Thailand Gym Slut

Be a Thailand Gym Slut

I’m a gym slut. I’ve trained at around 20 muay Thai gyms in Thailand, and for good reason. In fact, there are a million reasons to be a Thailand gym slut.

Just to clarify, a “gym slut” or “gym hopper” is somebody who trains at many different gyms as opposed to “staying loyal” to one gym. Emma from the Under The Ropes blog wrote a post on Gym Hoppers and the Importance of Loyalty in Muay Thai which got a huge amount of comments from readers who expressed different opinions on the subject.

Emma is of the opinion that a fighter should show loyalty to their gym, and shouldn’t even be thinking about going anywhere else. In fact, she speaks quite lowly of gym sluts like me, and even goes on to say that a fighter who gym hops will struggle to progress in their career.

Well, here’s why Emma is wrong…

 

7 Reasons to be a Thailand Gym Slut

 

You are just part of a business plan

Running a Thailand gym is a business. You, a paying customer, are part of the business plan. If you think you are anything but, then you must be delusional.

Loyalty? A case for loyalty might be viable if we’re talking about a Thai fighter who has been brought up in a gym, been fed, housed and clothed by the owner, and trained solely by that gym their whole life. But even then, the gym are taking their cut anyway. So as a foreigner paying a monthly fee of around 10,000 baht to be trained, I hardly think loyalty even comes into it.

If you’re loyal then on your head be it, because the loyalty will only go one-way.

What is there to be loyal about? You’re PAYING the gym for a service. They didn’t do you any favours. They are running a business and you are a customer. End of.

 

Muay Thai in Thailand is fickle, whether you like it or not

“A fickle fighter isn’t going to get very far”.  – Emma – Under The Ropes

Pretty much every Muay Thai superstar in Thailand has switched gyms to sniff out a better deal at some point. That’s the way it is. Just roll with it, one westerner sticking to one gym isn’t going to change anything.

Let’s look at Saenchai, one of the most successful fighters of all time. He has fought under the name of several gyms including Kingstar gym, Jocky gym, Khamsing gym, 13 Coins, Sinbi, and now his own gym PKSaenchai Muay Thai gym.

It didn’t hold him back, it just made him a lot of money.

 

A Thailand gym will get stale

The first few weeks you’re at a gym your trainer will be bending over backwards and doing hand stands trying to please you. The week after you just become another customer who paid up a load of money to get “one-two-kick” on the pads every day. It’s inevitable – you’ll get to point in a Thailand gym where nobody gives a crap about you any more.

The same routine day in day can also drag you down. The training basically stays the same in a Thailand gym, the all have a set way of doing things and it can become monotonous.

 

Trainers in Thailand can only teach you one fighting style

This is a generalisation, but Thai trainers only know how to teach you one fighting style – the style that was taught to them. They’ll often tell you that one way of doing something is “wrong” because of x or y, but they don’t explain the negatives to that technique, nor do they teach you the positives and negatives of doing it another way. The way they teach you is the correct way, and that is that.

We all know that fighting isn’t like that. You have to learn the ins and outs of every technique to fully understand why you’re doing something. Following instruction blindly is common for Thai fighters because of the respect hierarchy, but as westerners, I would like to think that we take a more logical approach to our training.

The fact is, every Thailand gym you go to will teach you something different. They all contradict each other in some way or another. It is our job as fighters/practitioners to train things in as many different ways as possible so that we can figure out the way that suits us.

For this reason, it’s not good enough to train with one trainer, or even one group of trainers for an extended period. A fighter needs to learn different styles from different trainers.

 

Thailand gym personnel change as often as the wind

The whole reason you choose the gym you’re at is because of a) the trainers or b) the fighters. Sure, there are other factors which make up a good Thailand gym, but they are the main ones in my opinion. Trainers and fighters switch gyms A LOT in Thailand. They get bored of the same routine and surroundings or just seek out a better deal elsewhere. Foreign fighters at the gym will also come and go, there aren’t many full time western fighters in Thailand.

When the personnel changes, so does the quality of the training. The top level fighters you were clinching with a few weeks ago have moved on, and that trainer who always held pads for you has up and left too. You’ve now got the “one-two-kick” guy on pads and you’re clinching with Thais half your size. Time to do one.

 

Taking the gym’s name is a Thai tradition – not western

Taking the gym’s name in lieu of your surname in Thailand is common practice……for Thai fighters! So why do foreigners feel the need to do this? You’re really going to pay extortionate training fees to your gym AND give them free advertising?

In case you’re not familiar with this practice, Thais change their surname to their gym’s name e.g. Petchboonchu Benz becomes Petchboonchu F.A. Group after the Thailand gym F.A. Group.

Thais do this because they don’t have a choice, it’s part of their financial obligation of training at the gym. It’s their job.

Unless somebody has experienced life as a sponsored fighter, they wouldn’t understand why anyone would want to become an “independent” fighter and not have their name attached to a gym. Fighting independently gives you a freedom that isn’t present when you’re sponsored. You can train when you want, fight when you want and you basically don’t have somebody controlling your every move.

I’ve taken my gym’s name in the past when I was being sponsored at a gym and I got everything paid for, but I wouldn’t pay my own way AND take the gym’s name. As far as I am concerned, I am promoting my own name, not the gym’s name. If they want me to change my name then they’re going to have to give me something for it.

You have to be able to make comparisons

How is it even possible for somebody to go to one gym in Thailand and start telling people about how good it is? It’s the only gym they’ve been to! Even after visiting a few gyms, they really have no idea what a good gym is.

