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KRS Gym, Thailand Muay Thai Camp

KRS Gym, Thailand Muay Thai Camp

K.R.S. Gym is a traditional Muay Thai boxing camp located in the Thailand satellite city of Ubon Ratchathani. The camp has a young stable of Muay Thai fighters who compete in bouts locally in Issan, at Bangkok’s famous Lumpini Stadium and overseas in countries as diverse as Hong Kong, England and Australia. The camp is owned and managed by Mr. Sattawat Khaisang, who is a passionate aficionado of Muay Thai boxing.

Venue and Atmosphere

The K.R.S. Gym facility is located on Suspassitt Road, a busy cross junction road which runs off the main street of the Ubon Ratchathani metropolitan district. Ubon Ratchathani is located in the North-East of Thailand, a region known as Issan.

Outside of its main cities Issan is primarily a rural farming area; however the locals have a deep passion for Muay Thai which has its initial historical roots set in this area of the country. Muay Korat was a particular style of Muay Thai initially practiced in Issan. Emphasis in Muay Korat was placed on strength, with the Buffalo strike said to be so powerful that it could take down a Buffalo with a single strike. Suspassitt Road is a busy area of the city, with vehicles of all descriptions vying for a lead in the traffic. The steamy tropical air is filled with the smells of local Issan dishes which are available at roadside eateries. To get to the actual training camp you have to cut into a narrow lane which only has enough room for one vehicle at a time. You are soon confronted by the sounds that are reminiscent of a leopard being suddenly strangled by a python. Arrival at K.R.S. Gym can be an intimidating welcoming.

The facility is of true authentic Muay Thai style; outdoors with a large shed roof covering. Drinking water, shower facilities and toilets are all available. The priority of the gym facility is to facilitate the training of real life modern day warriors, individuals who are capable of defeating opponents and achieving goals no matter how difficult or uncomfortable the situation may be; consequently aesthetics was taken off the list of requirements for a training facility.

Fighters from all over the world are at K.R.S. Gym. Leonard Nganga is an impressive fighter from Kenya. Nganga will be sending home all his prize money from fights to feed his family back in Africa. John from Norway is an experienced Muay Thai fighter, a tall heavyweight who has fought on the K-1 promotion in Europe; the Thai management and trainers call him Mr. John. Mark Long is from England, a British Royal Marine who has experienced the life or death situation of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mark is athletically gifted and is learning the finer points of Muay Thai. There are additionally fighters from Japan and China training at the camp.

Utilising a well structured boxing ring, series of heavy bags, mirrors, sit up benches, light dumbbell weights and open training area; the Muay Thai fighters go through a high volume, traditional Muay Thai program both day and night.

Training Styles, Traditions, Techniques and Structure

The training styles which take place at most Muay Thai camps are somewhat different to that of western modern day practices. This is significantly the case at a traditional Muay Thai camp like K.R.S. Gym. Members of the gym will train for approximately three hours in the morning, and 3 hours in the evening; 6 to 7 days per week. A quick tally shows that this is an approximate total of 39 hours of training for the week; a possible translation to at least 35 fitness training sessions in modern western society.

Each morning session begins with a 10 kilometre run, and each afternoon session a 5km run. All core components of sessions at K.R.S. Gym will take place through the same time and tested structure. After their run fighters will go through their own preparations of wrapping hands, stretching and shadow boxing. Fighters then place themselves on a bag and run through the constant repetition of strikes; completed at various levels of intensity for various round lengths of four to 10 minutes. During this time the experienced trainers of the camp will select two fighters to work with on the punch and kick pads, going through the same repetition of technique, with trainers and boxers aiming for a seemly impossible perfection. The rounds on the pads with the trainers will last for 5 minutes with 1 minute break. The last minute of every 5 minute round will consist of 45 seconds at a slower pace, then the last 15 seconds fast nonstop striking. Every round, whether a boxer is on the bag or pads, will finish with 20 fast paced push ups.

In all training there is a focus on rhythm. The athletes will have a constant crouched over standing position which will slightly sway back and forth. This is based on tradition; however appears to provide an effective method for attaining physical balance.

