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TMA Staff and Instructors

Kru Ed Thornton

Kru Ed Thornton

Owner and Head of Muay Thai Program

Kru Ed is a respected Muay Thai fighter and instructor who has trained under Kru Pete Sityodtong Pinto since 2003. Kru Peter has traveled to Thailand with Kru Mark DellaGrotte (*hyperlink DellaGrotte to the above section explaining Sityodtong*) to train. During this trip, Kru Mark was appointed by Kru Yodtong to continue Thai Style boxing in the USA under the “Sityodtong” monicker. Mr. Thornton is a Second Degree Black Belt in the Tang Soo Do organization as well as holds a First Degree Black Belt in Universal Martial Arts-Tang Soo Do. Kru Ed has been studying Muay Thai Kick Boxing for sixteen years, and eventually started up his own academy named Thornton Martial Arts and Fitness in Hartford where he teaches Muay Thai/ MMA. He is a dad, a husband, an Optician, and a dog trainer.

Master Lynda Thornton

Master Lynda Thornton

Owner and Head of Tang Soo Do Program

Master Thornton was awarded the Rank of Fourth Degree Master Belt in 2008. She has trained in the martial arts for 25 years, including in the styles of Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu. In 2009 she was inducted into the Action Karate Martial Arts Hall of Fame for achievements in martial arts. She is a wife, a mother, a school principal and an army veteran. Master Lynda Thornton has been teaching since 1995. Master Thornton teaches the style of Tang Soo Do (TSD), a very historic and traditional Korean discipline of the martial arts. The ideas of respect and tradition are pervasive in all of our activities and for all students at every level of achievement. Tang Soo Do is a style of sport martial arts that incorporates 50% hands and 50% feet. It includes Forms, Sparring, Breaking, Weapons, and Self-Defense. Our training is traditional, encompassing the refinement of techniques, Hyungs (forms), Ho Sin Sul (self-defense) and Dae Ryun (sparring). We encourage the pursuit of excellence in our Art and applaud our students’ achievements. Master Thornton is affiliated with the JeongShin Tang Soo Do Association comprising several schools and instructors.

Kirslyn Foster-Yee

Kirslyn Foster-Yee

Front Desk Manager and Program Coordinator

Kirslyn has been involved with team TMA since October 2019! She is an avid gym-goer, equine enthusiast, and loves helping others succeed! Kirslyn’s main roles at TMA include interacting with the clientele and helping them with anything they may need, along with many behind the scenes duties to keep the place running smoothly. Whenever Kru Ed or Master Thornton are away, Kirslyn is there to step in and make sure everything is operational! Kirslyn’s favorite part about working at Thornton’s is being able to witness all the members and coaches work to better themselves each day. The improvement, dedication, commitment portrayed through each member, child or adult, is truly a sight to see over time!
Aaron Buser

Aaron Buser

Kids Coach and Muay Thai Fundamentals Instructor

Aaron first started in 2015 as a student. He always enjoyed teaching and being a role model with his previous jobs. In 2018, Aaron was asked to help coach the kids programs, and has loved it ever since. Aaron’s favorite part about teaching kids is making an impact on his community and helping to raise leaders.

Hector DelRio

Hector DelRio

Kids Coach and Teens Coach

Hector first started training under another Sitytong affiliate. After they closed, Hector came to TMA in Oct 2017 as a student. He then went to Thailand in 2018 for a training program hosted by Paul Banasiak. (*hyperlink Paul Banasiak’s name to profile in competition page*) In 2019 after traveling with Kru Ed to CSA coach’s clinic, he transitioned to instructor in May 2019. Hector’s favorite part about teaching kids is how it taught him to become more patient, and learn how to get his point across in various ways. The bridge of communication varies between kids and adults.

Gil Pinheiro

Gil Pinheiro

Head of BJJ Program

Gil has known Kru Ed Thornton pre TMA existence! Gil and Kru Ed had mutual Muay Thai coaches in the past, thus sharing over 12 years of friendship, and continuing! Gil joined the TMA academy as a fighter, being a former pro fighter in the realm of MMA/Muay Thai with a 15-5 record. He has competed in Brazil, Puerto Rico, and numerous locations around the U.S. Gil began training Jui-Jitsu at only 14 years old, and has continued ever since. 6 yrs into his BJJ endeavour is when he met Kru Ed and got introduced to Muay Thai training. Gil’s favorite part about coaching is witnessing the ability of people to do what he thinks they can’t do. He’s constantly being surprised by his client’s successes. As an individual, Gil sees the hardest thing in life, which is an uncommon characteristic. This has led him to be able to pull out the very best in people!

