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maggie

Picking a full time gym in Thailand

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I'm moving to Thailand from New York City in June to start fighting full time, and I'm looking for opinions on gyms to start at.

For context, I only have one smoker and two fights here in the US (3x2, no elbows) so I still consider myself at the beginning of my fight career. 

I have no preference for city and I'm comfortable with the notion that whatever gym I start at might not be where I end up. The two that I'm currently looking at are Hongthong gym in Chiang Mai, and Kem Muay Thai in Khorat. I've trained at Hongthong before for a week and had a good experience, while Kem is an unknown to me, although the training looks authentic and hardcore which appeals to me. My concerns with Kem are that it might be too hardcore for a beginning fighter like me and perhaps with less access to fights at my level, in addition to the fact that it is isolated and I don't actually speak Thai yet (although I'm trying to teach myself). I like to think I'm adventurous and if I don't start at Kem I will end up training there for some amount of time eventually. My concern with Hongthong is that it's more geared towards tourist training, although they certainly have fighters and there is a lot of access to fight shows, especially for women, in Chiang Mai.

Anybody have any advice or suggestions as to what I should take into account as I pick a gym? 

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There really is no place in Thailand, in fact all the world, for women who want to fight and fight frequently, like Chiang Mai. If this is priority, it really has to be this.

But because you really are looking to move longer term how about shuttling between the two? I don't think not knowing Thai would be a problem at Kems. What might be cool is to spend a month at Kems, then go back over to Hongthong, taking with you all the training habits, and techniques you pick up over there and putting them to use in what may perhaps be a more casual environment. As a less experienced fighter the more "material" you give Joe Hongthong, the more he can work with it. You can train up and treat Kems something like a fight camp, and then come down to Hongthong and try to fight a couple of times, and then back up to Kems (if you liked it)? After a month at Kem's you might be ready to be back in the city a little too.

Just an idea.

An alternative to Kem's (which seems awesome in its own right) might also be Sangtiennoi's gym, another more hardcore, traditional gym, but with a nice inclusive feel.

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Thank you so much for this answer - it seems like a good way to have my cake and eat it too; fighting frequently while getting exposure to both city and rural environments, and more authentic hardcore training without putting myself out of my depth at the beginning. And it confirms what I suspected: that Chiang Mai is the place for me to be, for the frequency that I want to fight at. 

And thank you for the Sangtiennoi suggestion, I'd read Sylvie's post but somehow it hadn't registered as an option...

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Thank you so much for this answer - it seems like a good way to have my cake and eat it too; fighting frequently while getting exposure to both city and rural environments, and more authentic hardcore training without putting myself out of my depth at the beginning. And it confirms what I suspected: that Chiang Mai is the place for me to be, for the frequency that I want to fight at. 

And thank you for the Sangtiennoi suggestion, I'd read Sylvie's post but somehow it hadn't registered as an option...

 

Personally, the Kem/Hongthong split strikes me as the perfect contrast. Kem's gym is just spectacularly beautiful. There's a gorgeous valley vista right outside the practice ring, it's like an oasis up on a mountain, and the technique/training seems both rigorous and precise. But it is up in the middle of nowhere. Having been in both gyms they seem somehow complimentary. They do maybe frame a "best of both worlds" kind thing. The good thing about taking this kind of approach is that you get a real perspective for comparison, and maybe learn to appreciate each for what the other doesn't have. And, you may just decide after one cycle that you really like one more than the other. They are so much different worlds there won't be any political issues of changing or moving gyms, I would think, at least the first few times through.

