Go for it
Summary : A gym of highs and lows. Great training in some respects but the facility and hygiene lets it down. If that stuff doesn't bother you, crack on. Good gym.
Located in Chatuchak, Bangkok, F.A. Group is home to some of the best Thai fighters in Thailand. When I was preparing for my third trip in Thailand, F.A. Group was right at the top of my list. Why? Probably for the same reason anyone else trains at this gym – Petchboonchu. This fighter has made the F.A. Group gym into a well-known brand in the muay Thai world while showcasing his skills in Lumpinee on a monthly basis.
Being the most decorated fighter in the history of the sport, Petchboonchu has won more titles than any other fighter and is renowned for his fierce clinching and relentless pace. So does this gym live up to its name as one of the best gyms for clinching in Thailand? Well, kind of…
When you’re driving through the many back roads to get to the F.A. Group gym, you may have a bit of trouble finding it, and even driving passed it a couple of times. It’s a really small building and doesn’t really look like a gym, holding only a few worn out bags and one ring. Until it’s training time that is…
The structure of the sessions goes like this… well, actually, there isn’t really a structure to speak of…
F.A. Group is unlike any other gym I’ve visited in Thailand. The gym itself is so small that there’s basically no structure to the sessions due to the limited space. I mean at 4:30pm all the Thais clinch, and most of the foreigners too, but that’s about it. After that, everyone is doing their own thing; bagwork, technique work, sparring or hitting pads.
The clinching usually lasts between 30 minutes and 1 hour and then the trainers will start taking boxers on pads. You’ll get to clinch with really high-level Thai fighters here who regularly fight in Lumpinee but, as you know, Thais are small and they range from around 50-65kg in F.A. Group. One exception to this is would be Panom Top King who is around 85kg. However, don’t expect to do much training with Panom as he is, shall we say, more than a little “laid back” and will basically never clinch with you. Apparently, Panom is now coaching full time at the gym and is pretty good on pads, so that’s probably a bonus.
You’ll get to clinch with Petchboonchu, although he may only train for 5-10 days out of the month due to his fight schedule. And, when he does train, he is a popular training partner so you’ll have to wait your turn!
The majority of the time I was training here I clinched with a few high-level fighters from the UK, so I was really lucky to have training partners my own height and weight who I could learn from. This re-emphasised my belief in needing good Thais AND foreigners when training at muay Thai camps in Thailand.
I should also point out that, although the Thais are generally smaller than the foreigners who visit, they can hold their own against an 80kg+ foreigner any day. When you’ve been thrown around by a 60kg Superbank you’ll know what I mean.
There are no bums here. All the Thais are top notch and specialise in the clinch.
It’s basically up to you to decide what you do once the clinching is over. It isn’t possible for everyone to do everything together like in other gyms. In the majority of Thailand’s gyms, there will be a few people hitting pads while all the other boxers are hitting bags, and then switching over when you’re called onto pads by a trainer. You don’t get this kind of structure in F.A. Group due to the fact that there are only 3 worn out bags with little space around them in the corner of the gym. It’s pretty impossible to get any quality bagwork in – especially if you’re tall like me.
If you’re not on pads right away then you can pair up and spar or do some technique work. The Thais here don’t spar very often. I think foreigners generally need to spar more than Thais do, so a few of us would get together at some point during the session and train among ourselves.
The time in between clinching and pads can be a real drag if you’re called into the ring last. Literally, if the gym is packed, there’s no bags free and barely any space to shadow box. I’m not going to shadow box for more than a few rounds per session anyway.
There is actually an old trainer who helps out all the foreigners with technique and he is really thorough, although his English is pretty limited.
The pad training in F.A. Group is OK. It’s pretty much the same 8 techniques or so on repeat the whole 5 months I was here, but it’s not much different from any of the other gyms I’ve trained at in Thailand either, to be honest. The biggest problem I had was that the trainers were so short that I realised (after 5 months) that I was high kicking below my own hip height and I had become incapable of kicking high when I trained with somebody my own size.
