The Coaches

The Coaches is a new kid on the Hong Kong Muay Thai block.  Nestled in one of the region’s four rings, Wan Chai, The Coaches offers a fifth ring led by krus Dum (Rajadamnern champion) and Ta (was not able to get his stats).  Both of whom are from the famed Sitsongpeenong Muay Thai Camp, Bangkok.img_4821

Characteristic of a Muay Thai-crazed newbie, a busy schedule will deter all but the most determined si sib sam Filipino lover of the art.  Thanks to the Hong Kong tram for the Central-Wan Chai shuttle.  How convenient.

To describe a typical session:  warm-up, 100 skip knees, pad work, 60 speed kicks, 60 skip knees, bag work, and conditioning work.  Ko pun krap!

Kru Dum was heavy into technique and drilling them before flowing as he called the shots.  Kru Ta, on the other hand, got me busy with fundamentals then almost went freestyle.  Quite a tag team.  “Wonderful,” as kru Dum puts it.

Pleasure, The Coaches!

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Sitpinyo III

img_4836‘Took another work-related quick visit to Hong Kong last December 2016, and it would not have been worthwhile if not for a side trip to Mainslit Building, Stanley Street.  I reckon that it is something that only authentic Muay Thai-crazed individuals will appreciate.  Well, as the saying goes, “once you go Thai, you will never go back.”  Cannot go wrong with either Lumpinee or Rajadamnern.

January 2017, though, I could only pop in to touch base and watch kru Tam’s Lumpinee championship fight clips (from his phone) when he was still with 13 Coins.  Does the name Saenchai ring a bell?  Sitpinyo rings it!

Sitpinyo II

Kru Singsarawat (Tam) of StipinyoHong Kong used to be a popular shopping terminus for Chinese luxury shoppers; not anymore?  My own impression could be expressed in similar fashion:  terminus (only) minus the shopping!

For my daughter’s mid-term break, my wife treated us to a third Hong Kong trip this year.  I could not complain.  Having missed Sitmonchai last month (and Rawai next month) due to mononucleosis, Sitpinyo‘s the next best thing outside of Thailand.

Sitpinyo

The day after we arrived in HKSAR, I was dehydratedly hitting pads with krus Johnny (Rajadamnern champion, remember him?) and Tam (3x Lumpinee champion), and doing bag work with “the” Gary.

Back in the day, kru Tam (Singsarawat) actually fought kru Sakmongkol (of WKO).  When you have been privileged to have had the opportunity to work with both.  I know the eagerness may sound crazy, but real Muay Thai is insanely infectious.

While my current level of conditioning may not be ready yet for Thailand’s two hour grinds twice a day, I am good for a two hour flight and a tram ride.  December?

Eminent Air Thai Boxing Gym

IMG_3826I would not have made it to Eminent Air Thai Boxing Gym if not for Jamal, friend and coach at the Fairtex Muay Thai Fitness course.  He speaks highly of his home gym in Punnawithi, Bangkok. Who would not?  It has been voted best gym several times and camp to multiple Muay Thai champions.

The regimen at Eminent Air is straightforward:  warmup, clinch, pads, and so forth unless you prefer to do your own thing and wait to be called for pad work.  Do not expect to be held by the hand.  Well, maybe if you are a relative beginner.  Otherwise, leave the holding hands at the park.

I was assigned to kru Sam on pads.  He nonchalantly brokeIMG_4757 down combinations and drilled technique until palatable.  The rhythm and pace were congruous with his style and my abilities.  He did not try to burn the farang out of me.  Instead, he kept reminding me to go sabai sabai.  Surely, I got wrecked but was able to see the end of round four.  FYI, they do five-minute rounds!

Lastly, Eminent Air is not a fitness gym.  It is a no-nonsense kai muay where the likes of Dtang Eminentair, the one-handed fighter, are made.   

FSG II

IMG_3757From Pattaya, next stop was FSG (Bangkok) to reconnect with the spirits.  As is well known, Fighting Spirit Gym is eerily situated right in the middle of a cemetery.  Kidding aside, the intent was to go back to my roots and gauge progress.

