Win. Lose. Forgive. - Featuring Jongsanan "The Woodenman"

Posted on July 17 2013

Courtesy of The Press Democrat, written by Bob Padecky.

Pay attention. Isn’t that what a good movie should make you do? You pay attention because you suspect you will see something or feel something you never have. A good movie will advance your consciousness, take you to a place you never have visited. The words, while familiar, are strung together differently, uniquely, like the ones contained in the following sentence.

“A punch coming at your face, it’s an opportunity to problem solve.”

That sounds much more interesting and contemplative than “I better duck.” The martial arts film — “Win. Lose. Forgive.” — will premier Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Third Street Cinemas in Santa Rosa. In no way will it be confused with “Rocky” or “Raging Bull.” Those fight movies focused on a single individual. This movie focuses on a single thought — personal growth. And whoa, hold on there Bucky, don’t give up, this column ain’t a Hallmark card of bland inspiration. Do read on because this isn’t about you looking down at your stomach and finding wisdom in your navel.

This movie is about the ancient martial art of Muay Thai, a Thai discipline essential to be a skilled mixed martial artist, a discipline that also allows its participant to simply enjoy the practice of it for the physical and cerebral benefit it provides. As demonstrated by Ben Brown, owner and founder of Phas3 in Santa Rosa, Muy Thai finds peace in violence and knowledge in the apparently contradictory motion of slamming a knee into a kidney.

“Some people (come here) wanting to fight,” Brown said. “Some people want to get changed. It (Phas3 gym) is a box filled with punching bags or it’s a church. The person who walks into here gets to make that decision.”

To those who are determined, every athlete in every sport experiences personal growth one way or another. A baseball hitter hitless in 15 at-bats, that’s certainly an opportunity to problem solve. So is deciding what to do when that linebacker aims at your rib cage before a tackle. Or what do you do when you alone are defending the basket with a three-man fastbreak coming your way. Problem solving, and those athletes who excel at it, rise to the top of the food chain.

Nothing, however, makes problem solving so necessary and immediate than a mixed martial art like Muay Thai. There isn’t 60-feet, 6 inches between you and your opponent on the baseball field. You are inches away and, brother, in Muay Thai you can’t step out of the batter’s box to gather yourself.

“You can learn more in sparring (with your opponent) for three minutes,” said Brown, 41, “than in three hours of conversation. I use the word ‘intimate’ a lot but that’s what Muay Thai is, the intimate exploration of you and your opponent.”

Brown does not claim in the movie or in a follow-up phone call that Muay Thai is the end-all, be-all in martial arts. Yes, the Santa Rosa resident does say Muay Thai is the most effective striking art in the world. But they are many ways to fight, to attack a body and Brown is weary of being asked to compare one discipline versus another, one training academy versus another.

“When I hear someone say, ‘My Kung Fu is better than your Kung Fu,’ ” said Brown, who has a bachelor’s degree in music from UC Irvine, “I have no use for that. I’m sick of that. Rather, I’m for people finding a place that makes them comfortable and enjoying the experience.”

MMA is a growing industry with plenty of room at the top for safe, well-run, professional academies. The good ones are not meat markets. The good ones find a balance that makes it comfortable for, as it says in the movie, “mothers and teenagers” as well as the competitor who wants to devote each waking moment and every waking corpuscle to the discipline.

“There’s beauty and brutal urgency,” Brown said, “in a healthy, safe environment.”

Much of the 27-minute, 48-second movie focuses on how exactly that is possible through the words of two of the sport’s legends, Montlit Sitpohdaeng and Jongsanan Woodenman, the first being named the best Muay Thai trainer in Thailand in 2010, the second a seven-time world champion in kick boxing. Everything Brown teaches has come from what these two men have taught him. Brown is the only Muay Thai trainer in North America to be certified by the two men.

“Victory and travesty are impostors,” Brown said. Meaning, winning or losing are transitory, here now, gone tomorrow. Hanging on to either is like hanging onto an anvil; hard to move carrying that weight. It is the ability to learn how to move on, to leave the past now, not later.

In a more public sport, this Muay Thai attitude is practiced by Petaluma native and current Boston Red Sox player Jonny Gomes.

If he strikes out, and he has plenty, Gomes told me he has forgotten about the strikeout by the time he returns to the dugout. Can’t carry that luggage around. Too damn heavy.

Obsessed with a home run or a strikeout, preoccupied with a punch that landed or one that didn’t, the athlete is stuck on what happened as opposed to what could happen. Thinking like that, an athlete doesn’t grow. He recedes.

“Muay Thai makes you challenge your limits,” Brown said. “You are bigger than you think you are.”

Win, lose, forgive is the title of the movie. Win, lose, forgive is an approach to life. Like that punch which doesn’t land, life is not perfect. We miss sometimes. What happens after that? Depends if we forget we are human.

You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or

Complete story at:,-the-peaceful-mixed-martial-art

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