Going to Thailand for the first time? You have some romanticized expectations of Muay Thai training there, don’t you?
Sorry to burst your bubble… but your experience is unlikely to match your expectations.
Why? There are a number of factors that will affect your training experience.
For example, if you’re new to Thailand and don’t speak the language, you’ll only be able to access Muay Thai gyms that use English to instruct. You may also fall for common scams in the kingdom.
How about we get more specific…
Factors that affect your Muay Thai Training Experience
These are some factors that will affect the kind of training experience you’ll get. Counting down from the least to most important, here they are…
5Familiarity with Thailand
If you’re totally new to Thailand and the culture, you’re in for a culture shock.
You have to get used to the food, traffic, and weather. These are potential issues that can interfere with your training. The last thing you want is to get diarrhea from the spicy salad you ate, or faint from the heat when training.
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Other than that, you need to be wary of the common scams there. One that comes to mind (that Mami of Be Muay mentioned) was about taxi drivers pretending to misunderstand the address of your desired Muay Thai gym. They would take you to another gym that pays them a commission.
If you’re serious about training there, I urge you to get the Thailand Training Guide. It talks about finding the right Muay Thai gyms, avoiding scams, and finding cheap accommodations.
4Level of Muay Thai Skill & Experience (Beginner vs Fighter)
If you have a good level of skill and experience in Muay Thai, you’ll gain from the technical and tactical guidance of trainers (and fighters). Other fighters are also more likely to train with you. This, in effect, helps you refine your clinches and discover tactics that work to your advantage.
But what if you’re a beginner?
Without a solid foundation in Muay Thai basics, forget about special advanced techniques and tactics (when in Thailand). Your skill level, ability and experience determines if you can absorb minute technical guidance.
As a novice, you’ll need sweeping adjustments to your basic techniques.
Moreover, no fighter is going to clinch or spar with a beginner at a traditional fighters camp. It simply isn’t worth their time. A beginner simply doesn’t have the skill to benefit from such an interaction.
Think this is harsh?
Fighters at traditional fighters gyms are competing in fights. That’s how they earn their living, and survive. They aren’t paid to teach beginners the basics. Anything other than improving their chances of winning is a distraction. So, they really have no incentive to partner up with someone who’s new to the sport.
Instead, focus on the Muay Thai gyms and schools that have good programs for beginners. There are many that will build that solid foundation. And, you’ll eventually be able to move on to amateur fights, if that’s what you want.
3Ability to Communicate in Thai
Being able to communicate in Thai, opens the door to culture and connection. Although there are many gyms that train foreigners, the rural ones are harder to get to (if you don’t speak the language).
Also, a local trainer would find it hard to explain the nuances in a technique in English, as opposed to Thai.
Even finding obscure camps would be a lot easier. You’d have a better chance of accessing truly traditional camps if you have language on your side.
2Your Itinerary, Length of Stay, and Location
Your purpose of travel, length of stay, and address in Thailand will determine the Muay Thai gym you can go to… obviously.
Purpose of Travel (and Length of Stay)
Are you on a short vacation with family, or on a business trip? Either way, you have little opportunity to train due to time constraints and clashes in itinerary. You’d be lucky to get a few days of training in. And, this amount of time is not enough to ingrain the basics into a beginner.
But, if you’re there for months, or even years, you get the time to progress into the higher khans (grades) of Muay Thai training. You may even get involved in amateur ring fights.
Regardless, having a tiny taste of Muay Thai in Thailand is better than nothing.
Who You’re Travelling With
Are you travelling with a group of Muay Thai friends, or are you with family who are less active (but want to try out Muay Thai)?
If you’re going to organize a group visit, you need to consider the overall ability of the group before picking a facility to train at. And, if you have kids with you, you need to check if the gym you’re going to has a good program for kids.
Distance from your lodgings to your desired gym
Staying in Bangkok’s city center limits you to training at mostly recreational gyms (for wealthier locals or tourists). Unless you’re able to contend with the insane traffic, stay close to the Muay Thai gym you’re training at.
While it’s not that bad if you’re only going for a one-time visit, imagine being stuck in traffic daily if you’re training for weeks. The traffic peak times lasts especially long in Bangkok.
Trust me. You’re going to curse at the traffic if you have to get to your Muay Thai camp twice each day for training.
So, make sure your travel arrangements considers these factors. If you can’t change your arrangements, lower your training expectations.
1Goals in Muay Thai - Knowing What You Want
How your trip pans out ultimately depends on your goals in Muay Thai. This has nothing to do with your skill level. Instead, it’s about what you want out of Thai boxing.
For example, are you training for recreation and fitness, or do you want to become a professional fighter? Do you want to focus on Muay Boran in one year? Or are you happy to jostle with a few experienced champions to learn new tactics and combos?
Know what you seek, and then go to the appropriate place to train. There are countless Muay Thai gyms, schools and camps within Thailand.
Conclusion – Be realistic
Make sure you are realistic with what you want, and consider the four factors when seeking to train in Thailand. Like I’ve mentioned, don’t seek out exclusively fighters gyms if you’re a beginner. If you’re on a vacation with a group of people, consider their ability and expectations as well.
I’ll go over the types of Muay Thai facilities in the next article, and talk about the type of Muay Thai practitioner each gym, camp or school caters to.