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So as you can imagine there are many things you can do on Koh Phangan, Chilling by the pool, drinking fruit shakes perhaps even some yoga if you’re feeling like exerting yourself. But how about learning Muay Thai?
For those who don’t know what Muay Thai is, it’s a Traditional Thai style of kick boxing that uses the body as a weapon. It consists of attacks from the body including punches, elbows, knees and feet. As you can imagine this sport is not for the faint hearted!
Training regimes include running, shadowboxing, rope jumping, body weight resistance exercises, medicine ball exercises, abdominal exercises and so on. Long term Muay Thai fighters will eventually condition their shins by kicking heavy bags hardening the bone through a process called cortical remodeling.
But if you don’t plan on being the next Bruce Lee and want to give it a go, what next?
Well there are a number of gyms on the island, depending on where you’re staying. The majority are in Thong Sala or Ban Tai. I think the best thing to do is go and visit and meet the trainers and find the one that you’re most comfortable with. I personally train at Muay Thai Chinnarach. I found it was a nice family owned gym that was very welcoming. The trainers were good, and very accommodating for people that have never done it before.
But what to expect when you go for two hours in the morning or afternoon or even both?
Well first of all if you’ve never done Muay Thai before what they will do is set you out on your own and show you the stance that you need to be in. They will then teach you the way in which to punch, jab, kick and knee. Once you have these basics down you will eventually move onto hitting a bag. Don’t worry, you’re not going to be thrown in the ring in the first fifteen minutes.
Generally to grasp the basics of Muay Thai I would recommend going for at least a few lessons. But once you have the basics down a session normally starts with skipping. This is quite hard, especially if you can’t skip, but you will eventually get the hang of it. When I first started I was terrible, now I’m skipping like a schoolgirl. After that you will do some stretching, stretching is essential for any martial art or exercise. If you don’t stretch your likely to be as stiff as a board and could potentially pull a muscle, and that’s not fun! Once your all warmed up the trainers will wrap your hands. This protects the hands and wrists against injury.
So your all wrapped and warmed and ready to go, you now move on to “ jump knee “. This is where you hold the bag and knee it as hard as can for three minutes. If you’re first starting out they put you in the ring and you knee the ropes. This is much easier and you don’t have a huge resistance of a heavy bag. As you can imagine after this you’re going to be sweating like you never have before, so it’s a good idea to buy rehydration salts. You can pick them up from seven eleven for about 11 baht, you just mix them with water and it tastes like orange juice. This helps to replenish the salts and minerals you lose during the training.
After your legs have been annihilated through jump knee you usually move onto shadow boxing for about ten minutes. This really involves looking at yourself in the mirror, realizing how out of shape you are and attacking thin air. Again this is done to practice your form which you will learn the very basics of in your first session.
Now most of the time there are about four to five trainers in the gym at any one time, so what they will do is cycle the students. Firstly some people will do some pad work and the other will stay on the bags.
If you’re doing pad work this involves practicing the moves you’ve been taught with a trainer, you will be in the ring for three minutes three times punching, kicking and kneeing the pads (don’t worry they don’t hit you back) Unless you kick the guy in the balls that is, and then they only make you do fifty press ups.
So after you’ve done your pad work, you will move onto doing bag work which is pretty much the same as what you did in the ring but on the bag. Punching, kicking, kneeing etc.
As you can imagine you’re now going to feel pretty ruined. For the more advanced students they move onto sparing. They put on knee pads and bigger gloves which are more cushioned. This obviously prevents any damage happening. The golden rule, safety first! For everyone else they generally wind down with some weights or stretching.
At the end of the session everyone stands in one line and we say Kopun Krap Muay thai, which translates as thank you Muay Thai. We each put our hands together and then walk past the trainers and shake hands. This is when the session finishes.
You can look at about 300 to 400 baht for a day’s training. I think that 400 baht gives you two sessions of two hours per day, although if you sign up for a week or a month it’s cheaper. When I first started training two times a day I found it incredibly tiring, my bones ached and I was borderline disabled all the time. The best way is to ease yourself into it.
So the long and short is, If you want a challenge, lose some weight, learn to fight then Muay Thai is for you. But be prepared to ache and walk around like an old person for the first couple of sessions. It really is the best high intensity workout I’ve ever experiences and I highly recommend it!