Sergio Sierra

Sergio Sierra

Kids Coach and Teens Coach

Sergio first began as a student of TMA when he was just 12yrs old! After losing his first tournament fight at 17yrs old, he took a hiatus from training. At 20yrs old, Sergio was asked to come back to teach our kids program. That shift to becoming a role model and leader influenced Sergio to want to better his own lifestyle… he ended up losing 130lbs in under 2yrs! Sergio’s favorite part about teaching is seeing the kids motivated to learn!

Risby Drayton

Risby Drayton

Muay Thai Instructor

Risby Started training in martial arts at the age of seven. He began studying Shorin Ryu Karate & Koga Ryu Ninjutsu, and was ranked #9 in the state at the age of 10 in point fighting (Assembly of Fighting Arts). Western Boxing was introduced to Risby at the age 15 and later Muay Thai at 18. He became a student of Kru Ed after his previous gym unfortunately closed. Being that his previous Kru and Kru Ed were teammates of Sityodtong… Kru Ed welcomed the entire team over and they all began studying under his instruction. Once Risby began competing under Thorntons, he earned the title of AKBF 180lbs Champion. “Since joining Thornton’s in 2012, the vibe has always been the same. We are a family! When a bunch of fighters come around there can be a lot of ego. What sets us apart is the feeling… the feeling of being welcomed and at ease knowing you’re in great hands. I’ve seen it time and time again as new people join. I teach the “art” of Muay Thai… not just the kicking and punching. My students learn the how, why, and when of striking. Understanding the mindset of when and when not to apply your weapons allows the Nak Muay to have a major advantage over their opponent”.  

Jay Womack

Jay Womack

Muay Thai Instructor

Jay Womack is a lifelong student of psychological awareness, combat sports, and self-defense. With a strong admiration and respect for all martial arts, styles, and forms, Muay Thai drew his curiosity at an early age. He admitted to once being humiliated by a fellow military comrade with Muay Thai during hand-to-hand training evolution, which ended curiosity and rapidly gained his attention. Diligently training in Muay Thai eventually propelled him into various coaching positions, corner man, and referee. His love for this particular art form caused him to travel and train with many dedicated individuals, fighters, and trainers in the tri-state area. Jay is currently an Amateur competitor and a Certified Kru under Kru Ed Thornton and Kru Mark DellaGrotte. He joined TMA in 2016, after placing in a Muay Thai festival and promising Kru he’d return. 2 years had passed and he fulfilled his promise! He was aware Kru Ed had a reputation for producing solid fighters and his team demonstrated the skill level he was seeking during that time.

 

Bronwyn Burns

Bronwyn Burns

TSD instructor

Ms. Burns was first influenced by martial arts when she first got her son, Carlton, into martial arts at 6yrs old – enrolling him into the East Hartford Parks n Rec Tang Soo Do classes. After watching her son become so engaged, she decided it was her turn to join in. Ms. Burns has been with the Thorntons’ through their Parks St. location and into opening the East Hartford location in 2014! She attained her treasured goal of First Dan (1st degree Black Belt) in May 2014 – it was the first Black Belt test in the new facility! In 2016 she earned her Second Dan. Bronwyn has been helping to instruct TSD as an apprentice prior to joining Thornton’s. From their opening in 2014, Ms. Burns has been the lead instructor for the TSD Saturday morning class held at the academy. Her favorite aspect about being an instructor is being able to spread the light and seeing her student’s become the best versions of themselves. “It’s never about holding on, it’s all about development in order to grow”. Come the end of 2020 Ms. Burns will be testing for her Third Dan!

 

Carlton Burns

Carlton Burns

TSD instructor

Mr. Burns started studying Tang Soo Do karate at the age of 6yrs old in East Hartford. He then joined the TMA team not long after Master Thornton and a handful of other master belts started their own Tang Soo Do federation, JeongShin Tang Soo Do, to focus on tradition and respect, but also innovation. Being able to train and teach karate while incorporating the other disciplines at the academy allows us to push our styles into the future by comparing our techniques with those created to stop us. In addition, Carlton has been studying Kundalini Yoga for several years and uses that discipline to train and regulate his mind and body which helps to augment the training. Mr. Burns earned his First Dan in December of 2010, under Master Dube in the Cheezic Tang Soo Do Federation. He then gained his Second Tan in 2018 under Master Thornton. Carlton’s favorite thing about being an instructor is getting students to learn something without them realizing! “With any luck we can use this knowledge and pass it on to future martial artists!”

