7 Main Differences When Training Muay Thai in Thailand
So you’ve been training for a while now and are thinking of making the rite of passage trip to a Muay Thai training camp in Thailand.
Or perhaps you are just starting out and think the best option is to jump right into it… and what more of a traditional setting can you start training in than where Muay Thai originated?
If you’ve never trained in Thailand before, a common thought that comes up is what the key differences are between Thailand and where you’re from when it comes to training. Here are some of the main ones!
If you haven’t heard already, Thailand is HOT!
Even during its cooler months in November and December and rainy months of June and July, it still likely packs more heat than where you’re from. Because it’s hot, adjusting to the heat and humidity makes it very hard to breathe while you’re doing physical activity. On the bright side, once you’re adjusted to training in the hot and humid weather, your cardio will be amazing when you go back home.
Style of Training
Outside of Thailand, you will find that there are many “variations” of Muay Thai, from Dutch style, to traditional, to a mix of Muay Thai and different kickboxing disciplines. In Thailand, you are likely to only find the “traditional” style, although styles vary from gym to gym. Some gyms love to coach the aggressive never-back-up style (a great example of this type of coaching is watching Bovy fight).
Some gyms are known for being excellent in the clinch, while others are more well-rounded and technical. These different styles eventually form fighters into their own styles; there are even names for these different styles when it comes to fighting!
Muay Maat is a fighter who favors throwing punches and usually has heavy hands. These type of fighters usually go for the KO since punches don’t score much in a fight in Thailand (to be explained more in a future article)
Muay Khao is a knee fighter, and can throw either loose knees or use the knees to enter the clinch. Knee techniques score highly in a fight.
Muay Liam Khao uses knees but in a different manner than that of a Muay Khao. Muay Liam Khao are masters of sweeping and dumping, and usually follow up with another strike.
Muay Tehy loves kicks, whether they’re low kicks, middle kicks, or high kicks. Kicks score very highly in a fight.
Muay Bouk constantly advances and does not back up.
Muay Sork likes throwing elbows, which are effective at cutting and possibly stopping fights.
Muay Fimeu/Muay Classic are the fighters who put on an exciting show, and are the type of fighters who many would pay to watch (think of Saenchai). A Muay Femur does not only use all the weapons of Muay Thai with great technique, but uses them effectively and gracefully.
With that many different styles, there are also trainers with different styles as well. When you go to a Muay Thai camp, there are usually more than one trainer, and you are likely to work with more than one during your time there.
Not all trainers hold pads the same way, nor do they emphasize the same technique. Some trainers love to do pad work at a high pace and don’t care too much for power, while other trainers only care about power and do pad work at a slower pace. Some trainers will be tricky and sweep you while you’re kicking, and others will make you clinch with them and knee for an entire round or two.
Conditioning in Thailand requires a lot of running, most likely more than you’re used to. Many training regimens require you to run every single day right before training, and can be anywhere from 5-15km (about 3-10 miles).
S&C (strength and conditioning) with heavy weights is becoming extremely popular outside of Thailand, but most gyms in Thailand don’t incorporate heavy lifting as part of their routine – they stick to basics using simple equipment, such as a GHD machine for sit ups, and body weight exercises, such as pushups, pull ups, back extensions. Prepare to do a conditioning routine everyday after the training session is done – chances are, the trainers will require you to do it.
Frequency and Duration of Training Sessions
Outside of Thailand, most people train only once a day, if they even train every day. In Thailand, training is often 5-6 days a week, with TWO training sessions in a day. In your home country, your training session might try to cram a little bit of each thing (sparring, pad work, clinching, boxing, bag work) because most people only train once a day, and the duration of the training is probably anywhere from 1-2 hours, right?
Each training session in Thailand is 1.5-3 hours, but only a couple things are worked on in each session, which in some ways makes it feel less tiring. So instead of trying to do EVERYTHING in one session, maybe in the morning you’ll only spar and do pad work, and in the afternoon you’ll box and clinch.
Showing Up and Sucking it Up
Because of the frequency, volume, and intensity of training in Thailand, you’ll probably feel way more beat up and sore than you would back home. But you came for a reason, so the best thing to do is to just suck it up and show up.
As bad as it sounds, many trainers will not take you seriously unless you show up every day and show them you are serious; they see many foreigners come and go, and they see that many of these foreigners don’t have what it takes to train seriously. If you want to gain respect and learn all you can, just show up and train. They understand you’re tired.
Food and hunger levels
Adding onto training more and longer, you’ll be burning up more calories! And with burning up more calories comes hunger! You’ll probably feel hunger more frequently than you did back home. Many camps offer cooked meals, and the Thai style of eating is to eat small portions, but to eat frequently and snack throughout the day.
Don’t be surprised if your stomach starts rumbling one hour after your dinner. Luckily, traditional Thai home cooking is very healthy and includes lean proteins and plenty of vegetables. Low carb diets probably will not fare well in Thailand since rice is a huge staple and many view eating it as essential to having energy to train. And as long as you’re training, it’s okay to eat more – your body needs the extra calories anyway.
Now that you know of some key differences in the training, you’ll have an idea of what to expect. Now, what are you waiting for? Go book your trip, train, kick ass, and have fun!
- Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.