One of the best ways to improve your Muay Thai game is to take private lessons. While group classes are great for sparring, clinching, and working on your timing, private lessons are the best way to improve your technique.
Nothing can compare to having a trainer spend an hour watching you and offering you instant feedback. As I wrote about in a previous article, this is exactly how Thai fighters in Thailand improve fast when they start. They get one on one attention from trainers, who don’t allowed them to form bad habits in training.
While you may be a special student, your trainer has a limited amount of time in a class.
If a typical Muay Thai class has 30 people, your trainer would have only two minutes of time to spend on each student. This assumes that everyone gets equal attention in class, which is never the case. There will also be a few students who end up soaking up more attention in class.
Recommended Reading: The Process of Learning in Muay Thai – How to Develop Your Game
This principle doesn’t only apply to Muay Thai, it applies to any sport. My girlfriend is a tennis coach and the kids who take private lessons become so much better than the kids who only train group class. The kids who take tennis seriously have to do private lessons or they have no chance of competing with the top kids.
As a beginner, private lessons are by far the best way to improve your game. The only problem is that private lessons are not cheap.
I could never afford private lessons back home, and I would suspect that would be the case for most people. Besides being expensive, the quality of trainers back home is going to vary substantially. As a beginner, you won’t be able to tell if your trainer is good or bad unless you have someone to compare them to.
This is why I recommend everyone take a trip to train in Thailand. Training in Thailand is an experience that will open your eyes to the world of real Muay Thai. You will be surrounded by talented fighters, and trainers who have decades of experience.
The other benefit of training in Thailand is the privates are cheap. Most Thai gyms charge between $14-20 USD per hour, which is very affordable. You get to soak of the knowledge from someone who could train your trainer back home. While I will be the first to admit that there are some bad trainers in Thailand, if you find a good one, you’ll be able to take your game to another level.
Muay Thai Training in Thailand
One of the best parts of training in Thailand is the amount of individual attention you get in training. In a typical group session, you get 5 rounds of pads, shadow boxing, bag work, and sparring with trainers watching you.
When you multiply this by training twice a day in the morning and evening, a few months of training in Thailand is going to be worth years in a regular gym back home. Because of all the attention you get in regular group classes, privates in Thailand are not necessary for your development. Plenty of fighters reach a high level, without ever taking a private lesson.
If you train at a small Thai gym that doesn’t have many tourists, a regular group session may even feel like a private. With few students to work with, the trainers can end up spending the bulk of their time working with you (this depends on how lazy or motivated the trainer is). This is one of the many benefits to training at a smaller gym in Thailand. The downside of small gyms is that they have trainers that speak very little English, which means communication can be an issue.
At popular tourist gyms, you will get much less attention from the trainers if there are lots of students at the gym. The trainers at tourist gyms usually speak English at a decent level and can communicate. So, there are positives and negatives to training at different types of gyms.
Benefits of Taking Private Lessons In Thailand
Benefit #1 -You Improve Faster
If you have a limited amount of time to spend in Thailand, you should try to maximize it.
The average Muay Thai vacationer will spend between 2-4 weeks in Thailand, which is not a lot of time to make drastic changes.
You can’t put a price on having someone watch you for an entire hour, critiquing everything that you do. There is no hiding any bad techniques or habits that you do. While you might be hoping to learning flashy techniques, a good Thai trainer will spend most of the time drilling you on your basics.
If you can go home with one thing from Thailand, try to improve your basics. Having good fundamentals can give you a strong foundation to build your game when you go back home.
If you have a few weeks to spend in Thailand, I suggest you take a private lesson and do an afternoon group class per day. That way you get a mix of one on one technique with the group dynamic of sparring, clinching etc. If you train at a small Thai gym, your group lessons may be the equivalent to a private lesson. So, it also depends on where you are training.
When you take a private lesson, I recommend you film it. If you only have a few weeks in Thailand, film everything you do in your private and watch it later. That way you won’t forget anything that you learn and revert to any bad habits when you train back home.
