Muay Thai gym 2

The next gym I visited was located beneath an overpass near the National Stadium. This gym is named Poolsawat. The master is named Nan (uncle) Dam, and he was a fighter back in the day, and a local champion. As with Sit Chaansing, there are ten students (here, aged 8-20) that Nan Dam has selected to train, and the students don’t pay. Poolsawat is obviously better furnished than Sit Chaansing; the club is sponsored by a local Chinese-Thai businessman who wants to make his name as a philanthropist for young people. Nan Dam has been training students for 28 years, the last four of them at Poolsawat.

The two best fighters are two half-brothers, nicknamed Fais and First, both aged 20, whose father owns the boxing club. (Fais also had the most interesting tattoos.) As I did with Sit Chaansing, I sent the photographs to my contact and asked him to give me the names of various students and trainers, but I couldn’t connect all the names with the images, so I don’t have complete captions (but I do have a lesson learned: get the information you need when you’re there).​

The training area, located under the overpass. Nan Dam applies an analgesic ointment to First’s hand; Fais’ tattoo; a poster advertising First’s appearance as flyweight champion at the local arena.
Khun Poom, one of the trainers, works with a younger student as two others grapple with each another; that student later lands a solid kick against his practice partner. Fais spars (gently) with the other student later, to help train him, while First delivers a kick of his own.
Nan Dam works with one of the students outside the ring; more training between students and trainers. There was some glove work while I was there, but most of the days’ activities seemed to be focused on legwork.

Muay Thai gym 1

On a recent photowalk, I came across a Muay Thai training gym tucked behind a small Chinese temple on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. Using my limited Thai, I was able to find out when they practiced, and I went back later that week to photograph the practice. The week after that, I returned with a translator so I could get a better idea of what I was seeing.

The gym is called Sit Chaansing. It is named for the master, as coaches are referred to in Muay Thai, who trained the current Muay Thai master, Chanamet Tongsalay. Chanamet is known, in traditional Thai fashion, by his nickname, Oat. Oat has trained in Muay Thai since he was a youngster, and although he never competed himself, he now trains ten boys aged 11-20. The students have come to learn to be professional Muay Thai fighters, and some of them already have won local championships. The younger ones attend school during the day, but the older ones train full-time for competitions in Thailand and Asia. Oat has given each one a boxing name based on his fighting style.

The students train together with Oat six days a week, from 4:00-6:00 pm. The school is free for the students; Oat works as a cloth trader during the day to support himself, and he runs the school through the funds that the fighters make from competing. (By law, Muay Thai students are allowed to keep half of the earnings they receive from participating in competitions, and they turn over the other half to their school.) The gym itself sits on donated land, so there are few operating costs. Oat also economizes; the defensive pads that he wears, for example cost 3,000 baht (about $90), so he tapes them up to extend their life.

Bikbot practices the crocodile swings tail (jorakhae fat hang), a spinning heel kick. Sutgawon practices tae tat, the common roundhouse kick. Bikbot and Sutgawon practice the shin block (kan duai khaeng), used to block leg kicks. Krung Siam practices tae tat. At 11, he is the youngest member of the school, but Oat thinks he has the makings of a champion.
Students practice their punches while bouncing on tires. Pet Baan Rai practices the basic knee strike (tee thon). Oat is helping him practice keeping his balance. Faa Sangpractices Hak Kho Erawan (break the great elephant Erawan’s neck) on Oat. Lek Laay practices tee thon with Pet Baan Rai. Oat thinks he is the best fighter at the school.
Bikbot rests after sparring. The students work out with the punching bags. Krung Siam checks out details of Sutgawon’s back tattoo.  The students practice while Oat repairs the defensive pads.