By Luke Doolin, June 2012
Muay Thai Boxing is a traditional form of combat sport practiced in Thailand and now throughout the world. Its origins stem from an older form of combat called Muay Boran (ancient boxing), which was used back in the days when Siamese soldiers lost their weapons and were forced to fight unarmed. Muay Thai is often referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” due to its use of fists, feet, elbows and knees. Whereas most combat sports use either just the fists or the feet, Muay Thai makes use of the whole body for both defending and striking.
If you’ve always fancied yourself as the next Jean Claude Van Damme but don’t know your Spinning Back-Fist from your Cobra Punch, (which, let’s face it, means most of us), worry not as Thailand is literally teeming with places for you to learn. And before you know it you’ll be knocking those porridge oats off the top shelf of the pantry with a swift Round House Kick.
Where are the best places to learn Muay Thai?
As Muay Thai is the National Sport of Thailand there are hundreds of training camps to be found throughout the country, however whilst some welcome and actively encourage farrangs (Westerners) to join, others can be very particular about training only Thais. Much of this has to to do with protecting their camp’s reputation in the regional and national fights.
Most tourist areas like Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya, Bangkok and Chiang Mai have training camps specifically for foreigners to come and learn the Muay Thai Boxing with lengths of stays ranging from several days to several weeks and in some cases even months. Although skill and experience are unimportant to begin with, commitment and dedication are essential as most fighters train twice a day. The morning sessions usually start around 6am and last for approximately two hours, and the afternoon sessions will most likely run from about 4pm – 6pm. Your training will probably include a strict exercise regime and a tailored diet, so if you’re planning to slot in a quick bout of shadow boxing between beers and burgers on a lad’s beach holiday, then maybe a short taster day is more up your street.
Our Pick: Lanna Muay Thai Camp, Chiang Mai
Lanna Muay Thai is a family run training camp in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai, welcoming both locals and foreigners to train and fight. Prices range from daily sessions at 400 Baht to monthly packages at 8000 Baht. Accommodation is not included but there are a range of options including guest houses and private apartments. Prices vary depending on length of stay but there are discounts for monthly bookings.
Where are the best places to watch Muay Thai?
With over 60, 000 full time boxers in Thailand alone, fighting is big business here. Most tourist places tend to heavily promote the fights so you probably won’t need to look far to find one. If a tout doesn’t hand you a flyer personally at your dinner table or the bar, then you’re sure to see and definitely hear the offensively loud trucks going by announcing each fight night.
Lumpini Stadium, Bangkok
Our Pick: Lumpini Stadium, Bangkok
Whilst the local fights can be a great night out, if you’re looking for something on a grander scale then a bigger venue like Lumpini Stadium in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, is your answer. With spectacular displays from some of Thailand’s best boxers and a lively crowd made up of both Thais and tourists you’re in for a real treat. Even if fighting is not your thing, there’s no denying the electrifying and contagious atmosphere and you can’t help but get caught up in the “Ooh”s and “Aaah”s. The stadium hosts Muay Thai Boxing matches every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday and although tickets can be quite expensive at around 1,500 Baht for foreigners, it’s well worth it for an evening’s entertainment.