above, a video walk through of the new Hongthong Gym in Chiang Mai w/ some fighter interviews
When I did my first private session with Joe Hongthongnoi at the gym several months ago he and his twin brother run in Chiang Mai, he mentioned that they were planning a new gym location in the next six months. It was still kind of unannounced as the planning wasn’t finalized, but what Joe described sounded great. The existing Hongthong gym was beautiful as it was, surrounded by these enormous trees that threw nearly entire work area into a speckled shade, but it was clear from how Joe talked about the ideas for the gym that they needed more space and to create a more all-in-one option for their students, who at that point were housing in the apartment buildings down the street from the gym.
Kevin and I rolled up to the new Hongthong location a few weeks ago on the big cleaning day before their opening. The rings were up, but the ropes were still slack. Some of the heavy bags were being lifted and positioned by very strong Thai men (trainers from the gym), everyone laughing and joking with each other as they worked – check out that video here. Joe pointed to this open bit of land with enormous and beautiful trees at the front of it, explaining it would be a lawn by next week, and on the other side of it was this very modern but unobtrusive structure that would be the student housing. When we returned about a month later, everything was up and running. The area is as beautiful as the previous Hongthong gym, but just much more open. Like it unfolded, kind of. But the surrounding area, in a larger sense, has a cool energy to it as well. There’s a soccer pitch right across the little road, some apartments down the street that feel young – college students maybe – so there’s this kind of buzzing energy without it being busy. And Joe is a very energetic fellow as well, so his excitement and drive permeate the space while still having a very laid back feel overall.
Everything is in full swing, and the gym was just gorgeous, adding significantly to the options for Muay Thai training and fighting. I walked through the whole space and met a few of the students of the gym, I was struck by how there seemed a pretty distinct quality of westerner at the gym (that tends to be true of most of the gyms I have visited; energies attract similar energies, I think) that felt like there was a social connectedness while still providing space and privacy for each member. Laid back, serious, committed, nice people. The gym already has a culture which is an extension of the brothers Joe and Gen who run it. Everyone I interviewed was either just about to fight or had an idea of when they would be fighting, which to me is a huge deal. While Hongthong is very western inclusive and Joe has his finger on the pulse of “modern sport science” for their conditioning methods, it’s still a fighter’s gym at heart. And that’s kind of the best of both worlds.
As for the training itself, I’ve had two private sessions with Joe and he’s proved to be one of the best Muay Khao trainers I’ve trained with. What is really interesting about the gym is that his twin brother Gen is the opposite kind of fighter, a Muay Femeu specialist. So in one gym you can find focus on two dominant, opposing styles that make up much of Thailand’s Muay Thai.
Where is the Gym?
below is a Google Map of the gym, you can contact Joe who speaks English quite well on their Facebook page.
If you are a female fighter Hongthong has a long reputation of working with women who want to fight, and I believe that there is no city in the world that is better for female fighting. I wrote about that here:
You can see my full list of recommended gyms here in this thread on my forum.