Rounds aren’t timed but they are usually around 4 or 5 minutes and you’ll probably just get 3 rounds unless you have a fight coming up,in which case you tell them you want hard training and you’ll get it.
Another reason why F.A. Group is different than most other gyms is that they are quite reluctant to get fights for foreigners. If you’re looking for big fights on a regular basis either in Thailand or abroad, forget it. You’ll be expected to book your own fights for the most part. For me, this was a good thing; I like to book my own fights through people I know outside of the gym so I have control of my body. I can train when I want, how I want, and fight when I want, so it suited me down to the ground.
The gym owner, Liam, will offer foreigners fights occasionally but they are pretty sporadic. I asked him to get me a “warm up” fight for a big tournament I had coming up and I was told that they couldn’t get me any, but then a few weeks later (when I already had a fight booked) Liam was talking on the phone and randomly asked me for a fight. That’s kind of the way it goes here.
In terms of conditioning “facilities”, there’s a stretch of road located outside of the gym (the gym entrance is on the left of the picture below) to do sprints and tyre sprints. If you’re looking for a budget strength gym, you’re as tough as they come, you enjoy lifting muddy bars in puddles outside in the rain at 5am and you don’t mind coming home covered in crap then Chatuchak park is perfect for you! It’s 20 baht per session or something like 200 baht for the month. I trained there for 3 months before I realised I needed to sort my life out. There are a few photos on my Instagram account which should give you an idea of what I’m taking about. There are better options around but they’re more expensive and you’l need to catch the BTS to reach them.
The major downside of F.A. Group is the lack of hygiene, and I mean a SERIOUS lack of hygiene. The worst I’ve experienced in Thailand. During my time here I caught ringworm, another (unknown) skin infection, conjunctivitis and flu-like symptoms. Ringworm was everywhere. I think most people caught it at some point during their stay.
You might think, “oh well, that kind of thing happens in every gym fro time to time”, but the worryng thing is, they just don’t care. Actually, the Thais didn’t ever catch the skin infections. A few had conjunctivitis but that was it. I guess their immune system is pretty hardcore from being brought up in that environment.
This isn’t a dig at the the Thais here, they’r an awesome bunch of people. But there is a big difference in culture, mentality and education between Thais and Westerners. Especially when the Thais have been brought up in muay Thai gym and have never been to school. A couple of friends arranged to live in the gym accommodation for a month but got out of there after a couple of weeks.
Floors are matted
Owner and staff are very welcoming
Lots of clinching
Very high-level Thai and foreign training partners
Thai fighters are humble and friendly to westerners
All staff and fighters have limited English skills
Lack of training structure
Petchboonchu F.A. Group
Superbank (drops in)
Sachanoi F.A. Group
Tam F.A. Group
Petchniyom F.A. Group
F.A. Group Gym Photos
One session: 400 Baht
One month (once per day): 7000 baht
One month (twice per day): 12000 baht
Add 3000 baht per month
F.A. Group is situated on a small soi in the Chatuchak (or Jatujak) district of Bangkok. The premises is right opposite the channel 7 stadium where many of the fighters from the gym compete on a regular basis. Fights are every Sunday afternoon and entry is free so it’s definitely worth a visit. A 15 minute walk will take you to Chatuchak park (below) where all of the fighters start their training sessions with 6am run every morning, and then again at around 3:30pm before heading back to the gym for some skipping.
Accommodation is ideally located just around the corner from the gym at the S.L. Residence condo which offers new, clean rooms at a decent price. The longer you sign up for, the cheaper the price. There are taxis situated on the main road just outside the condo but the Bangkok traffic will slow up most of your journeys, aside from the fact that most of them don’t have seat belts and are driven by lunatics.
Your best bet is to take the Mo Chit BTS and the Chatuchak MRT. These station are located opposite the park entrance so these will probably be your quickest, safest and cheapest modes of transport to get to the various shopping malls and supermarkets.
F.A. Group Gym Address: Soi Yasup 1, Viphavadi soi 5, Chatuchak, Bangkok, Thailand.
F.A. Group Gym Map
The F.A. Group Facebook profile below will be the quickest way to get in contact with the gym for sure.
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