Published on November 30th, 2012 | by Key Reads0
Training Muay Thai in Thailand
I used to box while I was in the Navy. I fought 5 times with 2 wins and 3 losses, and I was in the best shape in my life. I was in such great shape that I wanted to join the Navy SEALs, but something didn’t allow me to push myself to that extra step and I decided to leave the Navy after 5 years. I went back home to Wisconsin to enjoy my time off. However, I fell into the trap of drinking a ton of beer and eating too much (which I guess is normal in Wisconsin) and I started to pack on weight. The slim figure I had in the Navy disappeared and I definitely couldn’t fit into my old pants. I went from 160 lbs to 220 lbs in about a year. Along with being stuck in the rut in Wisconsin and denying myself of my love of travel, I decided I had enough and do what I wanted to do since I was a kid: go to Thailand and train muay thai.
If you are not familiar with muay thai (which translates into Thai boxing), it is the national sport of Thailand. It is nicknamed “the art of eight limbs” since you can use your elbows, knees, and kicks (with the point of contact being the shin; it’s like getting hit with a baseball bat), along with punches to strike your opponent. You can also kick anywhere (except to the groin). Other than that, the rules of muay thai are the same as in Western boxing: you wear gloves, if you are knocked down (not thrown down), you are given until a count of 10 to get back up, 5 3-minute rounds, etc. The knees, elbows, and kicks (especially leg kicks) are what the sport truly dangerous. I’ve seen guys laid out for 5 minutes from a brutal elbow or punch.
Muay Thai training in Thailand is not like you see in Hollywood. There is no kicking of banana trees, dropping coconuts from high points to land on your stomach, or anything you’ve seen in Kickboxer with Jean-Claude Van Damme. It’s actually just very similar to training at boxing gyms in the West; punching bags lining the gym, hitting the pads with trainers, and all the other things you would expect to see at your local boxing gym back home. However, what makes the training so special is that your trainers (at least, in the gyms catered to foreigners) have all fought in the Mecca of muay thai, Lumpini Stadium in Bangkok. And these guys don’t just have 20 or even 30 fights under their belt. Nope, they have been doing this since they were kids and have 100-200+ fights. These guys have been hardened by some of the toughest battles at Lumpini. These guys eat, sleep, live, breathe, and die muay thai. And this is Thailand, the birthplace of muay thai. It would make sense that the best trainers are here in Thailand.
If you come here, and train muay thai for just two weeks in Thailand, please don’t go around the rest of Thailand and act like you are a badass at the bars. All of us foreigners (or farang, as it’s known in Thai) who train muay thai are a dime a dozen. I would rather keep your Tapout/MMA alpha-male mentality back at home. The Thais aren’t really aggressive people and they don’t brag about how they fight muay thai. In fact, you wouldn’t even know they were muay thai fighters. And the Thai girls who are usually at the farang bars, most likely they are bargirls or opportunists, so it doesn’t really make you cool to the rest of us ex-pat farang who have lived here awhile to see that you’ve picked up a bargirl.
Other than that, if you are looking for a vacation that is different from the norm, a way to lose weight, or test yourself, come out to Thailand and train at a muay thai gym. Not only is the physical aspect rewarding, but immersing yourself in Thai culture (that is, if you are not partying at the farang bars all the time) can broaden your horizons and maybe change your way of thinking as well.
Here is a plug for the gym I train at: Santai Muay Thai near Chiang Mai. But there are other good gyms in Thailand, such as Team Quest Thailand in Chiang Mai or any of the big gyms in Bangkok and Phuket. To talk to other people who are or have done muay thai in Thailand and find a gym recommendation, hit up Muaythailand.com.