Thailand is known for many things: majestic temples, incredible beaches and islands, and remarkably healthy (and spicy) food. But the former Kingdom of Siam is also known for its unique fighting art: Muay Thai. In fact, you’ll see evidence of Muay Thai everywhere in daily life there, from fighters running on the roads in the early morning, amateur fights set up in rings in just about every small town, big city, and remote island, and plenty of Muay Thai shorts and gear for sale. You’ll also see a Muay Thai training center or gym just about everywhere you turn, and taking a class – or even staying in a training camp for a week, month, etc. – has become a Bucket List item for younger and sporting travelers.
KohSamui, Thailand Overview
The Thais have definitely cashed in on this foreign love affair of their Art of Eight Deadly Limbs, and make a pretty penny (or Baht) training foreigners. In some places, like the Chalong area in Phuket, there seems to be a Muay Thai school every ten feet, all ushering a production line of tourists in and out, as well as selling them shorts, pads, t-shirts, smoothies, lunch, doing their laundry, and renting them accommodations and motorbikes. It’s quite a money-making operation, and unfortunately, sometimes the beginning Muay Thai enthusiast gets lost in the shuffle.
But there are still plenty of fantastic Muay Thai training centers in Thailand that are authentic and really care about promoting their art, and my favorite is SamanMuay Thai on the island of KohSamui.
It’s no coincidence that KohSamui is one of my favorite islands for a vacation, too. No, it doesn’t have the postcard brilliance of Koh Pi Pi or the (annoying) Full Moon Party of KoPha Ngan, but that’s part of its charm – it’s still mellow and authentic enough, but still with plenty of amenities that cater to tourists and things to do.
A good buddy first turned me on to SamanMuay Thai, which is a small open-air school located inland in the Lamai Beach area. The owner, Saman, used to be a champion Muay Thai fighter, and, like many of them, opened up his own training academy when he retired. You can take a lesson just by stopping by and booking a personal trainer (when they’re not too busy) or in a group class, and all beginners are welcome. There are also a good number of foreigners that live in KohSamui and train there every day, too. It’s encouraging to see that there are plenty of women – foreign and Thais – and children training at Saman’s camp, and that’s because the vibe is so good there, with everyone friendly, inviting, and encouraging no matter what level you’re at. Saman would even love to pose for a photo with you when your class is done, so you have a great memento of your Thailand Muay Thai experience.
But for fighters that want to get serious, Saman can train you up with the best of them, and you’ll soon be in the ring for your first official Muay Thai fight!
Of course, Saman and his staff can help direct you if you need a place to stay, rent a motorbike, etc. – but that’s just because they’re helpful and not because it’s their business, nor are they trying to squeeze every dollar out of you. In fact, if you’re training there during holidays times, you’ll probably be invited in for a family-style meal and a few Thai beers right on the mats!
If you’re in Thailand and looking for an authentic and positive Muay Thai training experience, I highly recommend Saman and SamanMuay Thai in KohSamui. Tell him I said hello, and keep your guard up!
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