Learning to dive, getting to know the art of thai boxing or starting the day with a sun salutation. Those were some of the things we didn’t actually plan on doing when we started planning this trip. But as long term travel allows you the luxury of being spontaneous and after having to sit down ten hours a day for ten days during our vipassana meditation course in Yangon, Myanmar, punching something as hard as you can suddenly seemed very inviting. And what better place to do that than on a tropical island.
Hit the pads Flore
We trained at the Island Muay Thai club, a welcoming gym about 600 meters from Sairee Beach. We started off booking four sessions, one per day and ended up doing a whole week of thai boxing. For seven sessions a week, we payed 1600 baht (about 40 euros). You can even book private lessons and training sessions per month if you’re staying longer on the island.
We chose to participate in the open morning class (8-10 am) instead of the evening class (4-6 pm) because it’s a nice feeling to start your day with a good workout but also because of the heat. No air conditioned fitness room here folks, we trained in the open air with temperatures already rising towards 30 degrees Celsius in the morning! Don’t worry, towels are complementary 🙂
Hit you in the face
Sem had jokingly warned me – Flore – that even the warm up would not be easy in this weather. Luckily the trainers weren’t too hard on us and warming up just meant stretching, until we had to do five whole minutes of rope skipping. I started off doing this exercise with so much enthusiasm (no sarcasm here, I promise!), I pushed myself too far and somehow managed to hurt my calf muscle jumping up and down, spending the rest of the week limping around the island.
After the short but effective warm-up you learn what it’s all about: get some punching done! Basically you could hear the trainer screaming “pan, ma” (right cross punch, come on), “hook, ma”, “uppercut, ma”, “elbow” all the time, pointing out where we’d have to hit the pads he was holding up. If we needed to punch harder, which was often the case for me, they yelled “Poweeeeeeer”.
It was fun to feel that I was able to build up my punching power towards the end of the week because the trainer kept on pushing us. But to be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the first lesson. The trainer annoyed me because he expected I’d learn the moves quicker, something which I know isn’t my strong point and at times I felt like quiting. Luckily I figured I could use all of that anger that started to build up… to punch him right in the face! Just kidding, I just hit the pads slightly harder 🙂 But it worked as I got more out of my training sessions and could feel myself getting better at it every day.
So after a few days of early morning “frustration elimination”, I really started to like training first thing in the morning. It’s a great way to start off your day, and whatever you do for the rest of the day (in our case: resting, eating and swimming in the ocean #hardknocklife), you already feel like you’ve accomplished something! I’d really recommend anyone going to Koh Tao (or Thailand in general) to book some Muay Thai sessions, it’s an amazingly intense and exciting sport that makes you push yourself in ways many other sports won’t.
The gym we trained at also hosted weekly fight nights with 7 scheduled fights that attracted a lot of visitors. We went to watch the fights twice during our more than three weeks stay on the island. I initially thought that it would be way too violent, but was really surprised to see how much fair play is involved during the fights. The better and thus more technical the fights get, the more fun they are to watch. Hearing the locals shouting even harder than the tourists to see their favorite winning gave the whole event a more genuine experience.
Where do I sign up?
The gym has a website and a facebook page you can message to book some lessons beforehand.
You can also book some accommodation which we did for the first week on the island and as it’s located right next to the ring you have no excuses to miss a workout 🙂 It’s also really close to the center of Sairee beach which is perfect if you want to go for a swim after training or get some amazing food after a good workout.
As always, we’d love to hear your experiences or answer any questions you might have in the comments.