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My List of Muay Thai Gyms I Recommend in Thailand

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#1
Sylvie

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So here is an informal list of gyms I'd generally recommend, and a short synopsis why. These are maybe one-month-stay recommendations. These are not reviews, just quick overall impressions.

Lanna Muay Thai - casual in tone, you get back what you put in, female fighter friendly, nice Chiang Mai runs, tons of fight opportunities as you progress, Daeng is an excellent lead instructor, on a classic Thai market soi (small residential road).

This is the gym that I spent more than two years at starting in 2012, the gym that supported my passion for fighting and fighting a lot. I wrote about how Lanna is the most fight friendly gym in the world, and I believe that to be the case. Everything they do is to prepare for the ring, whether or not you intend to fight. It went through a rough spell when Andy left, but from everything I hear - and from what I see on my visits when I go fight in Chiang Mai lately - it is back to being quite strong.

Sitmonchai Gym - good Thai vs Westerners mix, westerners only spar with Thais, low-kick specialists, Kru Dam is world famous and a keen instructor, a western female manager (good for women), do not clinch a lot, Pee A the owner is awesome.

I've heard one story about unwanted advances on a long term female student, and another of a long term fighter who felt he was pressured to fight, but I'm not sure how to weigh these things in an overall way. I wrote about how Sitmonchai may be the perfect mix of things people look for in a gym: Best Muay Thai Gym in Thailand?

Kem Muaythai Gym - clinch heavy, gorgeous mountain location, run by a great fighter in Kem, access to both MAX and Isaan festival cards. Yodwicha, one of the best clinch fighters in the world, trains there and is amazing.

As much as I wrote that Sitmonchai Gym may be the best in Thailand, that was before I visited Kem's high up on a mountain near Khorat. I call it the Shaolin Experience. Big beautiful resort like grounds, grueling training sessions, lots of active fighters. I wrote about the gym here: Kem Muaythai Gym: Hardcore, Beautiful, Clinch Gym

Sangtiennoi Gym - about as close to a "real" kai muay readily integrating westerners as there is, led by a Golden Age Legend in Sangtiennoi. Lots of clinch, hard sessions, rural location, an incredible amount of farm animals.

I wrote about Sangtiennoi's Gym here: Tough, Traditional Muay Thai with a Legend. I found him to be a generous and excellent instructor, and I loved how he ran the sessions with a stick in his hand. The western fighters were not too plentiful, and felt integrated into everything. It has strongly retained its home feel, and honestly, Gigi the giant pig was incredible. Lots of westerners who formerly trained there consider themselves part of a family. 

Attachai Muay Thai Gym - this is a new gym in Bangkok, and has to have the most beautiful setting of any gym in the city. Not even close. It's run by a legend of Muay Thai, Attachai, who has returned to Thailand after many years as a trainer at Evolve in Singapore. 

I trained with him in private he has an incredible way of teaching timing, and Muay Thai response, which I've never seen before. Everything had a mix of semi-sparring to it. A really interesting teacher. I sent Emma Thomas over to the gym - she had been looking for a new gym in BKK for more than a year - and she fell in love with it. This was my initial review.

Hongthong Gym (Chiang Mai) - My private with Joe Hongthong was absolutely wonderful. He thinks creatively about the fighter I am, and then about how to enhance that. The brothers that run the gym each have a different emphasis, Gen is Muay Femur, and Joe is Muay Khao. They've had successful women fighting out of their gym, and from personal experience I'd say that if you are a Muay Khao fighter Joe would make a wonderful teacher. [edit: The new location of Hongthong Gym is pretty spectacular, check out the video a few weeks after opening - I've moved this up into my main recommendation section because the facilities have dramatically improved, with the same quality training.]

