Back up your jiu-jitsu with Muay Thai
A Complete Guide to Muay Thai training
in Pattaya, Thailand.
Muay Thai in Pattaya
Exclusive to Global
by Roberto Pedreira
Introduction (Why to train Muay Thai, and
why in Pattaya, Thailand)
Preliminaries (How to get there and get
Review of The Big Five Muay Thai Gyms in Pattaya
Rorion Gracie revolutionized the martial arts world in with the simple common-sense appeal "back up your art with Gracie
jiu-jitsu." He became a rich man in the process, opening to the doors
to bulging bank accounts for multitudes of cousins and nephews and unrelated
Brazilian black belts and people who had never heard of Jiu-jitsu, the Gracie
family, or Brazil, and hadn't even been born yet. His sons are carrying on the
family tradition of teaching jiu-jitsu and raking in dollars.
In large part Rorion did it by doing something that was so old
that it had become new again: Style versus style Challenge matches. He augmented
it with a technology that was not yet antiquated in 1988: Video cameras and VHS tapes.
Rorion actually invited people to test their styles against his family's
"jiu-jitsu." He did something else too, something that was almost
unbelievable at the time. He personally got on the mat or in the ring and kicked
asses himself. "Still skeptical?," he seemed to be implying,
"sign the waiver and go for it."
A lot of it had to to with another Rorion Gracie brainstorm,
that of the "Ultimate Fighting Championship" (UFC). Mixed Martial;
arts, or mixed styles fighting, was not his original idea. People had been doing
it in Brazil, and elsewhere for a long time (but most relevantly and recently in Brazil, where it had
been a keystone of jiu-jitsu marketing from the earliest days). Rorion's bright
idea was to do it in America, and present it via close circuit TV
and then PPV. As we know it was a huge success, spawning many imitations,
and a vast industry spanning the realms of entertainment fighting and
recreational martial arts.
Rorion knew that he and his family could not retain a
monopoly on jiu-jitsu knowledge. You can't globalize a product and control it at
the same time. It was a matter of time before strikers and wrestlers either
learned jiu-jitsu, or more often, learned enough about jiu-jitsu to neutralize
or even (sometimes) beat jiu-jitsu.
Jiu-Jitsu usually reigns because, as Rorion correctly pointed
out, most people, no matter how skilled they may be standing up, don't know how
to defend themselves on the ground, which is where the Gracie's brand of
jiu-jitsu concentrates its efforts.
That is the hinge. To use jiu-jitsu effectively, you have to
put the opponent on the ground. Every stand up fighter now understands that,
which makes their problem simple. To defend jiu-jitsu, they need to remain
standing up. To remain standing up, they need to prevent the clinch. So the
striker's two needs are (1) preventing the clinch, and (2) avoiding the
take-down if the clinch happens anyway. The skills are related. It is unlikely
that anyone would be able to avoid the take-down if they do not have the basic
clinch prevention skills in the first place.
The best way for a grappler of any variety to avoid getting
knocked out is either to be too far or too close for the striker to operate. The
best way for the striker to avoid the clinch -> take-down is to maintain
striking distance. In both cases, staying far away is a good defensive
tactic but impractical in competition. The objective of a "match" is
to subdue the other man (or woman) which you can't do by running away. Every
combat sport has penalties for "lack of combativeness" and a
professional who concentrates on surviving, let alone running, will not make any
Note: A good wrestler might take a shot from distance and if
his timing is good, which it often is, it will result in a take-down. A rugby
tackle is also not a bad way to close the distance, and really isn't that
different from what Royce did in most of his early UFC matches--he set them up
with a "big step" Brazilian front kick (pisão) to the
opponent's lead leg. Shooting from outside is risky business in a MMA match, for
anyone who isn't a serious wrestler (and even for them too). Still, the
basic concept is the same. The striker has to keep the grappler at distance and
the grappler has to stay out of range and, sooner or later, close the gap.
