Jason Farrell is one of the most highly regarded striking coaches in the U.S. with over 30 years of experience at the amateur and pro levels. Coaching since March of 2008, Farrell opened up LevelUp Boxing & Fitness of Bowie, MD in August of 2013. He was named a Team USA Coach in 2014 for the World Kickboxing Association (WKA) World Championships and has been a coach for the team since. His relaxed confidence pours over you as soon as he extends his hand to say hello. Like he has a secret that only he knows about. Farrell has amassed a following of amateur and pro-athletes alike seeking to learn or sharpen their striking skillset which takes him all over the country to share what he knows about fighting. DMV Combat Fanatics recently had an opportunity to chat a bit with Coach Farrell to learn about some of those secrets and what he’s done to accumulate 30 years in the combat game.
DMV Combat Fanatics: So, Jason thanks for speaking with us today. Reading up on your background, you have a wide breadth of martial arts and fight experience. But you’re a self-described Muay Thai guy. What was it about Muay Thai that made you gravitate to it?
J. Farrell: I actually started martial arts when I was 6, doing Taekwondo because that was what was around back then. I’d seen the movie, Bloodsport and then Kickboxer shortly after that and I was hooked. Bloodsport made me really want to learn Muay Thai, like the stuff I saw in the movies but there were really no Muay Thai gyms in Maryland. This was the 80’s and it was mostly Taekwondo and Karate back then so that’s what I did. I was obsessed, I practiced a ton and competed in a lot of tournaments and never lost. But I still wasn’t doing the type of striking that I really wanted to do, so I ended up switching to Kyokushin Karate, that was closer to what I was looking for, the full contact. Couple of years went by and I found a true Muay Thai coach who I really got a chance to learn a lot from and I was hooked at the point and never looked back.
DMV Combat Fanatics: So what was the plan? Did you want to just to compete initially?
J. Farrell: Well, the original plan was to go to Hollywood and make movies because that was really all anyone knew. There was no UFC. So the best martial artists eventually ended up making movies so that’s what I wanted to do, get good enough so I could do film.
DMV Combat Fanatics: OK, so you earned your black belt in Taekwondo, switched over to Kyokushin Karate, eventually found your way to Muay Thai. But you had to have been exposed to Jiu-Jitsu at some point, right? Why didn’t that stick?
J. Farrell: Yeah, I did some work in Jiu-Jitsu but I just never really liked it. I respected it and I know what Royce Gracie was able to do in those early UFC days but to me that wasn’t fighting and I wanted to fight.
DMV Combat Fanatics: So how would you describe your coaching philosophy?
J. Farrell: Well, I was a big Bruce Lee fan and I read a lot of his stuff. So my coaching style is really based on the same thinking that he had, which is to take the best of everything that I know and put it together. Let go what doesn’t work or isn’t practical and focus on what does. I like my guys to be able to think in the ring. To be able to read their opponents and adjust when necessary.
DMV Combat Fanatics: Going back to your Muay Thai, did you ever get to spend any time training in Thailand?
J. Farrell: I spent about 3 weeks there training at the Sitmonchai camp. This is a gym that really doesn’t get enough recognition but it’s one of the top Muay Thai camps in the world and has put out a lot of great fighters. What they really did for me while I was there was improve my clinch game.
DMV Combat Fanatics: Why do you think Muay Thai and kickboxing in general haven’t caught on here in the states in the same manner as Europe and other places overseas?
J. Farrell: I just don’t think it’s received the same promotion as like boxing or the UFC. When the UFC started to take off, I just don’t think there was enough money to go around to heavily promote both sports. Spike TV helped a lot but I think now that more people see striking in the UFC, its helped kickboxing and Muay Thai.
DMV Combat Fanatics: Are there any coaches out there that you admire or look up to?
J. Farrell: There are a lot of coaches that I admire but I probably follow and pay the most attention to Kirian Fitzgibbons of Combat Sports Academy in California. We have a similar philosophy and he’s been around longer than me so I tend to watch some of the things he does and try to learn from him.
DMV Combat Fanatics: So you don’t have any kids but if you did, what discipline would you start them in?
J. Farrell: Muay Thai definitely. But probably at the beginning, Taekwondo. What I think Taekwondo is really good for is providing a solid base. The discipline you learn and the understanding of distance control is something I think goes a long way. When I get someone who has had Taekwondo or Karate training, I know I can build off those skills and make them into a better fighter.
DMV Combat Fanatics: Final question. You can only pick one person to have with you in a street fight and it can’t be Bruce Lee. Who would it be?
J. Farrell: One person… (pauses to think). Dorian Price, he’s a bad dude.
You can find details on Jason Farrell’s bio here. For more information on LevelUp Boxing & Fitness visit www.levelupgym.com.
About the Author:
Darryl Keeton is an avid striking, grappling and wrestling fan living in Upper Marlboro, MD. He holds a black belt in Taekwondo and is also a practitioner of Combat Jujutsu, Boxing and Muay Thai.