Benefit #2 – Choose Your Trainer
When you train at a gym you usually don’t have a choice who you hit pads with. Whoever is free on pads will be your pad holder. The downside of this is that you may end up with a bad pad holder, and if you are girl, you may end up with a creep. If you end up hitting pads with someone you don’t like, one way to ‘choose’ another pad holder is to ask someone else for private lessons.
By taking private lessons with another trainer, you are signaling that you want that trainer to holder your pads in training, without having to explicitly say it. This is a roundabout way of changing pad holders without making a big scene and saying you don’t want to hit pads with someone.
There may also be a trainer you really want to hit pads with, who already has too many students during class. Taking private lessons with that trainer is a great way to work with a very busy trainer who has other students during class.
Benefit #3 – Learn Different Fighting Styles
Every trainer has their own style. Once you develop good fundamentals, you can start working with different trainers and pick up new tips and techniques. If you are experienced you can book privates with various trainers, and really add new stuff to your game.
While you won’t be able to absorb everything, you learn in your private, if you film the session you can watch the videos when you have more time to absorb. In two weeks, you can learn a lot by working with various trainers and filming the privates.
If you are not experienced and don’t have a strong foundation, stay with one trainer. You will find that every trainer has their own way of doing things. You shouldn’t confuse yourself with trying to learn from 3 different people if you don’t already have a strong grasp of the basics.
Conflicts at the Gym
Muay Thai trainers can be sensitive when it comes to their students. If you are working with a trainer for a while and suddenly decide to take privates with another trainer, they will be offended. Trainers are human beings, and taking privates with someone else can hurt their feelings.
Sometimes the best thing to do to avoid conflict at a gym is to travel to different areas and have differnet gyms you train at. That will help you avoid some of the inner gym conflict you might create by bouncing around the different trainers.
Benefit #4 – Help Your Trainer Financially
Muay Thai trainers do not make a lot of money off their salary. The base salary at most gyms is between 10-14k baht a month. One of the ways that trainers supplement their income, is getting private lessons from students.
With enough privates, trainers can double their salary and earn a decent income in Thai standards. If you really like your trainer, taking a few private lessons with them is a great way to show appreciation. Instead of just giving your trainer money, taking privates is a win/win scenario for you and your trainer.
You don’t have to take private lessons all the time, but a few privates are great for both you and the trainer. For only 500-700 baht (14-20 USD), you can’t really argue with the price, unless you are trying to live in Thailand long term.
Benefit #5 – You Get to Spar with Champions
Privates are a great way to spar and clinch with high level fighters. While most trainers are not in their prime, they still have high level skills. If you have never sparred against Thai fighters before, it is a different experience than Westerners.
Sparring with trainers helped me improve my game because I would often mimic a lot of the techniques they used on me. While you can spar with trainers during class, you get a lot more from a private when you have an hour of dedicated attention in sparring and clinching.
Privates are Worth the Investment
The decision to take privates or not will come down to several factors. Some gyms are small enough that you don’t need privates, while others gyms are too crowded to get enough attention during group training. Generally, in the low season you will get more individual attention when there are less students training.
If you only have a few weeks in Thailand, why not making the most of it?
While you will learn a lot in group sessions, you will learn even more in a private. Considering privates often can cost upwards of $100+ an hour in some countries, private lessons in Thailand are extremely affordable.
When I first arrived in Thailand, I did the group classes for sparring and clinching and used privates to improve my technique. I found this was a great mix because it helped me work on all aspects of my game.
Nothing can beat having an instructor pick apart your game from the ground up. A few months of privates with a good trainer can help you create good habits that you carry forward. If you come from a non-Muay Thai background, privates can help you make
At the end of the day you don’t need to take privates, but they are something to consider. Plenty of guys get good without ever taking a private, but those people usually have the luxury of long term stays. If you are only visiting for a couple weeks, I suggest you take privates lessons and ask a friend to record it on video. When you go back home you can re-watch your lessons and work on the techniques that you learned in your private.
Thailand is by far the best place to take private lessons because it is affordable and they have the best trainers in the world.