I’m stopped on the side of a street off a main road, On Nut Road, in Bangkok. There are small shops, a lot of large residential buildings, and some very loud construction that I’m trying to plug out of my ear so I can hear Attachai on the other side of a phone call. It’s a sometimes narrow street like can be found on any other Bangkok side soi. “No, go more,” he says. So I get back in the car and Kevin and I creep down the road, all of it looking exactly the same as the front end of the street. Thing is, there are gyms on streets like this all the time. They just appear out of nowhere. In fact, my gym – Petchrungruang – is exactly like this. You’d never see it unless you already knew it was there. So we make it all the way down to the end of the road, where it literally ends and there’s just some trees and a dirt road that might go nowhere off to the side. But Attachai is standing there, waiting for us, so it’s got to be somewhere around here.
above, this is what it looks like at the very entrance, at the end of On Nut Alley 36
We get out and exchange salutations. We’re shooting an hour, capturing his technique and instruction style for my Sessions with Legends Muay Thai Library documentary project. He takes my gym bag from me and carries it, like he’s helping me in a gentlemanly way with luggage or something, while I get Jaidee out of the car and then we follow him as he heads toward this wall of trees. As we get closer, I see there’s a cement footpath with increasingly impressive foliage as we move through. Within only a few dozen paces, you can’t see the road anymore and you’re just in this little piece of jungle. On the right side are sign posts with mottos and mantras, in English, to prepare you for what is expected from you at the gym. “Fake! Fake! Fake!” is one of my favorites, as well as a painted phrase on the doors to the shower: “Soap is to the body what laughter is to the soul.” Alright. In the video further down you can see the reverse of the path, us coming out after training. It’s quite a transition.
above, the ring and bags
above, my video walk through of the gym
above, video: the quiet walk out from the ring to the lake and back
The gym itself is lovely. Everything is brand new as the gym has only been open for about a month, and hasn’t even had its Grand Opening (May 29, 2017) but it’s also well designed so that the open space feels both sheltered and also connected to the lake and the field to the side. You feel like you are training outdoors without any of the drawbacks of actually doing so. Attachai matter-of-factly tells me that you can fish in the lake – a trainer seems to be doing that out on the dock as we speak – then he points to a series of pagodas along the shore, where you can eat your lunch or just hang out. Relaxation time is built into the concept of the gym, but the hard work of a seasoned fighter is what’s promised by those signs as you make your way in. It’s really nice. Attachai has me start out with the basics of any Thai camp: jumping on the tire, skipping rope and shadowboxing to warm up. Then he has me throw some combinations that he calls for on a bag, just to see how I move. He has me do a low kick and high kick drill, making a few noises of approval, which I’ll admit surprise me a bit because I don’t approve of my own high kicks at all. But he likes them enough to have me do a jumping head-kick as one of the first things he wants from me when we begin our padwork in the ring. I think it’s a bit of a signature for him, but likely can’t be a signature move for many. You literally squat down in place, then spring up from that some spot and just flick your leg out to slam your shin into someone’s dome. Powerful? Not when I do it. Impressive? Definitely.
above, extended highlights from Attachai’s career
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Attachai. He spent 5 years working for Evolve MMA in Singapore, teaching beginners and white collar types with a smattering of fighters no doubt but not primarily in a “fighters camp,” as you might find in Thailand. So he certainly knows how to teach, but what I want out of a private session with legends for Patreon is to learn their style. Teach me Attachai, so to speak. He seemed slightly perplexed by this request, maybe because no matter what he teaches will be his style so it’s a silly request, or maybe because he’s not even fully aware of what is “his style.” Attachai is known for his incredible timing. He’s one of these totally frustrating, tricky fighters, but with knockout power. It’s hard to teach timing. I mean, how do you teach timing? Turns out, Attachai has a brilliant system for exactly this. He moved me through a series of drills that were part-padwork and part-sparring; and a lot of faking. (Remember that sign out front, “Fake! Fake! Fake!”? Those are the first three rules of how to Attachai.) Because of my experience level, it was reasonably smooth to move through his different drills, even though a few of them were amazingly difficult for me, showing me the holes in my game despite now 5 years in Thailand. But he just had me keep trying. As a beginner, I imagine you’d only do one or two of these drills, but they wouldn’t need to change at all. They are interactive play drills designed to bring aspects of fighting out, in the Thai style. I was very impressed and I laughed a lot. Attachai’s style is not my style and in fact some of it is very hard for me, not only physically but mentally/emotionally feeling like I can’t meet the parameters of the challenge. But Attachai was very patient and just kept finding small adjustments, or turning everything into a game so that you’re laughing and playing rather than overthinking and trying. It’s brilliant, really.
above is a clip of some of the session with more specific things being taught and drilled. The entire hour session will be available to my patrons, added to my Muay Thai Library of Sessions with Legends, with commentary.
After training I took a shower in their common restroom area (one toilet and one shower room for men, one of each for women), no hot water but they did have shower soaps and shampoo provided, which was nice. When I came back out for a bit of filming I got a sense of what the gym feels like as a post-training social area. There were a few trainers milling around, very relaxed and fitting to the space. There’s a small equipment shop that also displays Attachai’s belts and trophies, as well as a section of wall that is a collage of photographs from his days as a fighter.
above, Attachai and me in front of his wall of fame photos
above, Attachai signing my 123 Greatest Fighters of All Time book
We took some photos in front of that collage and I asked him to sign my “123 Greatest Fighters” book, flipping to his portrait and handing him a pen. He had never seen the book before and looked genuinely honored that he was in it and that I wanted his signature. I showed him a few other pages with greats like Karuhat, Sangtiennoi, Dieselnoi and he smiled like a little kid. Then, just like the gentleman who carried my bag in, he offered to carry my bag when he walked us back out. I was a bit self-conscious of how rank my bag is when it has my wet training clothes balled up in it, so I thanked him but decided to carry it myself. Paula, a young Thai woman with perfect English, who works in the office and manages the camp walked with us to the end of the walkway, where it all becomes a street in Bangkok again. Like crawling out of Narnia back into the wardrobe. I cannot believe this beautiful camp is right there in Bangkok. It truly is like a little oasis, a hidden escape that is within reach of one of the main veins running through Bangkok. Best of both worlds, with a Muay Thai legend at the helm. Pretty great.
How to Contact and Go There
You can reach Attachai Muay Thai Gym on their Facebook Page. Paula is the manager of the gym, a very nice woman who happens to be Attachai’s niece and is fluent in English, which is a great bonus to communication needs, and for women who might want to train long term.
Getting to the gym, it’s found at the end of On Nut Alley 36. There is a brief walk through the cooling jungle. You can see the change in scenery from the ring to On Nut Road in my video of the exit after my training:
above, video: Attachai and gym manager Paula walking me out after my session. This edit shows the complete transition from the ring in the middle of practically a park of green, all the way to On Nut Road.
above, the Google Earth view of where the gym is located
The Google Map on their website is accurate, as of writing this the map marker on their Facebook Page is just a few streets off.