This is the first official review I’ve written up this trip because so far, this is the only gym I’ve spent enough time at to fully evaluate. This is my 4th trip to Thailand, but the first time I’ve actually stationed myself in Bangkok. Until now, I’ve always wanted to escape the pollution and crowds and head elsewhere. This time though, I decided to stick around for a while and check out some of the gyms that Bangkok has to offer. Alright, that’s only a half-truth. I met a girl here on the very first day and that’s major reason why I’m still here 3 months later.
I’m going to try to make this review, and all my upcoming reviews as detailed as possible. Rather than just rambling on about things, I’m going to break the details down into sections. To get things started, here’s a tour of the gym..
Finding The Gym…
There are several “13 coins” resorts scattered throughout Bangkok. This one is called the “airport grand resort”. To get here via taxi (always go by the meter by the way), you need to tell the driver to take you to “praram gao soi ha-sip jet” which translated to English, means “Rama 9 exit (street) 57”. If your driver has a hard time understanding English, you can also tell him you want to go to “sip sam lien” – which means “13 coins” in Thai. The gym isn’t near a BTS (sky train) or an MRT (subway) station so taxi is your best bet. If you’re coming from the international airport, I imagine it would be about a 150 baht ride.
Prior to coming, I had the impression that this was a “hardcore” gym with a gruelling training regimen. That is NOT the case. Training here is very independent. Everything is “up to you” as they say here in Thailand. Training will start off with a brief run ..in the parking lot. However, the resort is pretty big so it’s not like the Thai kids are just running around in circles.
Since Bangkok is so crowded, running on the streets (in this area anyway) isn’t very pleasurable. There’s a lot of street-dogs around, a lot of cars driving by coming within inches of your feet at times and of course, with all the cars, there’s a lot of exhaust fumes to inhale. Luckily though, there’s an awesome track at a nearby stadium (showcased further below).
After the run (which is optional), you just shadowbox, hit the bags and wait for your turn on the pads. The rounds, nor the rest periods are timed. You just sort of take a break when you feel the need and start up again when you’re ready. After pad work, you can just do what you want. There’s no pressure to even do anything else. It’s one of those gyms where you get back what you put in, but nobody is going to hold your hand through the session.
Like most gyms, the pad work is followed up with clinching or some technique sparring. There is NO hard sparring here. If you decide to spar hard, you’ll hear “easy, easy” from Mr. Coke, the gym owner, who’s always sitting ringside during the training sessions. Which, you know, is understandable since he doesn’t want to see anyone get injured. For people who have never been to Thailand and wonder how the Thai’s train, they hardly ever spar with over 60% power.
So overall, the training here is very relaxed. It’s not intense by any means. Actually, it’s one of the most laid back gyms I’ve been too. There’s even service girls that will periodically walk through the gym carting a trey of fresh lemonade (or whatever the drink of the day may be). I’m definitely not complaining about that. It’s a nice touch. A common complaint amongst the students though is that there’s a lack of structure.
There are several trainers here but to be honest, only a select few are worth training with. As I already mentioned, I’ve been having some issues with the lack of options lately. There was a trainer here named “Ja” – who was excellent – but he was let go after a couple of his fighters had a bad performance at Raja. Up until the time of this writing, he hasn’t been replaced.
In the front ring (in the video tour), there’s a trainer named “Ou”. Ou always has a smile on his face and he’s an excellent trainer. So excellent in fact, it bothers me that I’ve never had the opportunity to work with him. He’s a perfectionist and based on what I’ve seen, he’s excellent at analyzing and correcting technique.
Orono – who is a legend of the sport – is also a trainer here. Pornseneh, Orono and Saenchai were the 3 big names at the gym but only Orono actually trains students since he’s retired from the fight game. You would think being trained by Orono would be an incredible, informative experience but based on he feedback I’ve heard, it isn’t what you’d expect.
I’ve never worked with him, but that’s been by choice after hearing all the complaints. Since he’s not that great of a pad holder, I imagine the best thing to do if you decide to work with him is to strictly do technique. Work in the clinch or do some technique sparring; something like that would probably be alright.
In the back ring you’ll find a trainer named “Sorn”. Sorn has been training me for the last few months. Sorn is the guy that will usually hold pads for the fighters who have big fights coming up. John Wayne Parr was trained by Sorn leading up to his last fight with Yodsanklai and Saenchai usually works with him as well.
