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When you first start researching where to train in Thailand, it can be very overwhelming. If you do a search for Muay Thai in Thailand on Google, the first gym that will pop up is Tiger Muay Thai. Does that mean Tiger is the best camp in Thailand? Of course not. It just means they have the best marketing in the business.
The goal of this article is to help you identify the different types of Muay Thai gyms in Thailand and decide what gym is best for you. If you send me a message and ask for a gym recommendation, I would tell you to Do Your Own Research.
When it comes to Muay Thai gyms in Thailand, they ebb and flow over the years. Some years there is a good crop of trainers and fighters at a gym, and other years there isn’t. I don’t like giving people training recommendations on specific gyms because I don’t know how a gym is at a particular point in time unless I’m there.
This article breaks down the 10 types of Muay Thai training camps you will find in Thailand. While there are Muay Thai camps that might not fit in any of these categories, this list covers the majority of camps in Thailand.
#1. The Tourist Gyms
Examples: Diamond Muay Thai, Sinbi Muay Thai, Rawai Muay Thai, Sutai, etc. (Most Gyms in Thailand with majority Foreigners)
The most common Muay Thai camps in Thailand are the tourist gyms. The sign of a tourist gym is that their revenue comes from tourists paying for training and not the fight purses from their fighters. While traditional Muay Thai gyms earn revenue from the fight purses from their stable of fighters, tourist gyms make their income from charging foreigners training fees.
These gyms usually have Thai fighters training at the gym full time, but they are not able to survive without the income of foreigners. The foreign-owned tourist gyms will often sponsor high-level foreign fighters, which helps attract regular students and other fighters at the gym, while Thai owners tend to be more stingy about their sponsorships.
When you first train in Thailand, you will likely end up at one of these gyms. They have English websites, their staff speak English, and are open to women training at the gym.
Most tourist gyms are located in areas of Thailand that have a heavy tourist population. Places like Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, Pattaya, and Koh Phangnan are just a few of the many regions with dozens of tourist camps.
It is important to note that not all tourist gyms are created equal. Some are very good training camps, while others are terrible. Do your own research when searching for a particular camp to train at.
I like to break tourist gyms into two subcategories. The first category is the tourist gyms that solely exist for foreign students. These gyms don’t have any Thai boys living at the gym and they are completely empty if they don’t have any foreigners training at the gym.
The second type of tourist gym is the ones that have a crop of Thai fighters (usually 6-12) that live at the gym and fight regularly. While these gyms don’t rely on the Thai fighter’s salaries for most of their revenues, they do have fighters that progress through the ranks.
Who Should Train Here: Beginners, Intermediate, Sponsored Fighters
#2. The Powerhouse Gyms
Examples: Pk Saenchai Muay Thai, Sor Sommai, Petchyindee
In the world of Muay Thai money talks. Training camps that have big financial backers can afford to purchase the top young prospects in Thailand or current superstars. The powerhouse gyms like Petchyindee, PK SaenchaiMuayThaiGym, and Sor Sommai buy a lot of young prospects who are champions in their local region.
Most of the fighters who train at these camps compete at Lumpinee, Rajadamern, or Channel 7. A gym like Sor Sommai will typically have 3-5 Rajadamnern champions training at the gym at any given time. Petchyindee is connected to ONE Fighting Championship and PK Saenchai is stacked with all-star talent.
These gyms all have reputations for hard training and top-level fighters. As a foreigner, these gyms are not ideal to train if you are not a fighter. You will get someone holding your pads, but you might be the last person called on pads. These gyms are focused on building up their own fighters, so you shouldn’t expect any special treatment training here.
If you are a high-level foreigner who wants to improve your skills, then these are great places to train because you can spar and clinch with some of the best fighters in Thailand.
At a lot of these camps (besides Petchyindee), you need to speak a little bit of Thai if you want to get by. Most of the trainers don’t speak a word of English, so it can be difficult if you are someone wanted to learn.
Who Should Train Here: Experienced Fighters
#3. The MMA Camps
Examples: Tiger Muay Thai, AKA Thailand, PTT, Team Quest, Fairtex Training Center, Venum
Thailand is home to some of the most popular MMA camps in the world. At gyms like Tiger and AKA, there is a steady stream of UFC fighters that regularly make trips to train. These gyms are catered to Westerners who want to train MMA while being on holiday in Thailand. They offer Muay Thai, BJJ, Wrestling, Kickboxing and most have a strength and conditioning program.
These camps are ideal for people who want to train with other MMA fighters in Thailand. These are by far the biggest Muay Thai camps in general and have massive facilities. Since there is more money to be made offering multiple classes, these gyms are financially the most successful.
If you are a large foreigner over 90 kg (200 lbs), it can be extremely difficult to find sparring partners in your weight. Most Thai fighters are under 67 kg (150 lbs), so you will be oversized compared to everyone at the gym. MMA camps tend to have large heavyweights so you will have more training partners if you train at a Kickboxing or MMA camp in Thailand.
