BOOK REVIEW: Training and Conditioning for MMA ed. by Dias / Oliveira / Brauer & Pashkin

Training and Conditioning for MMA: Programming of ChampionsTraining and Conditioning for MMA: Programming of Champions by Stéfane Beloni Correa Dielle Dias
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Page

Release Date: September 15, 2022 [It may already be out in some formats and markets]

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This book provides an overview of fitness building for Mixed Martial Arts athletes. It covers program design, athletic assessment, nutrition, exercises and conditioning practices, and injury prevention methods. On the positive side, it’s not only comprehensive, but – also – presents some of the best and latest methods in combative sports training based on sound scientific research. On the other hand, the book does assume a certain level of understanding of sports science, and it gets pretty deep in the weeds with respect to technical detail and to scientific and specialty jargon. If one doesn’t have such background, one may find some of the content (particularly the early chapters) a bit daunting. That said, it offers an excellent reference for those who are interested in methods and sports science not just for MMA, but for combative sports, in general.

The book uses color photographs throughout. I found the photos to be clear, well-sized, and well-lit. While there is definitely an attempt to keep the number of photos to a reasonable level, they do offer multiple angles where necessary and – generally – give enough pictures to make the action clear. There are also tables after each of the methods sections to give a handy summary of sets, reps, and scheduling suggestions for various exercises. In the early chapters, the ones that convey more technical content, there’re charts, graphs, and diagrams as needed. There’s an extensive bibliography, though it should be noted many if not most of the references are not in English. (The team of editors and contributors is large and international.)

This book offers an excellent reference for coaches, trainers, and athletes. While it does get quite technical, it’s great that it offers insight into cutting edge science and training methods.

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BOOK REVIEW: Breathe by Rickson Gracie

Breathe: A Life in FlowBreathe: A Life in Flow by Rickson Gracie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars Page

Out: August 10, 2021

This autobiography of the phenomenal Brazilian Ju Jutsu practitioner, Rickson Gracie, begins with ancestral origins that include a Gracie who fought in the US Civil War through Rickson’s boyhood in Rio and his professional fights in Japan, and onward to how he reinvented himself after family tragedy and the end of his fight career. Along the way, he conveys lessons learned not only through personal experience and from his father and uncle, the founders of Gracie Ju Jutsu, but also through his studies with Olando Cani — a yogi and developer of bioginastica. While the book is overwhelmingly about a life in Ju Jutsu, Cani’s influence plays a crucial role as the yogi taught Rickson about breath control, and, among a huge pack of skilled Gracie fighters, that ability was pivotal in Rickson’s rise to the top. (The book’s title, “Breathe,” hints at the role breathwork played in Rickson Gracie’s legendary capacities for enduring, flowing, and keeping his head in seemingly unfavorable situations.)

The memoir is candid, offering insights into not only Rickson’s path to success, but also his failings (which, not unexpectedly given his single-minded obsession with Ju Jutsu and fitness, more often involved life as an impetuous youth, as a father, and as a person – generally – than it did his life on the mat.) The book also explores some of the fissures in the Gracie clan and how they grew under the pressure of the family’s mammoth success. With autobiographies, it’s always a challenge to know how true a picture one is getting, but Gracie’s willingness to self-critique makes this book feel truthful.

This book is fascinating and highly engaging. If you’re interested in martial arts, it’s a no-brainer for one’s reading list, but any reader who enjoys a memoir of a life intensely lived will find the book highly readable.

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BOOK REVIEW: Kill a Man by Steve Orlando

Kill A ManKill A Man by Steve Orlando
My rating: 5 of 5 stars page


James Bellyi is a closeted gay mixed martial arts fighter in contention for the middleweight belt. Amid the pre-fight smack talk, Bellyi is outed by his opponent, the man who current holds the title. The dropping of this bomb throws Bellyi’s career into disarray, his gym quietly drops him, the fight promoter overturns Bellyi’s previous fight, saying that he cheated under the referee’s nose, the organization – name “EFC” for legal reasons, I presume – fearing that much of its fanbase is not ready for a gay champion.

When the EFC finds itself in a bind because losing an injured headliner threatens to bleed the interest out of its upcoming event, they are forced to give Bellyi another shot to work back to a title-fight. With no one in his corner – literally — Bellyi manages a victory, but he knows he’ll need a coach to succeed in the title fight against the man who publicly outed him.