(For pure self-defense, "strategic retreat," when
possible, is often a good option. Strategic retreat can mean running as fast as
possible, or simply calmly leaving the scene, or refraining from contributing to
escalation of aggressive intentions by keeping your mouth shut or saying
"sorry, excuse me," among other interaction management
Strikers know that there are two ways to avoid getting
knocked out. The first is to stay out of range. But they can't hit the grappler
if they stay too far (exceptions being when one is taller and has a longer
reach). The other is by getting too close to be hit with leverage. Strikers
now understand very well that against a good grappler, that essentially
guarantees a clinch and take-down, and unless they can get back up, a defeat.
Without specific anti-clinch training, that option is out. The remaining option
is moving in and out of range, which is a matter of timing. The grappler's
problem is almost the converse. If he stays out of range, he will be safe. But
he can't terminate the fight from long distance. His only option is to close the
distance and clinch.
A large part of clinching is going from being too far to be
hit to too close to be hit. It sounds easier than it is. Because in the process
you will be exactly where the striker needs you to be. The gap between too far
and too close must be closed in the smallest amount of time, relative to the
strikers' readiness to attack (in other words, if he is out of position to
attack you will have more time, and obviously the grappler will be looking for
or trying to create this situation).
A striker doesn't need to be a grappler to defeat a grappler,
but he does need to understand the grappler's game. Similarly, the grappler
needs to understand the strikers' game. In either case, most of what they need
to know is about position, distance, and timing. As Sakuraba
Kazushi once said, grappling and striking are really pretty similar, other than
being inverses with regard to distance. Timing is what makes everything
The best way, possibly the only way, the understand to
opposition's game is to do what he does. Learn his game. You don't have to
be as good as he is. You don't need to play his game (in fact, you should NOT).
But if you are going to engage in mixed fighting, you can not afford to be one
The following exclusive GTR report is written primarily
for the benefit of grapplers who want to learn Muay Thai (and to a limited
degree, English boxing) and want to do it in the motherland of Muay Thai, which
obviously is Thailand, specifically in this case, Pattaya. It will also be
informative for anyone who wants to learn Muay Thai, or who wants to train Muay
Thai in Thailand, specifically Pattaya, even if they have no interest in MMA.
Even in this last case, Muay Thai is an excellent art to
learn, as a substantial part of its awesomely devastating effectiveness consists it its
superbly excellent clinch techniques (which in essence are Greco-Roman adapted
to the all-out striking game of Muay Thai).
GTR's Roberto Pedreira had been training in Thailand
approximately 4 weeks twice a year every year since about 1991, most
recently August-September 2013. The five gyms covered are: Sityodtong, WKO,
Sitpholek, Nikiema, and Fairtex.
Before you meet the gyms, you need to get to Pattaya and get
oriented. Read on
Make sure you have valid passport. You can't legally enter
Thailand without one. Many people do, but from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.
Everything will be easier if you do it legally.
Bring money. How much? Depends on how long you stay and how
much you spend. (Assuming that the 1 US $ = about 30). Everything is available
for low prices and also high prices. I have always opted for the middle and I do
not eat, sleep, and drink training. In other words, not like a high-end tourist,
but not like a Burmese migrant worker. Cost of training averages 454 baht per
session (range = 270 baht to 800 baht), not including transportation. Bring 100 US $ per day, and if you are judicious you can expect to take
back about half. The main expense is lodging. A conveniently located,
comfortable, secure, clean, quiet room with AC, cable/satellite, and refrig
should be around 800 baht per day, and less if you stay longer. You can find
cheaper places but they won't necessarily be secure, convenient, etc. Also it
depends on whether it is high-season or low-season. More information is provided
in specific gym pages.
Getting to Pattaya
From the airport, go downstairs to the public taxi loading
area. Ignore any Thai person who approaches you on the way no matter what they
say or what identification cards they show.
You will see several counters facing the street. There will
be people waiting in lines (sometimes short, sometimes long). There will
(probably) be many taxis waiting. Tell the girl at the counter that you are
going to Pattaya. It will cost a fixed fare (including freeway tolls) of 15,000
baht to go anywhere within the Pattaya city limits. It wouldn't be a bad idea to
ask the girl to write it in Thai and give it to the driver. (Freeway toll was
not included before, but is in 2013).
Where in Pattaya?
