TRAINING IN PAI, THIALAND
I have just finished a 2-and-a-bit week stint training at TrueBee gym, and I have to say it has been a fun, amazing and educational experience. I have trained in muay thai as a passionate hobby for the last 3 or so years, and have made annual training trips to Thailand so have a leetle bit of background experience to compare my recent one at TrueBee to.
I'll skip information on the training regime itself as you can find all this and more on the gym's website http://www.true-bee.com. All i will say is that the information provided is highly accurate and reflective of my recent experience there. The gym is very ably run by Mr Bee (Mongkoldech Sit-Thepphitak: a former lumpinee champion) and his wife Trudy Chomthong. Mr Bee is also a trainer, along with Mr Ae (his older brother), Donli (see below) and Lun Anh amongst others.
What I did find very useful were as follows:
1. Emphasis on technical aspects:
yes you get the intense cardio via 5 guaranteed rounds of padwork, then heavy bag work, then clinching/sparring/strength and conditioning no problems, but before all that shadow/line-work was done at every session after the run/skipping/stretching, with Mr Bee supervising. He was a technical nazi on subtle aspects of the guard, how to check properly, and how to execute the basic muay thai weapons among other things. Also during padwork and sparring the trainers would spot something, stop, then expand technically on that observation. From my own experience, i learnt a lot on how to throw in the clinch, defend the bodylock takedown, tricks in defending teeps and knees etc.
Repetition is a great teacher, and the trainers would exploit this and allow you the opportunity to drill that specific skill if you wanted.
2. Variety in Trainer Styles:
This was quite outstanding. The 4 trainers there all had overt and subtle differences in the way they held pads and sparred with you. For example, Mr Ae would emphahsize with me aggressive counterattacking from a structural defence (esp against punch flurries), with his preferred weapon-the knees. We would drill this incessantly on the pads, then more lightly in sparring and clinching. Lun (Uncle) Anh, an older trainer, was great in working isolated boxing combinations on the focus mitts. When holding Thai pads, he would emphasize closer range mid-round kicks thus forcing you to 'tweest the hip!'. Donli (Muangsamut Jor Luksamut: another ex-Lumpinee champ who has fought and beaten the likes of Saenchai, Wuttidej Lukprabat, Rambaa Somdet and even Anuwat 5 years ago) would be there to ensure you got a INTENSE (non-stop!) anerobic workout on the pads: emphasising striking into clinch, then knees and elbows in clinch, then attacking after pushing them off, repeat cycle. He would also constantly attack you so you were forced to defend simutaneously. Of all the trainers, padwork with him most felt like a proper spar. Mr Bee was probably the most technical and 'tricky' and this was most evident in sparring. he would then elaborate on and allow you to practice these 'tricks' on the pads.
I found this variety quite complimentary and integrative, rather than confusing and oppositional.
3. The relative frequency of Sparring:
In my short time there, compared to other places i've trained at, we did a fair bit of sparring which i thought was highly beneficial. Again, if you are a beginner or choose not to spar, then there is no ego lost and the trainers would compromise and do more padwork, or instruct you as you pound the heavy bag.
At least one session per week we would dedicate entirely to sparring. While i was there the 2 such sessions were structurally consistent: 5-6 rounds of boxing only, then 3 rounds of Muay thai, then continuous 'clinch-until-you-DROP', which we the falangs did frequently and with reasonable impact!! In addition, after quite a lot of the general sessions we would do light muay thai and/or legs only sparring as well as clinching.
The sparring was in general Thai-style ie LIGHT and TECHNICAL, although there were a few falang ego-types who for whatever reason would put on a fists-for-all barn-burner brawl for the amusement of everyone else especially the Thais.
4. The awesome atmosphere:
While remaining motivational and serious the trainers were also constantly making light-hearted jokes, This and their physical antics made for gritty, hard but ultimately highly enjoyable sessions. I concur that they do also treat you like family: we had delicious Thai-style BBQs twice at Mr Bee's home while i was there, and they would ferry you all over the place on their motorbikes if they chanced past you in the main town. Mr Bee also took us to a nearby temple for a monk blessing on a day off, and all of them were at all times warm and amicable.
The surrounding environment itself was nothing short of breath-taking: Pai is nestled in a valley and has the Pai river running through it. As such, many rice and other farming communities thrive in this charming place. The air was very clean and refreshing, and the views of the mountains (often shrouded in fog during my time there giving them an even more surreal appearance), rivers and streams and the endless ricefields made the morning runs a little more tolerable! For the spiritually inclined, there are many temples dotted over the surrounding countryside.
My only complaint (which actually added to the richness of the experience) was that the connecting bridge over the Pai river washed away with the constant rain (it is currently wet-season in Thailand). This meant we had no choice regarding the 10k run, and then another 1km walk/wade through muddy paths crossing through a local rice-farming community before arriving at the gym. This meant that after training, it was a long walk back to our accomodation. The gym as yet has no accomodation for tourist boxers, only basic shelter for the trainers and local fighters. There are however plans to imminently rebuild the bridge.
There you go. I could write a lot more, but at this point time and the risk of boring you lot forbids!! For those interested in fights, there are ample chances for you to fight in the main stadiums of Chiang Mai and elsewhere (i was offered a fight at Mae Sariang for example, on the Queens Birthday, but curses i HAD to leave on that same day). For beginners and hobbyists, it is a great learning experience in a fun yet serious environment. I can only fully recommend this camp, and hope to be back again in the not too distant future.
Thank you Mr Bee and all the trainers at TrueBee and ALL THE BEST to MARC and NOLAN for their upcoming fights tonight (well, August 18)!!!!