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Back up your jiu-jitsu with Muay Thai 

A Complete Guide to Muay Thai training in Pattaya, Thailand.


Muay Thai in Pattaya  2013

Exclusive to Global Training Report

by Roberto Pedreira

Introduction (Why to train Muay Thai, and why in Pattaya, Thailand)

Preliminaries (How to get there and get oriented)

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 money.

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 expressions.) 

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 work.

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 dimensional.

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 Central Road


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.

The 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 bike). 

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 very good. 

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.)

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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

Children 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 your ass.

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Above. Much bigger fararang fighting Thai at old Pattaya Stadium (below) on Therpasit road, c. 2004.

Leaving Pattaya

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. 

sitpo644.jpg (291713 bytes)

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









 (c), 2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.






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