I’ve trained at a lot of Muay Thai gyms over the years, but none quite as unique as 96 Peenang.
If you are the type of person who likes your gyms clean, maintained and English speaking, you probably won’t like it here. However, if you can get past the dirty floors and the run-down equipment, the training here can be good.
While I was training, there were 4 Thai fighters my size that I got to clinch with. My main clinching partner was Sangpeenoi 96 Peenang, a talented fighter who was previously ranked #2 in Lumpinee/Raja. At 23 years of age, Sangpeenoi has already fought some of the best fighters in Thailand, including a win over the legendary Sam-A.
Getting Lost and Finding 96 Peenang
I had no intention of training at 96 Peenang when I arrived in Bangkok. I came across this gym purely by accident.
I tried to visit another gym about 20 minutes away, but the motorbike taxi had other ideas.
The first gym he drove me to was the Yokkao Training Center. He must have run into a few tourists who went there before because he seemed sure that I wanted to go there. When I told him that it wasn’t the right gym, he nodded and said he knew where the gym was.
We drove another 10 minutes, until we ended up down a small road that was situated underneath a freeway. I assumed he was lost, but suddenly a small gym appeared out of nowhere.
I had no idea where we were, but I saw a bunch of Thai boys clinching in the ring and I knew that I had to check this place out.
Little did I know, I was standing in front of the famous 96 Peenang gym that had seen dozens of champions come through its doors.
The heavy bags are falling apart, the mats are worn out, and the gym is surrounded by tin shacks and a few rooms where all the Thai boys sleep. Surprisingly, the ring ropes were relatively new compared to the rest of the gym. There is a trucking yard 20 meters down the road, which may be one of the reasons why there was so much dust around the gym.
When I walked through the gates, there was a friendly old Thai guy who greeted me with a smile. I asked him, how much for training in Thai and he said 400 baht.
After I paid the drop-in rate, I was told to go to the ring to start clinching right away.
While I wasn’t too keen on clinching without warming up, I decided to jump in. I will never turn down clinching, especially when I am training in Bangkok.
Thais are always curious whenever a new foreigner shows up at a gym. Since there are several high-level foreigners fighting in Thailand, they aren’t shocked if a foreigner displays proper Muay Thai skills.
The first fighter I clinched with was a mid-level fighter who fights out of Rangsit stadium. This fighter was a little bit taller than me, but not as strong. Since I had a strength advantage, I dumped him a few times in the clinch.
After about 10 minutes of clinching with the first guy, they signaled me over to start clinching with another fighter. This Thai fighter had a similar build to me, but was a few kilos lighter. I could tell he was good just by the look of confidence that he had on his face.
Unlike the first guy I clinched with who I managed to dump a few times, this guy destroyed me.
Every single time I threw a knee, he swept me off my feet. He probably threw me down about 20 times during the 10 minutes we clinched. The locals at the gym found it funny when I got swept, but they gave me thumbs up when I finished clinching with him. The fact that I knew how to clinch, was good enough to impress them.
At the end of training, I found out that the guy who killed me in the clinch was Sangpeenoi 96 Peenang, who was previously ranked #2 in Lumpinee and has beaten fighters like Sam-A.
After I got out of the ring, the manager signaled me over and pointed at an older Thai trainer and said he would be my trainer. This trainers name was Tai.
The best part of training at 96 Peenang (other than clinching with Sangpeenoi) was working with trainer Tai. Tai is a former Lumpinee champion and has trained a load of fighters in Thailand, including guys like Sangpeenoi and Sam-A.
He is one of those old-school trainers that has a boat load of experience. He doesn’t speak any English, but he constantly emphasizes using your brain when you are fighting.
Throughout the pad rounds he will point to his head saying, “IQ, IQ, IQ” throughout the pad round, which is his word for ‘using your head’ when you are fighting.
Since there were only a few days with other foreigners at the gym, Tai was always watching me like a hawk. In fact, all the older Thai guys sitting around were watching me. Everyone was curious to see the skill level of only Farang (foreigner) who showed up at the gym.
What I liked about 96 Penang is they really focused on technique.
Since I didn’t have good cardio, Tai focused on my balance, control, and timing on pads. He was very good at moving me around, forcing me to adjust my footwork and distance when I struck. This is something that you don’t get with normal trainers you hit pads with.
In the last round of pads, the trainer Tai put on 18 oz. gloves, and got me to work on purely technique with no power behind any of my strikes.
This is my type of trainer.
Tai is one of the best trainers I’ve worked with in Thailand. Unfortunately, he doesn’t always show up to training sober. Like a lot of trainers in Thailand, Tai suffers from an alcohol problem. There were a few days he showed up to training drunk, which meant he couldn’t hold pads.
After hitting the bag and finishing my pad rounds, we ended up doing some sit ups and I did my own strength training/stretching on my own time.
