Michael Bolton is well-known to music aficionados for his powerful vocals and incredible songwriting, but something most fans don’t know is that he absolutely loves martial arts.
Thai mixed martial arts pioneer Shannon “OneShin” Wiratchai discovered Bolton’s passion firsthand when the soft rock legend walked into Bangkok Fight Lab in Thailand for a training session back in 2017.
Bolton was in Southeast Asia working on his reality show Bolt Of Talent, which offered top singer-songwriters in the region the chance to earn a record deal and a world tour. As part of that process, he visited Wiratchai’s training center with the intention of proving a point to his new protégés.
“He came to the gym to explain to them that the way they perform in concerts is like a fight,” the featherweight mixed martial artist recalls.
“In a fight, you have to knock out your opponent, and in a concert, you’re supposed to knock out the audience with your performance.”
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During the session, “OneShin” ran Bolton through some quick techniques – and was impressed by the American’s enthusiasm.
“He was very nice. Really calm, not super talkative, but when he told me about his experience in martial arts, I could tell he was into it,” Wiratchai says.
“He told me that he used to do karate when he was younger, but he had never done Muay Thai. He showed me a karate-style push kick and it looked strong.”
Though the ONE Championship star is well-versed in a variety of martial arts, he thought it would be fitting to show Bolton the strength of “the art of eight limbs” because they were in its spiritual home.
The quintessential Muay Thai technique is the roundhouse kick, which stylists deliver with more power than any other striking art on the planet. So, Wiratchai drafted one of his fellow coaches to show the two-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist how it’s done.
“I got one of our Thai trainers and active fighters to come and do 10 or 20 kicks for him,” the Bangkok native says.
“He was like, ‘Wow,’ because this guy is really small but very powerful. He wanted to see it again.”
After a short time, the film crew tried to drag the music superstar away, as they had gotten all the footage they needed.
But Bolton wanted to see more, and though he reluctantly left soon after, he first delivered one final statement.
“The TV crew wanted it to finish really quickly,” Wiratchai explains.
“When they came in and said, ‘We have to go now,’ he said, ‘So you got me all dressed up to box and now we have to finish?’ And I could tell he wanted to connect with it and stay for longer.
“He threw another kick on the bag, and it was a really good one. But then, he had to leave.”
The martial artist may never link up with the 67-year-old singer again, but he would welcome the chance if it comes. He believes Bolton’s love of Muay Thai had been ignited despite the all-too-brief encounter.
“I had a very short time with him,” Wiratchai says. “But I could tell that he was very passionate about martial arts.”