Tips for Selecting a Muay Thai training camp AKA – gym/school

#1 Ensure that the all the instructors actually teach Muay Thai – Thai Boxing. This may sound ridiculous, but there are numerous “McMuay Thai” schools and teachers appearing all over the U.S. and Europe that are really teaching kick boxing or greatly watered down Muay Thai. Thanks to YouTube, anyone can watch a few videos and put together something that looks like Muay Thai to an uneducated eye. Many of these buffet style schools have just added Muay Thai as a flavor of the month, simply to generate more income and try to remain relevant. Here are some tough questions to ask…. (be prepared for some ducking and weaving here).

Was the Instructor/Kru teaching a different “martial” art or aerobic fitness boxing recently?

Does the instructor have a multitude of black belts in a bunch of unrelated “martial” arts acquired in record breaking time?

Has the instructor actually been to Thailand? (Not one bar-hopping 30 day vacation in Phuket).

Did the instructor buy a teacher “Kru” certification from one of the many salesmen? (Some are even selling Kru certificates via DVD training courses online and yes, some are Thai).

Do they advertise with terms like “Kick-Boxing”? Any genuine Muay Thai teacher will have a strong aversion to the term “kick-boxing” being used in relation to Muay Thai in any way. Kick-Boxing is a much watered down, poor copy of Muay Thai from Japan.

Ask them if they clinch and then ask them to demonstrate it. Very few instructors outside of Thailand can properly teach clinching and elbow techniques. Do they teach proper traps, locks, chokes, throws and sweeps? Clinching is an entire art in itself. If you step into the ring with someone that has been trained properly and you have not, you will regret it….

*Now here is a huge red-flag. Do the instructors actually do Thai pad work one-on-one with you, or do they just give pads to another untrained student to hold? This is very important, Thai pad holding is an entire specialized skill set that takes years to learn. If you don’t have proper pad training the pad holder or student can easily be injured. If a trainer doesn’t do pad work with you one-on-one…then it’s not the real deal. You will never see students holding pads in a camp in Thailand.

Do the instructors insist on doing Thai conditioning drills? This is also very, very important part of Muay Thai. Tire training, rope work, road work, knee drills, heavy sand bag conditioning to strengthen bones. If they don’t do it keep looking.

Is the school quiet during training? Real Muay Thai camps are very, very noisy and I’m not talking about music.

Are they conducting training in an air conditioned, strip mall box?

Do they teach correct defense skills or do they just try to wear you out with the fun stuff hitting bags or pads?

Do they require you to learn and perform the Ram Muay-Wai Kru? If they say “what’s that” or “that’s some stuff only Thais do” Keep looking. By Thailand law, you must perform the ritual before a professional fight.

Do they have a made-up rank system or charge rank test fees? (Belts are a Western marketing ploy that first infected Karate after WWII and then Tae Kwon Do after the Korean war and Kung Fu after Bruce Lee made it big in U.S. movies). If your would-be teacher says they have a black belt in Muay Thai, walk away.

Do they teach ring strategy and full Thai rules regulations? Does the school actually have a full rules fight team with professionaliy trained seconds, cut-men and corner-men?

Have all the instructors actually extensively trained and/or fought in Thailand? Zero trips? Once? Keep looking, there simply is no short cut around this. Hint – (Passport stamps).

Note, just because someone was a great fighter doesn’t necessarily mean they can confer that knowledge on to you. Lots of professional fights, especially outside Thailand, does not guarantee you a good instructor either. In fact, Muay Thai fights in the U.S. mean little to nothing in Thailand.