By Felix Rodriguez, Staff Writer
Revolution Dojo Muay Thai’s Nethaneel Mongonia sat down with TXMMA to discuss the state of Muay Thai in Texas. Nethaneel and his brother Samuel have been accomplished mainstays of the Texas Martial arts scene for years now. Both brothers have won Thai boxing championships under the tutelage of Kru Pong and have decided to establish their own Muay Thai team in order to promote the growth of the sport in Houston and widen the pool for continued competition.
We hope you guys enjoy Nethaneel’s insight and perspective as much as we did!
Nete Mongonia: Hoping to grow Muay Thai in Texas
How would you describe the art of Muay Thai?
(NM) Muay Thai, roughly translated means Thai fighting or Thai style boxing. It’s a living combative martial art from Thailand, which involves the use of your hands much like in western boxing, with a heavy emphasis on elbows, knees, kicks, and the use of standing grappling call “plum” or “clinch”.
How would you convince someone to try it out? What would you say?
(NM) Muay Thai just makes you strong, mentally, physically and emotionally. So regardless if fitness is your goal or self-improvement it’s all around good for you. As a combative sport, it has just as much a strong emphasis on physical fitness as technical prowess. And regarding self-defense, I’ve known two personal friends who’ve had to use it in the street for self-defense, knocking the offender out in as little at 2-3 seconds. There is nothing like the self-confidence, and the reward that comes from the physical, mental and personal growth that comes from the training, as well as the friendship and the extend family that the culture of the sport creates.
What is the name of your team?
(NM) Revolution Dojo Muay Thai
Who are your team’s core members?
(NM) Our competitive team currently consists of Jennifer Guerrero, Roni Mongonia, Josh Ferraro, Uriel Figueroa, Sammy “The Bull” Mongonia, Gabe Precella and I. But our team is growing, as we have a bunch of guys coming up and getting ready to start fighting. I see our team doubling within the next year, easily.
Are you guys still affiliated with Kru Pong?
(NM) (Laughs) Yes and no. Obviously, Kru Pong is my instructor/Kru, and I want nothing more than to continue to bring honor to his school’s name. I instructed and fought under his instruction for three years, while training directly under him for a total of six years. But we’re not a sister gym or subsidiary, or anything. It’s kind of like boxing. But we stay in touch with the people there. Alexis and Alan Chavarria are doing a great job over there helping him run the school now.
Why or why not?
(NM) It’s kind of a long story. But to keep it short, we started to realize that if we wanted to see more fights in Houston, that we needed a larger talent pool. And to have a decent talent pool would require more schools, and those schools cross training with one another. It’s easy to want to hang-out in your own group, but that doesn’t help build a fighter pool or the talent. As we like to say, iron sharpens iron. People get too busy building themselves, which is detrimental to the long term goal of the sport. For instance we had as guests, Micah’s team Furnace Muay Thai from Dallas TX, cross training with us. Micah’s Amateur Record is 26-2, Pro 2-0. MMA 2-1. So the talent is there. They drove from Dallas to hang out with us. It’s good for everyone. Like I said, iron sharpens iron.
Who is your head instructor?
(NM) (Laughs) we try to keep it more like a family, so it’s very democratic. We all help each other, correct one other. All three of us instructors, Sam, Woody and me pour directly into the students, and the fight team. So I’d like to think of myself as a team captain, considering that I have the most fighting experience and titles. But my goal is to have my teammates surpass my accomplishments.
How long have you guys been together?
(NM) We’ve been together for three-four years now, first under KPFT the “Kru Pong Fight Team” and now on our own as Rev Hou Muay Thai.
What is your team about?
(NM) we’re about building each other as fighters, as a family, as a team, and as a larger picture the whole scene of Houston.
Can you describe a normal day of training?
(NM) After work we start to show up around 5:30pm. We usually work three, hard three minute rounds of Thai pads, and two three minute rounds of focus mitts, followed by bag work and sparring. Needless less to say it’s a lot of work.
How many people are in your team?
(NM) As I stated before, we’re expanding exponentially. However, currently the competitive team is at six boxers. But I also have a bunch of first timers looking to start competing soon.
How often and where do you guys compete?
(NM) As often as finances and time allows. Currently, we just started working with Ty Pilgrim and striking just outside Tulsa Ok. It’s a respectable origination that values and respects fighters and their safety. So we really look forward to continuing to work with Striking.
