In 1990, Mark Nar­done moved from Scot­land to Boston to study sports med­i­cine at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. If not for his training in Muay Thai, a mar­tial art from Thai­land, he never would have left home.

I would not have had the gump­tion to pack my bags and leave my family and friends,” said Nar­done, now Northeastern’s director of infor­ma­tion secu­rity. “Muay Thai taught me to stay humble and gave me the con­fi­dence to push my body and mind.”

Nardone’s friend intro­duced him to the sport in 1986, where­upon he began training under the aus­pices of the British Thai Boxing Council. From 1987–1990, the five-​​foot-​​eight, 150-​​pound fighter com­peted at the semi-​​pro and pro­fes­sional levels, amassing six wins and two losses in eight career matches.

Known as the “art of eight limbs,” Muay Thai per­mits the fighter to strike his oppo­nent with his fists, elbows, knees, and shins. The vast majority of matches end in knock­outs, and com­peti­tors rou­tinely suffer broken jaws, cracked ribs, and torn muscles.

Nar­done never suf­fered any serious injuries, but one com­petitor left his left leg bat­tered and beaten. “My leg was so bruised that I couldn’t walk,” he recalled.

Upon arriving at North­eastern, Nar­done amassed a fol­lowing of fellow stu­dents who wanted to learn the art of Muay Thai, which, at the time, was rel­a­tively new to the U.S. One prospec­tive dis­ciple heard him prac­ticing in the Cabot Phys­ical Edu­ca­tion Center and grew curious. “I was doing shin con­di­tioning on a big padded pillar and the sound was rever­ber­ating through the gym,” Nar­done recalled. “One stu­dent kept hearing, ‘boom, boom, boom,’ and approached to see this pale, skinny kid kicking a wall.”

From there, Nardone’s teaching career took off. In 1991, he began teaching self-​​defense sem­i­nars. In 1993, he opened Boston’s first Muay Thai school. In 2010, he founded the Sit­Suphan Muay Thai Boran Academy, a training center based in Brain­tree, Mass. The academy is named in honor of one of Nardone’s teachers, Suphan Chaibairam, who com­peted in more than 300 matches and was rec­og­nized by Thailand’s gov­ern­ment for his efforts to pro­mote the mar­tial art.

Nardone, top, practices an ancient Muay Thai technique that is no longer used in the ring.

Nar­done, right, prac­tices an ancient Muay Thai tech­nique that is no longer used in the ring.

Sit­Suphan trans­lates roughly into “golden stu­dents,” some of whom Nar­done takes to Thai­land to com­pete in the annual Muay Thai World Cham­pi­onships. “I see poten­tial in people who don’t see it in them­selves and that’s what a good leader does,” he said. “It’s one of the ways that Muay Thai has helped me evolve into a lead­er­ship role here at the university.”

He’s also a leader in Muay Thai’s global com­mu­nity. For instance, he is the U.S. rep­re­sen­ta­tive to both the World Muay Thai Fed­er­a­tion and the Thai government’s Insti­tute of Muay Thai Con­ser­va­tion. In a national cer­e­mony in Thai­land this year, he was ele­vated to the rank of Arjarn, or Master, by the Kru Muay Thai Asso­ci­a­tion of Thailand.

Part of Nardone’s pop­u­larity in Thai­land stems from his belief in hon­oring Muay Thai’s spir­i­tual tra­di­tions. Prior to the start of class, he asks his stu­dents to med­i­tate for 10 min­utes. Before matches, they per­form a rit­u­al­istic dance in honor of their teachers, their faith, and their loved ones.

I try to teach my stu­dents to be good people and show respect,” Nar­done explained. “With great power, comes great responsibility.”