Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing, is a very popular pastime in Thailand. Lots of fights are shown on television out here and nearly every destination popular with tourists and travellers holds regular live fights at stadiums of all shapes and sizes. What is getting increasing popular though, are the visitors coming to Thailand with training in Muay Thai as their main priority.
If you are looking for a way to spend a few weeks or months in Thailand, immersing yourself in the local culture and traditions, while meeting lots of likeminded people from all walks of life; as well as getting fit and healthy and in the best shape of your life, not to mention transforming yourself into the ultimate fighting machine (perhaps!), then a stretch of Muay Thai training while you are in Thailand is just what the doctor ordered!
This guide to preparing for and planning a Muay Thai holiday in Thailand should help you get ready for experience, bring the right gear with you and decide where to stay and train.
Preparation: Before Leaving for Thailand
People of all abilities travel to Thailand for an authentic Thai Boxing experience. From seasoned fighters looking to improve their skills with an intensive training holiday, to complete novices who just want to experience the country and do something interesting with their time here. Then there are those who are backpacking through Asia and want to stop in one place for a few weeks and learn a new skill.
Even those who are struggling with weight problems are making the pilgrimage to Thailand to train hard in a new environment in a bid to shed a few pounds and develop a new healthier way of life involving exercise and responsible eating. It is likely your time spent training will be around people of all ages, from gap year students to middle aged Muay Thai practitioners and beyond, to people of all genders, shapes and sizes.
Basically, whatever your reason for wanting to take this kind of trip, and whatever your current fitness levels, you will not be alone and you will be able to partake in the training offered by the many Muay Thai camps around the country (baring any serious medical conditions or physical ailments).
This means you don’t really need to be in peak physical condition before embarking on a Thai Boxing holiday. Although it is worth pointing out that the higher your levels of fitness are, the easier you will adjust to the training and the quicker you can get down to learning the moves rather than working on your physical condition.
In the weeks leading up to your trip, regular interval training at the gym or on the streets can help you quickly improve your fitness levels so your first few days or weeks at the camp aren’t spent huffing and puffing, while others are developing their knee bombs and foot thrusts.
Oh, and if you can develop some skipping or jump rope skills before you arrive, that could help save you a lot of time and frustration too! But on the whole, you can just rock up and get to work without any previous experience or knowledge, just let the trainers know and don’t try to blag it.
What to Bring with You
Most Muay Thai gyms and camps in Thailand will let you borrow some gear during your lessons while others might make you purchase your own equipment. Gloves, wraps and mouth guards, as well as shorts and a t-shirt or vest are the essential items. While the equipment in Thailand will probably cost more than back home (depending on where home might be) it makes sense to wait until you arrive to see exactly what you need in terms of gloves and wraps.
On exception to this are gum shields. I would recommend buying a mouth guard at home as you will probably have more options and this is one area you don’t want to scrimp on. It will also give you time to get used to wearing one as they can be quite uncomfortable at first.
If you’ve not done much barefoot training before, then after the first few sessions it is likely your feet will be decorated with a few holes from twisting and turning on the matts while learning the basic manoeuvres. While painful, your feet will toughen up over time but bring some plasters and tape so you can cover those blisters up and keep on training.
Better still, if you can do anything to toughen up your soles before coming that would be advantageous. Things like walking barefoot on concrete or marching on the spot in a bowl of sand are said to be great ways to toughen up your soft Western feet.
As for what to wear, wherever you are training Thailand it is going to be hot, hot, hot! Bring loose fitting sportswear such as shorts, vests and t-shirts or allow a few days for shopping on arrival. Clothes sizes are a lot smaller in Thailand than in the West, even from international brands like Nike and Adidas, so bear that in mind if you are a large or XL as you will have trouble finding the equivalent sizes in Thailand.
Just don’t go overboard when shopping for your trip; you don’t want to be known as the person who turns up with all the gear and no idea!
Where to Train: City vs. Island?
Thailand is a beautiful country and many people combine their Muay Thai training trip with some of the other excellent experiences you can have while in the country, such as rock climbing on the beaches of Krabi or scuba diving off the shores of Koh Tao. With that in mind, a lot of Muay Thai camps have been setup on the paradisiacal islands of Thailand such as Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Although for those who prefer the hustle and bustle of city life, there are also camps in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya to name but a few.
Training on an island can be great as there is a much more laid back atmosphere, with more of a social aspect at the camps as opposed to the more transient and insular experience sometimes found at inner-city camps. However, city camps give you access to the bright lights of your surroundings and have more Western comforts and things to do. Although this can prove to be a distraction from the reason you came on the trip in the first place which was to eat, train and sleep!
One benefit of training in a city like Bangkok is you will have more accommodation options and you will find it easier to break up your days with other activities such as volunteering and maybe even some work or study! While most people tend to base themselves on the islands and beaches to train Muay Thai, it is worth considering the city camps and seeing if they are for you.
At the end of the day it is up to you to take a look at the camps and see which ones appeal to you, as well as weigh up the pros and cons of staying and training in the city or by the beach.
Chances of Having a Fight: Taking it to the Next Level
For some people their time at Muay Thai camp is a break from real life and a one off chance to get fit and learn a new skill. For others, it’s the start of a lifelong hobby that they go on to continue back home. If you get the Muay Thai bug and want to put your skills to the ultimate test then you might be able to take part in a competitive fight.
Depending on how well connected your camp is, they should be able to arrange this for you, if they consider you up to the challenge. In Bangkok there are regular events held which you could put yourself forward for, while on the islands, many camps hold regular tournaments.
Whether you are already on a travellers adventure around the world, or have dreams of quitting your job and living abroad for a few months, spending some time learning the ancient art of Muay Thai could be the perfect way to better yourself in more ways than one.