Man Up: Learn Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) In Thailand

Get ready to punch, kick and work up a sweat on your next vacation

When you hear the words ‘muay thai’ one of the first things that will likely pop into you head is scenes from the 2003 martial arts movie Ong-Bak starring Tony Jaa or a head-to-head MMA fight in the octagon. Muay thai is an ancient martial art deeply rooted in Thai culture and history, and when the term is translated it means ‘Art of the Eight Limbs’ where punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes (eight points of contact) are used against an opponent.

There’s no better way to learn about this art form first-hand from the country where it originates. Thailand is home to hundreds of muay thai gyms and instead of heading to Cancun to drink beer and lay on the beach for your next vacation it’s time to man-up and learn muay thai. One piece of advice: training in a muay thai facility is no walk in the park, you’ll get punished for sure, but also be prepared to have fun.

Getting there: Thailand has seven international airports located in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai,Phuket, Hat Yai, Samui and Sukhothai. To get to Thailand from Canada you’ll likely fly into the capital of Bangkok and then take one of two domestic airlines, Thai Airways International or Bangkok Airways, to your destination. If you opt for a road route and want to experience the sights and culture of the country then hop on a bus; however, it will take you anywhere from eight to 15 hours to get where you’re going. In either case, make sure to book flights and bus trips several days in advance.

Staying there: most muay thai gyms offer students train and stay packages, others have onsite accommodations or pre-existing deals with hotels nearby. The type of lodging and amenities provided will vary from place to place, from simple rooms to luxurious suites; it all depends on what you’re looking for and how much money you’re willing to spend.

What to pack: for hardcore Thai boxing enthusiasts you can bring your own gear (i.e.: gloves, pads, etc.) but most facilities will provide you with all the things you’ll need to train. However, we recommend that you inquire and find out if your training package fee includes equipment use or, if not, it can be purchased onsite. When it comes to packing your suitcase, for obvious reasons, include workout clothes to sweat like a dog, running shoes and a pair of slippers. You also want to throw in a tensor bandage, a tube of IcyHot and some Advil.

Be prepared for: sore muscles, hot and humid weather, and more sore muscles. Most importantly make sure you have travel and health insurance!

Muay thai gyms to consider: there are countless gyms from Chang Mai in the north to Phuket in the south. Some cater to foreigners and others, the smaller more authentic gyms, rarely see a Western face. Here is a small sampling of several recommended gyms to consider.

  • Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy (Bangkok) – known as one of the premiere gyms in the city, Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy has a reputation for quality classes and trainers. Great Grand Master Toddy has an international name and it’s not uncommon to see him overseeing classes and providing pointers to students.
  • Fairtex Muay Thai (Pattaya) – Fairtex is located in Pattaya, approximately two hours south-east of Bangkok. The facility is an impressive 5,000 square feet and is committed to training students of all skill levels. If you want to make your travel experience a family affair they welcome kids as young as eight to experience muay thai.
  • Sit Taharnaek Gym (formerly Burklerk Gym Muay Thai Training, Chiang Mai) – a familial atmosphere located in the northern city of Chiang Mai, Sit Taharnaek Gym doesn’t look like much for the outside but once you’re in the ring your outlook will change. Kru Hua is the gym’s owner and teacher who has fought in more than 500 career fights, and aims to teach his students original muay thai skills.
  • Kobra Muay Thai Boxing Stadium (Ko Phangan) – located on the beautiful island of Ko Phangan, Korba is a rustic facility full of charm where you can hone your pad work, as well as hit the nearby beach. Owned and operated by Master Kongpipop, a former muay thai champion, he teaches northern style Thai boxing which focuses on speed and kicking.
  • Maximum Fitness & Muay Thai Center (Phuket) – located in the southern part of the country, on the Adaman Sea side, Maximum Fitness looks like a massive GoodLife gym was airdropped from suburbia onto the luxurious island complete protein shake bar. However, don’t let the bright lights and fancy facility fool you; Maximum offers a variety of programs from yoga, to crossfit and, of course, muay thai. 

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