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Hi! I'm Maya and I'm a beginner in muay thai. I have been doing muay thai inconsistently since 2013. I've been consistent since May, 2015, but before then I was kind of in and out of this one gym in my town (gym #1). Now I've been at gym #2 in the same town for about 3 months and I am happy there and I go consistently, but I feel this confusing guilt over leaving gym #1. I was quiet about leaving, mostly because I thought I'd come back after a month, but this new gym lets me spar, whereas gym #1 said I could not spar until they decided I was ready (I asked several times over the course of a year if I could spar and got emails that said, "when you're ready"). Gym #2 lets me spar (I understand that gym #1 didn't want me getting hurt...but I was driven to try sparring).

 

My question is about everyone's experiences on changing gyms. What has been the reaction of both gyms, as well as your feelings about changing gyms? Why did you change gyms? Do you ever run into people from your old gym? How does this affect your idea of loyalty, especially as it relates to the values of Muay Thai? I heard it is common in Thailand for Muay Thai fighters to adopt their gym's name as their last name (Buakaw Banchamek, formerly from Por Pramuk gym), so it is a big deal to the tradition, right?

 

I tell myself I was not at gym #1 consistently enough for anyone to notice my absence, but that might not be accurate. I ran into a fighter at a local muay thai competition and he joked about how long it had been since I'd been to the gym (gym #1). I told him about how I was going to gym #2, which is in the same town, and there was kind of an awkward silence.

 

In both gyms, the word LOYALTY is painted on the walls in giant, black letters. I stare at this word while jumping rope and I wonder if I have been disloyal. I feel a bond to my first gym, but I feel that I couldn't achieve what I had my heart set on: advancing into sparring. Thoughts? Personal experiences? 

 

Thank you!  :thanks:

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I don't know all of the details so I can only specilate and speak generally, but there needs to be a balance between trusting your coaches to lead you forward (helping hone technique, etc.) and being your own advocate to make sure you are getting the training you need to progress. As a customer you are free to take your business wherever you feel appropriate. I don't see a need to apologize or continue patronizing the first gym if you are enjoying the new one.

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"I ran into a fighter at a local muay thai competition and he joked about how long it had been since I'd been to the gym (gym #1). I told him about how I was going to gym #2, which is in the same town, and there was kind of an awkward silence."

Alternate perspective, he wanted to say hi and then he couldn't really think of anything else to say.  Guys (we) are awkward often times.

Also, remember, we all have a myriad of reasons why a gym change could be feasible- work, home life, schedule change, proximity change, etc.... 

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Gym #2 lets me spar (I understand that gym #1 didn't want me getting hurt...but I was driven to try sparring).

 

In both gyms, the word LOYALTY is painted on the walls in giant, black letters. I stare at this word while jumping rope and I wonder if I have been disloyal. I feel a bond to my first gym, but I feel that I couldn't achieve what I had my heart set on: advancing into sparring. Thoughts? Personal experiences? 

 

Thank you!  :thanks:

I like this question, but it's also a really difficult one because I think it depends greatly on the particulars of each circumstance. I don't think it's ever easy and "no big deal" to the gym that was left behind, even if they weren't giving the person appropriate attention. I may be a bit cynical, but painting "Loyalty" in huge letters on the wall of a commercial gym feels like it has far more to do with business security than the actual ethic of devoting yourself. The reason I say that is that the message appears to be directed toward the clientele, without putting importance on the gym management being loyal to their clients as well.

I've never had an easy change of gyms. The difficulty stems from my own hesitation in moving - because I feel more than one thing about any place at any given time. I KNOW it was the best thing for me to leave the gym I just left, but it wasn't ONLY bad there and so there was a lot of pain and guilt involved in making that decision. Before even that, I left my gym in Chiang Mai; leaving the gym I was at for 2.5 years to move to Pattaya was hard because I felt loyalty and filial bonds to the coaches there, but ultimately I felt that I wasn't being taken care of; loyalty isn't a one-way street. And having left O. Meekhun now, it's pretty awkward for me just now because not only are the gyms in the same city, but the one gym came out of the other gym and I was at both gyms at the same time for a while. I often made the joke that it was like having the first wife and the mistress, which is only a joke because it's not literally true but otherwise the dynamic is pretty damn similar. I think I only got away with it because I'm an outsider anyway. The Thai kids who split themselves between these two gyms (there were a few who bounced between, basically just using each gym for having sparring partners) didn't belong to either gym... they were trained by their own fathers and kind of came in as guests but couldn't call themselves members of either place.

