In the second of our TruReviews series, the TruFam decided to get fit and head up to Diamond Muay Thai in Thong Sala, Koh Phangan for a session! Those familiar with fitness and/or martial arts have probably heard of Muay Thai (or Thai Boxing) and even some who aren’t probably have due to it’s popularity as a stand up fighting style in mixed martial arts competitions such as UFC. It was once however an art only practiced in Thailand and South East Asia and as such is a big part of the culture in this part of the world.
Muay Thai (or Thai Boxing)
is the national sport of Thailand, also known as ‘the art of eight limbs’ due to the fighters being able to use their feet, elbows and knees to attack their opponent as well as just fists as in Western Boxing. Muay Thai today is regarded as one of the most devastating and influential forms of martial arts around! (Hence it’s popularity in MMA/UFC)
Initially devised ‘back in the DAY’ as an effective close quarters fighting style, Muay Thai was practiced by the Royal Thai Army during the reign of King Naresuan (16th Century) so that they would be more effective (or just plain double ‘ard) when fighting neighboring armies like the Burmese. Many years later, during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V – 19th Century), when these wars were no longer a threat (and after guns came along), Muay Thai became a popular spectator sport. King Rama V loved the sport himself, and being a very peaceful time for the Kingdom of Thailand, the sport brought the country together whilst at the same time King Rama V ushered in a prosperous age for Thailand.
The more you learn about Muay Thai in comparison with Western Boxing, the more impressive it seems. Thai Fighters start learning at the age of about 4 or 5 and can have over 300 fights during their career. If this doesnt sound like much, consider the careers of legendary western boxers like Mike Tyson or Frank Bruno who have about 45 -55 fights to their names. Western boxers also have months and sometimes years between fights to train and recover, while many Thai boxers will fight every other week or monthly and train every day, whilst sustaining much more brutal shots than their western counterparts. Even though Thai fighters are “harder than coffin nails”, the buddhist culture and general culture of respect in Thailand prevents Muay Thai fights from being childish or brutal displays like UFC fights often are. 99.99% of the time Muay Thai fighters are extremely respectful, calm and humble.
So there’s an extremely brief intro & history of this EPIC sport which leads me to my own personal experience just the other week. We have been offering a Muay Thai lesson on day 6 of our Southern Thailand tours for a while now, and this, coupled with the fact that some of the TruFam could definitely do with a bit more exercise in between lifting 330ml weights, led us to go and meet up with our partners at Diamond Muay Thai for Tru Review number 2 and a session that left us breathless and sweaty… Introducing Simon, Jessie & Mon who run Diamond and are determined to sculpt us into the fighting Adonis’s that we were meant to be. So, after a night out on the beach, we prepped ourselves for a session to help sweat out all those buckets of whiskey from night before! Here's the video and the write up… Enjoy!
Diamond was started back in 2012 by the head trainer ‘P Mon’ and the two handsome English lads, Simon and Jesse who you saw in the video. They take care of the day to day running of the gym, which gives Mon time to dedicate his energy towards training his fighters and trainers. Mon has been training for many years across Thailand, training both Thai and Foreign students and has had great success across the country. When we asked why the name “Diamond”, Simon told us an interesting fact that we had never heard before “Well, it was out of a couple of options but Diamond seemed to work, it is “Pet” in Thai and this is a common nickname given to tough fighters who show good heart. A prime example of this being Ramon Dekker, a dutch fighter who came to Thailand years ago and was probably the first “Farang” or foreign fighter to gain the respect and admiration of the Thai people for his heart filled and relentless fighting style.”
The gym is located on the beautiful tropical island of Koh Phangan, just a few hundred meters away from the road with a jungle backdrop bordered by mountains. It’s separated into two sides, the boxing gym and the living quarters where people can stay in some basic but cool little bungalows if training long term. Simon also told us that they are now in partnership with a resort round the corner so if you wanna stay in more plush accommodation when you are training you can do that too.
Diamond do really cater for people of any fitness level from beginners to serious fighters. You really don’t have to worry if you have never done it before, I’m far from being an athlete (like, reallllllllyyyyy f**kin’ far) and the first few times I trained, I was definitely worried about either puking and/or passing out. This is a lot of people’s worry when they approach a high impact sport such as Muay Thai, but I can tell you now with utmost confidence that whilst it can be very grueling exercise if you are pushing yourself, if you are a beginner and don't exercise often the trainers will totally go at your pace. They will still make sure you get something out of it and feel as though you have achieved something but they will never push you too hard or make you do anything you don't want to. As Simon says “we train hard, but in a relaxed environment”. As you saw, sessions start off with some simple stretches and skipping to help limber yourself up before getting into a further warm up of shadow boxing, following this you get your hands wrapped in fabric to help strengthen your fists and wrists before you hit the pads & bags.
The pad work though is where you really start to sweat, here we spent 3 minutes at a time on the pads or bags with 1 minute breaks in between (same as rounds in a fight). During the rounds, we practiced various different Muay Thai attacking and defensive techniques such as blocks, one-two’s, knees, body kicks and elbows. My personal favorite attack being the ‘superman punch’ where you spring yourself into the air and rain downwards fury towards your opponents face with a big ass punch…. As expertly demonstrated in ze above video. But seriously, if you wanna see a real expert destroying the pads watch this one…
Throughout the session the trainers are constantly watching you and giving you tips on how to improve your technique or power, as well as demonstrating moves and giving you different drills or combos to practise. I, like many westeners who take up the sport and haven’t had any experience, went straight to a ‘boxing stance’, but as Mon pointed out (repeatedly and very patiently) – in Muay Thai the position you hold your feet in is different as you don’t only have fists coming at you and you need to keep your balance. You understand of course that this is not because I have ever boxed, but more to do with the fact that I’m useless at most sports. Despite this however, by the end of the session, Mon and Simon had me moving in a way which made a few people in the gym think that Tong Po from ‘Kickboxer’ had popped in. (or at least that’s what happened in my head so I know I had fun).
After sweating out all the fluids I had left in my body we wound down doing some bag work with kicks and knees before we brought the session to a close with some stretches to get rid of that pesky lactic acid and slowly bring our heart rates down. After that of course we had a nice chat and a beer with Simon and Jesse then returned to the TruHQ for a much needed shower.
We will now be visiting Diamond every week with our groups so if you wanna give this fun form of exercise a try then you can! If you are looking to take it further and really get yourself into shape or perhaps even compete, then we can arrange for you to stay on with Diamond after our tour and get stuck into a longer course (anywhere between one week and several months). Whether your looking to get fit or you want to pick up a new form of sport instead of being stuck on a treadmill then I urge you to get your hands wrapped and give some Muay Thai a go! We guarantee it works!
Anyway, that’s us for now. Thanks to the Diamond Muay Thai crew for letting us pop in and we look forward to training more with you in the coming months! To all you past, present and future trutravellers out there, much love as always and see y’all on the beach!
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