Sean “Muay Thai Guy” Fagan invited me to the August Nak Muay Nation training camp at Khongsitta Gym in Bangkok. We scheduled two days, allowing me to take part in 4 sessions with the group that has been training at the camp for the month of August (and some of them carrying over from the previous training camp in July). The camp was being hosted by American Fighter Muay Thai Athlete Paul Banasiak. This would bring 3 Muay Thai bloggers together!
My taxi picked me up at my apartment at 5:30 in the morning and we made the 2.5 hour drive out to Ladprao, a district of Bangkok that has a number of well-known gyms. It’s close enough to the center that you don’t have to make great efforts to get into the heart of Bangkok, but far enough away that the bustle disappears as you walk a few hundred feet away from the highway to the rings in the gym and the resort at the back. When we ran in the morning (8 km) it was with the traffic on the roads, but unlike where I am in Pattaya the route is lined with trees and there are sidewalks, so it’s actually quite nice.
Khongsitta itself is huge. There are multiple areas of the gym and each one is used during training, albeit for intervals. There are two standard-sized rings (the women at the gym went under the bottom rope for training, I’m not sure if they were instructed by trainers to do so or not; but women are allowed to enter both rings), maybe a 10 ft wide area of mats and then the edge is lined with a series of long heavybags of various styles. The people in the group would move between bags during the 3 rounds of bagwork, to implement the different techniques each bag caters to. (For example, two bags have angled tops for uppercuts, two bags are the teardrop style for knees, and there are three long and straight bags for lowkicks). Then there’s a middle area with pullup bars and tires, a much larger matted area with more hanging bags that was used for warmup, skipping rope and shadowboxing, and an entirely separate area with contemporary fitness equipment like kettlebells, medicine balls, a weighted sled, etc.
I had three pad sessions in those two days, 3 rounds at 3 minutes each, and every time with a different padholder so I got a bit of a sampling. They have a ton of trainers and the ratio of campers to trainers is is basically 1:2. The first two padholders I had were older and did their best to tire me out in the second round, but that doesn’t work for any holder. There’s always a getting to know each other period with new padholders and their pace was certainly partially to do with that, but when I started to play with each of them they responded well and were game. But my final padholder was a guy named Rui, who Kate described as “mini Pacquiao” because of how he looks. It’s an accurate description. Weirdly, we know each other already but I can’t remember from where. Maybe the stadium in Pattaya, maybe from a few of my fights when I’m traveling. But he was described by Kate as “the freestyle padholder” and that’s also an accurate description. His energy is great and he really does just let you improvise and he’ll catch everything. He didn’t so much hit me back or force me to block or defend much at all, but again it takes a bit to get used to each other and he might not know that I want that. I’m sure with a few more rounds or days he’d be hitting me back. It was really a lot of fun though. There are gyms where one trainer can be enough to make you go there and he’s that kind of trainer for a type of person.
It was interesting for me to see a different world of training from my daily grind in Pattaya and a lot of the training structure at Khongsitta reminded me of my first 2 years at Lanna Muay Thai up in Chiang Mai. Many of the folks training at the August camp were beginners, so a structured schedule and “supervisors” overlooking training works really well in those scenarios. It was a bit odd for me because I don’t crave structure and stretching together as a group is one of my least favorite activities in all of sport (we had to do this in soccer and I would rather run laps around the field, which everyone else seemed to hate), but the group dynamic was good. As an introduction to Thailand it seemed like a great wading in opportunity and the campers all seemed socially attuned and happy.
At the end of the second day I gave my clinch seminar, basically just going through the kinds of skills and techniques that can be grafted on to any style of clinch training. The day prior a group from the Kalsamrit team in Canada had stopped by – they’re in Thailand for the IFMA Youth Championships – and I got to have a bit of a “practice run” with those kids, which was awesome. In the Khongsitta seminar I covered everything I’d talked about in my previous blog post in anticipation of the session, but I also really enjoyed responding to the group and how everyone moved or what they seemed to grasp quickly or struggle with. It felt organic and everyone seemed to pick up on the greater ideas, even if it’s hard to digest so much information coming in from a single session. But I certainly enjoyed myself.
Thanks so much to Sean for inviting me and providing me with a room at the gym. Thanks to the team in the training camp for being so inviting and cool. And thanks to Khongsitta for their interest in me and making sure I felt included.