Big Dan and Stan are no longer connected with the gym.  Apparently, they unloaded.  Anyway, kru Art and the rest of the group are still there.  Same, same (as they say in Thailand) but somewhat different.

This time around, I was ready for kru Art’s paces.  Training did not get easier, I just managed to get a touch better.  Rounds are down to three minutes from four which is still pretty decent.  Take a dip and then tell me if less is less.  The heat and humidity of Bangkok, FSG’sIMG_3756 location in particular, is overpowering.

For someone young enough to be my son, I appreciate the dynamism of kru Art when it comes to pad holding and the insistence of the need to do things a certain way.  Kru Tak has his way too, Thai style:  learn by doing.  Like when Thai kids begin fighting, most of the education is in the ring, during actual fights.

When in Silom-Sathorn, checkout FSG.  You might not get to clinch nor spar, unless you buddy up, but you will get to smash pads.

World Kumite Organization (WKO)

World Kumite Organization (WKO), Pattaya, as the name implies, is actually a karate dojo.IMG_3674  The pleasingly graceful four-storey building features state of the art fitness equipment, juice bar, lounge, dojo, and kai muay on the top floor.

Home to Muay Thai legend, Sakmongkol Sithchuchok, WKO holds training (in Muay Thai) once a day, from 3:30PM-5:00PM.  Not quite your usual kai muay but when in Pattaya, you should not let the opportunity to learn from Sakmongkol pass.

By a stroke of luck, Hamilton, my nak muay friend from Singapore (Congratulations on your second round TKO victory in Japan!), and I got to train a bit at WKO under kru Sakmongkol.  The very first time I touched gloves with the latter, I told him straightaway that I was a beginner.  Smart move after seeing  him in a couple of exchanges with Hamilton, but seriously, I still consider myself a newbie.

IMG_3673Training with kru Sakmongkol involved hitting pads for four rounds (which I completed), hearing from him what you are doing pretty and ugly (because he will not mince words), learning how to move to avoid getting hit (figure his less than 20 losses in over 250 fights), and developing IQ in the ring.

The highlight of the time spent at WKO was kru Sakmongkol’s grin at the end of the session and the words, “You are not beginner!”  It was like listening to kru Nu (through Sylvie) of Petchrungruang persuading me to fight.

WKO may not be a nak muay ground but you will not be shortchanged, techniquewise.

Petchrungruang Gym

IMG_3711The original July 2016 plan, going to Pattaya, was to hold camp at some swanky training facility for my daughter and me.  Until one day when I bumped into Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu’s blog.  For those who may not know Sylvie, she is the West’s most invaluable (Muay Thai) export to the Land of Smiles (and I am not exaggerating).

Petchrungruang Gym was never on my itinerary but am glad for the redirect to this family-owned, traditional Muay Thai gym.  Just a stern warning before you decide to pack your gear and go:  WHIP YOURSELF INTO SHAPE NOW! While the gym welcomes everyone, you must realize that Petchrungruang is a serious fighter’s gym; hence, the ethos and everything revolve around the art.

They run three sessions a day and start as early as 5AM to accommodate the kids.  Around 9AM, the gym is quite serene.  Then you hear your name being called by kru Nu (Lumpinee champion and owner) for pad work in the matted weight training area, just likeIMG_3595 that you forget about serenity (in a good way).  Did I warn you to get in shape?  Be prepared to huddle for three to four rounds in a room with windows shut, literally no ventilation.  His rounds are 4 minutes with a minute break, but you will only get to enjoy rest intervals of 30 seconds or less.  At the sound of the bell, kru Nu will have you do speed kicks followed by hard kicks, and a combination.  Inferno! Recovered?  To open the next round, he will have you perform the same drill that concluded the previous round.  I thought I was in shape; yes, for only three rounds.  I was never able to answer his 4th round.

Petchrungruang is not your vacation host.  Expect to train at an intense pace, throw hard shots (halfhearted taps do not count), defend or get clipped, and drill technique.  I have more respect for low kicks now after failing to block two well placed suckers (lower leg and thigh); I had to skip the PM session because I was limping and could not put weight on my left leg.

