Rick Sollo was training in Thailand in the early 1990s, long before most Americans had ever heard of Muay Thai. Marius Dan followed soon after, and since then they have created a community of successful amateur and pro fighters who have followed in their footsteps.
The Aiki Training Hall’s origins have a storied history going back decades.
Ajarn Chai Sirisute came to Chicago in early 1980s introducing Rick Sollo to Muay Thai. Prior to this Rick Sollo trained in western boxing and Filipino martial arts, never fully embracing arts that involved kicking. This changed suddenly as Ajarn Chai introduced Rick to powerful and devastating kicks, knees, elbows and clinch fighting.
After including Muay Thai into his training regimen, Rick Sollo took Ajarn Chai’s legendary instructor test, even though back then it was not considered so legendary. This procedure has been modernized and the brutal test of the past has been toned down. Rick was one of the first people to pass the brutal Muay Thai test in the USA. To mark the occasion, Rick’s upper thigh was graced with an elevated purple bruise for the next five years that was in the exact shape of Ajarn Chai’s foot.
During the following years Rick attended as many seminars and Muay Thai camps as were offered in the USA. Thanks to Bob Karmel, owner of the Best Muay Thai gym in Arizona, Rick was able to attend the Fairtex Camp in Bangplea Thailand before any foreigners were training in any of the Thai camps. Once there Rick trained with Apidej Sit-Hirun.
During his many visits to Thailand, Rick trained with some legendary fighters; Jockrit, Farsai, Yok Noi, Enn Quiet Srorm Janthkhun, Jongsonan, Nungsiam and many others.
From 1992 to 2012 Rick Sollo has traveled and trained in Thailand every year. Continuing his training here at home in the USA as well, Rick was also able to attend Ajarn Chai’s seminars and camps on an almost monthly basis for most of these years.
During the early 90’s and a little after, Rick Sollo owned and operated the AIKI Training Hall that was located in Skokie Illinois. After some time the AIKI Training Hall moved to Combat Do in Cicero IL, and a few years later finally settled at the Evanston Boxing Club.
Some notable fighters that have trained at the AIKI Training Hall include Jamie Gaza, Illinois State champion in kickboxing, Brian Gassaway who fought almost 90 times, Shonie Carter – Mr. International, and Herc Hayes who is a successful MMA and kickboxing pro.
Rick Sollo and The AIKI Training Hall have also been involved in the training of four Golden Gloves winners; Asho Esho, George Esho, Marius Dan and Olivia Curry, four UFC fighters; Mike Russo, Terry Martin, Shonie Carter and Brian Gassaway.
Most recently fighters such as Maurice Greens, who is a pro MMA and Glory kickboxing fighter, Daniel the Predator James have been training at the AIKI Training Hall. The following fighters are also currently training and competing: Olivia Curry, winner of the Iowa Classic Muay Thai, Ransom Clark, Ahmad Falahi, both finalists in the Iowa Classic Muay Thai, and Steve Jennings, who is the current Illinois Muay Thai state champion.
While the AIKI Training Hall has been graced by some amazing amateur and pro fighters, it is through the passion, commitment, and love of Muay Thai by regular students that this program and school has endured and continues to thrive to this day.