In your case, the gym telling you that you have to wait until you're ready and only they can decide when that is bothers me because it sounds like they weren't very invested in paying attention to when you were ready. That makes it a power trip. Absolutely there is reason for having people wait, but being clear about what you're waiting for or what is needed on your end before you're ready shows that they have a thought-process behind it and that they're paying attention. Just saying, "I'll let you know" is a brush off.

It's interesting you mention Buakaw as well. In the west there was an outcry against his contract with Por. Pramuk and basically the "free Buakaw!" social media campaign. Every single Thai trainer I've asked about this has admitted that Por. Pramuk was being unfair to Buakaw, but that Buakaw was wrong for breaking his contract with them. Even though he was being taken advantage of and stepped on, his status and position at that gym was such that he shouldn't have gone against the contract... that's the bottom-up loyalty that gyms want. And I get it in his case. He was literally raised at the gym and in Thai culture kids kind of owe their parents for having raised them, so they take care of their parents (financially and otherwise) as soon as and for as long as they can. It's merit and karma. It's being a good kid. It's the same with the gym. They take care of you and you pay them back. In the Por. Pramuk case, the father who had run the gym as Buakaw was coming up passed the gym on to his son, who was closer to Buakaw's age and probably didn't think much of him, so this son screwed Buakaw over pretty badly on his fight money. He's pulling these huge numbers for fights and sleeping on a cot in a crap room; he basically got none of his money, the way we see in child-actor stories of kids being robbed by their parents. In the west, we're like, "yeah, that kid should be emancipated and given all his money back from his greedy parents." But in Thai culture that's not how it goes. So Buakaw leaving is breaking loyalty to the father, even though it was the son who was being such a dick. But Banchamek is Buakaw's own gym and he's doing really well. So, right or wrong, it worked out well for him.

The reason I go into all of that is that the gym situation in the west is not the same as the gym situation in Thailand. You going to a different gym in the same city because the training is better is within a capitalist ethic that drapes itself in this old-school loyalty romance. I think the bonds you develop with your gym are absolutely real and so leaving one for another can have very real emotional consequences. But "I haven't seen you in almost a year," is not the kind of response you get from a place that was worried about you. If you were dating someone who stopped calling you for a year and then you see them and find out they have a new boyfriend, you clearly didn't have a very close bond to consider that a betrayal. Kinda uncomfortable, yeah... but it's not disloyalty. If your previous gym had really invested in you and then you took off, that would be shitty.

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Hi Maya, it's a situation most of us gets through sooner or later, I think. I agree with Sylvie on what she's written above.

It's a business relation most of all and if you're not in it to fight professionally, you can choose whichever gym suits you most - be it the trainer, the gym, the hours of training, the price or in your case the sparing sessions. 

After the gym I went to closed down earlier this year (permanently), I followed my trainer and I really wanted to stay "loyal" to him, and I worked out a way in which I still feel loyal to him, but also train with another trainer, at another gym, where the overall conditions (hours, location, gym atmosphere) is better for me. I feel that our bond weakened and I know he won't invest so much time in me as before when I was training 4-5x a week only with him. I feel a bit torn, but I also learn a lot from the other trainer, which makes a huge difference for me. And I'm open and honest about it - the hours at gym #1 don't suit me, I can't come. And obviously, just because the hours doesn't suit me, I won't be sitting around and crying, I go out and find a place where I can train at better hours for me. 

Enjoy your training at gym #2, if it's a good place for you.

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Hi Maya,

This is an interesting topic and a really difficult one to deal with. Even if your gym hasn't been giving you what you need or has been kind of shitty to you, it's still really difficult to leave. 

I agree with Sylvie that it wasn't cool for your original gym to not let you spar and then just tell you 'when you're ready' when you asked about it. I think people should be allowed to do light sparring from the start, but if that is the policy at their gym, then they should at least be building you up to that level. Seems like they just dismissed you when you expressed an interest in getting there, which is not cool.

When it comes down to it, if you are enjoying the new gym more and getting more out of the training there than you were at the first one, you shouldn't feel bad about continuing to train there. You have to do what's best for you.

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Hi, I am so sorry for the late replies. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply! I will comment on all replies today. New update: there was an amateur fight where both my gyms attended this month. My former head trainer (now in a different city) greeted me with "What happened?" He seemed to be surprised that I would leave. He repeated this a few times, and I was looking at my training friend like, "oh no," so I explained that gym #2 lets me spar and he didn't push any farther than that. The new trainer from gym #1 (who took over after my first head trainer left) did not acknowledge me at any point, but that is understandable since I was there for only 3 months under him. Overall, I feel a little better now that everyone knows and I have said hello to everyone.