Drivers don't necessarily know Pattaya well. But they can't
miss Pattaya Klang (Central Road) because the new freeway crosses it and it is
highly conspicuous at any time of day or night. If you haven't made advanced
arrangements, tell the girl you want to go to Pattaya Klang (Central Road) and
Second Road. Especially if you arrive late at night, or very early morning. That
will put you right in the middle of Pattaya and within walking distance to four
of the five gyms, or by a "baht bus" (which costs 10 baht as
long as you are going where the baht bus is going). Below is Pattaya Klang,
headed downhill toward the beach.
Note. Baht buses (called song thaw in Thai) follow fixed
routes. Unfortunately, you can't always know in advance what their route
is. If you ask them to leave their fixed route you will have to negotiate a
price. Luckily, a lot of them circumnavigate the Beach 1 and Beach 2 loop and a
few go up and down Pattaya Klang. So you can get to (or within walking distance)
to four of the five gyms by one or two baht buses. A baht bus by the way, is
just a Toyota pick-up truck with two rows of seats in the back and a roof.
Baht bus, taken from inside another baht bus, on Pattaya
The first day (or night especially) stay at Furama Beach
Hotel or next
door at Queen Pattaya. Rest up after a tiring flight, grab a bite, and check out the
immediate vicinity. Both hotels are easy to find, always have rooms, are not
expensive, and are close enough to four of the five gyms. You can later wander
around and find something more to your taste. You should probably check out the
gyms first, because it is convenient to live close to the gym. And except for
Sityodtong, all are pretty close to each other. Obviously, you can move anytime
you feel like it.
What about Food?
Pattaya's largest and only industry is tourism. Pattaya is open
for business 24/7, the only (very partial) exceptions being elections and the
King's birthday. Restaurants and other sources of food of every kind, including
insects and arachnids, are available everywhere at all times, at prices ranging
from almost nothing to much too much. Unlike the old days, in 2013 even street
stalls post their prices and farangs pay what Thais pay (if in doubt,
watch what Thais pay and then you'll know what the vendor's actual price
is). If you like Russian food, you are in luck. If your preference is American
"fast" food, there's no shortage of that. Bottom line: Finding
something to eat is the last thing you need to worry about.
international "food court" (below) in Top Department store on the
corner of Central Road and Second road,
is cheap and clean.
Indian food at Food Court (below). Almost all the workers in
Indian restaurants are from Nepal. (useful if you can speak Nepali).
Mobile food stalls of all kinds are everywhere.
There is also a used book store on the 2nd floor of Top, in
case you feel like reading (It went out of business in 214, unfortunately).
Is it Dangerous?
Not really. But if someone unexpectedly approaches you on the
street late at night and wants to give you a hug or share a drink with you (or
asks you to lick her nipples), consider it a high probability that you are
going to soon lose a lot of money. Avoid transvestites (khatois)
who approach you on the street (and they will). They can be very aggressive and
are almost always up to no good. The local newspapers are always full of reports
of foreigners getting robbed by transvestites on the street. On the other hand,
it always happens late at night and the foreigners are almost always drunk. A
little common sense will take you a long way in Pattaya. (Note. many, probably
most, khatois are harmless, but if you are approached by a pair or group
of them late at night, you should expect trouble. because why do you think they
are approaching you late at night? Also, some are not even real khatois,
but just criminals dressed up as khatois to avoid being identified).
The greatest danger, apart from traffic, is stupidity. You'd
be amazed at how many foreigners drive around drunk late at night on motorcycles
without helmets (and a girl on the back).
How can I get around Pattaya?
Some combination of the following will work.
1. Walk (if you stay close to your gym or--obviously-if you
aren't far from where you want to go; Pattaya isn't a big spread out city).
2. Baht buses (they go most places in North and South Pattaya
on Beach 1 and Beach 2 Roads, also (less reliably) North Pattaya Road, and
Central Road (Pattaya Klang).
3. Rent a small motorcycle (150 baht per day + gas if you
rent for several days, also a 1,000 refundable deposit if you don't damage the
4. Hire a moto-taxi for short trips (price negotiable depending
on distance etc.).
5. Hire baht bus for destinations outside of the loop (as
described in # 2 above).
Is there Prostitution in Pattaya?
