I never thought I’d say this, and I’m sure you’ll think I’m crazy, but I’m having a really hard time finding a good gym in BANGKOK. Well, I’ll rephrase that, I’m having a hard time finding the PERFECT gym here in Bangkok. Most of the gyms that I’ve trained at here have something good about them, but unfortunately, with the good comes the bad and the faults of each gym have prevented me from really settling into one.
It’s been a while since my last entry and since I posted that review of Sinbi Muay Thai in Phuket, I’ve since made my way back to Bangkok to continue my search for a good trainer/gym. Here’s a quick rundown of my experiences..
The first gym I went too in Bangkok upon my return from Phuket was Jitti. Jitti gym calls itself an “International” Muay Thai school and that it was; with most of the students coming from England. With a single ring and a few run down bags to hit, the facilities at the gym weren’t overly impressive (not that it really matters). I was looking for a good trainer and not just a pad holder – the facilities aren’t that important.
When I walked in, I was asked to pay the 400 baht (although the website says the rate per session is 300) before I was even asked my name. From there, I just sort of skipped and hit the bag for a bit until I was called in for pads. The pad work was decent with timed rounds. No complaints there. You can get a full 5 rounds as well – which is the standard.
From there, students geared up for sparring, which was followed by clinching. The ideal situation when you come to Thailand to train is to clinch/spar with the Thai’s (obviously), but there were a lot of students there that day so it was mostly foreigner vs. foreigner. It was still quality though. Here’s a quick video I shot of the place..
The gym is in a convenient location as it’s located right by the Ratchada MRT (subway) station – which means that from the gym, the entire central area of Bangkok is easily accessible. With Jitti, things were mixed. The location was good (in the sense that the location was convenient), but the gym (which is quite small) was packed with foreigners. There’s no other Thai’s training there either.
My trainer was a competent pad holder, and I got a full 4-5 rounds in, but it was more of a cardio workout than a technical explanation of things. I can’t say I learnt anything, so I guess it was what it was – good pad holding. Overall, my experience at Jitti was OK. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. However, it wasn’t good enough to start looking for an apartment in the area and base myself out of there. So ..on to the next one..
Before I went to Phuket, I had done a few sessions at Jockey gym. Jockey gym has produced a lot of top talent. I’m pretty sure it was the first Muay Thai gym here in Bangkok as well (was open back in the 1940’s). Their website says they’re closed but that’s bullshit. They used to have a partnership with the current owner of “Siang boxing” but following a disagreement, they parted ways and he wrote on the site that Jockey was closed and that all future “trainings” would commence at Siang boxing. Pretty slick, huh?
Anyway, the gym is tricky to find. You have to take the MRT to the furthest northern station, which is “Bang Sue”. From there, you’ll need to take a taxi. If the driver doesn’t know where the gym is, you’ll need to tell him to take you to the “Talad Ke Ma” market. From there, the gym is just a short walk.
After my first couple sessions, me and my friend had both felt like we discovered a secret. We got a lot of attention (because there was hardly anyone there) and I think we were a bit star struck by the fact that our trainers played a role in the development of the likes of Saenchai Sor Kingstar, Somrak Khamsing, Lerdsila Chumpaetour and Jean Charles Skarbowski to name a few.
My trainer wasn’t a good pad holder (maybe because his pads were 15 years old and falling apart) but I liked the fact that he was showing me a lot of techniques. He seemed really enthusiastic and well, hyper. When I got back from Phuket, I was planning on going back to Jockey but as it turns out, what I mistook for enthusiasm, was actually a drug high. My friend, who had been training there while I was away, had informed me that the trainer would stay awake for days due to a “Yaba” habit he had. For those who don‘t know, “Yaba” tablets contain a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine – which explains why he was always so hyper.
My friends trainer on the other hand is apparently fantastic. He was travelling 2 hours each way just to train with him. He said that he would correct “all the little details”, which is exactly what we were both looking for. The problem though, was that he didn’t feel comfortable paying for a month up front because judging by the current situation at the gym (run down, no students etc), he wasn’t sure that he would get training every day. As in, he felt that he would show up one day and nobody would be there.
Turns out, he was sort of right. He said that he showed up one day only to find out that his trainer wouldn’t be able to train him for the following week. He also said, and I noticed this too, that the trainers (and a couple fighters) would be drinking every single day after training. Not just a beer or two either, they were drinking hard liquor. When I saw that, I immediately thought of Jean Charles Skarbowsky on the “Ultimate Fighter” reality series. Click here to see what I’m talking about.. Now I know where he picked up those habits..
A huge positive for the gym though is that Lerdsila is still there. Lerdsila is an amazing guy. He’s so friendly and obviously, he’s one of the best fighters in the sport today so when training there, you can get one on one time with him. Check out this video below I took of one of the guys clinching with him..
So the verdict on Jockey is that it has some amazing features (the history of the gym, that 1 trainer and of course, Lerdsila). The downside though; the drinking, the inconsistency and obviously, the fact that according to my friend, one of the trainers has a bad drug habit.
Semi Related: While I’m on the topic of Yaba use in Thailand, I’m reminded of a story. While back at Patong Boxing Gym last year, there was a young trainer there (about 19 years old). He was an amazing fighter (oftentimes flying to Bangkok to fight at the major stadiums here).
Anyway, there were a couple nights when he ended up knocking on my door at 2 am asking to borrow money. Now, nobody needs to “borrow” money at 2 am for anything positive. So obviously, since a few other students told me that he was asking them for money in the late night hours as well, I sort of suspected that he may have a drug habit or something.