 

One of the more difficult communications I receive is a request that I recommend gyms for other people. At first blush this seems like an obvious request. I've trained and fought in Thailand for nearly 5 years, I'm well connected to other fighters and serious students in the country. I'm pretty forthright in my opinions. But aside from the fact that I have a really full plate training, fighting and writing, the simple truth is that it is very, very difficult to do this kind of recommendation - I often equate it to recommending a college to someone - so many factors go into this. Not only are everyone's needs quite different, and most of those needs vastly different from my own, people often are looking for a combination of factors in a single gym that is almost fairytale land: very cheap, "authentic" and not many westerners, but also very "technical" and investing a lot in explanations and teaching, and treating you as a valued customer. 

I'll add to this that I have only trained long term in a few gyms in Thailand - though I've taken privates in many - so my first hand long term experience is actually quite limited. I have heard a lot of feedback from others, so in a certain sense I am informed, but not definitively.

So I'm starting this thread just as a place to list gyms I feel comfortable recommending, and some of the reasons why. I also in the following reply will add gyms that I've heard things about, but am not well-informed on. I totally understand that choosing a gym is one of the biggest decisions one can make in your trip to Thailand. The wrong gym can be a waste of a "once in a lifetime" experience, not to mention a chunk of money. I won't go into depth, but perhaps as the thread grows, and questions get answered the thread becomes a resource to many. The one thing I would say is that if it is your first time in Thailand don't pay for a big package in advance. Go to the gym you think you'll like, for a few days or a week, and then if you do like it, consider staying longer term. I also advise seeing at least one other gym, even if you like the first one, so you have some perspective. In our first stay (2010) we had a great time in Chiang Mai at Lanna, but then we went down to BKK trained at another gym (Sasiprapa) for an equal amount of time. We ended up liking Lanna better, but it was totally worth it to do both.

 

Please post all gym recommendation questions you have for me here on this thread, and not on Facebook, YouTube or Reddit. That way the conversation can develop and benefit others too! (This list and its descriptions will be revised over time)


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#2
Sylvie

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Gyms that I do not have personal experience with but have heard positive things about, or which I visited and have qualities that might appeal to a certain kind of traveler/student/fighter. These are not gym reviews, just quick impressions.

 

Santai Gym (outside of Chiang Mai) - lots of people have had positive experiences here, including pro female fighters. I've heard that they teach one style of Muay Thai (from the famed Pinsinchai camp), so they may try to change your kick or your fighting style. This is good in that everyone is more or less on the same page, but also perhaps limited in the sense that the variety of Muay Thai found in Thailand is incredibly rich, even in a particular gym, which for me means more to learn from. People who seem to really enjoy the camp are those looking for "technical" instruction, enjoy more organized instruction, and they who like to bond with other western travelers/fighters, as the camp seems to have nice tight-knit community. 

Sitjaopho (Hua Hin) - This is a gym in Hua Hin that is quiet popular with those looking for "technical" instruction. It has a strong Swedish connection, as well as a following with some from the East Coast (USA).

Chatchai Sasakul Gym (BKK) - the former WBC world champion boxer Chatchai is highly recommended if you want to work on your boxing. Precise technician, great instructor. You can see some of that here

Dejrat Gym (BKK) - This is a hidden gem in Bangkok run by the coach of the Thai National Team, Arjan Surat. Watch our session together. It just is a very "Thai" gym, so I couldn't recommend it in a broad way, either in a cultural or instruction sense. It's no-nonsense Muay Thai that is focused on its serious Thai fighters. They have had experience with female fighters. Go here only if you want some sort of immersion, are prepared to work very hard, and be positioned in a traditional hierarchy. Not a lot of English spoken.

Burklerk's Gym (Lampang) - outstanding instruction from a Legend in sleepy and beautiful Lampang. I wrote about the gym here: Burklerk's Family Run Gym in Lampang. Burklerk has a beautiful, powerful style and each time I visit I learn things. Even 5 minutes with him is gold. It's a small community gym in a quiet neighborhood. 

Venum Gym (Pattaya) - If you are looking for a sharp, western-friendly gym integrating western and Thai approaches the new Venum gym might be your gym. It's part-owned by Thai superstar Sudsakorn, I wrote about the gym here. Just as the older flagship gyms of Pattaya (Fairtex and Sityodthong) are looking past their prime, Venum steps in with a state of the art facility and top training.