No. It is illegal.
Can I watch Muay Thai fights in Pattaya?
Yes, you can.
You have two options.
You can watch beer bar Muay Thai in the beer bar plazas along
Beach 1 road and on Walking Street. These are not high quality Muay Thai but
they are free and frequent (every evening), and sometimes there are interesting
matches. Foreign fighters who want to give it a try sometimes are brought in by
their trainers at one of the gyms. It is a low pressure debut and provides the
trainers (some of whom, such as Kit below, work as referees) with a chance to
see their students in action.
Occasionally, a younger Thai fighter from one of the camps will take part, for
an easy work-out or simply to get in some ring time (possibly to earn a little
money). Most of the fighters are moto-taxi boys, some are former fighters, some
are wannabe fighters who didn't make the grade, and sometimes farangs
(foreigners), and occasionally Japanese mixed martial arts guys. Occasionally
someone from the customer side of the ring (sometimes drunk Australians; once an
English kid--that must have been painful for his mum and dad to watch. He seemed
to be beating that Thai guy up very convincingly for a while, until
suddenly.......). Once in a while the farang fighters are
In short, almost anything can happen. The difference between
a beer bar Muay Thai fight and a regulation professional fight, in addition to
the quality of the fighters, is the rules. In a beer bar fight, 16 oz. gloves
are worn, elbows are banned, rounds are 2 minutes, and the breaks are as long as
the referee and time-keeper want them to be. And the referee makes full use of
his discretion in counting (in boxing, referees are allowed to count at their
own pace, but they can't count the same number more than once; in a beer bar
however, they can and do.)
And a few other differences. But a beer bar Muay Thai fight
isn't a clown act (usually--there are occasional exceptions). Even the moto-taxi
boys can fight (although sloppily) because they do it a lot. They circulate
through the crowd after the fight, collecting tips, which can be much more than
they earn driving a motorcycle. Like American president Theodore Roosevelt, beer
bar customers generally don't believe that athletes should be rewarded for
losing. Winners get more tips than losers (I conducted a small empirical study
to test that hypothesis). Incentives matter. They have a monetary incentive
to win, and like every fighter, a disincentive to get hit harder or more often
than absolutely necessary. Together these dictate that they will develop skills,
as is confirmed by observation.
Here are some pictures from the Best Friend
Boxing Bar (below). The referee is Kit, one of the trainers at Sityodtong, at
that time. For a description of a fight at this bar, see Khao-Ti.)
You can also watch regulation Muay Thai at Pattaya Boxing
World on Sukhumvit in north Pattaya (easy to find, see below). The fighters are
not the most elite Muay Thai fighters (they fight in Bangkok), but with a few
exceptions, are very competent. If the promoters unexpectedly need an extra
fighter to fill out a card, they will recruit and older, retired fighter, who
although not in competition shape, will at least know what he is doing in the
ring. There are hundreds of retired fighters in Pattaya. I have seen a guy who
looked like he was 70 fight and could hardly walk, matched against a young farang--but
he won, using superior clinch and knee technique. Which in itself is fantastic
demonstration of the efficiency of these devastating Thai weapons
also fight in these show (look at the weights on some of the fighters on the
August 30 card--20 kilos, 25 kilos, 27 kilos!!), which is where they get the
experience that might take them to Bangkok when they are older. Young girls too
(see the other August 30 poster). Thais are tough! Even little girls can kick
Above. Much bigger fararang fighting Thai at old Pattaya
Stadium (below) on Therpasit road, c. 2004.
Leave the same way you got there, except in reverse. It will be easier and
cheaper than the fare arriving (exact fare will depend on whether you leave
before or after midnight. I always leave after, and the fare in 2013 is 12,000
baht, including freeway tolls.) Pay a 300 baht deposit and the rest to the
driver at the airport. Vans are also available and they are cheaper, but you
have to go when they are going, and they might not be going when you are).
Reserve a taxi (or van seat) at any one of the many travel agencies.
|This receipt is from 2011. Freeway tolls are included in
2013, but confirm such things with the agent.
That's about all you need to know. Now, on to the gyms.
The Big Five Muay Thai Gyms in Pattaya
2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.