above, a walk through of Burklerk’s Gym in Lampang – filmed in May 2016
A Video Tour of Burklerk’s Gym
Burklerk’s gym is located down a neighborhood street lined with gated residences. His gym is not much different from those houses and he lives right there – most of the neighborhood is his extended family – but his gate is wide open and there’s big sign at the front to indicate it’s a Muay Thai gym. Once you’re standing at the driveway you can see the ring, the shrines to Khun Paen high up on the pillars and the matted floor, mirrors and hanging bags. The gym is deep and shaded from the sun; there’s a small weigh area, situp bench and showers around the far end where the smaller leg of the “L” shape is.
The gym isn’t what’s special about Burklerk’s gym. Burklerk is. He’s a legend and has a nearly undefeated record (8 losses) with 170 fights – the highest recorded winning percentage that I’ve seen (95.2%). His style stands out and is memorable for its dramatic counter-moves which hearken back to a somewhat older “Boran style.” But Burklerk himself is just amazing. He’s always got this brightness in his face that is at once inviting and somewhat amused. And he genuinely loves instructing, so his gym fills up every evening with locals: from kids to teens and teachers, as well as some fighters from abroad who have traveled to learn from the master. The group is mostly women, which is remarkable, and correction is continuous without being nagging or interfering. Many of the students are there for fitness, so their routine is alternating on the pads and a little bit of bagwork for those who are feeling spritely. The gym is very inviting to beginners, but there are fighters at the gym as well, making the 1 hour+ drive up to Chiang Mai for fights at the major stadia. There were was a small group of Canadian men training and fighting out of the gym for 6 months recently.
My own experience of training with Burklerk is not as a regular student. I came by for a private lesson and then have dropped by during regular training but didn’t take part in the routine. He’s incredibly generous and light-hearted. He’s encouraging without continual verbal affirmations, but rather his disposition makes you want to try again or make adjustments despite difficulties. His eye is tuned toward detail and he can see exactly what you’re doing or not doing, but he also isn’t adamant about you adopting his style. Rather, he presents the technique and lets you figure out your version of it. As long as its effective, it’s good. I’m so happy to see Ajarn Burklerk every time I have the chance, so when we drive up to Chiang Mai for fights we purposefully stay in Lampang for the chance to drop by and say hello… or even better have a little work with him.
Here, above, Burklerk is taking on a new student, an 11 year old local boy. It is very traditional to offer a tray to your teacher or the head of your gym upon matriculation as a student, but you rarely see it in Thai gyms as a westerner. This is the first time I’ve seen it in my more than 4 years here, traveling around Thailand. But this practice is part of Burklerk’s Old School approach – it’s actually a very traditional gym in the sense that it serves the community and nearly all the students are local school kids or college students. He’s very modern and at the same time a time capsule of the old ways.
above, women training at the gym
above, my vlog update and walk through shot in January 2016, my first visit to the gym
Who is Burklerk? One of the Best Ever?
Burklerk Pinsinchai is out of the very highly esteemed Pinsinchai gym and amassed, as mentioned above, perhaps the greatest fight record ever in Bangkok Stadium Muay Thai, with an unsurpassed winning percentage of 95.2%, losing only 8 times in 170 recorded fights. You can read more about him in this Siam Fight Mag interview or in my own article linked below. His style is distinct to him and his counter attacks made him very difficult to deal with. Upon looking at all the scars on my face from being a Muay Khao fighter, Burklerk smiled and proudly showed me his unblemished face and scalp – never one stitch.
above, 40 seconds of counters from Arjan Burklerk
10 minutes of training with him (below)
Teaching English and Learning Muay Thai in Lampang
One of Burklerk’s devotees is a middle-aged woman from the Philippines who has lived in Lampang for a very long time. She’s a professor at the local Assumption College, which seems to be a source for quite a number of the students at Burklerk’s gym, and she talked to me about the availability of teaching jobs (English) for those who are interested in long-term stay in Lampang for training at the gym. For visa purposes, as well as having an income, this is a great connection. Check back as this post will be updated with contact information for who you can talk to about teaching at the college.
I don’t have experience with teaching in Thailand, but Emma Thomas has been teaching in Bangkok for years and wrote a fantastic resource for those looking to teach in her blog Under the Ropes, “Teaching English in Thailand: FAQs and How to Get Started.”
Contacting Arjan Burklerk on Facebook
There are a number of Facebook pages for the Burklerk Gym but some of them appear to be inactive. I’ve had success communicating with Ajarn through this Burklerkgym Lampang FB page, but it’s a personal page instead of a “like” page, so you’ll have to message him. He doesn’t speak a lot of English, but I’m sure he has people to help him if you write to him in English.
A Google Map of Where Burklerk’s Gym Is – How to Get There
Taxi from Chiang Mai airport
Above is an interactive Google Map of where Burklerk’s Gym is. But Google Maps behaves a little oddly around his gym, I think due to its very close proximity to the Railroad Station. Below is a snap shot of where the gym is on the map (gold star).
Train from Bangkok
You can take the Northern Line train from Bangkok, Arjan Burklerk’s gym is walking distance from the Lampang train station. I took the train from Chiang Mai down to Bangkok many years ago and it was awesome. It’s not the fastest or cheapest way to travel, but you get to see incredible parts of Thailand via the train routes and it’s a romantic way to travel. Plus, you get dropped off just a 10 minute walk from the gym, and Arjan’s wife has a restaurant at the station (the best Pad Thai) that you can make first contact with.
The above gives you a sense of travel time, go here to see the latest up to date schedule – use “Nakhon Lampang” as the destination.
Where We Stay in Lampang
Below is a little video walk through of a small hotel we stay at when visiting Arjan Burklerk. It’s run by an enthusiastic woman who tells me that she wanted to train in Muay Thai as a girl, but women were not allowed. If you have a motorbike it’s 5 minutes from the gym. Lampang is a peaceful, well-off Thai town. If you’ve come to party this isn’t the place for you. It has a quiet feel, some very nice restaurants, and for some people might make a very nice place to spend some time.
This hotel is 390 baht a night, here is a map of its location