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Chatri Sityodtong Talks Bruce Lee's Influence On ONE Championship

Chatri Sityodtong

ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong recently sat down with Shannon Lee for an episode of the Bruce Lee Podcast.


The pair discussed a myriad of topics, beginning with when the ONE co-founder discovered a passion for martial arts.


“I fell in love with Muay Thai when my father first took me to the iconic, the legendary, Lumpinee Stadium, which is the Mecca of Muay Thai, when I was nine years old. Kind of like how in America. You know, dads will take their kids to the ballpark or something, you know? Go watch a ball game. My father took me to Lumpinee Stadium, and I still remember to this day. It's one of the greatest memories I have of my father and I,” Sityodtong expressed.

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“The chanting, electric atmosphere, and the athletes moved with such beauty, and grace, and speed, and power. And I was enthralled. And from that moment on, it lit a fire in my heart that is burning as bright today as it was back then.”


Even with the embers glowing, Sityodtong had far from a linear journey to the top of the industry. He took a detour through Wall Street first, where he operated a hedge fund.


Despite finding financial success there, the Thai magnate was left unfulfilled.


“I still felt this deep sense of emptiness, and I went soul searching for that few weeks. I'm like, 'Is this going to be my life? Like, 'Am I just going to make a lot of money, buy a lot of material things and just keep on adding zeros to my bank account?' I mean it. It just – it felt very fruitless or senseless,” Sityodtong said.


“And so, as a lifelong martial artist, I thought naively if I returned back to Asia, it'll be very easy to unite 4.2 billion people that live here around Asia's greatest cultural treasure. I mean, in movies, we already had Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, and Jackie Chan and the like. So, I thought, 'Well, what if I unleashed real life superheroes through the very best martial arts on the planet?”


Arguably the biggest icon in martial arts is Bruce Lee. 


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His presence is still felt throughout the world today, and Sityodtong noted his impact and the values of martial arts that connects him to ONE’s core principles as he spoke with Lee’s daughter, Shannon, on the podcast.


“Bruce Lee, yes he was a movie star, but at the core of who he was, he was a true martial artist. It is in his DNA. He broke rank in terms of the traditional martial arts, but he was on his constant progression of improvement and seeking knowledge and upgrading his skills,” he remarked.


“And yet martial arts through thousands of hours of training gives its practitioners integrity, humility, honor, respect, courage, discipline, compassion. So many foundational values. I mean, that's why millions of parents send their kids to martial arts schools all over the world today.”


The ONE Chairman and CEO went on to discuss how everyone on the planet deals with the highs and lows of life. He commented on the company’s hashtag, “#WeAreONE,” that encompasses the connection between humans regardless of their background.


Sityodtong was impressed by Lee’s commitment to that ideal and how he was able to focus on the good in people.


“In many ways Bruce Lee was a child, you know. He let his inner child speak. Yes, he was an incredibly accomplished martial artist and actor and philosopher. But at the root of it is in many ways he had a childlike view of humanity in the world,” he explained.


“And he could have easily become a very skeptical, hateful man with the things that happened in Hollywood. But instead, he used that and focused on the good. He was not a bitter man. He's a philosophical person who just focused on love.”


Love is a word Sityodtong takes very seriously, as it is part of the ethos of ONE Championship.


Where other organizations may focus on vulgarity in feuds or promote those with public transgressions, the world’s largest martial arts organization instead shines a light on the values of the sports it promotes.


When Lee expressed how life is about learning how to suffer and make it part of one’s love, Sityodtong replied by describing one of his favorite quotes from her father and how it helps drive him forward to overcome any obstacle he encounters.


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“That's why I said I love that quote ‘don't pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.’ That is in essence the same thing as ‘suffering is a path to our greatness.’ It's the same exact thing,” Sityodtong said.


“Because if you wish for an easy life, you never ever truly live. You'll just exist no different than a plant or a vegetable. You exist, but to live, to truly live, it means opening up your heart, living with love, and as a consequence, you can have your heart broken.”


“But that journey of living with love in your life is worth it. And in that suffering we will discover our greatness. In the same way again, Bruce is saying pray for the strength to endure a difficult life. A difficult life is not necessarily a bad one. A difficult life is a fulfilled, meaningful one. As long as we've chosen what to suffer for.”


To hear the complete interview, click here for this episode of the Bruce Lee Podcast.

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