Rambaa Somdet M16 (Pattaya) - Want to train with a Thai MMA legend (their first MMA World Champ), and to do so for cheap? Rambaa's gym is awesome in a very Thai way. Mostly it's neighborhood kids, and a few Thai fighters, but every day this small gym pulses with Rambaa's personality. It's only 3,000 baht a month ($85 USD), 6,000 baht a month ($170 USD) for training and room (+utilities) making it one of the least expensive gyms in Thailand, and you can take a private with him (his Muay Thai is wicked and stinging) for 300 baht ($8.50 USD). This is all about his love for the sport. I wrote about Rambaa's Gym here. I'd say it is only for the adventurous, those who know at least a little Thai.


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#3
radarjam

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I love this post!!! This is going to be added to my list of gyms to visit in the future (glad Hongthong is a part of this list!)

Perhaps I can also add on about my 1 month experience training there :) 


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#4
K. von Duuglas-Ittu

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Just throwing this out there: an interesting thing would be to build a criteria list for judging/recommending gyms, maybe something like:

Active Young Thai Fighters - young, developing Thai fighters are a sign that the gym is a living Thai-focused gym that does not only prioritize western tourist, commercial interests

Active of Top Stadia Thai Fighters - some people find this to be important. It's great to have high level examples to look at and imitate.

Convenience of Location - how hard is it to get to?

Surrounding Location - what is the surrounding location like? Is it hospitable? Enjoyable to live around?

Gym Atmosphere - what does the gym feel like, it's tone?

Food - If food is served (or local food options) what is it like?

Fight Opportunities - how easily can you get fights, and what kinds of fights? And how invested is the gym in finding you fights, and why?

Female Safety and Respect - is there is history of respecting female fighters and students? are there reports of unwanted advances? are females given top training and enough fight opportunities? 

Ownership - Management - sometimes management/ownership can be a big positive for a gym. It speaks to the gym's motivations. It can also help smooth difficulties.

Language - How much Thai do you need to know? Is English spoken? Are there other western language connections? (Some gyms have specific ties to other countries...Sweden, Italy, etc)

Trainer Stability/Turnover - this can go two ways. Sometimes trainers never turnover, and become really entrenched in negatives or lack of caring. too much turnover can suggest unstable management.

Quality of Equipment/Facility - some people find new equipment important.

Cleanliness - gym cleanliness can reflect the quality of care invested by owners/management. Some people also find this to be very important.

Clinch Training - does the gym provide substantial clinch training, practice?

Pad Work Training - what is padwork like? Is it consistent? Between different trainers?

Technical Instruction - is there much technical instruction or correction? some people really value and look for this.

Privates - Are privates offered worth the cost? And do you have to pay for privates in order to get good instruction/training?

Training Partners - Are there training partners for your size? Are they Thai?

Affordability - How does the gym compare in price to others of its kind and location, short term, long term.

Long Term Stay Opportunities - If you want to stay longer term, are there benefits? Discounts, sponsorship?

Living Quarters/Options - Is there onsite lodging, if so what is it like? What are nearby apartment options like, cost and quality?

Farang Gym Culture - Is there a long term western gym culture? If so, what is it like?

Off-Time Entertainment Options - What are the things to do on off-days?

 

Maybe add any aspects you find important if I missed any?


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#5
jenseb99

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Question for Sylvie here. 

I was expecting to see Petchrungruang gym in your list? Can you explain why it is not?



#6
Sylvie

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Question for Sylvie here. 

I was expecting to see Petchrungruang gym in your list? Can you explain why it is not?

 

There's maybe a few reasons I don't put it on the list. The first is that the things that make Petchrungruang so good for me really don't apply to most other people. I'm a small woman (47 kg) who specializes in clinch, and I'm a fighter who fights a lot and books my own fights. What is great about Petchrungruang is really my relationship with the family, and how much clinching I can get as a small female. And of course the padholding and guidance of Pi Nu. But Petchrungruang is a slow cook method gym. There usually isn't a lot of technical instruction or correction, instead there is lots of doing, and lots of self-directed training (I plan and do my own bag rounds, my own side drills, etc). Its teaching method is designed to turn kids into fighters over years. This isn't what a lot of western students or fighters are looking for. 

