Over the last week, I have visited a few Muay Thai training camps to see what the facilities were like, how their training sessions were run, student to trainer ratios and generally sus out the culture and the vibe. I really wanted to find a camp close to Kata so I could minimise travel time and cost. At this stage, I am still avoiding hiring a scooter so I’m forced to use taxis and tuk tuks, both of which are expensive (comparable to Melbourne fares). Fortunately, I have a found a lovely taxi driver, Mr Saveak, who does me a good price.
There is a notable difference in the camps and for anyone thinking of training in Thailand, I suggest that you don’t rely solely on the website to make your decision. If you can visit the camp, try a session and speak to people who have trained there for feedback about their experience. All the websites tell you that they focus on technique and that their trainers speak English but the reality is that speaking English might mean simple words like punch, kick, elbow and they don’t all have sufficient care factor to correct your technique properly. At some camps, you have advanced fighters training with complete beginners in one big group. Your skipping and sparring area may be concrete with some carpet over the top or you may be fortunate to have proper mats. It all varies.
In the end, I decided to bite the bullet and have a go at the camp I got the best vibe from which was Tiger. Tiger is based in Ao Chalong about 15 minutes from Kata by taxi (300 baht one way). It is one of the larger camps set on 3 acres of land surrounded by tropical forest overlooked by the Great Buddha. It has three different training areas, one each for advanced, intermediate and beginners. The training areas are open air but covered by large tin roofs. So whilst you are protected from the rain, there is no escaping the heat or humidity.
I was sent to the beginners training area. They have two rings, one on the left and one on the right with blue training mats in between and on the area you enter. On the far wall they have mirrors. And in the area in front where you enter the area they have 10 workout stations with heavy bags.
This is where all the fun happens, 3.5 hours of solid training as follows:
• 30 minutes of non-stop skipping! Maybe not so bad with standard skipping ropes but these guys use really thick tube ropes with heavy wooden handles that are very heavy.
• 10 minutes or so running around the mat, side steps in and out, running and touching the ground, running kicking butt etc.
• 10 to 15 minutes of stretching.
• We lined up in two rows in front of the mirror, they put us in the correct stance and the we went through punches each with a number: jab (1), cross (2) , left hook (3) , right hook (4), left upper (5) , right upper (6). Then they yelled different numbers so we would practice different combinations. After a while, we added right and left leg blocks and right and left knees.
• Then we jumped into the ring and they ran through some combos that we practiced against a sparring partner.
• Then we moved onto punching, kicking, kneeing, blocking with a trainer who was holding pads.
• This was followed by sparring wearing shin guards and head guard.
• Heavy bag drills – kicking and punching for 3 rounds
• 100 jumping knees followed by 100 alternating leg blocks repeated
• 100 sit ups, 100 side crunches, 100 push up. Guys had a medicine ball dropped on their stomach 20 times and girls had to do sit ups pushing the ball above their heads 20 times.
• In between every round, we had to do 10 push ups (for girls) and 20 for guys.
• Cool down and stretching.
3.5 hours might sound like a long time, but the time just flew by. I was so absorbed by what we were doing and trying to learn, it was so much fun.
I have very quickly learned to throw out everything Sy taught me about boxing. It’s just not how the Thais do it. They stand very front on in a loose stance, they position their hands differently, they don’t turn into their punches and all punches follow a left diagonal step.
The trainers are good value. Their English is pretty good and they were all focused on watching and correcting technique. The trainer that held pads for me was so nice. He was very patient and encouraging and spent a lot of time ensuring my stance was correct, that I kicked with a straight leg, came up straight and tall and that my leg blocks were correct.
But my favourite trainer was the head trainer, Ajarn Dang. He is a Master Instructor and usually trains the Advanced fighters but for some reason was in the beginners area. He was positioned near me for the heavy bag rounds and would keep walking over, slap me hard on the arm, make an angry grunting sound followed by “Why you kick like that?" or "Why you do that for?". My standard response was “This is my first training session”. He would then show me how to do it properly. If I got it wrong, I got slapped again. However, if I got it right, I got the nod of approval. Unfortunately, I was slapped and grunted at numerous times. Standing up straight and kicking with a straight leg is no easy feat.
I left the training session 20 minutes early because I thought it finished at 6.30 and Mr Saveak would be waiting for me. I dashed off whilst Ajarn Dang was throwing the medicine ball onto the guys stomachs. I didn’t want to interrupt because he was busy. I went to the office and paid for my session and as I was leaving I heard the angry grunting noise. I looked up and there was Ajarn Dang motioning for me to come over. “Why you leave without saying anything?” he asked me. “Because you were busy and I didn’t want to interrupt. I thought it finished at 6.30 and my taxi is here” I explained pointing to my taxi. “Hmmmmm” he grunted. “You come tomorrow”. “ No, diving tomorrow” I told him, “I come back Monday, I do extra Monday.” “OK” he said.
Off I trotted towards Mr Saveak and my awaiting taxi. I stopped to wring out the sweat from my training shorts before wrapping the towel around me and getting into the taxi. I have never sweat so much from training in all of my life. I never though it possible that I could sweat that much and still be alive.
Well I didn’t quite make it back there today but I have every intention of going back once I’ve sorted out my Divemaster course schedule. And I can’t wait.
My shins after training