A few weeks later, he went home to Chiang Mai. He never returned. I asked the manager what happened to him and she said “he’s in jail”. She told me that he tried to kill someone while high on yaba. He cut someone’s throat. The victim? A MONK! Luckily, the monk sustained only minor injuries and survived but that goes to show you how the drug can really mess people up. Anyway, on to the next gym..
Vithawat Muay Thai
I found out about this gym via Valdet Gashi’s facebook account. It’s a small gym located in the Sathorn area of Bangkok. The gym is within walking distance from the “Chong Nonsi” BTS station. Apparently Valdet uses the gym about 3x per week since it’s located near his apartment. The facilities are modest with just a few bags, some mats and 2 trainers. There’s no ring. However, after training there (twice now), I realized that the facilities are irrelevant if the training is good and surprisingly, the training at Vithawat is pretty good.
You’ll get a full 5 (timed) rounds mixing between Muay Thai and boxing. The price is right at 300 baht per session as well. It lacks in the clinching/sparring aspect, but if Valdet and his friends happen to be there, I’m sure that wouldn’t be a problem. If not though, the gym isn’t busy and it’s sort of a “drop in” gym so clinching/sparring may be an issue (unless one of the trainers would do it with you that is). Here’s a quick video I took of the place..
Overall, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about Vithawat. It provides a good value for the money, the trainers are friendly, the location is convenient since it’s located nearby the BTS station. They have nice post-workout shower facilities as well. However, for me, the central Bangkok location isn’t ideal due to the poor air quality but my situation is different from most of you of course (asthma). The potential lack of sparring/clinching may also be an issue for some.
Sor. Ploenchit Gym
Being fed up with all the overpriced, commercial gyms in the city that offered nothing more than a calorie burning workout (due to lazy trainers who didn’t bother showing technique), I pulled up a detailed list of gyms throughout the city. I hadn’t heard of 90% of these so I had to do a little research. I came upon one that was in Bangkapi (the area I was living in at the time) called Sor. Ploenchit.
The Sor. Ploenchit gym has apparently produced several champion fighters; Kaensak (2 time “fighter of the year”) as well as Kem Sor. Ploenchit (now Kem “Sitsongpeenong”). Upon finding this out, me and my friend were excited to go and had high expectations. It took us a long time to find the gym (as we expected since it’s not very well known) but when we did, and as the taxi driver pulled up to the address I had pulled off of the internet, we were both impressed with what looked to be great facilities.
Unfortunately though, as we pulled up, the Thai guy who was outside watering the grass started talking to the taxi driver in Thai telling him to “take us away”. Well, curiosity got the best of us and we got out of the cab. When we did, an older, yet much friendlier Thai came out and asked us how we found out about the gym. We explained that we followed Muay Thai and that we knew about the gym because of the champion fighters that the gym had produced. He then told us that he was only training kids at the facility and that he didn’t have any trainers that could accommodate us. He told us about a gym on Soi 5 (a few streets over) where we could get training. Upon walking away from the gym and hearing the thud of hard shins and heavy kicks on the Thai pads, we were pretty sure that he was lying to us. Regardless, off to soi 5 we went..
Once on soi 5, we asked a local where the Muay Thai gym was and he said “oh, sor ploenchit.. leo sai” (turn right), and so we did. Ahh, it made sense we thought. They had 2 gyms (one for the kids and one for the big guys). When we approached the gym, there were 2 Thai guys skipping on the street who were sort of giving us bad looks. We just ignored it and walked into the training facility, which is nothing more than a run down ring and a couple bags in someones front yard.
We were then greeted by a grumpy old man who started asking us all sorts of financial details. “How much you pay for room?” “How much you pay for food?” .. My friend answers, “4000 baht per month and 30 baht per meal”. As it turns out, he was asking because he was trying to put together his little sales pitch. He was trying to get us to move into his house (which couldn’t have cost more than 10,000 baht per month to rent) for 30,000 each. Of course, with that, we could have gotten a shared room (probably with 3 other boxers) and, as he called it, “real food .. with vegetables” .. Apparently you can’t get “real food” outside of his house. Also as he put it, you can’t stay “outside” if you want to learn Muay Thai.
“Fuck” I thought, “when does this ever end?”. Gyms and their stupid “all inclusive” rip off packages. This is exactly what I was trying to escape by seeking this gym out in the first place. We wanted to avoid all the commercialization of the sport. Anyway, obviously we didn’t do it. After that, he went on and on about how he trained “Ramon Dekkers”. Obviously that’s a lie because the friend that I went there with used to train in Holland WITH Dekkers and Dekkers told him that while he loves Thailand as a country, he’s never trained here (other than with his own trainer). We’re now convinced that the REAL Sor Ploenchit must have been the original gym that we went too (and were denied access too).. Here’s a little video clip of the 2nd “Sor Ploenchit” gym.
Anyway, this has been a lot longer than I anticipated so I’ll wrap it up. Basically, training in Bangkok isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Who would have thought it would be THIS hard to find a good trainer in a decent facility, with a solid training structure and reasonable prices.
I’m going on a little road trip up country tomorrow so hopefully I’ll get some interesting pics/videos. Also, I’ve wrote this entry in spurts since I’ve been really busy lately so it’s actually a little outdated. I have big news but I’ll write about that in an upcoming entry..
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!