Choosing where to train Muay Thai in Thailand.
Choosing the right camp will come down to deciding what your main objective in training will be. What are you looking to get out of this trip?
I’m going to explain how to search for a camp that will suit your needs. There is a break down into three major categories of Muay Thai practitioners. Find your corresponding category and follow the information provided.
Training for Fitness
Muay Thai in recent years has become more increasingly popular as a fitness alternative. Some folks begin training to lose weight. Others train to maintain their healthy lifestyle.
For those of you with fitness oriented goals, you will want to probably stick with a resort style camp. The larger, many times western owned camps will have other amenities that fitness conscience people are looking for. In addition to Muay Thai, they tend to offer yoga classes, personal trainers, healthy food menu’s, full gym amenities, and in some cases, tennis and other sports. Generally in a resort setting with hotel on the grounds. These camps are convenient for fitness oriented Muay Thai practitioners.
Skill development may be a little sub par because the trainers are constantly working with a new influx of western tourists. There isn’t much time for personal bonding with your trainer, because he’s busy. This is ok if skills building is not your top priority.
Training for Skill Development or Coaching Development
With the purpose of skill development or to build on your coaching abilities, you will want to find a well balanced camp that has a focus on teaching technique. Many of these camps will in some cases, coincide with fighters gyms. But not in all cases.
You will want to state your intention when you arrive your first day or perhaps, before you arrive. Sending an email or making contact of sorts will also help you gauge the English speaking abilities of the manager, if not the trainers. By stating your purpose and intentions right away, you can save a lot of time and get the most out of your training.
A well balanced camp will in almost all cases, have highly experienced retired fighters as trainers. It should have a deep history of producing champions, and a clear style to how they execute their techniques.
Try to avoid the large resorts if you are searching for a camp with skill development as your intention. Westerners are a dime a dozen, therefore, the chances of developing a close bond with your trainer are not as high as if you chose a bit smaller camp with more personal attention.
On the flip side, a gritty camp somewhere in the village in Isaan, may not be able to provide you with the best technique and opportunities either. Find a balance between the two.
If you’re a competitor and you want to fight in Thailand, you want to train at a camp that can accommodate the following considerations…
Do you need room & boarding? Many camps will allow free room and board to fighters but you may need to pay at first until you prove yourself and earn your keep. There is a hierarchy inside of all camps. Learn your place and then earn your place. Camps that house fighters may be able to help you, but it almost always comes at a price one way or another.
You must find a camp with connections. One of the best ways to assure you will remain active is being a part of a gym with connections. A good stable of other fighters is a sure tell sign, that this camp is active. Connections to venues and promoters will help you out tremendously.
Find a camp with accommodating training partners. By saying “accommodating” , I’m referring to other fighters that are your size. This can be very challenging if you are over 150 lbs. Most Thai’s are small as you know. Finding a good camp with a stable of “heavyweight” fighters can be a challenge. Some of the very best camps don’t have a single fighter over 120 lbs. It’s important to have larger Thai’s clinching and sparring with you. Train with Thai’s when you are in Thailand! Don’t go to a place just because they have a stable of larger “farangs” or westerners. You will not get the same out of your training as if you worked with the Thai’s. I say this from years of experience, and I think you will agree. The Thai’s are the best at Muay Thai. Work with Thai fighters.
Work with solid trainers who you like. All top tier fight camps will have world class trainers. It’s important that you gel with your trainer. I’ve heard some horror stories from other western fighters about poor experiences with their trainer. And in almost all cases, it comes down to money.
Where to search?
You may be thinking… that’s an easy one. Google right? Well, not necessarily. Let me explain why Google searches come up short for finding a wide variety of good camps.
In western countries, Muay Thai gyms and martial arts schools are almost always marketed by its website. Gym tours, videos, branding all depict what it’s like training at that school. Trainers are show cased, and it is easy to read or see what that camps message is.
In Thailand, many of the smaller gyms, or gyms owned by Thai’s do not have a website. This posses a huge problem for westerners searching for a camp. You are only seeing what Google fetches. In many if not most cases, all the gyms you finding are owned by westerners or have very popular Thai super stars representing them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just very limiting to the full scope of camps in Thailand. This is why I encourage you to look at another avenue when trying to find a camp. Try using Facebook.
Many of the smaller, less well known camps will have a Facebook page as their business listing. While many camp owners may not be very internet and website savvy, social media is big in Thailand. Once you have chosen your destination city, begin your search on Facebook. The camps that come up on Google search will most definitely have a Facebook account as well, but this will open the doors to many other options out there that were otherwise, unsearchable or difficult to find on Google.
Some of Thailand’s best Muay Thai camps are hidden in back ally ways, or out in the countryside a bit, or inside hard to find locations. These gyms are diamond’s in the rough. Many of the countries top camps are tucked away and virtually unrecognized in typical Google searches. This is why Facebook should be able to help you discover a bit more.
Another possibility is a search through Youtube. Many foreigners have documented their training at various camps and Youtube is another great search tool. Sometimes there may contain a link in the video description that can lead to a map or a social media spotlight of the camp.
There are a few review sites on the web with descriptions of various camps. While some reviews may be a bit bias or inaccurate, it will still help in seeing the various camps in the destination city you choose to visit.