You have to visit numerous gyms to be able to compare them against each other. Just because a Thailand gym is amazing compared to your gym back home, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good gym by Thailand’s standards. That person may travel to 10 more gyms and think “you know what, that gym was awful”. What are the chances of that first gym being the best gym in Thailand? Pretty unlikely, despite what you may have read about it on the internet.

 

Final Thoughts on being a Thailand gym slut

All of the above only applies in Thailand. In Thailand, muay Thai is a business, and so it brings out a very different relationship between trainer and fighter. Westerners tend to do things for very different reasons in their own countries. I wouldn’t necessarily apply these practices in a western gym.

I’ve trained and fought out of many different gyms in Thailand, and I’m a lot wiser for the experience.

Thai gym owners can be very good at making people think they shouldn’t leave the gym by flattering the customer and building their confidence to the point where they don’t think they manage anywhere else. Or they may treat you differently after you tell them you’re leaving to guilt-trip you into signing up for another month.

I tried the whole “loyalty” and “respect” thing, it didn’t work. It didn’t work because the loyalty and respect usually only goes one way. If you think of yourself a walking baht sign when you arrive at a Thailand gym then you’ll avoid a lot of BS and disappointment. Remember why you went there in the first place.

Travel to Thailand for YOU.

Train muay Thai for YOU.

You need to do what’s best for you, not the gym. Look after number one. Take care of your teammates and trainers, respect them as long as it is reciprocated, and make the choices you need to make without the influence of people who don’t have your best interests at heart.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Talk to me in the comments section.

You can also download the FREE ebook “20 Tips For Training in Thailand” which should be a huge help when planning your trip.

About Aaron Jahn

Aaron is an active muay Thai fighter and coach from the UK. He holds a BSc (hons) degree in Strength & Conditioning and is currently studying a Sports Therapy Master's degree in Leeds, UK. Aaron has fought over 20 times in Thailand and has spent years training at different muay Thai camps all over the country.

7 comments

  1. I know I’ve wasted a great deal of time and money at gyms when trainers have left and either haven’t been replaced or have been replaced by what sometimes just seemed like a guy willing to hold pads.

    For the newbie to Thailand reading this – there is a BIG difference between a pad holder and a kru.

    Pad holders are often guys who have some, sometimes a little Muay Thai experience (by Thai standards) and are generally there to hold pads, not pick apart technique to the point to make you a more skilled fighter. In short, they’re not going to teach you a whole lot because sometimes they can’t – their own careers were less than stellar (and maybe they only fought for a few years when they were young teenagers). Note: if you’re at a large gym in Thailand with a stable of experienced fighters and few or no younger ones (ie. early teens), the gym doesn’t always need to employ a lot of guys to teach the older fighters, they need bodies to hold pads for them. From my experience, in gyms like this, you’ll find a mix of both pad holders and krus/actual skilled trainers. Additionally, it can be hard for gyms to keep krus for a number of reasons I won’t get into here, so it’s not always the gym’s intent. Like a lot of things in Thailand – it is often random.

    I’ve made the mistake of waiting for far too long to get decent training again at gyms once there is a turn around. By too long, I mean months. It has never been a good idea and nothing good ever came out of it for me.

    *Note – I have no idea how this works in Phuket and Pattaya where there is a heavy tourist market. I’d be interested in anyone’s experiences in those areas.

    • Great point about pad holders vs teachers. For me, it’s important to train with as many trainers as possible so I can figure out which ones are actually improving me. Bad trainers have actually made me WORSE in the past – they blunted my reactions and made me lazy.

  2. Excellent article as always Aaron. Now what I want to know is if you’re a real man slut. Or in other words, are you the kind of not-even-trying pussy magnet I suspect you are. I ask this because as a guy in my early 20s who discovered Muay Thai within the past year and had his life change dramatically because of it, my perspective on women and the attention I receive from them is completely different. I’m curious to know how the same effects you, especially being a white guy in a place like Thailand.

  3. Muay Thai definitely won’t harm your love life.

  4. Hi Aaron,
    I’m going to Thailand next month to try out a few different gyms – quite a few in fact: Santai, Sitmonchai, Sitjaopho, Keatkhamtorn, Meenayothin, Rachanon, and Sor Klinmee. Proper slutty. So, I had a question for you – given that I’m on a budget and with 90 days to do this, how would you go about testing so many gyms? Especially considering they’re spread out around the country. In your experience do you think it’s possible to get a decent enough idea of the training at a gym in only a handful of days, or should I reduce the number of gyms on my list? Because ideally I’d like to settle at one for at least 2/3 weeks to get a fight in, therefore limiting the time I’ve got to travel and test different places. But perhaps (this is a ‘reconnaisance’ trip after all) I may be better off dividing my time equally between them all, and staying longer at the best one(s) next time (which hopefully won’t be too far in the future). I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on the matter. Thanks a lot. Love the website! Matt

    • Hi Matt, sounds like a good plan. I would play it by ear, to be honest. Maybe you could stay a week or two at gyms where you’re getting a lot of attention and have good training partners, and spend less time at the crap gyms. After all, you don’t want to waste time at a gym you don’t like, so I would give it a day or two at those gyms at the most before moving on. If you find that you get to the end of your list quicker than you expected then it’s a bonus really as you can settle at your preferred gym for a while, get some good training in and have a couple of fights if you want to. Things rarely go to plan out there anyway haha. That’s the great thing about travel. Have a great time, whatever you decide to do.

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