Sorn is the best “pad holder” I’ve ever worked with. You can just freestyle on the guy and he’ll catch everything. Notice I didn’t say “best trainer” though.. There’s a big difference between a “pad holder” and a “trainer”. A pad holder will do exactly that – he’ll hold pads and call out combinations. A “trainer” on the other hand, well ..a trainer is a TEACHER. A trainer will take pride in passing along his knowledge and take the time to ensure that you’re doing everything correctly. In other words, a trainer will CARE and a “pad holder” will just tire you out and collect your money.
I went through a couple different phases with Sorn. At the start, I loved it because he held pads so well. He gave me all the rounds I wanted and he had sort of a “trainer to the stars” aura about him. As time passed though, I noticed that he wasn’t actually TEACHING me anything and I became frustrated, bored and started searching for a new gym.
During my little “gym search”, apparently Mr. Coke (the gym owner) asked one of my buddies where I was and he mentioned to him that I wasn’t happy with the training and that I was looking to focus more on technique (all the little details). I had previously mentioned that I wanted “technique” to Sorn myself but nothing had changed (perhaps a miscommunication).
Anyway, I guess Mr. Coke told Sorn exactly what I wanted because the next time I went in for a training session, it was completely different – and a LOT better. Rather than just bringing me to the point of exhaustion as soon as possible, Sorn became a bit of a perfectionist and took the time to ensure that I was getting the type of training that I wanted.
So, the verdict on Sorn is that he’s an amazing “pad holder” and that he CAN be a good trainer/teacher if he wants to be, but you just have to be vocal and let him know that that’s what you’re looking for. Otherwise, you’re just going to get worked to exhaustion without learning anything. Here’s a quick video of me working with Sorn..
Moving on, there’s a couple other trainers here; Joe and Lorn. Joe is very nice and based on what I see, he’s very helpful. I find that at some of these Bangkok gyms, the trainers will oftentimes withhold information (certain techniques etc) because they just don’t want to pass it along to foreigners. With Joe though, it doesn’t seem like he holds anything back. I’ve seen him demonstrating techniques in the clinch and he seemed like an “open book” in the sense that he would show students anything they wanted to see. He’s very skinny though so he doesn’t like holding pads for larger guys – which is why I’ve never worked with him personally.
As for Lorn, I can’t really comment on his training because I’ve never experienced it; nor have I talked to anyone that has. He’s hard to miss at the gym. He pulls his socks right up to his knees and he’s usually sporting some wacky outfit and dancing around. If you’ve trained with him, feel free to add your comments/experiences below this post .. I really don’t know what to think..
Despite not having a BTS (sky train) or an MRT (subway) line nearby, I really liked living in the area. While I didn’t stay at the gym (for reasons explained below), my apartment was still within walking distance. The more familiar I got with things, the more I enjoyed my stay. It seemed like I was always making new discoveries.
The first discovery was a nightly market selling all sorts of amazing food. The second was the sickest basketball court I’ve ever seen on the Assumption University campus (pictured here). Assumption University, by the way, is a prestigious “international” school (one of the best in Thailand). So, in other words – it’s a good place to meet hot, rich Thai girls in schoolgirl outfits who speak perfect English.
Moving on (and past the University), you’ll find the SAT (Sport Authority of Thailand) complex and attached to the stadium, there’s a full sized “strength training” gym. A membership will cost you 1000 baht/month. For some reason though, there’s no squat rack and although there’s a Smith Machine, the Thai guys like use them for their entire workout so they’re tough to make use of. Also on the SAT complex, you’ll find a full sized track – which is key because there’s too much traffic in the area to run otherwise.
About 50-60 baht away in a taxi, you’ll be able to get to a “Big C” – which is a Wal-Mart like grocery/department store. 50-60 baht in a different direction will bring you to “The Mall Bangkapi”. The mall is very modern (pictured here) and it has everything you’d need/want. There’s a movie theatre on the top level as well, but if there’s some wacky science fiction movie released at the time, they’ll likely be showing it in pretty much all of the theatres. 12/14 theatres playing Harry Potter? Really?
To get to the good stuff (everything I’ve mentioned), you’ll need to exit 13 coins, turn right and walk all the way down to the end of that street. Cross over, take a left, head down a bit and that’s where the action is. Keep in mind though, you’ll have to walk through “Shanty Ville” to get there..
