I trained at Sumalee Boxing Gym for 2 weeks. I also lived onsite.
Overall impression (tl/dr): Good for women; good for beginners; good if you want a 'one stop shop' (everything you need is in the gym); not so good for more experienced practitioners.
Muay Thai Training:
The training is decent but can be improved. Rounds are only 3 minutes long with 1 minute rest in between. In between rounds of pad work/heavy bag, you are expected to do 10 pushups/situps/squats.
A typical morning session lasts 90 minutes (7:30-9am) and will usually have this structure:
- 15 minute skipping/jumping on tires
- Wrapping hands
- Shadowboxing (supervised - the trainer will correct your technique)
- 3 rounds of pads with trainers
- 3 rounds of heavy bag (unsupervised - all the trainers are on pad duty)
- Conditioning exercises (sit ups, repetition of basic technique)
A typical afternoon session lasts 2 hours (4-6pm). The routine is similar to the morning session, except there are 3 rounds of light sparring before pads/heavy bag and there are more conditioning exercises. The sparring is supervised in the sense that the coaches will make sure you don't get hurt. However, they won't be correcting your technique between rounds.
Overall, I found this structure to be just OK. On the one hand, there are plenty of coaches (2:1 or 3:1 student to teacher ratio) and they are friendly people. They are also very well versed in dealing with beginners and will even go so far as to wrap your hands for you. However, on the more negative side, I feel like there is too little emphasis on technique. For example, most coaches do not correct your form during pad work. There is also no standard block of time dedicated to teaching technique - on 2 occasions, we learnt how to catch a kick and counter but that was it. Furthermore, there is no clinching and most students are complete beginners (they come for the Yoga) - the latter means you really have to hold back when sparring with them. There are 2 sponsored fighters at the gym (1 male, 1 female) but they barely interact with the students beyond a standard 'hi'.
Due to the lack of technical instruction during group classes, I highly recommend you do some privates on the side. I did 6 while I was there (700 baht/private, 3600 baht/6 privates) and that's where the trainers really shine. The trainers were all once well-experienced fighters, ranging from having 300+ fights (Keng) to 30+ fights (Na), and will happily work on fine tuning anything you want. They will spar with you, clinch with you, teach you strategy - all with patience and in a totally safe/fun environment. I personally recommend Keng as he is the most experienced and he really breaks everything down very, very clearly to you.
Overall, its clear to me that the trainers know their stuff and are passionate about what they do. It is a shame the group training itself is so watered down.
The gym itself has 2 rings, a general matted area and heavy bags. On the good side, the gym is cleaned regularly and is kept very tidy. They also have new flooring which is nice. On the not so good side, out of all the heavy bags, I was surprised to find that only one was a full length one. Others were much shorter which means you can't practise your low kicks on them. I also found the bags to be filled with very hard material - to the point where I could never go beyond 30-40% on them. The gym does have gloves and shin pads you can borrow - however, most of the gloves probably need to be replaced as there are holes in them (often near the palm area) and they stink.
Outside of MT, the gym also offers Yoga classes once a day. I am a complete novice to Yoga but I tried a couple of classes and they were pretty good. The instructor Rhian is very nice, you get plenty of instruction and it is a relaxing experience.
There is also a pool on site, a pool table and scooters for rent. There is a pro shop as well which has everything you need for MT - from handwraps/mouthguards to gloves/shinpads to keyrings. The pro shop charges prices comparable to my home country though (e.g. a pair of shorts starts from 1200baht).
Accommodation is basic but kept very clean.
There is an onsite restaurant which sells both western and thai food. The food is pretty good and almost of restaurant quality. The wait staff are also very friendly and there are (a few) vegetarian choices. However, if you aren’t on a meal plan, ordering a la carte is expensive with most dishes costing anywhere between 5-10 USD.
Due to the price, most of the students will instead go to Nana’s around the corner. You can get a dish and a drink for 48baht there.
The gym is in a non-touristy area of Phuket. This is good if you want to train without any distractions. This is bad though if you want to do any sight seeing. There is a convenience store directly across the gym which sells basic amenities (washing powder, shower gel etc.) and you can walk 25-30 minutes each way for massages/7-eleven/phamacy but everything else requires a taxi.
Safe for women/solo travellers?
Very. The trainers are prohibited from making any kind of unwanted advances and the gym is very safe at all hours. There are also a lot of women training there (I'm talking 50-55%) and most students are solo travellers. Gunn, Sun, Lynne and Rhian all understand English and will regularly check in to make sure you are doing ok.
Hope you enjoyed my review!