Sangtiennoi's gym is different than Kem's. Kem's is really new, and built on beautiful grounds, anchored by the two stars Kem and Yodwicha. Sangtiennoi's gym is kind of an old fashioned kaimuay, attached to the family home, it feels old and worn (in a good way), and it is anchored by the Golden Age legend Santiennoi. It's the kind of gym that feels like it has had westerners in it for a long time, more than a decade, but it remains unchanged by that. It has it's Thai boys, a few star fighters or long term westerners, and just goes on the same clock, year after year. With Kem you have incredible surroundings and really sharp, drill Sargent instruction. Sangtiennoi's gym seems to be on the old, Thai clock of a traditional camp. I'm not sure which gym would be better for women, though I do know female fighters who repeatedly returned to each gym. What it may come down to is that one is run by a 30+ year old former star, and one a 50+ year old former star. Both have really great padmen.

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Great - thank you for all this information. How about Santai vs. Hongthong for my primary Chiang Mai gym?  

 

Maybe someone who has trained at Santai can hop on. My personal sense from afar is that the gym is VERY well liked by loyal, return fighters, but that it is something of a farang camp. And it has a reputation of teaching only a single style of Muay Thai (which some might prefer), changing people's kicks and techniques to suit that style. That isn't something I'd recommend given the richness and variety of technique available in Thailand. This would be perhaps in contrast with what we experienced at Hongthong when Sylvie did a private with Joe. Joe thought hard about how Sylvie fights (in advance, he had seen her fight) and how he could show her things that could really compliment and expand her already existing style. The private was more or less amazing (you can see the full hour of it on Patreon). But that degree of freedom or looseness of approach might not be for everyone. Also, if you are going to divide time between Kem (which is isolated), Hongthong makes more sense because Santai is pretty isolated too, there's a bit of a trek if you want reach Chiang Mai. This being said Hongthong is reportedly ready to move to a brand new location (they are keeping this under wraps) which sounds like it's going to be an enormous upgrade in terms of facilities. I'm not quite sure where that location will be (in/around Chiang Mai). They will probably have moved by the time you arrive, so maybe watch their Facebook page?

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I spent two weeks at Santai and they do seem to try to mold everyone who comes in to the gym to one specific style, regardless of their previous experience...while I have experienced trainers at different gyms adjusting my technique in whatever way they felt I should be executing it and it is common for trainers to teach you "their style", with Santai it was too much for me and I found that I kept getting forced into a style that felt completely against everything I knew, like I was starting all over, and on many occasions, even when I was doing a private session with my trainer, the head trainer would come by to tell my trainer not to teach me this technique or that technique and insist that we keep working on basics...I agree that it is important to have good basics, but I came to learn more than basics and at that point I already had several years of training, including in Thailand, so I came to learn muay thai more in depth, not just basics...I also found there was very limited clinch time and limited to no instruction/feedback in clinch and sparring, it felt more like "oh just let them do whatever they want" kind of attitude, with trainers just leaning against the ropes, laughing while people who were too beginner to be even attempting sparring swinging haymakers at each other...however, that is only my experience based on what I saw; as was mentioned above, there are people who love that gym so I guess to each their own.

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Hi, I'm doing something similar but I'll be in Bangkok this August. Have been to a couple of gyms in Bangkok but I didn't really like them 100%. Getting a bit bored of the open training sessions, where you don't really have training partners or fighters to train with...

Is there a gym that someone could recommend for a first fight? I got 2 fight offers in Phuket too and was thinking about staying there for a bit, when I'm back and start there but I'll be back in Bangkok after that and it would be nice if I could continue here or maybe even start here right away, if it's possible. 

Heard that Bangkok is not as good as Phuket for a first fight. Is it true?

Thank you very much in advance!!

Have a nice weekend :)
 

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Here's Sylvie's list of gyms she recommends. Emma recently started training at Attachai's gym in Bangkok and is now a sponsored fighter there. Emma's review and Sylvie's review of Attachai Muay Thai Gym.

 

Yeah, Attachai's looks really good. Emma couldn't be more pleased with the gym, and it would seem like a good gym for a first fight (there are local fight shows now...but checking directly with Emma would be best).

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Hey guys, thanks. One of my friends told me abut Attachai a few days ago :) Just looked it up and saw that it's only a few stops away from where I'll be living. This is exciting news. Looking forward to try it out! Thank you very much.

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