Khru Ray Cole
from Tampa, FL
29 yrs. of age
5’11″ – 145 lbs.
Training Muay Thai since the age of 15.
Founder and President of Khanomtom Muay Thai Worldwide Organization
15 professional Muay Thai Fights.
2009 70kilo. Championship Contender – Theprassit Stadium, Pattaya, Thailand
2010 “Best Wai Khru” Award – Thai Boxing Association (Muay Thai in America)
Ray has trained exclusively and continues to train extensively with some of the best Muay Thai champions in the world, such as Jongsanan Fairtex, Attachai Khanomtom (Fairtex), Sakeddao Khanomtom, Meungsamut Jor Luksamut (R.I.P.), Kaew Prapraipech (Fairtex), Thopadak Wanchalerm.
Ray provides his students with detailed, technical instruction of Authentic Muay Thai. Ray continues to train and fight in Thailand each year in order to improve his skills and share his skills and experiences with the world!
The story of Khru Ray is a tale of ambition and inspiration. Long before wearing the title of Khru, Raymond Cole was a normal teenager doing the same things people his age did, like watch TV. Well one day while watching television he saw a Muay Thai scene and something inside him caught fire and hasn’t stopped burning since. A short time later he acquainted himself with Muay Thai and began learning the art at the age of 15. His first amateur fight would soon follow in 1999, and four fights later he would leave the amateur circuit to try his career at the pro level. During this period he even found the time to go through a brief Eskrima phase and learned some Filipino Stickfighting. But his true passion had always been reserved for Muay Thai, which became apparent back in 2005. That year, with a professional record of 9 and 6, Ray could no longer resist the voice of his heart and answered the call to become a Khru, and for seven years now has been teaching the sport in his hometown of Tampa Florida. But what distinguishes this Khru among other trainers is that he gives lessons in a gym which he is Founder and President of.
Khru Ray Cole gave birth to Khanomtom Muay Thai, a stronghold devoted to the preservation of authentic Muay Thai in America. Established in the Khru’s birthplace of Tampa, the gym today serves as a crucial part of the Muay Thai network here in the States. It has become a guiding lighthouse for authentic Muay Thai seekers in the Florida area. It is the gym that number nine ranked Alex Berrios proudly represents, and is also associated with many respected fighters and trainers in the game. Khanomtom Muay Thai is home to a purist philosophy in its approach to training and tradition. Its style of teaching is calibrated to be in-tuned with the same techniques and traditions taught by the Muay Thai camps over in Thailand. Khru Ray credits its success to the precise execution of his purist philosophy, of his insistence to strictly adhere to the cultural details he was accustomed to during the training trips he had taken to Thailand.
What adds marvel to this story is knowing that the successful business feat would never have transpired if it weren’t for the vital contribution and commitment of one man. It takes a true visionary to manifest a dream, to realize all the risks, and more importantly, all the lasting rewards that setting up Khanomtom Muay Thai would return. In an interview with the 29 year old entrepreneur, Khru Ray reveals the path he has followed that has brought him to where he is now:
When did you start taking Muay Thai seriously? In 2005 I decided to travel to Thailand for one month to train Muay Thai from the source. This way I can understand the art more than what I’ve been taught up to that point by my previous instructors. I’ve always had an intense respect and admiration for the art and sport of Muay Thai ever since I first saw it on TV when I was 15. I knew that in order to truly learn it I would have to step out of the box, outside of my comfort zone and travel half-way across the world to Thailand. I went and trained for one month. When I returned to the states I had a new-found respect for Muay Thai, the art and culture, after being immersed in it. That’s when I really started taking it seriously. Not only did I decide that this is what I want to do for a living, teaching and promoting Authentic Muay Thai to the American public, but more, I really wanted to make an effort to show my appreciation to the origin of the art by doing everything possible to stay true to the culture and authenticity of Muay Thai. That’s why my trainers are held in very high regard and all my students are taught to do the very same and I accredit all of our success to this.
Who inspired you to take interest in the sport? Like most fighters, I was originally inspired by Bruce Lee as a teenager to take up martial arts. One of the first Muay Thai fights I watched on video was Jongsanan Fairtex vs. Sakmongkhol Sitchuchok. That’s when I really had a “hero” for the sport of Muay Thai. He was a big inspiration to me and I watched all the fights he had on video over and over again. That’s one of the things I’m most proud of, that since 2007 Jongsanan and I have been great friends and he has been a mentor of mine and trained me for a few of my fights.
What made you decide to be a Khru? I was teaching Muay Thai a few years before my first trip to the motherland but it was very informal. Actually, it was out of a 3-bay storage shed unit in the ghetto. I didn’t promote classes really. By word of mouth around Tampa, people found me and I would just say jump in and train with us and help me cover rent. In fact, this is how Alex Berrios found me. He had just moved down to Tampa permanently from Iowa in 2005. He had a couple Muay Thai fights by then. He got my number from a friend who owns a TKD school. He recommended Alex come see me if he wanted to do Muay Thai. The rest is history. We’ve been brothers ever since. His dedication in training to fight is what motivated me to teach Muay Thai more prominently. I felt more of a responsibility as a trainer now that he wanted to compete regularly. Once I became more formal and organized with our training, many more students followed and were compelled to train hard and compete so this was the driving force behind my teaching. And again, when I returned from Thailand, I felt obligated to employ more elements of Thai culture and adapt our training to emulate that of the camps in Thailand. After that, the improvement in everybody’s skills and work ethic was incredible.