This is where things get interesting. Bellyi’s father, DJ Bellyi, had died due to fight-related injuries when James was still a boy. DJ Bellyi had been trying to stigmatize his opponent, Xavier Mayne, with anti-gay slurs, in part to get Mayne of his game and in part — we learn — because the senior Bellyi was genuinely a homophobic bigot. However, instead of knocking Mayne off his game, what DJ succeeded in doing was throwing a legendarily powerful striker into a seething rage.

While James Bellyi always despised Mayne for killing his father, when he finds himself facing a title fight without “a corner” and with all odds against him, Bellyi decides to pursue Mayne as a coach. Reluctantly, Mayne agrees. This creates overlapping stories between James and Mayne, and the core question is whether the younger generation can learn from what the previous generation went through. We learn that Mayne was traumatized by DJ Bellyi’s death. It’s also about whether and – if so – how the world has changed on a societal level in the intervening years.

I found this book to have an intriguing premise. It’s a simple story. It may seem like I gave it all away in the review, but reading the back-cover blurb gives a reader at least as much insight into the key story elements as did my description. There’s not a lot by way of extra layers. So, its more about whether the details of the story (e.g. the characters’ interactions) resonate with the reader than whether the reader will find some huge unexpected twist. The art is easy enough to follow. The artist uses different color palettes to differentiate different blocks of panels, I believe this is for the purpose of establishing emotional tone (but, perhaps, I misunderstood what was meant to be conveyed and it’s more about differentiating scenes.)

I enjoyed this book, and if you like fight stories you’ll likely enjoy it. It’s like “Rocky” but with the underdog status being less by way of being from down-and-out circumstance and more based in bigotry.

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The Most Dangerous Combative Sport? Study Shows Boxing Beats MMA for Brutality

kangaroo_boxingA study by researchers at the University of Alberta found that while mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters are more likely to suffer minor injuries, boxers are more likely to suffer severe injuries like concussions or detached retinas. The study, to appear in the print edition of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, involved 1181 mixed martial artists and 550 boxers who’d fought in Edmonton between 2003 and 2013. This was all fighters who fought professionally in that city in those two sports.

This finding seems counter-intuitive, given that so many more methods of delivering mayhem are allowed in MMA and the protection is less at least with respect to gloves.

Gloves may be an important factor. This isn’t a result from the aforementioned study, but it’s an idea put forth by MMA boosters. It goes like this, “Yes, the lightweight MMA glove offers less protection to the one being hit, but it also offers less protection to the hand of the one delivering the hit, and, ergo,  an MMA fighter is more likely to moderate his / her punches to avoid the (in this case ironically-named) ‘boxer’s break’ to the bones of said fighter’s hand.”

MMA style gloves on the left and 16oz. boxing gloves on the right

MMA style gloves on the left and 16oz. boxing gloves on the right (the same hand fits inside.)


I haven’t seen any rigorous scientific studies of whether the argument above has merit. There was a National Geographic Fight Science episode that made a comparison of gloves, but it was looking at a little different question. It studied how much force barehand, MMA glove, and boxing glove delivered to a heavy bag. Incidentally, it found minimal difference in force delivered between the two types of gloves, which at least might help to hush those who make a big deal about MMA’s “thin gloves.” However, this doesn’t tell us whether fighters put the same level of force into hitting a bony target when wearing the two types of gloves. Still a YouTube clip of the test is below for your information.


There are other explanations for why MMA fights might be less prone to cause concussions and severe head injuries. For example, there’s less time spent at an optimal distance to deliver strikes with maximal force. Once fighters are in close, there’s less room to get strikes up to speed. Once fighters are on the ground, putting a lot of body weight into a strike may be impossible. While submissions, whether chokes or joint locks, may seem brutal to the home viewing audience, it’s not clear that they result in major injuries to anything but the fighter’s self-esteem. (Though this might be an area that needs to be factored into studies.)

I’d like to see how muay thai compares to the two sports covered in the aforementioned study. I suspect it’s the only combative sport that might beat out these two. (All the nastiness of boxing, none of the close range grappling, plus elbows and shins to the side of the head.) Though, who knows?  Judoka do seem to land on their heads an unfortunate percentage of the time.

I’m curious about what you think about which combative sport is most damaging, and why?

FYI: The citation for the study mentioned above is:
Karpman, Shelby, et al. 2015. Combative Sports Injuries: An Edmonton Retrospective. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. To be published. Available on-line at: Last accessed: November 13, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Inside the Lion’s Den by Ken Shamrock

Inside the Lion's Den: The Life and Submission Fighting System of Ken ShamrockInside the Lion’s Den: The Life and Submission Fighting System of Ken Shamrock by Ken Shamrock

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Inside the Lion’s Den is two (thin) books in one. The first, and longer, part is an autobiography of MMA fighter Ken Shamrock, and the latter part is a guide to his approach to submission fighting.