I still feel kind of remorseful though. The one trainer who spent the most time training me was not at the fight this month and I am still feeling both indebted to him for what he taught me and guilty for leaving him. 

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I felt loyalty and filial bonds to the coaches there, but ultimately I felt that I wasn't being taken care of; loyalty isn't a one-way street.

Loved this line about loyalty not being a one-way street. I really think this sums up what bothered me deep down. Thanks!

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Enjoy your training at gym #2, if it's a good place for you.

Hi!! Thanks for the good advice! I really do feel that it is a good place for me and I get to spar, too. I am grateful for all the advice and encouragement and it means a lot because my new trainer is willing to let me fight in an amateur competition after December, like in 2016. :)

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Hi!! Thanks for the good advice! I really do feel that it is a good place for me and I get to spar, too. I am grateful for all the advice and encouragement and it means a lot because my new trainer is willing to let me fight in an amateur competition after December, like in 2016. :)

 

Who great!! Goodluck, enjoy it and train like crazy :D

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Hi!! Thanks for the good advice! I really do feel that it is a good place for me and I get to spar, too. I am grateful for all the advice and encouragement and it means a lot because my new trainer is willing to let me fight in an amateur competition after December, like in 2016. :)

This is so cool!! I really hope you will train your best and kick ass during the competition! Have fun, that's the most important thing! :)

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Hi, I am so sorry for the late replies. Thanks so much for taking the time to reply! I will comment on all replies today. New update: there was an amateur fight where both my gyms attended this month. My former head trainer (now in a different city) greeted me with "What happened?" He seemed to be surprised that I would leave. He repeated this a few times, and I was looking at my training friend like, "oh no," so I explained that gym #2 lets me spar and he didn't push any farther than that. The new trainer from gym #1 (who took over after my first head trainer left) did not acknowledge me at any point, but that is understandable since I was there for only 3 months under him. Overall, I feel a little better now that everyone knows and I have said hello to everyone.

I still feel kind of remorseful though. The one trainer who spent the most time training me was not at the fight this month and I am still feeling both indebted to him for what he taught me and guilty for leaving him. 

If you can find this trainer on Facebook you can always just send him a quick thank you. I did that with one trainer who was an "assistant" at a gym I left in the US that I was only at for a minute. But he was nice and the owner was a dick, so I wanted to let him know he'd been a good aspect of the gym for me.

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If you can find this trainer on Facebook you can always just send him a quick thank you. I did that with one trainer who was an "assistant" at a gym I left in the US that I was only at for a minute. But he was nice and the owner was a dick, so I wanted to let him know he'd been a good aspect of the gym for me.

Great idea! I just looked for him. I did send a thank you message to him! Thanks, I really wanted to make sure he knew I really appreciated the time and energy he spent on me.

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Glad you find a new home that works out for you. If the first gym really cared about your best interests than they should be happy for you.

 

Hey I got a teammate who left and found sucess at another gym, we're still very cool with him.

 

As for myself, I don't really know. Things feel different. I'm probably the only there training consistentlh. Some left, some don't fight anymore. Feels like I'm training myself 90% of the time. Its been difficult. Any advice?

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As for myself, I don't really know. Things feel different. I'm probably the only there training consistentlh. Some left, some don't fight anymore. Feels like I'm training myself 90% of the time. Its been difficult. Any advice?

 

It sounds like we are in the same boat, so I don't know that I can offer any advice, but I'm taking the leap and trying out a new gym next week. I suppose I won't know how I really feel until I do that. It's been so long since I really stepped out of my training environment and I'm excited to have some new eyes on me and see what that brings. I will report back on how that goes for me.

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Hi Emma, did you end up switching gyms? How did it go? I came across two opposing opinions on changing gym between one of your articles and one from muay thai scholar i believe.

 

I'm still on the lookout. I have tried a couple of other gyms, but neither of them were good for me. The first one wasn't very female-friendly and I didn't feel welcome there, and the second one did have quite a few Thai female fighters, a couple of whom are my size, but their training schedule doesn't fit with mine at all. I'm only available in the mornings because I work in the evenings, but when I went there for a morning session, it was only me. Two thai girls turned up later, but basically sat around the whole time, then did a few sit ups and bicep curls before leaving. I was told that they almost never spar at that gym, as well. It was quite disappointing. I'm have another gym in my sights, so going to train there either tomorrow or one day next week. Fingers crossed! For now, at least, an old sparring partner of mine has come back for a month, and my gym has got me a fight lined up, so things have looked up for the time being. 

