So you’ve saved up your money and vacation time and you’re ready to pull the trigger. If you are anything like myself and the generation of marital artist like me who grew up on Kickboxer you dreamed of training in Thailand. Well, you might not realize this but you’re not the only one. Foreigners, or farrang, training in Thailand is a huge business and you’ll be one of thousands. That’s not to say you shouldn’t, nor does it mean you won’t be on your own unique adventure, just don’t expect be going down a path that hasn’t been tread. Over the course of 5 trips spanning decade and totally over a year of time in The Kingdom I would like to give 3 tips for choosing your first Muay Thai gym to train at.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF: What type of experience are you looking for? If you really want to be secluded and do nothing but train, great. Also, if you are working a stressful job in your home country and this is your only chance to get a vacation in, as well as train, that’s great too. If you want to have access to other activities like SCUBA, snorkeling, trekking, maybe pick a gym in one of the more frequented spots like Chiang Mai or Phuket. It’s ok, Van Damme will forgive you.
WHAT LEVEL ARE YOU AT: Another question where you will need to be honest with yourself. I’ve trained at gyms that were the perfect environment for foreigners coming who have already fought and are looking hone their skills and conditioning. The caveat with that is at times such gyms can be unprepared, or unwilling, to take the time to get you technically up to speed to where you’re getting the most out of your training. If you’re a beginner don’t necessarily look for a spot where the best fighters from the US & Europe go to prep, or a gym that boasts a roster of stadium champions, possibly seek out a “Mom & Pop” operation instead. A great example of that type of gym is Santai Muay Thai located in the outskirts of Chiang Mai. If you are already an experienced fighter it possibly doesn’t get better than Sitsongpeenong where I spent four months living.
Do your research, and look for the most current information you can find. Plenty of forums exists and there are several Muay Thai gym review sites on the internet. Just keep in mind these gyms often shut down or change owners with little to no notice. If you read an awesome review of a place that sounds like it’s perfectly tailored to your needs, be sure to check the date. The Muay Thai community at large is welcoming and ready to help. Personally I’m more than happy to message back anyone on Instagram or Facebook who shoots me a question.
Do you want to still cross-train? If you want to still keep up with your ground game or Western Style boxing there are options to do both and learn authentic Muay Thai. If you’re looking to particularly hone your stand up skills for MMA, you might be best served by one of the gyms that regularly sends fighters to promotions throughout Asia for MMA. A good location for the MMA focused trainees would be to get a hostel on the street of Chalong Phuket. You can take Traditional Muay Thai at Dragon Muay Thai, western Boxing & BJJ at Phuket Top Team, and then take MMA class at Tiger Muay thai all with in walking distance of each other.