Thanks to action films like “Ong-Bak,” “Broken Sword Hero,” and popular TV programs like “One Championship” and “Ultimate Fighting Championship” (UFC), the Thai combat sport of Muay Thai is a new craze across the globe. To perfect their moves, Thai boxing enthusiasts bounce on tractor tires, punch the vaguely human-shaped bags, and dodge imaginary throws. You can now see that familiar scene everywhere, from fashionable gyms in New York City to back alleys in London or boxing studios in Paris. Everyone wants to be tough like fighters Buakaw Banchamek, Tony Jaa, Jonathan Haggerty, and Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu.
Still, to truly get to the spirit of Muay Thai is to be in and around the country of its origin, Thailand. People have practiced the “art of eight limbs” (hands, elbows, knees, feet) in the country for centuries.
Muay Thai gyms are all over Thailand (Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, and Samui). They’re far more comfortable than corrugated sheds in parking lots or improvised rings in cramped backyards across the neighborhood.
Some boxing camps in Thailand are run by Muay Thai legends such as Samart Payakaroon and Buakaw Banchamek, while others are popular training establishments. Many gyms offer full board for training with accommodations and one-on-one sessions. This convenience allows athletes to concentrate fully on improving their skills.
Do you want to try Muay Thai for yourself? Here are some of the best places to kick butt (and to be kicked) across beautiful Thailand.
In Thailand’s north, Chiang Mai enjoys a mild winter from October to February. The popular travel destination is an excellent mix of a vibrant city, heritage town, and majestic mountainous landscape. You could find yourself waking up and jogging in the middle of a charming old town or breathing in fresh air while strengthening your muscles amidst a scenic rice paddy. Many gyms offer various options for training (live-in or drop-in). The cost of living in Chiang Mai is much more affordable than Bangkok and beach towns in Thailand’s South.
Founded by Muay Thai hero and K-1 Champion Buakaw Banchamek, the gym is located in the Mae Tang district of Chiang Mai. This training ground is an excellent option for anyone looking to train with a beautiful valley backdrop. The trainers and staff are professional Muay Thai boxers, and they speak basic English. Buakaw is now an unofficial Muay Thai ambassador and is known for his aggressive fighting style. Through Banchamek Gym, Buakaw wishes to train Muay Thai boxers for a world championship challenge and to open the door to the world of Thai boxing for casual fighters and visitors. You can drop in for group training or personal training to get a taste of Muay Thai or sign up for long-term training with all-inclusive options for meals and accommodation.
CHIANG MAI MUAY THAI GYM
A 10-minute walk to the north of Wat Phra Singh (Gold Buddha Temple) is Chiang Mai Muay Thai, a boxing gym that offers good deals to visitors. Training is available two times daily between 8:30am-10am and 2pm-8pm from Monday-Saturday, allowing plenty of opportunity for visitors to balance training and traveling. The vibe is communal and fun, with professional trainers helping the beginners get started and confident.
Bangkok is one of the best places to learn Muay Thai kickboxing. The best fighters, the most experienced trainers, and the most intense camps are here. Whether you’re looking for fighting experience, exercise, strengthening your muscles, or training for a championship, Muay Thai training ticks all the boxes.
MASTER TODDY’S MUAY THAI ACADEMY
Legendary MMA fighters like Randy Couture, Bob Sapp, and Tito Ortiz all trained at Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy. Recognized as “The Father of Muay Thai in England,” Master Toddy is a legendary trainer. A 35 minute-walk from Bearing BTS Station in Bangkok’s southern suburb, it is one of Bangkok’s most famous—and authentic—boxing gyms. With live-in and drop-in options, Master Toddy’s Muay Thai Academy offers private lessons and group classes suitable for all levels.
Billed as “the genius boxer,” Samart Payakaroon was one of the best Muay Thai fighters in the 1980s and is still considered a Muay Thai legend. Trained by the late grandmaster Yodtong Senanan, Samart turns brutal combat into an art form. Every time he strikes his opponent, it looks like he is performing a deadly dance—using his whole body as weapons. Even his foot jab or “teep” is handsomely lethal. Now Samart has opened a modern Muay Thai gym in Saimai—Bangkok’s eastern suburb. The gym offers comfortable accommodations, meals, and training in a quiet and secure environment. Samart ensures that you will learn Muay Thai with a correct and solid foundation.
Pattaya, the paradise city, is reinventing itself as a sport and entertainment destination. The Pattaya Marathon, golf, skydiving, and more, are Pattaya’s calling cards for actions and adventures. Pattaya has plenty of Muay Thai gyms to offer visitors looking for a quick blast on the pads before relaxing into a spa retreat, infinity pool or tropical beach sensation.