Afternoons are usually packed as all the kids are back from school.  Having done pad workIMG_3713 in the morning, you get to do more bag work, clinching, and sparring from 3PM onwards.  I never went in for any sparring, though.  It would be unfair to the nak muays to undertrain by taking on a beginner like me.  No pre-fight benefit for them.  The clinching was a real learning and fun experience.  If you do not mind getting smashed by 15 or 16 year old kids.  Not a problem for me as my cup was empty and was there to learn.

I have nothing but nice words to say about kru Nu (and his family), a very patient and methodical teacher of the art, genuinely concerned about your development.  I cannot thank Sylvie enough for introducing me to Pattaya’s diamond Muay Thai gym:  Petchrungruang.

Sitpinyo

IMG_3252Another short trip to Hong Kong  (May 2016) got me thinking about a new Muay Thai and fitness facility on Stanley Street, Central:  Sitpinyo.  After a couple of message exchanges, I was able to make a 12:15PM reservation.

The lunchtime schedule lasted about 45 minutes.  With two trainers, Gary (owner and ex-fighter) and Johnny (Thai kru and Rajadamnern Stadium champion), leading a small group of 4 clients, it was quite personal.  Training densitywise, we got ample pad work (alternated between rounds of bag work), not a measly run through.  Good!

Credit to both Gary and Johnny for breaking the pace every so often (during shadow/bag/pad work) and putting in one’s two cents to correct technique.  I knew coming in, having tried other Hong Kong gyms before, it would be more of a conditioning workout (nothing wrong here, just different individual training preferences).  In spite of the relative short duration, it was not all wham bam thank you ma’am.     

“I’ll be back,” as Arnold Schwarzenegger would say.

Super Muay Thai

roundhouseWhat was my second choice in Hong Kong turned out to be a lucky pick.  I am glad to have braved the chilly breeze (February 2016) all the way to Yau Ma Tei, even without prior reservations.

While not exactly a Thailand model (like Santichai Fitness), Super Muay Thai‘s training structure, under the circumstances, is remarkable.

Super Muay Thai is run by kru Mohn (Thai trainer with over 200 fights) and his Chinese wife.  The atmosphere is very friendly, and the gym is equipped and tidy.

Shadow boxing and bag work, both addressed the needs of beginners who are trying to learn technique and intermediate/advanced practitioners brushing up their fundamentals.

As another Hong Kong gym catering to the fitness market, the session blended a lot of conditioning drills, maybe not much to my liking but it kept the participants going.  Still, a welcome addition to my Muay Thaiteep experience.

Pad work under the supervision of a Thai kru rarely goes wrong, based on my novice experience.  I was assigned a skilled and passionate one, kru Kon.  After feeling the first few minutes of the round and slipping (too anxious), the exchange was harmonic.  Well, except for my 42 y/o body’s conditioning that never finds Muay Thai undemanding; I cannot seem to be good enough at it to train like a Thai and compete.  Am I that raggedy old?

Anyway, when in Hong Kong, Yau Ma Tei would be a good stop for (Super) Muay Thai!  From the MTR station, exit A1.

Santichai Fitness

SantichaiWhile on holiday in Hong Kong (February 2016), I got to train at Santichai Or. Boonchuay’s (a former world champion with over 200 fights) facility.  Right in the heart of Mong Kok, the gym is a hop, skip, and jump away from the MTR station.

Having trained a wee bit in Thailand, I thought I knew what to expect.

I would say that Santichai Fitness, despite being a Thai gym, geared more towards the fitness and conditioning market, a niche that it is serving quite well in Hong Kong.

As I enjoyed the class’s new pace, the boran drills courtesy of kru Santichai (He has a gift of teaching, a natural at breaking down complex stuff into simpler integers, and imparting knowledge in a fun manner.), hitting pads with a Thai kru (of course), and having kru Santichai himself get me through a round of jumping knees on the bag, my gut is still partial to the unabridged Thailand version.

Ko pun krap!