Also, I don't really like "selling" my gym. I've written a lot about it so if people have read me over the years they know what it is about. And in some ways I'd like to keep the gym my little secret. I don't want it to change with the arrival of students and fighters who expect things different than it is. And I really don't recommend it for most people because I feel that they would be happier somewhere else. It's just a small family gym that does things in a quiet way, focused on raising Thai boys to be stadium fighters and I like that.

That being said I have extended the offer for women to come and train with me, but that is different than putting the gym on a recommended list.


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#7
jenseb99

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Thank you Sylvie for this detailed explanation. I thought, there was a bit of  "And in some ways I'd like to keep the gym my little secret." ;)

I was also wondering. I know that Phuket is not known for being the most serious place to train but if one would like to train there to be in a beach area what gym would you, or others, suggest. What would be the 3 top gym in Phuket or other beach area? From my research online these are the top 3 gym I found. 

1- Singpatong Sitnumnoi: Seems like a very legit gym with serious fighters thought more western fighters seem to train there (mostly from France)

2- Simbi muay thai: from what I read seems fight oriented but also female "friendly" 

3- Tiger Muay thai : That would really not be my first choice since it seems too much like a western gym and I don't really care about the tech facility and the BJJ. 



#8
Sylvie

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Thank you Sylvie for this detailed explanation. I thought, there was a bit of  "And in some ways I'd like to keep the gym my little secret." ;)

I was also wondering. I know that Phuket is not known for being the most serious place to train but if one would like to train there to be in a beach area what gym would you, or others, suggest. What would be the 3 top gym in Phuket or other beach area? From my research online these are the top 3 gym I found. 

1- Singpatong Sitnumnoi: Seems like a very legit gym with serious fighters thought more western fighters seem to train there (mostly from France)

2- Simbi muay thai: from what I read seems fight oriented but also female "friendly" 

3- Tiger Muay thai : That would really not be my first choice since it seems too much like a western gym and I don't really care about the tech facility and the BJJ. 

 

I really hesitate to comment on Phuket gyms as this just seems like another world, very far from the Muay Thai training that I know. But I can at least give you my impression from things I've heard. Sinbi once had a very strong female Muay Thai presence, and lots of female fighters, but I've heard darker stories from more than one source. And a woman who is now a friend of mine, wrote a guest blog post about her experiences there which were so disappointing she flew out and came to train with me. Many of the longer term fighters like Gemma and Teresa also left Sinbi, so it seems that something is up. This isn't to say that women can't have very positive experiences there, in fact I've heard from a few who loved it, you can read Kay Khanomtom's very positive review of Sinbi on this forum. Gyms go through phases, and expectation plays a lot into experiences. For me though there are enough mixed messages that I just would tell a friend to stay away. As to Singpatong and Tiger, I really know nothing much at all through the grapevine. 

The only other gyms I could only very loosely suggest to look at for female-friendly reputation is Sutai Muay Thai a gym part owned I believe by Marcela Soto, a western female very active fighter, which also has a very experienced female Thai fighter, Buakaw, who is a trainer there. They seem well connected, and do have beach photos posted. Also Sumalee Boxing is owned by a western woman, Lynne Miller. From what I heard the gym went through a kind of purge a year or so ago, partly related to inappropriate advances, and completely remade its instructor staff, with an eye towards female safety. This is a very difficult thing for a gym to do. Usually when established, valuable Krus violate trust like that in Thailand ownership just turns the other way. So if what I heard was correct, Lynne really deserves credit. 

But talking about this for me is like talking about another planet. I don't even have a concept of how gyms relate to beach life, how far they are from them, or how people integrate the two.


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#9
jenseb99

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Thank you. 

I have another follow up question. The thing is I am planning to go train in Thailand for a few months next year (I have a MCL partial tear that needs to heal and I need to save money so realistically it will be in about a year). 