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Sorry to hear the ones you went to did not work out. Glad to hear you now have someone to train with again along with the news of having a fight lined up. Chok dee. I've been sparring at other gyms when mines is not open, but they are not places where i would train at. Finding another gym is hard especially when you are already comfortable at where you started. One of my trainer is taking a indefinite break during evening sessions when I train, so its been discouraging not having consistent training partners and now a pad holder. I still enjoy going to my gym, but I'm not sure if its me mentally and if its just part of the process almost every gym goes through.

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First of all, thank you so much for everyone that's posted in this thread. I have gained some level of solace just from reading a conversation on this topic.

@MayaF I am glad you found a gym that better allow you to grow in your training. Your loyalty should first be to yourself and your training. And I commend you for reaching out to your trainer to express your gratitude. (I am chicken shit when it comes to reaching out to express sentiments like that.)

I find myself on the opposite side of the coin. I love being at my gym, but I may soon have no choice but to find another place to train. I have been training at my gym for about 9 months now. The instructors are awesome and so are the people I train with. I can’t imagine leaving this place. But I am graduating from school and starting my job soon. I know what the work schedule is like because I interned there before and know that I won’t be able to make it to any of the MT classes that I am currently taking. I probably won’t be able to take any of the MT classes at all.

I tried researching gyms closer to my new office. There is one that appears to work with my work schedule. But the thought of going to another gym is making me sad. I feel like I won’t want to be there. I might not get to focus on techniques like I do now and probably won’t get to spar and clinch either.

I feel like I’m cheating even though I hope to stay at my current gym and try to go whenever possible and only use this 2nd gym as a supplement. I emailed this 2nd gym but have received no response so far. (Maybe it’s a sign that I shouldn’t go, that I don’t want it and it doesn’t want me.)

Has anyone else been “forced” to change gyms before even though everything about the gym is already great?

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Matty, ohhh I feel ya!!

It's heartbreaking when you have to try out a new gym even though you want to train at the other one, but life happens and you can't.

I schedule things like this in my calendar. I consider my health condition, my workload during the day and how I will feel, so I can somehow pump myself up and gather the courage to try out a new place. And don't get discouraged after the first day. I usually give it 2 weeks - even if I have to force myself to go to every class, 2 weeks is a good time to starting to get to know people, getting a feel for the gym.

It's easy to say "this won't work out", but it's better to try the second place than be left with regret, less training hours and in the end effect - more stress.

Schedule it, give it a try and work from there. :) Good luck!

(btw. I realised no gym will be as great as the first one where I fell in love with Muay Thai....that's why it's hard for me to find a new "gym home" for myself)

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(btw. I realised no gym will be as great as the first one where I fell in love with Muay Thai....that's why it's hard for me to find a new "gym home" for myself)

 

Thanks for your kind words, Micc. It makes sense to schedule it like other things I have to go to, then I would have no choice but to go. And I like your advice on taking into account other stuff that's going on. It would maximize the chance of success.

I totally feel the same on finding a new "gym home". There will never be a gym as amazing as the one I am at right now, where I learned and fell in love with the beauty and grace of Muay Thai.

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So, I'm an artist (not a tangent, I swear)---I show my art at a local martial arts gym. I couldn't afford muay thai at  gym #2 for like 3 months, but I was going to this other gym as a hosted artist during that time, (gym #3), just to sit there with  my art and chat with the people who showed up to visit the art (in my city different businesses "host" local artists and open their doors for free to the public to come look). 

My friend asked me to paint her, so I painted an expressionist portrait of her throwing a roundhouse kick. Gym #3 owner liked my art so much he asked how much I wanted for it. I initially told him it wasn't for sale, but then I saw an opportunity and said it would cost one month of free training (I am sneaky). That was when I didn't have money to go to gym #2, and I am shy about pricing paintings "per square inch", as some painters do because it would come out super expensive and I'm not a prized artist so I'm not too comfortable charging per square inch, yet (well, I won an award at the community college level, but I haven't been in a formal gallery where the paintings start at like 500 dollars and go up from there). He didn't reply to my text at all, so I assumed he was offended and I left it alone. I was kind of kicking myself for making such a dumb offer:  :wallbash:

This week, I managed to save up enough to go to gym #2 (where I'm happy). The day before I showed up for practice at gym #2, the gym #3 owner replied to me and said we could discuss the "price" at the next art show in September. I was so surprised!

