Watching a Thai boxing match, or even learning this fast-paced martial art yourself, is a unique experience and an exhilarating dose of authentic Thai culture
Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport
Steeped in centuries of tradition, Muay Thai – Thailand’s national sport – is popular with martial arts enthusiasts across the globe. For visitors from around the world travelling to Kingdom on vacation the sport also offers an insight into a fascination cultural tradition, with rituals and techniques that are totally different to those seen in Western-style boxing. In fact, Muay Thai is widely considered to be one of the most lethal forms of combat in the world and thanks to the high level of strength and endurance involved, attending a live Thai boxing match can be shocking and inspiring.
In addition to watching tournaments at local stadiums in Bangkok, Phuket or Koh Samui, visitors can also visit Muay Thai gyms to learn the basics of Thai boxing themselves. A wide range of training includes everything from a straightforward two-hour workshop to a more intensive and extended immersion program.
We take a closer look a the history and tradition of this fascinating martial art, and round up some of the best Thai boxing gyms in Koh Samui and Phuket.
Mastering the basics
Thai boxing training teaches you how to attack and block your opponent
Muay Thai has become popular hobby for many martial arts lovers and fitness fanatics, and where better to train than in the land where the sport originated? Islands like Phuket and Koh Samui are home to a number of gyms and training camps where visitors can learn how to fight in this style, no matter what their level of experience. Typically, one of the first things you will learn is the technique for attack and defence. Unlike other forms of martial art, fists, elbows, forearms, feet, shins and knees all come into play during a Muay Thai match. Depending on your level of experience and fitness, your Thai boxing workshop might even include a sparring session where you can put your skills to the test.
Koh Samui is home to a number of well-established Muay Thai gyms that offer training to males and females aged from about 10-years-old and above. Visitors at Jun Muay Thai Camp in Lamai Beach, Samui, will be trained by experienced fighters. Morning sessions take place from 7:30-9:30, with afternoon sessions also available from 4:30 – 6:30. The Superpro Samui Muay Thai and MMA training camp in Chaweng also offers two two-hour training workshops per day.
If you’re on holiday in Phuket, Tiger in Patong is one of the leading training camps. There are about 34 Muay Thai trainers here, and classes for people with a range of abilities. Some of the coaches here also specialise in Brazilian Jui-Jitsu and mixed martial arts. Sinbi Muay Thai near Nai Harn beach also provides a high-quality centre with former-professional boxers leading the training sessions.
Training sessions will also include cardio and strength exercises
If you decide to immerse yourself in an intensive Muay Thai training camp, you can expect a lot more than two training sessions per day! Thai boxing demands an incredibly high level of fitness, and for that reason, camps will include an array of cardio and strength-building activities in their training programme.
A typical itinerary might include a morning run on the beach before the sun gets too hot. This will typically be followed with a two-hour training session, where you will complete rounds of exercise to perfect the technique of your kicks, arm strikes and blocks. If you already know how to spar, then your training session might be rounded off with a couple of five-minute rounds with different opponents.
In the afternoon, your training session is likely to include some strength-building activities. So, get ready for lots of planks, squats and lunges – these are all exercises to build solid strength in your core and legs. Arm exercises could include push ups and weights. If you have any energy left after that, you might work on combat techniques a little more, practicing with pads and a partner.
Muay Thai traditions
A mogkol headdress is worn for good luck
Thai boxing is steeped in tradition and even today Thai children often start their Muay Thai training from as young as seven or eight-years-old.
In addition to the traditional combat techniques, there’s an array of ceremonial practices attached to the martial art. One of the most famous rituals is the ceremonial dance that opponents do before the fight begins – this is known as the wai kru ram muay. This beautiful act is performed as a sign of respect for one’s teacher and ones opponent. The boxing match itself will then take place with a soundtrack of ceremonial music, known as the sarama.
There’s also a selection of traditions observed when it comes to dress. A mongkol headdress is often worn to bring fighters good luck and protect them from harm. Some fighters also wear armbands known as prajioud/prajed. These are said to protect them from evil spirits, and can often be used to delineate fighters’ rank.
Many professional Thai boxers are also be adorned with tattoos. These traditional ‘sak yant’ pieces of art are usually the work of Buddhist monks using bamboo needles. They are said to bring protection from evil spirits.
Watching a live Thai boxing match provides an exhilarating evening of entertainment
Going to a live Thai boxing tournament is an excellent way of delving into authentic Iocal culture while also experiencing and exciting display of strength and agility while rubbing shoulders with the locals. The electric atmosphere and gritty entertainment will guarantee a memorable evening. Each boxing match consists of a maximum of five rounds, each of them three minutes in length and with a two-minute break between each one. The fighters are rated by a panel of expert judges who award scores for a variety of blows and reveal the winner at the end.
If you’re staying on Koh Samui, Chaweng Stadium hosts Muay Thai Tournaments from 9pm onwards every Tuesday and Friday. Spectators can watch ten rounds of fights and the event is simply unmissable if you have any interest in martial arts.
If you’re based on Phuket, the Patong Boxing Stadium on Sai Namyen Road is the place to be. However, it’s important to bear in mind that this venue puts on two forms of Thai boxing event – the first is packed with real fights, while the second is a lot more choreographed. If you’re only interested in the real deal then make sure you ask someone local to purchase the right ticket.
Koh Samui’s Baan Kilee has a professional Muay Thai coach
Thai boxing is a challenging form of exercise, and guests staying at one of Koh Samui or Phuket’s luxury villas can actually hire a professional Muay Thai coach to visit their holiday property for one-to-one training sessions. This provides an excellent chance to learn the basics of the art in a fantastic setting, before you take your skills to the local gym, or try a sparring session.
Here are a few top tips for Muay Thai beginners:
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t excel at Muay Thai straight away. It takes time to learn the moves and how to use your body as a weapon.
- Watching fights will inspire a passion for the sport and may even help you pick up some new techniques from the experts.
- Expect to get a few bumps and bruises when you train. These can all be eased out with a long, hot soak in the hot tub at your private villa.