Phuket has the most Muay Thai and MMA camps, so if you plan on training MMA, I suggest you book a trip to Phuket to get it done there.
Who Should Train Here: MMA fighters or people who want to learn MMA, Heavyweights who need training partners
#4. The Elite Foreign Camps
Examples: Singpatong (French), 7 Muay Thai Gym (Italy), Muay Thai Academy (Mixed), Phuket Fight Club (Brazil)
These camps are home to the best foreign fighters in Thailand. While traditional Thai gyms do not like to offer foreign fighters sponsorships, these gyms sponsor most of their fighters. The majority of these gyms are foreign-owned (except Singpatong).
Each gym has strong connections to particular countries. For example, Elite Fight Club in Phuket is owned by Brazilians, and they sponsor and attract some of the best fighters from Brazil. If you are a Brazilian Muay Thai fighter, there is a good chance you end up training at Elite.
Similarly, Singaptong has raised two French Lumpinee champions in Damien Alamos and Raffi and has connections to a lot of gyms in France. Because of this, they have a huge French presence at the gym. In addition to their foreigners, Singpatong also has a stable crop of Thai fighters who regularly compete in Lumpinee stadium.
High-level fighters are also attracted to these gyms because it gives fighters an opportunity to train with some of the best in Thailand. While there are beginners who do train at these gyms, they are typically better suited for fighters.
Who Should Train Here: Fighters, Foreigners who don’t speak English (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian)
#5. The Hi-So Gyms
Example: RSM Academy
The word Hi-So stands for High Society. This is a term used to refer to the wealthy elites in Thailand who have a lot of money. The Hi-So Thais usually have lighter skin and Chinese ancestry.
In the past 5 years, there has been a crop of new gyms that have opened up throughout Bangkok. These gyms are catered to more affluent Thais who want to learn Muay Thai in a comfortable setting. Some Hi-So gyms are usually located inside malls and are geared towards fitness and exercise.
These gyms are perfect for people who want to train in a very clean and comfortable environment. If you aren’t that serious about Muay Thai and want to give it a try, then visit a Hi-So Gym.
You can usually book private lessons for around 1000 baht and the trainers are all ex-fighters and teach real Muay Thai. The difference between these gyms and traditional Thai gyms is that they don’t have any fighters or anyone who is serious about competing.
Who Should Train Here: Affluent Thais, Beginners
#6 – The Instagram Gyms
When it comes to gym marketing, social media gyms get it right. If you were to follow their Instagram page, you would think these gyms are the best in Thailand. However, the reality is that most of the fighters aren’t training that hard and the superstars are rarely around.
Since Instagram is a curated view of life in general, Instagram gyms only show you the highlights of training and make everything seem amazing, creating a false narrative about the gym.
Be careful whenever you visit anywhere that is famous online because there is a risk of there being a bunch of noobs at the gym all wanting to meet the people they see regularly in video posts online.
In the high season, there is a chance these gyms are overcrowded. From my experience, overcrowded gyms are the worst. Nothing is more annoying than having to wait 20 minutes to hit a heavy bag as you shadow box in the corner because a gym is too busy.
Who Should Train Here: Instagram People
#7. The Bangkok Gyms
Examples: Kaewsamrit, Eminent Air, Sasiprapa, Fa Group
When you visit Bangkok there are a lot of gyms that have one or two Lumpinee or Rajadamnern champions and a stable of younger Thai fighters who are training at the gym. These gyms tend to attract a handful of foreigners who are training at the gym at any given point in time.
Since there is typically a lot of foreigners who frequent the gyms, they tend to speak better English than the gyms that don’t have many foreigners. These gyms tend to split their revenues from their fighters purses and foreigner fees they make from the gym. Most of the gyms have one or two fighters who are highly ranked and well known around Thailand.
Some of the training at these gyms can erode over time as they become more popular among tourists. So try a few classes to see if you like the training before you pay upfront for an extended time. The popular tourist gyms in Bangkok like FA Group can get very crowded at certain times of the area when there are a lot of foreigners at the gym.
Who Should Train Here: Fighters, Bangkok Holiday Drop-ins
#8. The Feeder Gyms
Example: 96 Penang
A lot of small gyms are very good at building up kids into fighters. These are the camps in the rural villages that hope to produce a big star, so they can eventually sell them to a bigger camp who can afford to pay. Muay Thai is all about business, and feeder gyms often make money by creating young stars that bigger camps want.
These gyms will often have a lot of young Thai boys and may have one or two very good potential prospects with aspirations to become a champion one day. These gyms compete at the local stadiums outside of Rajadamnern, Lumpinee, or Channel 7 and typically have a crop of 10-20 Thai boys who live at the camp.
A lot of these gyms will have one or two high-level Thai fighters that may fight in one of the big stadiums in Thailand. If they have any potential superstars, they will usually get bought from one of the bigger gyms if they are available for sale.