While I was at 96 Peenang, I met another guy from Singapore who had never trained Muay Thai before. He paid 2000 baht for the week of training. Since there were no beginners at the gym, he pretty much got a 2-hour private lesson when he trained. Not a bad deal if you want to improve your technique.
Learning about the Gym
Following the training session, the Manager and trainer Tai were eager to talk to me about the gym.
The first thing they showed me were all the photos of their best fighter Bangpeenoi that was hanging up on the wall. They showed pictures of him fighting Sam-A and a lot of other big names in the sport. The manager also explain that my trainer Tai was a Lumpinee Champion, even showing me old school videos of him on YouTube fighting for the Lumpinee belt.
They explained to me that the gym name was renamed to Priewvayo because it was under new ownership. I heard that that previous owner suffered from a lot of gambling debt, and they had to sell a lot of their fighters to other gyms to pay off the debt.
The gym currently has about 20 Thai fighters who all range from 13-24. Most of them fight in Rajadamnern or Rangsit stadium. They asked me if I wanted to fight at Raja, so if you plan on fighting they can hook you up with fights when you are training there.
Afternoon training starts between 3:00-3:30 with a run around a small concrete field in the back of the gym. In the morning, the fighters do a longer run, but in afternoon training they run for about 30 minutes in the back. Following the run, the fighters all start skipping for another 10-15 minutes.
Once you finish skipping, they will signal to start clinching. I never witnessed much sparring at the gym, just a steady dose of constant clinching. If you want to spar, they will make one of the Thai boys spar with you.
After clinching you will hit the bag for 3 x 5 minute rounds, then go on to pad work. The pad rounds are 5 minutes long, so you might feel yourself getting gassed out if you are used to 3 minute rounds.
Following the pads, the fighters will start doing sit-ups on a bench and then slowly disperse back to their rooms and start winding down.
There is a shower house in the back of the gym, so you can bring a change of clothes if you don’t want to go back to your hotel covered in sweat/dirt.
The training rate was 400 baht for drop in. You can get a discount if you stay longer than a few days and ask for the rate in advance. The rates are much lower if you stay longer term and are willing to pay up front.
In terms of facilities, this gym is as bare bones as it gets. It is located underneath a freeway (which is used as a cover when it rains). The gym has mats on the dirt floor, which means that dust gets tracked everywhere.
If you are the type of person who likes new facilities that are clean, you should avoid this place. You need to be comfortable being dirty when you train here. There is so much dirt that they even sweep the ring before they use it for clinching.
You don’t come here for the facilities. It is surrounded by tin shacks and is located in a slum. If I was going to choose a location to film a Thai version of Rocky, I would probably be the right spot. The Thais were all very friendly and welcoming throughout my time there.
The best way to visit this gym is to take the MRT to the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center. Take the #4 exit towards Rama IV intersection. Once you fully exit the subway station, walk left in the same direction as the traffic. You will see a big intersection ahead. There should be some motorbike taxis on the left-hand side. If you ask them to go to 96 (Gao Hok) Peenang gym, they will know how to get there. The ride costs 30 baht from the station and takes about 5 minutes.
The main trainer Tai is one of the best trainers I’ve ever worked with.
He has a drinking problem, so keep in mind that some days he may be M.I.A. or drunk. However, I only saw this happen a few times while I was there. He is extremely technical and the perfect trainer if you want to improve your game.
Being able to clinch with their champion Bangpleenoi daily was awesome. Some gyms are protective over their top guys, but they wanted me to come back and clinch with him regularly.
I should point out that if you are beginner/intermediate they will make you clinch with someone your level. So, don’t expect to jump in with their best guys if you are just starting off. They’ll throw you with someone who is a good level for you.
Because all their fighters fight on a regular basis, there is not much sparring. Clinching is the main emphasis, but they will make you do technical sparring if you are keen on it.
I would highly recommend you stop by the gym and hit pads with Tai. You may not want to stay long term, but the location and atmosphere in the gym is cool. You won’t find a more unique gym than this one.
The overall vibe at the gym is very friendly and they are very happy to have foreigners training there. I only met one other fighter from the UK named Shaun while I was there. Expect to be the only foreigner training at the gym if you show up.
Since there were no girls training there, I am not sure how female friendly this gym is. I would suspect the Thai boys would be excited to see a girl training there.
Overall, I recommend you check out 96 Peenang (Priewvayo gym) for a drop in. The training is good and there are a quite a few clinching partners if you are under 70 kg.
Update** I would recommend this gym as a short term option, but wouldn’t recommend this gym as a long term training option. Since the gym changed ownership, it has gone through a slow period. They have a group of fighters who are lazy compared to other top gyms.
Their best fighter is extremely talented, but doesn’t train hard and sets a bad example for the other fighters in the gym. I talked to a couple guys training there for a month, and they said there were a lot of issues going on in the camp. Definitely drop by, but don’t book your vacation around training here.
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