I spent the first six weeks of 2020 in Thailand, and half of that time was devoted entirely to mixed martial arts (MMA) and Muay Thai training.
Two of those weeks were spent in the island paradise of Phuket at Tiger Muay Thai, one of the best MMA gyms on the planet. Once in Phuket, I met up with SB Nation video producer Case Harts, and we went to work on capturing the experience of training at an elite level in a foreign country.
| Watch Episode One HERE and Episode Two HERE and Episode Three HERE and Episode Four HERE and Episode Five HERE! |
Over the course of three weeks, Case and I recorded a ton of footage. Primarily, the focus of all this recording was training and martial arts related. For the first two weeks, I trained at Tiger Muay Thai every day, experiencing as much as I could of what the massive facility and dozens of coaches offered. Then, we relocated to Bangkok, where I visited several different academies.
Let’s dig into the sixth episode:
Episode Six: We relocate from the island of Phuket to the equally hot metropolis of Bangkok, where I visited several gyms and get beat up in the clinch.
Behind-The-Scenes: Bangkok is home to many of the world’s best Muay Thai fighters, and it shows.
The primary gym featured in the video — Case was delayed in travel and missed my visit to Yokkao, Saenchai’s gym — is Muay Thai Academy/Rompo Gym. It’s next to a hotel and does not have the open air, luxurious feel of many wealthier academies around Thailand.
By and large, it was a fighter’s gym. While there were a few others like myself visiting for the day, it was clear that most of the main athletes training lived locally, or at least commonly did several month stays at the gym. I was clinching with genuine Muay Thai professionals, which generally did not go well for me.
On a technical level, there is one major difference between Muay Thai and MMA clinches that most affected me. In Muay Thai, the athletes square their hips as they approach the clinch. Such foot position would get you double-legged in the cage, so MMA fighters tend to approach from a more bladed stance.
At TMT, I routinely out-pummeled training partners and threw them if they reached a bit far with their knee attempts. At Rompo Gym, I could barely take a step into the clinch with getting my lead leg swept out from beneath me.
As for the guy who really tossed me around, that dude was legit! I don’t know if Case was trying to be nice or just didn’t want the video to get repetitive, but he knocked me onto my hands roughly a dozen times in probably nine minutes. I held my own initially with stubbornness and strength, but my physicality faded much more quickly than his excellent clinch technique.
I did manage to land a couple high-amplitude throws off a caught knee and body lock, but we don’t need to a scoreboard to know who overwhelmingly won those exchanges.
Stay tuned, because there are still more Thailand adventures to come!