Reginald Jennings JR

Reginald Jennings JR

TSD Instructor

William Knight

William Knight

TMA Pro Fighter, currently on the UFC roster

Knight grew up in Manchester CT. His first taste of wanting to fight came from seeing Jose Rivera’s hand raised for the win in the Reality Fighting cage during the summer of 2015. Knight attended Manchester High School, where he gained a pretty strong foundation in wrestling. Rivera was the one who connected Knight to the Thornton’s, as Rivera suggested for him to get help with his striking. Kru Ed Thornton started his MMA program when Knight started at his academy at the end of 2015, and he wanted Knight to be a part of it. After 3 years of consistent training, sparring, and working on his MMA skills, Knight had his share of local competitions. After competitions with the top guys in his region, eventually the team behind Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) reached out to Knight. With this new opportunity, Kru Ed signed Tyson Chartier of Top Game Management as Knight’s Manager in February 2019. August 2019 was Knight’s first appearance on DWCS, while September 1st was the second appearance. Gaining his official UFC contract on the second DWCS, Knight appeared in and achieved victory against his opponent on the UFC 253 card held on September 26th, 2020 on UFC Fight Island.

Parker Porter

Parker Porter

TMA Pro Fighter, currently on the UFC roster.

As a kid, Parker was a multi-sport athlete participating in baseball, lacrosse and football. During his youth he decided to make a change when it came to his fitness and physical appearance, and was able to shed 120lbs! For the first time ever he felt in the best shape of his life… but he never knew what to do with it. At 21yrs old he began his journey in MMA. He decided this new addition would allow him to branch out, mix up his training and learn some self defense. His coach at the time saw the improvements and asked him if he wanted his first shot at a competition. After winning his debut fight at 21, Parker has spent the last 14 years as a professional MMA fighter. Although Parker has only been at Thornton’s training under Kru Ed for a short time, he has already been able to learn so much when it comes to fine tuning his technique! Parker got connected with Kru Ed Thornton through his manager, Tyson Chartier of Top Game Management. Happy to have found Kru Ed, Parker has been able to improve in areas of his art he hasn’t felt confident in in some time.

 

Past TMA Competitors

Paul Banasiak

Paul Banasiak

Paul “Reaper” Banasiak is a multiple-time Muay Thai Champion and a Glory Kickboxing / Lion Fight veteran with 50 fights under his belt. Paul spent his amateur career under Kru Ed Thornton, capturing multiple National Championships, two world gold medals, three appearances at Madison Square Garden, and continued his career advancement in the Mecca of the sport, Thailand.

Before teaching and fighting internationally, Paul was the assistant instructor at Thornton Muay Thai under Kru Ed.Though he now lives and actively fights in Thailand, he intermittently visits Connecticut to train and fight stateside, making an appearance on Glory Kickboxing 58 Madison Square Garden vs. Chile’s Ivan Galaz and a victory over the former WBC Champion Brett Hlavacek at Lion Fight Promotions, Foxwoods Casino.

“One thing Ed Thornton has always done for us was allowus to be who we truly are without pushing anyone into a shell. He allowed us to express ourselves and thus built a home for those who otherwise would never have had the confidence of getting in the ring. I want to thank Kru Ed Thornton on the continued success and thank you again for raising us all to be better men.”

Stergos Mikkiou

Stergos Mikkiou

Stergos Mikkios aka “Greek Dynamite” began his martial arts journey in 2002

Throughout his time with his first academy, he eventually reached a standstill in learning and decided to branch out. He then learned of Kru Ed, and wanted to test his skill at TMA. Stergos was dedicated, disciplined, and was training very hard everyday. After 6 months, he earned his first fight during a Smoker at a local tournament. Ever since, Stergos started competing very regularly. Above all, Stergos is glad he was introduced to Kru Ed because he wouldn’t be the fighter he is today and wouldn’t have come as far as he has within the sport.