What were the things you noticed that they did in Thailand differently? The Muay Thai I was teaching before going to Thailand was informal due to the lack of true instruction and coaching. It was more just a group of us getting together three or four times a week to practice what we knew. I started Muay Thai under a student of Ajarn Surichai Sirisute. So although I had attended a few seminars with him (Ajarn Chai), it was still mostly just accumulating techniques and practicing them. What I witnessed in Thailand was obviously a much more sophisticated methodology of training for fighters, and the regimen and skill progression that I witnessed was a very humbling experience. It was like learning Muay Thai all over again, which was a great feeling. I was inspired! I told everyone the best thing I learned after my first trip to Thailand was that after eight years of what I “thought” was Muay Thai, I knew nothing about Muay Thai. So returning from the first trip, I had kept the same training schedule and regimen that was taught to me. So we were not just practicing techniques and sparring three times a week anymore. It was training two times a day, six days a week. It was not just jump rope for 15 minutes but jogging for an hour before padwork, sparring, plam. That’s what I truly learned after my first trip; Muay Thai is not just a way of fighting or Martial Art, it is a way of Life! And from then on, it became mine and I made it priority to share it with everyone who had the desire and dedication to learn and make it part of their lives as well.
What do you love about being a Khru? I love Muay Thai. My whole life revolves around it and I love teaching and sharing it with the world. I’m very meticulous in my teaching methods. Very organized. I tell everyone I’m full time trainer and part time fighter. That’s because my true passion is sharing what I’ve learned from my fights and installing it into the next person who displays the dedication to learn. I love to fight. I love the competition, the adrenaline rush, the ability to show my skills, to test my heart and guts, to see what I’m made of. But I find it even more gratifying to see my students perform and execute the skills that I instilled in them. That’s my pride and joy! This is why I put my students’ training priority before my own when it comes to fighting. My responsibility is Khru first and Nak Muay second.
Are you known for a particular technique or style when it comes to training? I don’t believe I’m known for any particular style. Maybe other folks or those who have fought me or studied to fight me think different. I would say my “style” is Classic Thai. I try to be anyway. That’s the style that’s been taught to me so I’m constantly trying to perfect it. When you see my students fight, you would probably say they all kinda look like me as far as technique, but they all have their own preferences, strengths, physical attributes, and I train them accordingly. That’s Classic Thai style. That’s one of the best things that I learned from my trainers, that every fighter should be taught differently but the same. Different by: training their strengths, personal skills, and preferred techniques that they perform well, and drilling them into muscle memory for that is what they’ll execute in the ring. Same by: keeping the same rhythm, footwork, and body mechanics.
What are your present thoughts on Muay Thai as a sport? I think right now is an exciting era for Muay Thai. Especially in the States. I’m so happy to see more promotions over here employing great Thai fighters and also helping American fighters get some kind of exposure. Also guys like yourselves, the MuayThaiAuthority.com has been an awesome gift for the exposure of our sport in this country. I know you guys are working very hard and I’m very grateful for it! We need the general American public to see the beauty of Muay Thai. I believe if we can display it in a way the American culture can understand without compromising its integrity, then we will get the respect we deserve here in the U.S. The question is how? I truly believe that little by little, we are finding a way. The popularity of Muay Thai has grown immensely just in the last five years, and it’s only going to snowball from here. When we see a Muay Thai promotion take over pay-per-view television like the MMA organizations have, then we will know we have reached a milestone. Until then, we have to keep working hard. It’s never just a matter of time but time AND effort!
Is there anything you want to promote in this interview? I would like to promote Khanomtom Muay Thai. This is my baby. It started as a dream, a creative idea while training in a storage shed, and in six years it turned into a monster! We have a huge following here in Tampa and we have Khanomtom62 in Bangkok, our second location which is ran by my trainer Khru Aey. There we have 10 fighters who are frequent Lumpinee and Rajadamnern competitors and are very successful. We are slowly expanding and reaching out to more areas in the U.S. but for now I don’t want to take anything for granted. We worked very hard to get where we are and will only work harder for our growth.
There’s a lot of fire in Khru Ray’s words, even if you are only reading them. After interviewing Khru Ray, the thought of how driven this man is was hard to ignore. His words seem to infect and motivate, challenging you to do something more productive with your life. I guess that effect is common for someone whose job is to coach people into doing their best. A power like that is an indispensable talent in the art of mentorship, and Khanomtom Muay Thai is stronger for having its captain in possession of such skill.
I asked Khru Ray if there was anything he wanted to highlight about his life, but being the visionary he is, he feels as if he is just getting started, with bigger goals on his mind that he still actively pursues. But if his life was suddenly plucked from this world tomorrow, those left behind who really knew him would say he had done a great deal more than what some people do in a lifetime. Residual gratitude will be owed to Khru Ray from future patrons of Khanomtom Muay Thai and from the Muay Thai community in general. In erecting Khanomtom Muay Thai in Tampa, he has also installed an institution to support the sport in here in America, as well as extending the reaches of authentic Muay Thai on a global scale.
If you ask Khru Ray what pushed him to create KMT, he’ll probably tell you the reason wasn’t all about personal glory. He was always thinking about the bigger picture, which involves the future of the sport here in the U.S. He has a true respect for Muay Thai and is grateful for the brotherhood he formed over the years with those close around him, and the fiery force that drives him is fueled by these loves. The work he puts in is just a repayment to these loves, to both Muay Thai and the companions who stood by him during times of blessings and burdens. That is why he is more celebrated than hated. So to conclude, Khru Ray Cole: ambitious, inspired, devoted, unselfish, and humble. That is just how he is.