Legends were made here. Founded by the late, great Muay Thai master Yodtong Senanan, this gym was once home to Pattaya’s orphans. Some of the top fighters trained here are Samart Payakaroon, Yoddecha Sityodtong, and Chatri Sityodtong, a founder of ONE Championship. The heroes are long gone, but the camp always opens its door for the future champs. Whether you are a foreigner or Thai, show up and book your time with a trainer. For around $9 USD, you’ll get a fair amount of pad time with the experienced trainers.
Petchrungruang Gym is one of the oldest gyms and still very much active in Pattaya City. Muay Thai is part of the Petchrungruang family’s DNA—they have eaten, breathed, and slept in the camp for three generations. If you’re looking for a professional Muay Thai training camp, this is it. The crowd here is very mixed: Thais and foreigners, males and females, experienced Muay Thai fighters and novices. Everyone is treated like family, no matter how different they are. Sylvie von Duuglas-Ittu, an American, professional female Muay Thai kickboxer, trains here and fights under her ring name “Sylvie Petchrungruang.”
Phuket always draws holidaymakers for beach bliss, cultural heritage, underwater wonders, and fabulous food. The island is also a top destination for fitness holidays, yoga retreats, and spa breaks. With many Muay Thai training gyms scattered around the island, you can drop in for a quick dose of adrenaline or schedule long-term training.
TIGER MUAY THAI AND MMA ARTS
Tiger Muay Thai is the most famous Muay Thai training center in Phuket. Founded in 2003, the Tiger Muay Thai has turned a local gym in the middle of nowhere into a “martial art wonderland” with sophisticated gears, hotels, souvenirs, merchandise, and restaurants. The popular gym draws Muay Thai enthusiasts worldwide for a broad range of Muay Thai and mixed martial arts. You will meet people with different backgrounds training at the Tiger, from the newbies aiming to get into shape to UFC champions.
SUTAI MUAY THAI
Sutai Muay Thai is within a short walking distance to Surin and Bang Tao beaches. It is a good option for boxing enthusiasts who want to sit back and relax around Phuket’s best beaches after practice. With two boxing rings, sophisticated gears, and many experienced Thai and foreign instructors, the gym offers different beginners training programs. They receive step-by-step instructions on stretching, warming up, and fighting. Sutai Muay Thai is an ideal choice for the holidaymakers and thrill-seekers wanting to mix adventure and relaxation.
SINBI MUAY THAI TRAINING CAMP
You can give Sinbi Muay Thai Training Camp a go if you’re looking for professional Muay Thai training in Thailand’s best beach holiday destination. Founded by former Muay Thai champion Thopadak Wanchalerm, this local gym offers classes for every skill level from beginners to professional fighters. Each lesson includes some pad and bag work, clinching, and sparring. With a sizable open-air training center, three full-size rings, and an equipped gym, the experienced trainers focus on showing you different drills and helping you improve your defending and striking techniques.
There is no secret that Koh Samui is a boxing island where fighting and sun-basking go hand in hand. Besides a world-class resort and wellness centers, Samui has three boxing rings and several Muay Thai gyms in its tropical paradise. Whether you want to stay fit and healthy or are up for a real fight in the ring, the choice is yours. No doubt, Koh Samui has the most beautiful Muay Thai training grounds Thailand has to offer.
JUN MUAY THAI
Jun Muay Thai is an old-school boxing gym that could make you feel like Rocky Balboa. Picture a row of bags in different sizes, two enclosed boxing rings, sets of boxing gloves, and the scent of boxing oil mingled in the air. Jun, the owner and a former Muay Thai champion in Bangkok, opened this authentic Muay Thai training gym for people of all ages and experience levels. With two sessions a day, the sweaty, heavy-breathing fun routine begins with a 30-minute run along the beach. After stretching, you will go through the bag works, four rounds on boxing pads, fighting techniques, clinching, and sparring. The master can even arrange a real fight for you at Lamai Boxing Stadium, a short walk from the training ground.
KOH PHA NGAN
Koh Pha Ngan is known for its white-sand beaches, hippie spirit, and a dusk-until-dawn party. However, the tropical island is also home to many local boxing gyms where you can get Muay Thai training experience from masters.
DIAMOND MUAY THAI CAMP
Known as DMT Camp among young travelers in Koh Pha Ngan, Diamond Muay Thai Camp appears to be the happiest Muay Thai camp in Thailand’s south. The sessions are designed for those interested in learning about famous Thai martial art and staying in shape through Muay Thai training and a healthy mix of cardio. With Tropical House on in the background, the vibe is communal and fun. Orchestrated by experienced Muay Thai masters, you will no doubt be left sweating and panting for breath after going through pad works, clinching, and sparring. A private session with a former Muay Thai champion is available for enthusiasts who want to hone their skills in a shorter time.