I will probably go to Lana for the most part. But my girlfriend is suppose to join me eventually in the trip. Probably the last 3 weeks or so. I would say she's not super serious in her training yet (not that she as to become) would probably train only once a day and I thought that the area of Phuket might be nicer than a city setting. But I don't know, I never being in Thailand. That's why I am looking for a women friendly gym. I would guess thought that the dynamic of possible unwanted advances or agressions is very less likely if you arrive at the gym as a couple? (that's my actual question because I know your husband is often around when you train) But I would also like for her to be able to have female training partners (thought she's pretty big, she would probably need western partners since she's 6' and 135lbs) and a place that she feels welcome to. 

All that said, I don't know. Maybe Chiang Mai is also very nice to visit and from what I understand of Lana, it could be a nice place for her to train, also considering the fact that I would have been there for a while, know the trainers and the other fighters and stuff. 

Can you share you thoughts on this?

Thank you



#10
Sylvie

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Thank you. 

I have another follow up question. The thing is I am planning to go train in Thailand for a few months next year (I have a MCL partial tear that needs to heal and I need to save money so realistically it will be in about a year). 

I will probably go to Lana for the most part. But my girlfriend is suppose to join me eventually in the trip. Probably the last 3 weeks or so. I would say she's not super serious in her training yet (not that she as to become) would probably train only once a day and I thought that the area of Phuket might be nicer than a city setting. But I don't know, I never being in Thailand. That's why I am looking for a women friendly gym. I would guess thought that the dynamic of possible unwanted advances or agressions is very less likely if you arrive at the gym as a couple? (that's my actual question because I know your husband is often around when you train) But I would also like for her to be able to have female training partners (thought she's pretty big, she would probably need western partners since she's 6' and 135lbs) and a place that she feels welcome to. 

All that said, I don't know. Maybe Chiang Mai is also very nice to visit and from what I understand of Lana, it could be a nice place for her to train, also considering the fact that I would have been there for a while, know the trainers and the other fighters and stuff. 

Can you share you thoughts on this?

Thank you

 

Yes, you are correct. If you are in a couple advances will be much less likely. My husband isn't really around my training for the last 2 years, and I've learned how to create my own personal borders, but in the beginning when we moved to Thailand it was an advantage to have him in the gym in the afternoons. 

I can't really comment on Phuket and beach life. I haven't a clue what that is like. I would maybe just say that because you are going to be at Lanna you'll have a really good opportunity to figure out if she'd like it or not. It's very laid back, but you can get good hard work in too. You can also have her meet you there, see how she likes Chiang Mai, which is a beautiful city, and then weigh if you want to fly down to the islands. The thing to keep in mind is that it is much more expensive in the islands than it is in Chiang Mai, which is one of the least expensive areas of Thailand that easily accommodates westerners.


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#11
jenseb99

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I would maybe just say that because you are going to be at Lanna you'll have a really good opportunity to figure out if she'd like it or not. It's very laid back, but you can get good hard work in too. You can also have her meet you there, see how she likes Chiang Mai, which is a beautiful city, and then weigh if you want to fly down to the islands. The thing to keep in mind is that it is much more expensive in the islands than it is in Chiang Mai, which is one of the least expensive areas of Thailand that easily accommodates westerners.

Thanks again. Actually, I've "decided" on Lana after talking to you on facebook (facebook name being Joseph Arthur de Gonzo). I think your advice of not booking in advance and trying two gyms before I take a final decision is very sensible so I think I'll do that.


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#12
TheDaysEye

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Very helpful. Thank you, Sylvie!


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#13
Haddow

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Thanks again. Actually, I've "decided" on Lana after talking to you on facebook (facebook name being Joseph Arthur de Gonzo). I think your advice of not booking in advance and trying two gyms before I take a final decision is very sensible so I think I'll do that.

Bingo!



#14
NewThai

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If someone is looking for a smaller gym and some one-on-one training then I have to suggest Kanongsuk Muay Thai in Chiang Rai.
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