Choosing the Best Muay Thai Gym in Thailand
Training Muay Thai in Thailand has become a right of passage for anyone who is a true Muay Thai fan. Every year, tens of thousands of people come from around the world to visit Thailand and train in the dozens of gyms around the country.
Whether you are a seasoned fighter or a complete beginner, there are gyms in Thailand that cater to different students. Some gyms are catered to the fitness/CrossFit crowd, while other gyms are catered to the more traditional Muay Thai experience.
This article is going to try and give you a run down on how to choose a gym in Thailand. I won’t recommend a specific gym, but I’ll give you are run down of some specific facts what you should look for in a gym. Before I get started, I want to emphasize that there is no universal gym that is the best.
Choosing a gym is like choosing a University to attend. The longer you stay at the gym, the more loyal you usually become to that gym because you develop a relationship with the different trainers/fighters at the gym. So, if someone tells you that XXXX gym is the best one in Thailand, keep in mind that they are biased.
Location, Location, Location
Depending on the purpose of your holiday, the first thing you should ask yourself is where do I want to stay. If you want to combine a holiday in addition to your Muay Thai training, you probably want to look to train on an island or places that have beaches nearby.
If you are the type of person that has a problem with drinking or wants to restrict your party access, you probably want to choose a gym that is more isolated and doesn’t have a lot of bars nearby to tempt you. Knowing WHERE you want to go, is the first step to finding the right gym.
I will tell you right now, there are good trainers all over Thailand. Obviously, some are much better than others, but you can find a good trainer to help you improve your skills in most gyms. First choose the location, then you can choose the gym.
In terms of places to train, there are 3 main areas that people train, and 2 smaller ones that can be added to the list.
The bulk of Muay Thai tourism in Thailand goes to Phuket in the south of Thailand. In the large island of Phuket, there are dozens of Muay Thai gyms. In a 15-minute drive in the south of the island, you can literally visit about a dozen gyms that are close by.
The advantage of training in Phuket is there are so many options to choose from. There are hardcore gyms that have high ranking fighters like Singpatong, there are MMA gyms that have UFC fighters, and there are gyms like Sinbi that are in between.
Phuket is one of the most touristed areas in all of Thailand, so you also have an abundance of hotel, restaurant and services geared towards the Muay Thai crowd.
Most people who train in Bangkok drop in for a shorter time than the islands. Because Bangkok is a big city with more pollution and traffic, it can be difficult for some foreigners to adapt to the training. It is also full of all the best Muay Thai gyms in Thailand, which means that the training is not geared towards beginners.
Recently, there have been several fitness orientated Muay Thai gyms that have opened in Bangkok. These gyms are designed for Hi-So Thais who want to get fit while training Muay Thai. It is not recommended to train at these gyms if you want to learn real Muay Thai, however, if you want to have a quick cardio workout then by all means check them out.
There are few gyms geared towards beginners in Bangkok like Attachai and Khongsittha gym. These gyms are good for people who want a comfortable training environment that focuses on Muay Thai, without worrying about being out of place.
It should be noted that the hard core Muay Thai gyms are not great environments for women to train at. Most of the gyms in Thailand that are not catered to tourists, have traditions that make it difficult for women to get the most out of their training. Often women will be looked at as potential dating prospects and won’t be taken as seriously as the male fighters at the gym.
In the north of Thailand in the mountains of Chiang Mai and Pai is the other destination that attracts a lot of foreigners. Chiang Mai has a huge expat population because it is known as a digital nomad hub for people who work online.
This means that a lot of young entrepreneurs and people working in the tech industry are drawn to Chiang Mai who want to live and work. Additionally, Chiang Mai has a different atmosphere than the beach destinations and the busy city of Bangkok. The Thai people are known to be very friendly in Chiang Mai compared to other tourist areas in Thailand.
Understanding Your Training Needs
There is no one size fits all solution to training in Thailand. There are gyms that cater to different types of people. For example, you might be a high level fighter who wants to sharpen your tools against the best in Thailand, or you could be a beginner wanting to learn the basics. Everything gym is going to cater to different types of people.
Beginner/Advanced Muay Thai Levels
There are three types of people who come to train Muay Thai in Thailand. The first are the fighters who come to gyms to gain as much experience as possible and train for fights. These are people who have established skill sets and don’t need to work on fundamentals.
If you are already established, the choice of gym is very easy. If you feel like easier training and focusing on technique, you can train at a more tourist-oriented gym in Phuket or if you want to get fit for a fight you can train at a proper gym like PK SaenchaiMuayThai Gym. There are levels to training in Muay Thai with gyms at different extremes of the spectrum.
If you are a beginner or amateur fighter, then your option is going to be more limited than the fighters. You need to find a gym that has good English-speaking instructors who can help you develop your game. This is going to be the best path towards building yourself form the bottom up.
MMA fighters are going to probably want to choose a gym that specializes in MMA. While I think it is a waste to train MMA in Thailand when the instructors are probably better in your home city, if it’s an excuse to visit the land of smiles you might as well take it.
Most of the MMA gyms are in the South of Thailand in the island of Phuket, with a handful of gyms scattered between Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Phuket is the main hub for most MMA fighters who plan on training in Thailand because there are 3 large camps in AKA Thailand, Tiger Muay Thai, and Phuket Top Team.
If you are not that into Muay Thai and are more focused on your Fitness goals, the main place you will want to train is in Phuket. Phuket is home to Soi Tai-ed, which is the Fitness capital of Thailand. There half a dozen gyms on the street and you can join a CrossFit or Muay Thai gym within the block. There are also a few health food restaurants that cater to people of all diets.
Find a Trainer that Works for You
More important than choosing a good Muay Thai gym is choosing one that has a trainer that you like. If you choose a gym that is good on paper, but you don’t have a good connection with any of the trainers, you are not going to take full advantage of your time in Thailand.
Finding a trainer that cares about you can be difficult if you are only staying for 1-2 weeks at a gym. Sometimes it takes months to build a relationship with a trainer who can see potential and take care of you. If you are a woman, it is important that find a trainer that is interested in teaching you, rather than trying to hook up with you.
You could be training at the most run-down gym in Thailand with dirt floors, but if you have a good trainer that is what makes the difference between average to exceptional training. Your trainer is going to be responsible for helping you make the most improvements to your Muay Thai game.
Choosing a gym in Thailand is difficult because there are so many options to choose from. The key is to find a location you want to visit, and then choose your gym according to the location. Keep in mind that if you want to train in an isolated area with no other gyms around, you might have to suffer from lower quality training.
The reason I don’t give recommendations for gyms is because I don’t want to be held accountable for whether you like a gym. It is your responsible to look up the gyms and try to find one that can fit your needs.