’s vast knowledge and expertise is Lion Fights. Taking place in Connecticut on May 23rd, at the Foxwoods Resort Casino, he will be the referee for the Pro bouts. These matches feature fights using full Thai rules.