Unlike western boxing under the Queensberry Rules, there is no man to man sparring which mirrors in-fight conditions. Alternatively, fighters will have periods of light sparring whilst working the pads with trainers, with the trainer initiating and countering with strikes of various intensities- a heavy focus is placed on technique. Fighters will additionally complete non-striking stand up grappling and shadow sparring with fellow boxers.

Each session will finish inside the boxing ring, with the group of fighters going through set out exercises with trainer leading instruction. These exercises vary; from back and forth shadow knee strikes, to the shadow sparring as mentioned.

K.R.S. Gym trainer Ramba Sitsianpo has a facial expression which is unwelcoming, if not murderous; however he is positive, polite and highly professional. Like all trainers at K.R.S. Gym, his skills in instruction, despite a language barrier, are highly impressive.

There are some alternative training methods which take place. Towards the back end of sessions fighters will take turns performing a neck strengthening exercise wearing an old motorbike helmet with a concrete weight connected to it with rope. The routine involves lateral and back and forth movement of the head. Obviously a method aimed at attaining conditioning for effective absorption of strikes to the head from opponent. Fighters also make use of an old truck tyre by bouncing around completing shadow boxing on its unstable base.

Quite often, but not every session, fighters will complete an extreme conditioning exercise. Whilst holding the bag the boxers will complete nonstop knees into its heavy and rough sides, bouncing from one foot to the other. Rounds of this exercise will last up to five minutes in duration. Initially appearing difficult, but not extreme, the attempted application of this exercise is eye opening from a conditioning perspective. I am told the key to its conditioning intensity is the bouncing from the toe end of one foot to another, rather than coming out of a slight pause from effectively a flat foot position.

A significant theme from local Thai’s throughout all training sessions is the focus on lower body strikes with kicks and knees over punching and even elbows. Foreign boxers, whether novice or professional, have a more apparent output volume of punching and elbow striking.

Specific Training Notes;

– All training is off extreme high volume

– Levels of intensity vary from situation to situation

– Focus on conditioning of the lower body through slow long distance running

– Strength and Conditioning training is not applicable

– Floor surface is concrete covered with worn carpet; soles of feet are well conditioned

– No apparent flexibility training. It appears athletes gain flexibility through the continual processing of required movements

– Fighters display proportionally large amounts of lower body over upper body muscle mass

– Rounds on the pads with trainers will last for 5 minutes with 1 minute break. The last minute of every 5 minute round will consist of 45 seconds at a slower pace, then the last 15 seconds fast nonstop striking

– Boxing ring is extremely padded. Moving around feels like walking on quick sand

– When not working with trainer it is the fighters’ responsibility to be accountable for quality and intensity of training; appealingly a method used to instil internal discipline and desire

Gym and Athlete Management

The gym and athlete management plays a vital role in the effectiveness and efficiency in which the Muay Thai training program is implemented. The gym manager has recruited world class trainers, established a traditional facility and put in place a discipline regime. The gym manager is in attendance for all training sessions.

Many of the gyms young fighters are orphans who have been taken under the wing of the gym; given a purpose and opportunity. Consequently the desire at which the fighters train for results with is unique.

Coming from a western background of fitness training, albeit with experience in western boxing training, I was astonished at the sheer volume of training which was completed at K.R.S. Gym. It was apparent from the beginning that the fighters had an unshakable desire to succeed, and were prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve results. However, by the same token these warriors were relaxed and happy within themselves as individuals. There was no arrogance or inflated egos; just genuine self confidence and personal fulfilment. The fighters displayed great trust in their training, knowing for well that the methods in technique and conditioning that they were being taken through had been passed down from many generations.

After personally experiencing Muay Thai at K.R.S. Gym by completing training sessions, and witnessing the training which takes place, my initial outcome is that the all round athletic capability required to be an effective Muay Thai fighter is immense. Given the sheer volume of training with its varying intensities- from extreme to just a constant rhythmical flow – weight loss is really just an unavoidable side effect. The athletic variables which are tested, trained and functionally implemented cross over to all areas of physical activity outside of combat sport training. I was fascinated by the ability of the trainers to provide superb instruction and conditioning work leadership despite a language barrier. For me it showed how much of an importance body language and demonstration played in instruction and training.

Training Muay Thai at K.R.S. Gym is the ultimate in warrior preparation and results based fitness training.