The first fifteen chapters form the biographical portion of the book. As is common in the modern biography, it doesn’t follow a chronological format. It begins at the height of Shamrock’s UFC career in the mid-1990s and introduces Shamrock and the Lion’s Den (his dōjō in California.) The book does, however, go back in chapter 3 and pick up with Shamrock’s childhood, beginning in 1969 in Savannah, Georgia. Shamrock had a suitably turbulent childhood to merit inclusion in the book. He lived with an abusive father and then a step-father unprepared for such a handful as Shamrock, before he ended up at the ranch of Bob Shamrock who would eventually become his adoptive parent and an important member of his entourage. Ken Shamrock had a raucous and—as is constantly repeated—rage-filled youth.

As might be expected of the biography of a fighter, one trained to psych himself up and psyche opponents out, the book can read a bit narcissistic in spots. Having said that, a fair amount of space in the biographical portion is devoted to topics beyond Shamrock’s fight career. There’s some space devoted to the development of UFC, but even more devoted to Shamrock’s fighters. There’s a chapter that follows a day of tryouts to get a slot as a Lion’s Den fighter. It’s entitled “500 Squats,” reflecting the fact that individuals must first do an insane number of squats as the first round of elimination during the tryouts. Later they’ll have to engage in sparring/rolling with legs burned out as an indicator of how the individual can gut it out. The book offers insight into how an individual goes about breaking into a career in Mixed Martial Arts.

An important theme of the biographical portion of the book is how Shamrock becomes less rage-prone and grows into an adult. This is both the result of the practice of martial arts and his familial relationships–most notably his spousal relationship. This is the human interest part of the story that centers around the man’s most prominent UFC accomplishments.

Perhaps the most important question one can ask about an autobiographical account is whether it’s accurate or not. There’s obviously an incentive to paint oneself in a more favorable light than an objective account might. There’s a professional co-writer of this book, Richard Hanner. One might expect that a professional journalist co-author would lend credulity to the work as that individual has a professional interest–based on reputation–in making sure the details are accurate. Whether Hanner’s presence lends credibility is hard for me to judge (he’s not a national name), but the work does read authentically. Shamrock, unlike politicians, admits many mistakes over the course of his life, and lets the reader know what his takeaway lessons were. Of course, as a public personality, there’s a lot that he couldn’t be duplicitous about if he wanted to, e.g. his fight record and details in the ring.

The last nine chapters are Shamrock’s guide to his submission fighting method. He covers a lot of ground from nutrition to advice for the day of a professional fight. Martial artists will not find a lot of groundbreaking information in this section, but rather will have to dig for nuggets of wisdom in the details. The submission techniques will be well-known to practitioners of judō, jujutsu, and submission fighting. The “crucifix” was the only technique I hadn’t seen before, and for all I know that one may be well-known to Greco-Roman / Pankration wrestlers. The photographs in this section are helpful in communicating Shamrock’s message, but are relatively sparse and small-format compared to the typical martial arts manual.

I enjoyed this book. Shamrock came across as an intriguing multi-dimensional character, and the manual offers a good overview and some important tips on subjects including nutrition, fitness, striking, grappling, and submissions.

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DAILY PHOTO: Helping Hand or Monkey Bite?: You Decide

Taken on March 24, 2014 at Nandi Hills.

Taken on March 24, 2014 at Nandi Hills.

One monkey was hanging off the fascia of Tipu Sultan’s old hunting lodge. The other was either being a helpful monkey–trying to help his brother up–or being a mischievous monkey–trying to make him fall.

You figure out which.

Here’s a photo from moments later.

IMG_1348Still can’t tell?

IMG_1350If you said they were in the middle of a mixed martial arts knock-down-drag-out, you were correct.  Here you can see the monkey who had been hanging getting a single-leg take-down on his tormentor.

FYI- For those who think one needs to get all “roided up” for strength building: Note this apparently puny monkey had the upper body strength to pull himself onto a roof while successfully fighting off an attack.

