My Review of Petchrungruang Gym – Pattaya – A Small, Authentic Family Muay Thai Gym
Petchrungruang Gym – Pattaya
Above is my video review of Petchrungruang Gym, where I spent about 6 weeks during my recent stay in Pattaya. For those that have not been following, I was doing a full session in the morning at Petchrungruang, then often had a private lesson at WKO with Sakmongkol at 2pm, and then a regular Muay Thai session there before returning to Petchrungruang for evening sparring and clinch practice to take advantage of having smaller bodied kids with skills (I’m a 45 kg fighter) to train with. Each day felt very full.
Atmosphere and People
One of the characteristics of Petchrungruang that initially drew me to it was that it’s filled with kids. In fact, the review of the gym I read online – and there isn’t a lot to be found online – said there may not be morning training for westerners because all the kids get up to run at 5:30 AM in order to be finished with training in time to go to school. There’s something really sincere about that, as most kids that are fighters are also students. It turns out there is training in the morning for westerners. It begins at 9:30 AM, which is very late for me. That’s when I’m usually walking home from Lanna Muay Thai here in Chiang Mai. But it’s not crowded at all at that hour and there’s a relaxed feeling when you walk into a mostly empty gym, the thin morning light casting patches of sun onto the ring. There’s only one trainer in the morning and that’s Kru Nu, who is a former champion and the first generation of fighters at Petchrungruang, although he’s the second generation to work the gym. His father Bamrung, who I call “the Patriarch,” is an amazingly cool and kind man who slips in and out of the gym space, mostly watching. He was incredibly generous with me and offered me lots of advice and technique when I was clinching with his grandson Bank – the third generation and a serious little monster of a Muay Thai fighter. He’s only 40 kg and in his first years of the teens, but he’s incredibly strong and skilled in Muay Thai.
Three generations in clinch: Bamrung watching ringside, his son Kru Nu demonstrating a technique on his own son Bank.
The quiet mornings are contrasted with busy afternoons, but there’s never a shortage of space. The ring is very large, there’s a second, smaller ring down below it that the younger kids do work in when it’s really busy, there’s good pace around each heavy bag and there’s an adjacent room with full weights and an area with mats for shadow or padwork or whatever.
In the afternoons there are more padholders. A few Thai men come and go depending on how busy it is but almost every day there is also Filippo Cinti, an Italian ex-fighter who has a long history and is very integrated with the gym. He has connections with the Yokkao promotion, which is how I had my name put in for Yokkao 7, and maybe it’s due to Filippo that there is a strong presence of Italian nationals training at the gym.
Most of the people training are young Thai boys from ages 8-18 or so (in the video I shot the Thai boys are out for their run so you don’t see them). There’s a little Thai girl who is probably around 6 years old, who hits pads with her father and had a few rounds of clinch with one of the young Italian kids at the gym. She’s pretty impressive but doesn’t train every day. There are a few western kids, ranging in dedication, but the two standouts are Alex, a 12-year-old Italian boy who has over 20 fights already and 8-year-old Jozef from Slovakia, who is only 27 kg but absolutely embodies the sanook (“fun/joy”) approach to Muay Thai. He launches himself into everything with high energy and playful excitement, but he also fights like a beast. The Thai kids don’t all live at the gym but come together after school and run together along the length of the residential street on which the gym sits. The older kids hold pads for the younger kids and the teens, some already fighting at Lumpinee and/or champions give good instruction to their younger protegees. There is lots of playful sparring, light enough that shinpads aren’t always worn, but serious enough that it’s very good fight training for the kids of all ages. There are adult westerners as well, mostly Italian, followed by Russian and then maybe a Frenchman here or there. But I saw the same people for all the weeks I was there. It seems that people stay for a while at Petchrungruang, and are very happy doing so, adding to the family feeling of the place.