Now, I have to decide what to do. If they actually do offer me some sort of free trial month, or even a discount, how can I refuse? They all seem really enthusiastic and nice at gym #3. 

The gym #3 has longer hours than gym #2, so if they accept my trade (muay thai classes for muay thai painting), I was thinking about going to both. I already pledged to pay cash for gym #2 in September, and I don't want to make it seem like I abandoned gym #2, but I would love to barter a painting for muay thai classes! For the most part, I have waaaay more muay thai-inspired art then I do hard cash, so this would be an amazing opportunity! I feel loyalty to gym #2 owner and I wouldn't want him thinking I was testing the waters to leave his gym.

What should I do? Should I tell gym #2 that I'm training simultaneously at gym #3 or just keep it to myself? Should I accept a discount and hand over my best painting or just sell it for hard cash? I already made the offer, so I can't take it back, even if I wanted to (legally, as a business entity, I cannot rescind an offer, and I don't want to anyways), but I might be able to renegotiate.

I also wanted to tell this story because I think it's comical that I offered a large muay thai-inspired painting for muay thai classes. It's even more amusing when I found out they're willing to discuss this option further! My friend (the girl I painted) was like, "you did what??" :ohmy:  but then she told me to just go for it and see what happens. I guess I'll find out next week what they are thinking in terms of payment/trade! 

 

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Wow, that's an interesting story! :D

I love barter much more than paying for stuff, but well that's the commercial world we live in.

I don't really understand what it means "I already pledged to pay cash for gym #2 in September"?

I guess it won't hurt you to stay at gym #2 if you already made some sort of commitment. As far as I understand, you already started practice there, right? And at gym #3 you will discuss it in some time? So basically, you'd have to skip training at gym #2 while waiting for the negotiation at gym #3?

If that's the case I'd just go to gym #2 for the time being and if you can negotiate with gym #3 that they will let you train, then start going there in October? 

Maybe there is something more tangible that you could do for gym #3 that they could pay you for? Maybe you can do some promo materials for them? Flyers, banners, website stuff based on your paintings? This way you'll have money and still be cool with them.

Good luck! :D

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Micc, yes I started training on Friday at gym #2 and I do want to stay there long term. That's a good idea (training for free in October).

 

By pledge, I meant I gave my word I'd pay on the first and I will. I sparred on Friday and man, am I out of shape!! Those 3 months out really took its toll on my stamina! :-(

 

 

That idea about promo stuff is also really great! I hadn't thought of that! 

 

After thinking, I think you're right, maybe I can negotiate a cash payment instead, as I had added the words "negotiable" to the price.

 

Thank you!!

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It sounds like you are in a fantastic community for artists. Being able to showcase artwork for free at establishments sounds wonderful. 

I agree with Micc to work towards something tangible with gym #3. Maybe featured artwork for their fighters that can be used to market the gym? I think it's wonderful that there's potential for them to acknowledge the value for your talent. I used to be a fashion designer (a close cousin of art) and it was so easy to just create and create without much recognition at all. It was blissful to create, but it took a significant amount of time and didn't pay the bills most of the time. The fact that the owner at gym #3 already appreciates your work is really exciting. Maybe you have an opportunity to develop a niche that combines painting and muay thai. And if the owner of gym #2 has concerns, you could tell him just that: the owner of gym #3 offered you value for your art in the form of training. And you meant no disloyalty to gym #2 but it's an honour to your work.

Congrats on returning to gym #2 for training! :banana: Good luck with the negotiations!

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    • Hey, I'm familiar with the struggles with partnering with beginners.  Once is a while is fine, but you don't get as much out of the class as you would with someone at your level.  Here are things I've done in the past: 1) ask the advanced women to come help me train (either in class of outside of class)  2) invite the women that are less advanced, but seem keen on learning, to train with me outside of class, say casually for just techniques (I specified no sparring).  Also give them opportunity to suggest what to work on during those times you train together.  The 2nd one was very hard initially for me, as it involved setting up this new group training.   Our gym had ladies' sparring before that ended in disasters, so I tried to steer us away from that.  Also talking to be ppl I don't know and managing multiple new relationships makes me very anxious and mentally exhausted. But that investment of energy pays dividends -  I started this a few years ago and I have a few women from there that developed a lot since and partners when me in class consistently.  We train together outside of class also.  We even met up in parks to train when the gym got shutdown during covid (but small groups outdoor gatherings were allowed).
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