As I mention in my “Thailand Training Guide”, staying on-site at the gym is usually a huge rip off since the gym owners jack up the room rates well beyond the local standard. I guess they figure we don’t know any better. They disguise it by setting an “all-in” price that includes you’re training, accommodation and a perhaps even a couple meals per day.
However, if you take the time to analyze it and subtract the training cost from the overall total, the amount you’re paying for the room is usually way too much. I know that 30 US dollars per day doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but if you’re staying for a long time and you’re on a budget, it adds up. Even if you have a million dollars in your savings account, nobody likes to get ripped off regardless so there’s a better way to go about things – get your OWN apartment.
There are several in the area. Most of them will only rent for 3+ months but in Thailand, everything is negotiable. That works both ways as well. Just because the prices listed at the 13 coins resort are high, that doesn’t mean that you can’t talk your way into getting a better deal, especially if you’re staying long term. With regards to getting a nearby apartment, I just had to pay 1000 baht per month extra to avoid a 3 month contract. In total, I was paying 5,800 baht per month + utilities. If you’re just staying for a couple weeks, then yeah, you’re best bet is to stay at the resort on an all-inclusive training/sleep package. Here’s another tour of the gym by John Wayne Parr (shows the on-site rooms)..
While 13 coins isn’t the best gym to prepare for your fights (due to the lack of sparring and shortage of the large Thai fighters to clinch with), it’s definitely a well connected gym that can get you BIG fights. Promoters will oftentimes stop by, watch the training sessions and scout the gym for talent to fill their upcoming fight cards. Cambodia, Russia, Dubai, Japan, Paris – or even locally at the major Bangkok stadiums – there are plenty of fights to be had.
On the flipside to that, the match ups aren’t always even. It’s up to YOU to know your own ability because you’re NOT going to be protected. Sure, they may tell you it’s going to be an “easy fight”, but after accepting it, you may find yourself staring across the ring at Raja stadium at a built, extremely experienced Thai guy who’s had over 100 fights.
Or, in my friends case, you may also find yourself flying to Paris to fight Yohan Lidon (78 fights, 67 wins) in only your 3rd professional Muay Thai bout. It is what it is though. At 13 coins, they’ll get you the fights ..it’s up to YOU though to know your own limitations when deciding which ones to accept.
Within the first month or so of training here, I would have recommended it without hesitation. As time went on though, fighters and trainers started leaving and the gym dynamic changed. Students who were previously happy with the gym started noticing that the vibe around the place had changed and many of them ended up changing gyms.
One of my friends was only getting pad work about 50% of the time and when he asked his trainer about it, his dissatisfaction was aired and his trainer said that it wouldn’t be an issue anymore. So, he paid for another full month at a nearby apartment and about a week later, he was told by his trainer that since he was busy training the Thai kids for upcoming fights, he wouldn’t be able to hold pads for him for the entire week. That was the final straw for him and he ended up leaving the gym completely.
The consistency amongst the trainers isn’t that great. Some are good, while others you wouldn’t want to work with at all. Your experience at this gym would fully depend on which pad holder you end up pairing up with (as with most gyms). As mentioned above, the training here is relaxed (no hard sparring, no timed rounds etc) and while that’s nice for some, it’s not ideal for others.
All that being said though, I’ve seen this gym at it’s best and I imagine at its worst as well. Things could easily change if the owner decides to bring it more big Thai fighters and some more competent trainers who take pride in passing on their knowledge on to foreign students. The gym CAN be awesome, and hopefully things pick up again.
As of right now, with the gym being at sort of a low point, I can’t really recommend it but having seen it at its peak, and knowing what it CAN be like, I can recommend that you at least stop by and check it out for a 1 time session. Don’t commit right away. Just pay the 300 baht for the workout and judge for yourself. Keep in mind though, when you pre-pay and if you get injured either during a training session or a fight, you will NOT get a refund or even an extension. I know of 2 guys who were in that situation (one even got hurt while FIGHTING FOR THE GYM at MBK) and both ended up being denied an extension.
THINKING OF GOING TO THAILAND TO TRAIN?
I’ve developed a 70 page guide that profiles everything you need to know about training in Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya. In the manual, I discuss the visa issues, the Muay Thai camps, the different areas, the transportation, the food, the culture and customs, the girls, the scams, the safety issues and most importantly, how to save a ton of cash along the way!