Rick Sollo Inducted Into Illinois Martial Arts Hall Of Fame

By Aiki 0

While Muay Thai is nearly ubiquitous in Illinois today, in the late 70’s and early 80’s it was seldom seen in Illinois, and virtually no one was training Muay Thai regularly or authentically, and if a real instructor showed up it was probably only for a weekend seminar.
Rick Sollo was the first person from Illinois to train regularly in Thailand and he has done so consistently, returning to Thailand nearly every year since the early 90’s, learning the language, enduring training that could generously be called brutal, and bringing authentic Muay Thai back with him.
The fighters Sollo trained first emerged in at Tom Letuli’s and Tom Heriaud’s Weekend Wars in Chicago.
As many of you will recall, Letuil and Heriaud’s cards featured bouts with multiple rule sets and they were the first to feature Muay Thai rules for fights in Illinois. Like many before and after them, the fighters Sollo’s trainees faced received a quick and brutal introduction to Muay Thai, especially leg kicks. Sollo’s fighters were well trained, extremely fit, and relentless.
Today Sollo continues to train professional and amateur fighters for kickboxing and MMA and he remains one of the elder statesmen for Muay Thai in Illinois.
His journey in martial arts started modestly with a park district Judo club taught by “Mrs. Harper, who was a saint,” according to Mr. Sollo. He later tried high school wrestling and then boxing and Filipino martial arts, “mostly unsuccessfully,” he says.
A turning point came when Sollo was working out at the Degerberg Academy on a Friday night before one of Degerberg’s famed weekend seminars. “I was in there punching a bag when Fred brings by this small Thai man in a suit. He said ‘can I kick you?’ and I say sure. So I grabbed one of those old flimsy kicking shields and he proceeds to kick me harder that I’ve ever been kicked before. I thought he broke my arm. It felt like a car accident. I signed up for the seminar.”
The two-day seminar had four sections, two per day. About 125 people started the Muay Thai seminar on Saturday morning and by Sunday afternoon there were only six people left, Sollo being one of them.
The mysterious Thai man was the famous Chai Sirisute, a world famous Muay Thai instructor who had been Sollo’s main teacher ever since and under whom he became a certified Muay Thai instructor. He had been looking for hard training and it finally found him.
Between 1992 and 2012 Sollo traveled to Thailand at least once per year, usually for a month or more at a time, continuing to hone his craft at various non-tourist camps. He also studied the Thai sword, joined a demonstration team and traveled extensively and gained rank in that art as well.
In the early 90’s Sollo founded the Aiki Training Hall in Skokie and produced a generation of extremely tough fighters. Since then he has coached pros and amateurs at various locations including the Midwest Training Center, the Evanston Boxing Club, and most recently Counterstrike Academy in Downers Grove. Sollo is also a certified Muay Thai fight judge and participates as such at various Muay Thai events around the country.
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