The Pad Work – Technique
Because Petchrungruang is filled with young kids, it’s a teaching gym. One of the biggest complaints I hear about Thai camps is that there is very little technical instruction and that pad holders just burn through rounds trying to tire farang out. But because the main focus of this gym is to teach the Thai kids and funnel them towards possible Lumpinee success, this isn’t the case here. The kids are almost all at stages in their careers where they are still learning basics, so establishing style and technique is definitely a strong focus. I need that; that’s really good for me. Kru Nu from the start was very focused on the basics, and on molding the basics into advanced techniques as well. My Muay Thai improved significantly, I feel, in the 6 weeks I was there. Kru Nu holds two or three rounds of Muay Thai padwork (4 minute rounds) and then a final round of just hands and knees, changing from the Thai pads to focus mitts. (In this blog post can see my first day of pad work there, and I posted many more rounds on my YouTube channel as well). I’m used to 5 rounds at 4 1/2 minutes with a 1 minute break, but his pad holding definitely had me feeling it. He’s a great teacher. Patient, observant, experienced, focused, gentle in spirit. In addition to my pad work I watched him with the kids many times while I was waiting for clinching in the afternoons; he applies pressure enough to force decisions from his students; if it’s a bad choice, like not solving getting kneed or a kick that doesn’t have a chance for any power, he’ll apply more pressure or he’ll stop and correct the mistake. He does not like anyone to throw strikes without intention. But if you throw something that he wasn’t expecting but it’s a good idea he’ll catch it, roll with it, agree with it, etc. It’s very good for teaching how to fight, rather than simply being a set of combinations to push the heart-rate. Even the people who were there only for fitness had pretty good technique; you can get in shape while still doing the right form.
Watch my video review at top and you’ll see the whole gym. The gym is attached to the house of Bamrung and his family, so the front of the gym is their living-room, as well as a small equipment store (shorts, shirts, mongkol, sports tape, wraps, etc.) and a kind of convenience store with soft drinks, water, chips, snacks, etc. The gym itself has a huge main ring with a cement base, very sturdy and a nice canvas. There’s a second, small ring to the side where the smaller kids do clinch, sparring or padwork when it’s crowded in the main ring. There are photographs along the walls of their fighters (mostly still kids) with championship belts being strapped on in the middle of stadium rings after fights, the date, names and weights written in black sharpie on the frame itself. There are fight posters, big banners around the ring with all the fighters posed around sponsors or the trainers. You can feel the story of the gym as you walk around. There are maybe 6 heavy bags, two of which are long enough for low-kick training. The adjacent room is wide and long with blue puzzle mats in the front for shadowboxing or padwork, a long mirror running the length of the room on one side, wooden benches on both sides and cable-design circuit weight machines, bench-press/squat, dumbbells, ab wheels, incline/decline situp benches, and a really good pullup/dip/emperor chair. There are folks who come just to use the weight room, so it’s pretty complete. There’s a shower and toilet in the back of the weight room and a chicken farm at the back, which shares windows with the weight room. So you can hear the roosters making noises pretty much all day and see them in a pen out those windows. Apparently chickens and roosters make sounds beyond crowing and clucking which sound something like horses. It adds a lot to the ambiance of the gym.
A Recommended Gym for Smaller Bodied Female Fighters
Female fighters have it rough sometimes in Thailand. In many parts of the country it is difficult to get serious clinch practice, either because of (hidden) gender issues, or because it is difficult to find training partners of the right skill and size. The main reason why I came to Petchrungruang was because I really needed clinch and sparring to raise my game and it is the perfect gym for that, especially for someone my size. I walk around at 47 kg, and would ideally fight at 44-45 kg. I would highly recommend this gym for small fighters like myself because the technique of the kids is strong, yet they are still at that age where they can’t really give the teenage attitude of “I don’t want to do this” nor be part of the often unsaid, but still present complications about mixed gender training and sexuality. It is ideal. The clinch practice and light sparring I got here was the best I got in Thailand (or in the United States for that matter) by far.
This was my blog post after my first day there when I was checking it out, in case you’d like to compare my first impression with my last impression.
Their website is here: boxingpattaya.com
I found the best way to contact them is to send a text to Kru Nu at 084 864 5556. You can call too, but it can be hit or miss communication.
Where is it?
You can go to an interactive Google Map of the location here: Petchrungruang Gym.
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