BOOK REVIEW: Higher Judo by Moshe Feldenkrais

Higher Judo: GroundworkHigher Judo: Groundwork by Moshe Feldenkrais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

If you’re at all familiar with Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, most likely it’s for the system of bodily awareness and efficient movement that bears his name (i.e. the Feldenkrais Method.) You may be completely unaware that Feldenkrais was a first-rate judōka who trained under judō’s founder Jigoro Kano, and that his experience with judō played a major role in his understanding of the principles of natural and efficient movement. (It should be noted that Feldenkrais was neither a medical doctor nor a doctor in a medical / biological field, but was a physicist by training.)

Higher Judō was originally published in 1952, and was out of print for many years until a new addition was brought out in 2010 (with three new forwards and some additional back matter.) It’s not hard to imagine why the book made a comeback after such a hiatus–and 26 years after the death of Dr. Feldenkrais. The book explains the ground fighting techniques of judō, which are the basis of Brazilian Jujutsu (BJJ), and BJJ is a dominant form of ground and submission work within Mixed Martial Arts (MMA.) Given the immense popularity of MMA, and the desire of fighters to hone their technique to the utmost, it’s a good time to bring this half-century old book back to the fore.

The book consists of twelve chapters. The first half of these chapters deals with preliminaries such as principles of movement, philosophy, and basic movement exercises. The second half gets into the tactics of ground work. The arrangement for the latter chapters is largely by position of the competitors relative to each other (e.g. the mount, 12 o’clock, side control, in the guard, etc.)

The first half has few graphics, but the last half is packed with line drawings that are based on photographs (ostensibly it was cheaper or easier to reproduced the line drawings back in the day.) The line drawings offer sufficient detail so that one can see what is being done (to the degree one would be able to see it in a photo or even in person—i.e. some of the techniques are subtle and the written description becomes essential.)

The book is a good overview of the basics of ground work with a few unusual and rare techniques thrown in. Feldenkrais points out that some techniques are more important than others, and that one should drill a few of the most critical ones rather than focusing a lot of time on the more eccentric techniques. As I’ve written many times before, I don’t believe that one can learn a martial art from a book. However, if you’ve been taught these types of techniques, you’re sure to find this book an interesting reference with some ideas for approaching ground work training.

Some of the characteristics of the book could be taken as positive or negative, and I’ll leave it to the reader to decide. First, Feldenkrais avoids using names for techniques. He uses neither the common Japanese names for the techniques (e.g. there’s no reference to juji gatame, tomoe nage, or hadaka jime) nor the common English names. He goes by figure number attached to the aforementioned line drawings. Second, he has thoroughly cross-referenced the book such that you might be on the page containing figures 228 and 229, and he’ll make reference to figure 52. So the book involves a lot of turning back (I wrote in the page numbers where off-page figures were referenced so I wouldn’t have to find what page the figure was on each time.) Third, Feldenkrais is a scholar by training and is not averse getting a bit wordy and verging on abstruse. Of course, the flip-side of this is that he provides a great deal of precision in his language. That being said, I found this book readable and much less ponderous than one of his Feldenkrais Method books that I read.

I’d recommend this book for anyone interesting in gaining a better understanding of ground fighting. In the early sections of the book he provides excellent food for thought about the judō approach to movement, and in the latter half he catalogs the basics in a thorough and logical fashion.

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How to Choose a Muay Thai Gym in Thailand

Tiger MT Beginner's Area. (The mats are up for cleaning to prevent Staph outbreaks.)

Tiger MT Beginner’s Area. (The mats are up for cleaning to prevent Staph outbreaks.)

So you’re going to Thailand and you want to learn a bit of Thai Boxing. Where do you go to train? This is the question under consideration in this post.

I just got back from two weeks of training at Tiger Muay Thai & Mixed Martial Arts on Phuket. This was my second experience training Muay Thai (MT) in Thailand. In October of 2012, I spent 6 days at the Muay Thai Institute (MTI) in Rangsit (a suburb of Bangkok.) The training at both places was awesome, but quite different. This got me thinking about what type of student would find each of these two places ideal. Both of these schools has a niche of students who would find it better suits their needs than the other.

First let me point out a factor that one might think is crucial that really isn’t so much, and that’s price. While I’ve only attended the two schools, I did quite a bit of web research and found that prices don’t range that widely. Particularly in Phuket, where there is a saturation of the market, everybody seems to charge around 3,000 Baht ($91USD) per week—give or take 500Baht. While 2,500 to 3,500 Baht ($76 to $106 USD) might seem like a big gap, there could be very reasonable explanations for why a gym is at the high or low end. Low cost gyms may be more remote, and thus have fewer customers. One should take into account that if one has to rent a scooter or take taxis or pay exorbitant rates for food, one might not be so happy with tuition savings. A gym at the high-end might offer more training opportunities beyond MT, may have more facilities, or may have more prestigious trainers (or just more trainers–period.) [Note: For what you pay you can probably get 24 to 28 hours of classes in per week.]