Who Should Train Here: People live in non-tourist areas who can speak Thai
#9. The Small Island Camps
Examples: KYN Muay Thai, Lanta Muay Thai
Another variation of the tourist gym you will encounter is the small island gyms that are often located in some of the smaller islands around Thailand. These camps typically don’t have many Thai or foreign fighters and are catered specifically to beginner/intermediate students who want to train. Unlike the bigger tourist camps like Sinbi, these small island camps are harder to get to and typically have a handful of students and maybe 1-2 trainers at the gym.
If you plan on making some island trips around Thailand to Koh Yao Noi, Koh Lanta, or Koh Tao, these are good training options to stay in shape or take a private lesson. They have all the qualities of tourist camps, but they tend to be laid back gyms since they don’t have any fighters training there.
Who Should Train Here: Beginners, Intermediate
#10. The Superstar Camps
Examples: Banchamek Gym, Yokkao
Another variation of the tourist camp is the Superstar camps. These are the camps that tourists flock to so they can take pictures with the Thai Superstars at the gym.
While it does attract some foreigner fighters, it usually filled with star chasers who want to tell their friends back home they got a chance to train with the legendary Buakaw or Saenchai in Thailand.
The training at these camps can vary. If your sole purpose in Thailand is to meet Buakaw and say you trained with him, then go to his camp. However, don’t expect to clinch or spar with a high-level Thai fighter unless you book a private lesson or an elite fighter.
Who Should Train Here: Star Chasers
#11. The Mixed Thai Gyms
Example: Mankong Phranai
There is a new breed of Muay Thai gyms that have sprouted up around Bangkok and other cities in Thailand: Thai focused gyms. While most gyms in Thailand are catered to foreigners, these gyms have classes designed for working Thais.
Unlike the Hi-so gyms, which tend to have brand new facilities, these gyms are closer to the traditional Muay Thai gyms. They teach group classes for locals and charge membership rates that are more affordable.
Usually, these gyms will often also have expats who train at the gym. Some of these gyms have specific fitness classes that are catered towards locals, and regular training classes that are catered towards foreigners. So there might be some classes filled with more foreigners, and then later in the day classes that are filled with Thais.
Who Should Train Here: Locals, Beginners, Expats
#12. The Dynasties
Examples: Paranchai, Jitmuangnon, Kiatmoo9
Similar to the Powerhouse gyms, Dynasty gyms have a history of producing some of the top fighters in Thailand. Unlike some of the powerhouse gyms that purchase their talent from other gyms, the gyms like Jitmuangnon, Paranchai, and Kiatmoo9 build their superstar Thailand from within.
These gyms have a larger mix of younger Thai boys who fight at the smaller stadiums and circuits, and usually a handful of superstars who are competing at the elite stadiums. A gym like Jitmuangnon has a reputation for producing some of the most elite talents in all of Thailand.
If you are going to use a basketball reference, the powerhouse gyms would be similar to the LA Lakers, and how they are able to attract free agents to play with their team. While the Dynasty camps would be the San Antonio Spurs, and how they are able to build their talent from within their draft system. Both Powerhouse gyms and Dynasties have talented fighters, the difference is how they are produced.
Who Should Train Here: Fighters, Hardcore Muay Thai fans
#Bonus – The Fitness Gyms
Examples: Unit 27, Phuket Fit, Titan Fitness
While these gyms are not focused on Muay Thai, there is a huge percentage of foreigners who come to Thailand to train fitness. A lot of these foreigners are into Crossfit or bodybuilding and might take a Muay Thai private on the side.
Phuket is known as the Fitness capital of Thailand, with Soi Tai-ed (Tiger Road) the particular hot spot for these Fitness gyms. There are loads of places to train if you only want to come to Thailand to get in shape, get stronger, or lose weight.
So for those people who are not into Muay Thai or MMA, Thailand as an alternative so you can get your gym pump on.
Who Should Train Here: Fitness people
There is no such thing as the perfect Muay Thai gym. The ideal gym for you will depend on your skill level, goals, and amount of time you have in Thailand. While I provide recommendations, the reality is that anyone can train at any gym. As long as you are a paying customer, gyms will take you in.
From my experience, I find that the elite gyms are better for fighters who want to sharpen their skills and the beginner gyms are better for teaching techniques since they are more focused on the basics. That being said, you can learn good technique from any gym as long as you find a trainer willing to invest in you.
What is more important than the Muay Thai gyms themselves, are the trainers at the gym. If you visit a camp with lazy trainers who don’t put much effort into you, leave. There is no point in sticking around at a gym with trainers who don’t care about helping you improve.
As long as you are training in Thailand with a good Thai trainer, you can’t go wrong. The key is finding a trainer willing to invest the time and energy into seeing you improve. Sometimes private lessons are the best way to get the attention you need, especially if you are training at a busy gym.
Leave a comment below and let me know what your favorite Muay Thai gyms in Thailand are. If I left any categories off the list, please suggest it below.