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Sityodtong Muay Thai Camp

Pattaya, 2013

By Roberto Pedreira

 You can train where you like, but there is one camp that you must at least visit. That is Sityodtong. Strictly speaking it is not in Pattaya, not exactly  It is just outside the Pattaya city limits. It is far enough away from the beach and go-go bars that you can devote all of your attention and effort to training, if that is what you want to do, but not so far that you can't indulge a little, if that is what you want to do, say, after your ring debut, or on your way back to where you came from. 

The camp was established by the legendary Yodtong Senanan, (recently deceased in February of 2013, sadly).  Originally it was known as the Sidyodtong-Payakarun camp, in honor of Samart Payakarun, former Lumpinhee champion with a 175-11 ring record. No disrespect intended to any other styles, countries, or families, but in Thailand, one really has to put in a lot of ring time and win a lot of fights to earn the title of "legend" or "champion". You can't become a "national" champion or "living legend" by winning one or two fights. Thais give real meaning to the expression "hard-core" and that is before they even step into the ring. The training alone is enough to kill ordinary men.

Samart came to the camp when he was 12 years old. He was already a legend when Garry Olmert published his classic report on the camp in 1990 (lots of Samart videos on youtube). I first visited sometime around 1994, give or take a year. At that time, it was located next to the International School of Boxing and Kung Fu--which was basically an outdoor ring.



Sityodtong is far from the beaten trail. You need serious commitment to get there everyday from any of the places where a farang is likely to stay. And if you are a beginner or casual hobbyist, any gym will have a ring, bangs, and reasonably qualified teacher. I didn't begin my routine, daily training at Sityodtong until 2000. Prior to that, I was at Sitpholek and Nikiema, and one or two or three gyms that no longer exist. I continued at Sityodtong until about 2008.. I returned to Sityodtong in August-September 2013 for this report. The original classic GTR Sityodtong report is here: Sityodtong Boxing Camp 

Sityodtong was originally way out in the country, with Muslims, chickens, cattle, dead dogs, lizards, and jing-jok (geckos). That is an appropriate environment for a Muay Thai life-style, no distractions and plenty of space for running, which is about 90% of the training that Muay Thai fighters routinely do. A few years ago a freeway was built. It passes nearby the camp, which unfortunately gives it a sort of claustrophobic feel. Moreover, the nearby roads have also become somewhat built-up and crowded. But if you didn't know the old camp, this won't matter. 

The gym is cleaner than it was when I regularly trained there 2000-2008, with tiled floors and puzzle mats, cleaner and more restrooms, including female only. That doesn't necessarily reflect on the training but these things cost money, and the source of that money is farangs. The young Thais don't have any and if they did they wouldn't spend it on tiled floors and puzzle mats, and clean restrooms and showers (all unaffordable and superfluous luxuries where they came from). There are also lots of signs in English with the rules spelled out, how much to pay, what to do and so on.  Not that that is bad. They have to pay the bills. Puzzle mats are not free. Someone has to clean the toilets. The camp is now set up to be accommodating to farangs. But for the people who fight, nothing will change. You still have to beat the man (or lady) in the ring with you. And the way to do that is still the same as it was which means the way you have to train is also still the same.. 

No one will force you to train hard if you don't want to. Conversely,. no one will prevent you from training hard if that is what you want to do. That applies only to rich farang visitors of course. If you have money, you can do what you like. If you are a young Thai and Muay Thai is your job and the only future you have, they definitely will force you to train hard. Or you can go back home, if you have a home. The sight of Yodtong Senanan walking around with a Colt .45 tucked into the back of his pants left no doubt this this was not a place to be goofing off. 

Some people might actually think Sityodtong is not farang-friendly enough. If so, there is an option for them: Fairtex. You pay for what you get, as usual. For others, Sityodtong is just about right, other than being too far away. For those who need to stay closer to the beach, there are three other options: Nikiema, Sitpholek, and WKO. But wherever you decide to train, you really need to try Sityodtong at leas once or twice.






Above. Pay 300 baht and sign in.

Above. Puzzle mats and tiled floor. Compare earlier pictures from about 2003.




It is still the largest training facility by far with plenty of space and trainers.

In the old days, farangs occasionally showed up and they were allowed to train. After working with you for a few rounds (how many? "Up to you") you'd wonder how much to pay the trainer. He'd say "up to you." Now farangs seem to be the majority of people there and the camp has implemented a rational procedure for collecting training fees. Pay the young lady below 300 baht, sign your name in the book. Then go off and start your running, rope jumping, shadow boxing, or whatever you plan to do. Eventually a trainer will ask if you want to kick the pads. Or you can approach a trainer. If you have been there more than a day or two, you will probably end up working with the same one or two trainers. But that is up to you. If you have a preference for one trainer's style, you can make an effort to work with him. But then you might have to wait.


Above. Just before 3:30, apprentice fighters sweep out the rings.  

Below, Inside "Stadium" ring. It gets very hot in there. It was originally built as a stadium for tourist shows. There are 50 or so motorcycles parked on the left side, for reasons that I was unable to discover.

 Above. O (that's his name working with farang.

Above. O, working with farang.

Above. Trainer "Goh."

Above. Headed back to the beach. On the right is the new freeway.





 Below. Three pictures of Sityodtong c. 2003. See Sityodtong for more.

Above. Three pictures of Sityodtong from c. 2003.



Many Samart fights on Youtube. Here's one to start with.

And another, hands only, Samart vs. Jeff Fenech (very instructive).



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






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