Now I suspect there are some who will say, “Hey, stop relying on the internet. Find out where locals train. There are gyms that produce winning fighters, but that just aren’t as fancy/web-savvy but are much cheaper.” This may be true, and– if one speaks Thai–that may be the way to go. However, the places that have glitzy English-language websites, usually also have trainers and staff that speak English and that can be a big advantage if one doesn’t know more than Su-was-dee-krap and Kob-Kun-krap.

Note: What I’m saying about price doesn’t necessarily apply to lodging and food. Some gyms offer accommodations and meal plans that may not be competitive with what one can do at local guesthouses and restaurants. Web research should tell you whether you are getting a decent deal staying at the gym. If you don’t mind Spartan accommodations (and I don’t) the baseline gym rooms often offer great savings. I stayed at the gym at both MTI and Tiger, and found it was a good deal (but, again, I don’t need TV, AC, or other luxuries–a bed, a fan, and my Kindle pretty much have me covered.)

Tiger had a meal plan, but I didn’t use it. However, I can’t say that I even looked at its price. I like to try as many different places as I can, and I ate at most of the restaurants and cafes on that strip. I will say there are a lot of cheap, tasty, and nutritious places to eat within walking distance of Tiger. My experiences with the restaurants on the strip were overwhelmingly positive.

So this brings us to what does matter. Some questions you should ask are:
-What is the typical student/trainer ratio?
-What styles are taught at the gym? (i.e. Only Muay Thai or other disciplines as well?)
-Are classes mixed abilities or are there skill level divisions?
-What does the typical class consist of for the level at which you will be training?
-What are the trainers like and how does that jibe with what you need?
-Where is the gym located, and how close is it to the services you’ll need?

Of course, the central question that undergirds five out of six of the questions above is, “What do you want to get out of the training?”

The MTI Gym from my room.

The MTI Gym from my room.

Student/Trainer ratio: How important this is varies radically depending upon what one wants from training. If one is going to class primarily for fitness, having a low student/trainer ratio may not be important. However, if you are looking to improve your technique, it matters greatly because you need attention to the minutest details.

I attended Tiger in peak season and MTI just before peak travel season. That said, I think I can safely say MTI probably always offers lower student/ trainer ratio. (I don’t think MTI’s student attendance is as tourism-cyclic as it has more Thai and expat students and relatively few foreign visitors at a given time. Tiger MT is probably very tourism-centric at the beginner level.) In Rangsit, there was often one trainer to every one or two students. The beginner’s class at Tiger had many students per trainer. However, Tiger offers four separate classes of Muay Thai (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Fighter), and as one moves up there are fewer students per trainer. So if you “test out” of the beginner’s class your ratio gets better.

One should note that at the extremes one may find a low student/trainer to be more a curse than a blessing. First, one will not have many different people to train with, and diversity of training partners is important to growth. Second, having eyes on you every second may become overbearing, particular if the trainer is fixing every tiny error. In such situations, one may never get into the grove.

What do they teach? The two schools I’ve attended were at opposite ends of the spectrum on this issue. MTI taught Muay Thai–that’s it and that’s all. If you just want to improve your Muay Thai, MTI is a great place for it. There’s not the distraction of tons of people coming through doing other things.

Tiger MT, on the other hand, taught about everything there is to teach. If you want to get into Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), they’ve got you covered with classes on MMA tactics, Brazilian Jujutsu (BJJ), and Boxing in addition to Muay Thai. On the other hand, if you’re a martial arts wonk, who likes to get into the evolution of the arts or understand the combat aspects, they also teach Muay Boran and Krabi Krabong. Muay Boran is the unarmed ancestor to Muay Thai, and Krabi Krabong is a weapons system.

Mixed abilities v. Tiered classes: If you are a rank amateur, an advanced practitioner, or a competitive fighter, you may be pleased with multiple tiers of classes. A beginner may be intimidated or uncomfortable training with advanced students. Advanced student may have a lackluster training experience when working with a lot of people who are well below their skill level. On the other hand, if one has a bit of confidence and fitness, one may find a mixed abilities class enjoyable because one gets an opportunity to pit oneself against more skilled or experienced training partners.

