of Muay Thai Techniques
By Roberto Pedreira
Sitpholek is run by Frank. Originally from
Holland, the land of canals, windmills, tulips, and tough guys, he has been in Pattaya a long time. His first gym was on Second Road. He turned
it over to Nikiema in 2000 and moved north to the Weekender Hotel. A few years
later he relocated to the present facility at 217/10 Sukhimvit, just beyond Soi
34, between Central and North Roads.
is a perfectly adequate gym, a bit on the cramped side, but it makes up for lack
of space by having trainers available from 2:00 to 8:00 (most places are 3:30 to
5:00) . As the photos below show, there is
one ring (undersized). The floors are concrete, so two rounds of rope jumping
are equivalent to three on a wood floor. There is a room with serviceable
universal machines and free-weights for supplementary training. Be careful
about putting on excessive muscle mass if you are planning to fight. High
repetitions are advised.
There are three regular trainers, all
competent. The legendary Changpuk taught at Sitpholek for many years, both at
the Weekender and the Sukhimvit locations (in August 2013 he was still in Korea,
which is now a rich country where people can afford to train for fun. When
people are willing to pay for the chance to do recreationally what they
previously would have considered something to avoid, you know it has entered the
ranks of the first-class countries, and Korea has, as was its great ambition
during the 1970's and 1980's).
Sitpholek trainer actually offered to spar with me several times (shown
with belly-pad below), and another did once, but didn't like the fact that I
kept catching his middle-level kicks (a grappling habit, sorry). He considered
it unfair "wrestling." and didn't offer again. Moral: If you want
trainers to spar with you, don't catch their kicks. A former trainer, at the
Second road gym, named Pu, regularly asked me to use "English boxing"
on him to practice his defense, which was simply to put his arms in front of his
face. It worked well. He also offered to practice clinch with me. "Farangs
can't fight," he used to say. In general, I agreed, especially if he
specifically meant Muay Thai, but I took that as just another reason to keep
training. I will never be as good as the best Thais (or probably, even average
Thais), but I will be better than I am now, and that is a reasonable goal for
anyone. If I can
at least throw a hard kick correctly, I will be happy. Trainers sometimes
criticize my knees, but never my kicks. QED, I'm happy.
were few students in those days. Mostly a few hard-core Dutch guys. Many more
people are training now. Sparring or clinch practice doesn't happen often
anymore. Trainers are too busy to offer it routinely and generally don't think
ordinary hobbyists want or need it. They may be right about the first point,
but not about the second. Everyone needs sparring practice, at least after they
dial in the fundamentals and are in decent shape. Don't turn down the chance
if you get one. Indeed, it would be well worth paying extra, whatever it costs,
if the opportunity arises (I did it once--at Sityodtong-and it was a bargain at
300 baht for 5 rounds of "grappling," but one of the older people didn't
approve, so that was that.)
Pu is still
around but after getting stabbed in the leg by a Russian at the Marine Disco he
doesn't move so well. However, his general attitude has improved. According to
one source, all he does is get drunk, but the three nights that I met him on Soi
6, he seemed quite sober and a lot friendlier than he had been during the
Sitpholek is the cheapest of the five gyms, 270
baht per day (most places also have weekly, monthly, and yearly payment plans).
They have some pro fighters, both Thais and farangs, and kids too. Watching a 30
kilos kid kick the heavy bag harder than you can is highly motivational, needless to
say. Middle class dads bring their little sons in to learn how to box. The dad
doesn't have the urge to train (maybe he did it when he was younger). Muay Thai
was traditionally something that the poorest boys did to survive. Middle class
people did not want to do something that the lowest layers of society were
basically compelled by unfortunate circumstances to do, not unlike manual labor
or prostitution. But when they noticed rich farangs not only doing it, but
paying money to do it, they must have thought, "maybe it's pretty
cool after all." They probably don't want their kids to become boxers, but
it doesn't hurt to be able to take care of yourself.
essentials to getting competent at the art of applying Muay Thai, once you have
acquired the basics, are sparring (which means clinch sparring), and running.
Most of what Thais do is running. It is mostly for weight control but it has
other obvious benefits too. You can't fight if your heart and lungs aren't ready
for it. Sitpholek is not ideally situated for running. On Sukhimvit, forget it.
You could run through the alleys and sois behind the gym but there is
traffic, motorcycles, stop lights, and all the rest. The best place, obviously,
is in the countryside. Unfortunately, that is getting farther and farther away
as Pattaya continues to expand. But that is a problem for all gyms in Pattaya,
with the partial exception, for the time being at least, of Sityodtong..
pictures, mostly self-explanatory (from August-September 2013, a few from
Above. Trainers Batyut (left), and Wichan (right).
Above. Changpuk, with farang pupil (notice right shin).
Above. Changpuk, teaching in Korea.
Above. map to Sitpholek.
(c) 2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.
Revised April 14, 2014.