I’ve now spent 2 years travelling to the best (and worst) muay Thai camps in Thailand. As I write up my muay Thai camp reviews, I notice that all of my favourite gyms have a similar set of characteristics which sets them apart from the other gyms I’ve visited. Now, not everyone has the same wants and needs when looking for a gym; we all have different skill-levels and different goals for our trip to Thailand. However, these factors are all worth considering and, in my experience, I believe these are the characteristics that all of the great muay Thai camps in Thailand possess.
Of course, this is a hypothetical list. Will you find a gym that possesses all of these qualities? Not a chance. But looking for a gym that possesses as many of these traits as possible will certainly be a step in the right direction.
Best Muay Thai Camps In Thailand – 15 Characteristics
When I first started training in Thailand, I couldn’t give a crap if the gym was nice and sparkly or if the personnel in the gym had good hygiene habits, as long as I got hardcore training.
Fact is, if you get sick while you’re in Thailand, you won’t be training at all. You’ll be at home in bed and you will be missing out on training that you’ve probably already paid for. Not to mention the fact that your time in Thailand may be limited.
Anyone who says that you don’t get good training unless you’re training at a rat-infested gym down a back-alley in Bangkok is talking rubbish, and they probably haven’t even trained in any of those gyms. Most of that is just hear-say and rumours that circulate in the tourist camps of Phuket.
Truth is, you’ll receive good and bad training in all types of muay Thai camps in Thailand. Judge every gym on its merit.
My recommendations – Aim to train at a camp with clean, matted floors – Carpeted floors are the most unhygienic element of any gym; they soak up sweat and filth from beneath people’s feet all day long and rarely (if ever) get cleaned.
Don’t use the gym’s boxing equipment – Always use your own gear and never share. Stay away from those gloves that have had 1000 people’s manky hands in them!
Fairtex Pattaya Gym – One of the cleanest muay Thai camps in Thailand.
Injuries are the worst things that will happen in your career as a fighter or practitioner. If a gym neglects safety aspects, your chances of being unable to train for months (or even years) due to injury dramatically increase.
I have just started training again after 16 months out injured. How did I get injured? I was skipping on a concrete floor. This is why I’ll never train on an un-matted surface again, and I advise you to do the same.
My recommendations – Train at a gym with a matted floor – if you really insist on training on carpets or concrete, wear suitable footwear whilst you hit bags, skip or shadow-box.
Being part of the Fairtex resort, Fairtex gym in Pattaya has much the same health and safety standards as you would find in most western countries
#3 Good quality, well-maintained equipment
” Take care of your equipment, and your equipment will take care of you.”
Most muay Thai camps in Thailand have high-quality gear such as Boon, Twins, Fairtex, Top King etc. But what kind of condition is it in? Are the bags half-full because nobody could be bothered to refill it, and now you can barely hit it? Are the trainers pads so old that they are cutting your shins to bits?
My recommendations – Choose a gym that isn’t tight-fisted and maintain their equipment well and replace it as and when it is required.
Khongsittha muay Thai gym in Bangkok is a new, well maintained facility with top brand equipment.
#4 Adequate training space and bag access
A deficit in either of these areas leads one of two things: a whole lot of waiting around or an increased risk of injury. You’re paying good money for your training and you don’t want to be doing endless rounds of shadow-boxing when you should be hitting the heavy bag. Also, if there isn’t enough space in the gym, people are going to be falling into each other and someone may get injured.
My recommendations – Make sure the gym has adequate boxing rings and mat space, even in the busiest of times, Oh, and plenty of bags to go around.
Por Burapha Gym in Chon Buri – One of the largest muay Thai camps in Thailand with plenty of bags to go around.
#5 Top Class Trainers
There are some great trainers in Thailand…but there are also some lousy ones. In my opinion, a few of the qualities your muay Thai trainer should have are, but not limited to, good motivational skills, good pad positioning, the willingness to teach you new techniques, the ability to correct poor (or what he perceives to be poor) form and, last but not least, a good sense of humour.
Clearly, there are many more than this but I think these skills are of great importance.
My recommendations – If your trainer isn’t doing one or more of the things above, you should speak to him and request he do so. For example, if he’s not holding the pads in the correct position for you, tell him.
Every student is different and the trainer won’t get it right every time. If the guy is lazy or just really bad, make sure you get a different trainer next time. Speak to the boss of the gym and tell him you want to work with trainer “x”.
Lanta muay Thai gym on Koh Lanta island has some great technical trainers
#6 Good Student:Trainer Ratio
In my opinion, a good gym should have around a 3:1 student:trainer ratio. Any higher than this and sessions drag on due to the fact that you’ve been on the heavy bag for 15 rounds whilst waiting for your pad rounds. You certainly won’t be receiving any guidance or feedback during your shadow and bag work.
My recommendations – Avoid packed tourist gyms where you’re just another number. If you’re stuck on bags for half of the session then it’s time to move gyms.
Sityodtong gym in Pattaya has about a 2:1 student:trainer ratio.
#7 Thai:foreigner ratio
The amount of Thais vs the amount of foreigners can also be a factor in muay Thai camps in Thailand. The mix can alter training style, quality and atmosphere of the gym.
My recommendations – Personally, I think you need both Thais and foreigners in equal quantities. A Thai-heavy gym will limit your progress in terms of style, and you may find that you out-weigh all of your training partners.
A foreigner-heavy gym will probably result in most of your training partners being low-level tourists. I believe that every foreigner needs to train with Thais in order to see any kind of progress in the clinch.
Por Burapha gym in Chon Buri has very few foreign visitors.
#8 Good quality training partners
The two sets of people we have to make us better muay Thai athletes are trainers and training partners. It would be disadvantageous to have world class trainers but sparring and clinching with bums. Being a big fish in a small pond is not the way to progress. Having said that, being a small fish in a big pond isn’t great either!