In reality there was not much difference between Tiger and MTI here, though it might look like there was. As mentioned, Tiger MT had four different classes for MT and these were held in distinct areas, but all the other courses (e.g. MMA and BJJ) were mixed abilities. At MTI, everybody was taught in one big gym. However, because there was a low student/trainer ratio, there were usually at least three or four distinct groups (sometimes groups of one or two) training concurrently and the gym was big enough for these small groups to not be in each other’s way.

Class schedule: There’s a widespread standard approach to Muay Thai teaching that goes: running laps, other warm-up exercises, drills / shadowboxing, rounds of bag work, rounds of focus mitt drills, rounds of sparring, and cool down exercises. However, the emphasis can vary tremendously from one gym to another. In particular, some schools will make great efforts to drill the basics before putting a student into sparring or teaching more complex tactics. Other schools have their beginners hit the ground running to a greater degree. Each of these approaches will appeal to a certain type of student. Some want to get into the meat of training by sparring as soon as possible even if their fundamentals are a bit shaky. Others are concerned about having solid foundations before building upward.

Of course, this is all a matter of degree. At every gym, beginning students are going to spend more time drilling than sparring—and that’s as it should be. One needs to learn the techniques well before one can have any hope of applying them in a quasi-competitive / competitive environment effectively. Usually the emphasis for beginners will be on getting the basic mechanics down, and intermediate students will spend more time pumping up the power and working on application.

Of the two places I trained, MTI took a like more time and attention with the nitty-gritty details of form and technique, and Tiger gave one a pretty broad experience from the get go, i.e. they got student into light free sparring right away.

What are the trainers like? I’m not just talking about their fight records or whether they were champions or not. Both of the places I trained at had trainers with very impressive fight careers. Also important is the trainer’s disposition. If you’re just trying to get fit and learn a move or two, an intense, scar-faced task-master who works you till you puke and kicks you till you collapse may not be for you. On the other hand, if you’re preparing for a fight or are just deadly serious about your training, the smiling old softy may leave you disheartened. Some students may want someone who is a stickler for detail, and others may want someone who will focus on getting them in better shape. Unfortunately, while you can probably get information about a trainer’s fight history online, you may only be able to get information about their disposition by visiting, trying the place out, or by talking to people who’ve trained there.

It should be noted that a common complaint about many MT gyms is that the trainers don’t seem to care. Students need to understand that they may have to be a little proactive to get the best relationship out of their trainer. Keep in mind that trainers are overwhelmingly extremely driven individuals. Often a trainer has had 200+ fights in their Thai-boxing career, and they still do their own training every single day even if they’re 40 or 50 years old. Plus, they have their own young fighters to train for competition. They will often have a very low interest in–or tolerance for–tourists who just want to half-ass the training as an alternative to jazzercise class. If you want to get their respect and prove worthy of their attention, you’ll need to gut it out day-after-day.

To put this more clearly, don’t whine about the trainer not giving a damn if any of the following apply to you.
-You join laps 20 minutes into class to avoid all the running.
-You leave early so you don’t have to do all those dreadful push-ups at the end of class.
-You take a water break right in the middle of a round of bag work.

Your trainer is someone who has probably:
a. trained until he puked
b. exercised until his muscles literally gave out
c. used the ropes to climb to his feet
If that was you, would you have a lot of enthusiasm for the half-assers?

Keep in mind, the most gregarious trainer may not be the one who’ll give you the best training experience. The guy who doesn’t say a word and seems mean as hell may take the greatest efforts to develop your skills. At MTI there was a trainer who smacked my arm every single time my guard was not perfect.

Location: I’m not just talking about whether it’s beach-adjacent or not. (Some may find nearby beaches or nightlife too tempting or distracting, while others may be into that.) There are a range of services you’ll want ready access to such as laundry, ATM, food of variety, taxi services / scooter rental, the occasional Thai Massage, and massive amounts of bottled water.

MTI was located in a Bangkok suburb. If you don’t mind a good walk, pretty much everything one might need or want was within walking distance via shopping malls, 7-Elevens, and even hardware stores. Tiger was in a less developed area, but it was on a stretch of road that was littered with MT gyms and fitness centers, and so all the essential businesses a foreign student would need were plentiful on that strip of road, and it was a short ride to Phuket Town for those things that long-term visitors might unexpectedly find that they needed.

If you are interested in martial arts, I’d highly recommend putting in some time at a MT gym while you’re visiting Thailand. It’s exhausting, but worth it. I hope this post will give you some food for thought about what to consider in picking a gym.