TRAIN LIKE A THAI WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
For some nak muays, training in Thailand is a rite of passage. Perhaps it’s the sense of ancient wonder and beauty that many associate with the country. Maybe some feel that time spent kicking down rubber trees on Thai soil imbues them with mighty power of some kind. Maybe they just really dig pad thai.
Whatever the reasons, every nak muay seems to either want to do it, or they’re on their third trip. Westerners crusading eastward for a month or two a pilgrimage many nak muay make in their lifetime, especially now as professionally-run training camps are becoming more and more commonplace. It is, as many martial artists can attest to, a truly altering experience.
That being said, it’s a pretty daunting thing to go and stay in another country for that long and train with top-level fighters. That’s why today we’re going to go over the essential things you need to know about training in Thailand.
We need to talk about the boring stuff first: preparation. What clothes to bring, what gear you need, and so on. It’s important that you pack your training clothes, be it Muay Thai shorts or whatever – but even more importantly you need to make sure your regular wardrobe is up for the task. Thailand, especially in the summer, is a really hot, humid place. You’ll need light, thin clothes, preferably tank tops and shorts. There’s a fine line you walk in Thailand between staying cool and staying dry, as heavy rain is common, so a raincoat or water-proof poncho wouldn’t hurt, either.
When talking about gear, you obviously want a couple sets of gloves, hand wraps and shorts, but also freezer bags, anti-bacterial wipes and a dehumidifier. Why? Well warm, dark and moist locations are the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, and nobody wants a staph infection. Use one pair of gloves for a week, then wipe them thoroughly inside and out with the wipes, put them in freezer bags to keep them safe, and then chuck them in the freezer (if available). What bacteria isn’t killed by the wipes will either die or be forced dormant by the cold.
As for the dehumidifier – it’s not a must, but some people find that they struggle to breath in atmosphere more humid than what they’re used to. If you’re one of those people, one of these handy gadgets will help you sleep of a night.
And of course, you want powerful anti-bacterial soap. Seriously, you’re spending a month in a boiling hot gym.
Now let’s talk about training, the reason you came to Thailand in the first place. It varies from gym to gym, but generally speaking most gyms offer two training sessions a day, six days a week, with opportunity for private coaching in between those sessions. If you’re not used to training twice a day, it might not be the smartest idea to immediately shock your system and start training like a Thai. Instead, you should build to it and maybe only start training twice a day on your second week.
What you definitely should do is make the most out of your private sessions. Unless your coach back home is a Thai, or teaches a “very Thai” style, then there’s a good chance there could be certain areas in your game that are going to be lacking when compared to old-school Muay Thai. Usually this comes in the form of teeps and clinch game. These private sessions are the perfect way to really improve your skills and make you a better rounded Muay Thai fighter. I’ve yet to see a fighter go to Thailand who didn’t come back with sharper skills than before they went there. Not only is the constant training a great way to improve but surrounding yourself with better fighters who will really push you will make a noticeable change.
After training is done, what’s there to do? Everybody has different pastimes but, in my opinion, it’d be a huge mistake not to go out and see what the country has to offer. Thailand is a beautiful country with a rich history and culture beyond the fight culture that we’re familiar with. If you’re brand new to the country, you owe it to yourself to see the sites/sights, eat the food, and meet the people.
As much as we all want to be great fighters, it’s important to know when to switch off, and exploring the beautiful, natural world surrounding you is the perfect way to do it. Then you can go to sleep – happy, fulfilled, and ready to start training all over again.
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- Andrew Bryan is an actor, writer and martial artist based in the UK. He likes long walks on the beach, fighting technique, and history.