My recommendations – Somewhere in between is more suitable, not only to avoid feeling demoralised every day in training when you’re being thrown around and getting your ass kicked, but training with lower-level fighters is a good opportunity to practice the skills you have picked up from the more elite fighters at the gym.
At Meenayothin gym in Bangkok, you’ll have the opportunity to train with superstars Aikpracha Meenayothin and Wunheng, amongst others.
The clinch is my favourite part of training, but I think that clinchwork sould be a priority for most foreigners when training at muay Thai camps in Thailand. It’s common for a foreigner to be stronger in other areas of muay Thai, and Thais are generally much better than westerners so it makes sense to get the most out of training in Thailand by clinching as much as possible.
My recommendations – Any gym that doesn’t do much clinchwork isn’t a real fighters gym. It should be trained daily, sometimes twice per day.
F.A. Group Muay Thai Camp trains the clinch for 60-90 minutes per day.
By the term “well-connected”, I mean that the gym should have good connections with promoters and other gyms in order to get you the big fights, as and when you need them. If you don’t mind fighting at Bangla stadium for eternity then you don’t need to worry, but if you would like to fight further afield, earn more money and fight better opponents then this attribute is vital.
To be honest, you’ll only ever come across a few muay Thai camps in Thailand with little or no connections, and that’ll be in the foreign-managed gyms in somewhere like Phuket. Thai-owned gyms will almost always have connections to the big name players as they know the fight game inside-out.
My recommendations – If the gym doesn’t have connections, you’ll have to make your own contacts; ask friends, search Facebook, hussle! Or better still, go to a gym that’s managed by someone who knows what they’re doing.
This one is certainly down to personal taste. I like disciplined gyms, to an extent.
I don’t like being told to do thousands of knees on the bags or being made to perform thousands of sit-ups every day, or being made to do out-dated boot-camp style training. But what I do like is gyms that operate in a timely fashion, and when it’s time to clinch – we clinch. When it’s time to smash pads – we smash pads!
I dislike gyms that decide not to clinch that day just because nobody can be bothered. It’s also good to have a trainer assigned to the bag area to make sure nobody slacks off when they’re tired (we’re all guilty of it).
My recommendations – Every good gym has a head trainer at the forefront – lazy head trainer, lazy gym. I think Thai owners operate gyms much more successfully too. Thai people don’t like to take orders from foreign owners so it’s extremely difficult for a foreigner to keep good order in the gym.
Wech Pinyo muay Thai gym is one of the few muay Thai camps in Thailand (Koh Samui) which is very structured and organised.
When I travel to Thailand I want to see a glimpse of the real Thailand. I don’t want to travel thousands of miles to see the same things as I do at home.
Any gym that caters for foreigners will have lost some of its traditional ways or authenticity to some extent, but some more than others.
My recommendations – For the most part, traditional gyms offer the best muay Thai training. The training routine won’t have been changed for the benefit of foreigners, and the volume and intensity of the training will be at the levels they need to be for the Thais to compete successfully.
Gyms like these tend to have a better calibre of Thai fighter.
13 Coins Muay Thai camp caters for foreigners, but the training regime is very traditional.
#13 Reasonably priced
In recent years, muay Thai camps in Thailand have started to really hike up their prices for foreigners. The foreign-owned camps are usually the worst value for money in my experience, and so I wouldn’t stay at one of those camps for longer than a few days.
My recommendations – I can’t justify paying more than 300 baht per session or 8,000 baht per month for training. If you’re staying for more than a month, rent your own accommodation and eat at restaurants outside of the gym to save a whole load of money. Also, tell the gym owner that you don’t plan on staying long term and I guarantee you’ll be able to negotiate a discount. Always haggle the price down for a longer stay.
Meenayothin gym in Bangkok certainly has some great value package deals.
#14 Promotes Equality
It’s not uncommon to find that muay Thai camps in Thailand favour Thais over foreigners. This can be one of the problems in these “authentic” or “spit and sawdust” gyms. Not all of them. But I have definitely experienced this in a couple of gyms.
You won’t receive the same training that they do; the trainers don’t spend as much time with you and will lack interest in teaching you. In some gyms, you won’t even get to train with the Thais!
My recommendations – You’ll know right away if this is the case. Be forthright in your approach, make yourself heard and force your way into the sparring and clinching with the Thais. Either that or just straight up and leave. My choice here would be to find a gym that gave a crap about me, but the choice is yours.
Sasiprapa gym in Bangkok is one of the muay Thai camps in Thailand which gives foreign guests just as much attention as the Thais
The surrounding area of your chosen gym shouldn’t be overlooked.
I don’t think it’s the most important factor to consider when training at muay Thai camps in Thailand but it certainly makes the whole experience (and, ultimately, your training) more enjoyable.
After training for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week for months on end the routine can really start dragging you down and you don’t enjoy what you’re doing as much.
My recommendations – Try to find a camp in a nice area that has a bit of life in it. The longest I stayed in a single camp was 6 months. I loved the area at first, but after 6 months I was absolutely sick of it! It was boring and I couldn’t handle it anymore.
Ideally, I’d have some decent shops nearby like Tesco, laundry lady, market and some nice restaurants. As a fighter/practitioner here, that’s all you need, but it’s nice to be able to do something a little bit different every now and again. Some bars and nightclubs within driving distance is always good.
Bangrajun Muay Thai Gym in Phuket is located in the quiet area of Rawai.
So what are the best muay Thai camps in Thailand? As you can see from this post, every gym has pros and cons so it’s a tough question to answer. What you need to ask yourself is…what characteristics are most important to me?
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