You always have to start with yourself, says Adam Pengsawang, Czech legend of Thai-boxing and a vegetarian.
Adam Pengsawang is without a doubt on of the greatest Czech thai-boxing legends and has been one of the first people who have brought this sport here and have started to actively practice it. Although he has been living abroad for several years he has been in contact with the Czech Republic and he should open his vegetarian restaurant in downtown Prague very soon. Adam has had long time experience with meat free diet and extreme sport performance (he is also free diver apart from thai boxer) and he really loves veg diet. He has more than 100 matches after him, he is a professional Czech champion in thai and kickboxing, he is champion of southern Thailand, and he was third in the world’s WKA championships and as one of few Czechs he has fought in the most famous Thai stadium in Lumpini. You will find more info about him in this interview.
Hi Adam can you tell us something about yourself, what sports do you do and how have you come across vegetarian diet?
"I have been doing Thai-boxing since 1993 and since 1994, when I was 16 years old; I have been doing it professionally. I am saying professionally because since 1994 I have not been active in any other sport than muay thai. It was only possible at the beginning thanks to my mother’s financial help and thanks to the support of my coach Petr Macháček, with whom I have had and have not had good relations :) as father and son. As one of few or maybe the only person I could practice for 100 percent at that time. No school, no work – I was really only practicing with Petr Macháček and later with perfect and well known coach for physical condition Mr. Dan Hejret. Later I began to practice for valetudo matches in Universal gym – which was branch of Hanuman gym at that time and a great vision of Petr Macháček, which he has not left and has been able to build into today’s form.
I have started with vegetarian diet, as many other people because of health reasons. I simply noticed that when I ate meat my stomach hurt and I felt very heavily and uselessly. I also practiced twice a day and when I ate beef, which we digest 12 hours, I realized that I need to be lighter and to find greater energy. I slowly came to the fact that the right food is one of the most important and basic things in our life. I was also inspired by Macháček who at that time ate only white meat, he did not eat yoghurts, milk etc. and believe it or not it was an extreme at the beginning of the 90s:). So I have started with vegetarian diet step by step.
Then I found out that chicken is the same as beef, I read one really good Canadian study about vegetarianism and top athletes and I became a vegetarian.
I do not want to push anybody bud I found out after a while that I was faster, more loosen, I became more flexible and I had more energy. Simply the saying: “You are what you eat,” was confirmed. I became flexible as a bamboo.
When I look back, I had the majority of my successes in thai-boxing as a vegetarian.”
Adam’s historical profile from the Czech Muay Thai Association
Can you summarize the influence which the vegetarian diet has had on your athletic performance?
"I am able to withstand much bigger endurance, because I take natural energy from my food, I digest plant protein much quicker and more comfortably. I do not feel tired when I am digesting and therefore I am faster prepared for any daily or athletic activity. I simply try not to burden my body and my body rewards me with more energy, and what is the most important, with good health and quick recovery. This is the main thing why top athletes take doping, because the body cannot recover in short time after large practice portions.”
You were active Thai-boxer with many professional matches in the past, now you mainly do coaching. What do martial arts mean to you?
"They are the means of communication among people for me. I try to guide them through at least the beginning of their journey before they will walk alone and I try to share my experience and thoughts, which interest us both, because we met on a lesson. It is very interesting work, because I can help them to examine their own possibilities and their view at themselves and on given things. I learn, know, and search new things with them every practice and everyday.”
You specialize in free diving apart from muay thai. You are able to be without breath for 5 minutes and you are able to dive deeper than 40 meters. What role does the diet play in this area?
"When you eat well, everything you do is easier. Freediving is a lot about stretching – when you want to inhale the most and the highest quality air, which you want to save and to go with as long as possible under water, you have to be loosened and empty. Try to do It after putting meat into your stomach – even after hours you will not perform any good, your body will be tired from heavy digesting, it is simple and logical.
Guillaume Néry world champion in free diving, with whom I prepare often in fitness, is not full vegetarian, but his diet consists mainly from vegetables – this tells a lot.
One fat diver has told me recently in a club:“ We were all fat in the past, nobody stretched before diving and nobody had special preparation and nobody followed special diet, and we also did well.”
YES, but in that time the world record was 60 meters and everybody wondered how anyone could dive so deep! :) Everybody had and has the same flippers, the technology does not have a way for improvement, only thinking of the divers, about themselves, practice and natural diet pushes the boundaries further. And today, Guillame Nery dives to about 130 meters with one inhale. “Has this always been possible?” Yes, it can always somehow be possible; you can live in pain and with limping to more than 90 years of age or some smarter people live up to this age without limping and suffering. So all of us have choice in the end, and nobody forces us, we will always bare the circumstances alone.”
Can you summarize your relation with animals? And which are the main reasons for veg diet – health or ethical?
"Health reasons were in the beginning, but now I realize that harming and killing animals only for the filling of my stomach is not what I want to participate in.
As one wise man said: “Until we stop killing and eating animals, not even us, people, will stop killing each other and the wars will not end,” sad…
And as one saying goes:” If you want a change, start with yourself.”
So I will try to become sensitive and naturally intelligent person.
Practicing yoga is very good for breathing, which is very important in free diving.
How do you see the future of the plant diet in the Czech Republic and as well in the world?
"It is positive that more and more people are interested in meat free diet and proofs of this are also full vegetarian restaurants where it is impossible to get a seat without reservation. I think it is a big progress and I am also a big fan of webs and organizations such as yours, who have had a major part in this progress.
You can sense purity and energy from vegan and vegetarian restaurants, the food is perfect, more and more people are interested in healthy lifestyle; more and more people come to find that if they want to live to a high and pleasant age they have to take care about themselves. I also acknowledge, and think that we enter times when people will contemplate more and more and the things will change in a positive way. We have begun to understand that the nature has tried to warn us with recent events. I believe that more smart people will follow the right path.”
Where do you live and what are your professional and athletic lives like?
"I have lived in France for five years; I own two Thai boxing and self-defense clubs, where I also have private lessons – in Paris and in Nice in Cote d’Azur. I live between mountains and sea in Nice and I try to push my work more and more towards the nature and towards coaching.
And because we also live in the city we also do urban self-defense, and when we are in the mountains, we climb, run, we swim in the sea, dive and we climb the cliffs and jump into the sea.
I try and I want to return with my work to primitive and natural basics, to development of a body of ancient Greece. I use fitness machines less and less and I prefer gymnastics with my own body and natural surroundings: we throw stones, we run with them under the sea with breath held – and I also do yoga a lot, specific breathing exercise and free diving.
I try to show and advice my clients how perfect the human body is and what are our possibilities.”
Thank you for the interview Adam and we wish you good luck.
"Thanks as well.”