What makes your team different from other Muay Thai academies in Texas?
(NM) I’m not here to knock on other gyms, or compete for customers. There’s enough recognition to go around for everyone. We have a lot of great gyms here in Houston, so I like to think about us one whole Muay Thai scene, which can include people from the MMA community as well. However, if we’re just talking about difference, then that would be the experience of our team. It’s partly the six years under a two time Lumpinee stadium champion (Kru Pong), of which three was spent instructing and fighting. It’s the people and teams we’ve crossed trained with, or competed against. But I think, most of all it’s the level of experience that we all share together. I hold probably one of the most coveted amateur Muay Thai titles on the North American continent, as well as two other titles. Samuel Mongonia holds the Legacy Muay Thai title. Jenn Guerrero holds a win over amateur female fighter of the year nominee. We are constantly competing ONLY in Muay Thai. So I feel the difference is the fighting experience of the whole team, and we’re not just a couple of theorists. There is a lot of collective experience.
What are the best part and the worst part about the Texas Muay Thai scene?
(NM) That’s a great question. There are a number of things, one of which is the undeserved sense of accomplishment, and Texas size egos. It’s everyone trying to tear one another down, to be at the top of the political pile of crap. It’s the “Oh look who’s coming to learn from me” BS. You can tell who loves the sport, and who loves themselves. I’m not calling anyone out, but this is the sole reason why we don’t have the fighter pool here to sustain continual competition. And that’s the reason that we have to travel to compete. However, on an up note, there are a lot of great and experienced fighters and instructors in Houston, and Texas. Things are changing, so the condition is getting better. I prefer the term “Iron sharpens Iron”, by cross training we all get better. And the attitude and mentality is shifting. Another upshot is that the fans are willing to pay to see fights; we just need the fighters to step up.
What is the best part of training in Muay Thai?
(NM) Well it’s the personal accomplishments. It’s testing one’s self. It’s the common respect and all around humble sportsmanship that the sport cultivates. It’s the family mind set, the friends, the bond of brothers and sisters. It’s the continual growth of oneself, as well as pouring into others. It’s the mental strength and discipline. But most of all, it’s the food. We like to eat. (Laughs)
What are some of the difficulties for people trying to become Muay Thai fighters?
(NM) Fighting and money. It’s hard getting fights here, and in Muay Thai you stay ammy until 20-30 fights, so you’re not getting paid. For some reason, everyone seems too scared to fight Muay Thai. I guess maybe, it’s because you’re taking away the safety of going to the ground. Everyone wants to say they do Muay Thai…but no one wants to get in there and fight. Win or lose, I applaud every person that gets in that ring to fight.
Is it expensive to train in and compete in Muay Thai? How much does it cost to do so?
(NM) The training is actually cheaper than other martial arts; it’s a lot like boxing. You’re not paying for GI’s, rankings, colored belts etc.
As for competing, thankfully, recently striking has started holding competitions in Oklahoma, so that helps the competition cost factor a lot. I’ve personally have spent tens of thousands of dollars traveling to compete, money that often I didn’t have. It’s been a long road.
What’s in store for your team in 2013 and 2014?
(NM) Big things. Currently I’m arranged in a rematch against Adam Edgerton for the Striking 159lbs title. I beat him at the TBA for the Class-A title. So it’s kind of a grudge match, which he’s going to bring his A+ game. I’ve got a couple of fights lined up for my fighters, and a title fight featuring Houston’s own Sammy the Bull. Hopefully soon, we’ll have more title fights for the rest of my guys.
What goals do you have as a team in the next five years?
(NM) Our long-term goal is to fight as far as we can. I’ve got my eyes on a WBC title one day, and also help build the scene as much as we can.
Can you tell us about the dynamic of being part of a team in a single person combat sport?
(NM)(Laughs) well, it’s more of a team sport then you would realize. You’re the product of all the people you train and spar with. You can only go as far as that group. So, your experiences training, sparring, holding and hitting pads shape you. They shape your game and thought process. The encouragement, the friendships and the bonds you build. It all builds you, makes you a better person and a better fighter. When you’re a team, you find each other’s weaknesses and help each other grow pass those weakness. That is our way. One team, one victory.
If you are interested in checking out Revolution Dojo Muay Thai they are located at 1224 Houston Ave, Houston TX 77007. For more information on the school and its hours of operations contact Nethaneel Mongonia through Facebook.