Monsoon Gym & Fight Club is the home of Muay Thai training on Koh Tao. In 2002, we started our Muay Thai training program out of the corner of our wright training gym where we had a single bag hanging and some rubber mats on the floor. Then along came a former Southern Thailand Champion Muay Thai fighter who asked us if he could train Muay Thai out of the facility.
In no time we grew out of that location and moved into a second, which eventually succumbed to the forces of nature. Now our 3rd location is among the best in the Gulf of Thailand. Located on the Koh Tao main road just 50 meters from Koh Tao’s famous Sairee Beach, Monsoon Gym & Fight Club offers easy access to great food, drinks, nightlife, shopping and some of the best places to watch the sunset anywhere in Thailand!
Monsoon Gym & Fight Club employs trainers with extensive experience in both training and fighting throughout Thailand. Some have hundreds of fights. They all are able to communicate in both English and Thai, and they are some of the most easy-going Muay Thai fighters around- outside of the ring, at least!
A typical Muay Thai session with Monsoon Gym will be catered to your level of skills and what you would like to gain from the sport. If you are a beginner, we will ask that you do some sort of a warm-up for about 10 minutes. Whether it is skipping on the mats or going into the gym to use the cardio equipment, we want to muscles to get heated up and for our guys to get a sweat on to decrease the risk of injury or muscle pain after the session.
If you are a seasoned Nak Muay (student), we will ask you to come early and go for a run before starting the skipping.
Next we will wrap your hands and ask you to do a few minutes of shadow boxing (for those who are trained), or we will take novice Muay Thai students through some basic offensive strikes and defensive positions. Then we will have everyone alternate between rounds on the bag, rounds with the trainers holding pads and correcting your form, and a rest round. We will usually get through 4 to five rotations like this.
Most of our classes will then move on to either some clinch training or sparring (for those who are keen). All of our guys love to spar and will be happy to accommodate sparring in every class- regardless of your level. The idea of the sparring and clinch training is to practice what you have learned rather than to show deficiencies. Our trainers simply love to teach their sport and are always respect people who are interested in learning.
Towards the end of class, the trainers will put you through a 5-10 minute mini circuit training session just to make sure you have not missed any of the muscle groups along the way. And that is finished off with a 5-10 minute stretching session. Then we do it all over again in the afternoon!
Students are encouraged to listen to their bodies and give themselves a break when they feel they need it. That is, unless they are training for a fight. In that case, the trainers will push beyond what you think you can handle. At Monsoon Gym, as at many authentic Muay Thai gyms in Thailand, our philosophy towards fight training is embodied by the Thai maxim “Train hard. Fight Easy.”
The history of Muay Thai in Thailand is long and rich. Muay Thai’s roots can be traced back at least to the Sukhothai dynasty in the 1200’s where it was taught to soldiers to protect the kingdom. It may have originated even earlier, but it is hard to determine. Over the intervening 800 years or so, it has developed along various lines in different areas of Thailand. Each region was known for slightly different styles and techniques while the rules and overall basis of the sport is classified as ‘Muay Thai’.
Traditional Muay Thai bouts are largely unchanged from its origins. In the days of the Sukhothai dynasty, live music was played during bouts, which began slowly and picked up rhythm and pace throughout the fights. The Muay Thai fighters followed the pace and likewise built their attacking speed and power as the rounds wore on. Today’s Muay Thai fights still follow the same tempo, though the music is recorded.
As it was once used as a weapon of war, Muay Thai fighters once were trained to strike opponents in their throats,and knees. Headbutts and eye pokes were once standard attacks. Today each of those is ruled illegal.
Known as ‘The Art of 8 Limbs’ fighters are now allowed to strike with kicks, punches, elbows and knees. In addition, they can score points with sweeps in which they put their opponents on the ground.
One thing that sets Muay Thai apart from other martial arts is the mutual respect that opponents seem to have for each other. Unlike other sports, trash-talking-spitting and swearing, both inside and outside of the ring is frowned upon. In fact, the respect between fighters seems to be genuine and even the Thai spectators and judges demand it. Though a Muay Thai match may end in a draw, it rarely does. And considering there is one winner and one loser, both must do so while showing reverence to each other and the traditions of the sport. This allows even the losing competitor to save face and receive respect.
Muay Thai was largely unknown outside of Thailand until the allied forces came to Thailand to expel the Japanese from the area during WWII. It was then that Westerners first witnessed some Muay Thai exhibitions and were impressed by the elegance, brutality and prowess of the fighters.
After the war, the soldiers went home, and the sport of Muay Thai largely went back to its relative obscurity outside of Thailand’s borders. As communities worldwide re-built, the national sport of the little known country in Southeast Asia was soon forgotten to western consciousness.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s and the rise of another combat sport that Muay Thai again was given an international stage.
The International Kickboxing Federation, and other various alphabet soups of kickboxing and karate organizations, slowly began to capture viewer’s attention. The sport of kickboxing under many different rule sets was on the rise. It was an incredibly entertaining, made-for-TV sport with lots of action, blood and bravado.
By the mid-1970’s , many people started to take notice of the one-time novelty and broadcasters were looking for new diversions during the long, slog of the summer baseball season. To further promote the sport, a nationally televised exhibition between undefeated kickboxing champion Rick Roufus and a little-known Muay Thai fighter was staged in Las Vegas.
The negotiated rules did not allow for Muay Thai knees, elbows or throws. However, one important concession was made to the Muay Thai fighter, Changpuek “The White Elephant” Kiatsongkrit, allowing low kicks to the legs. And that was enough of an opening for the Muay Thai fighter. Normal kickboxing rules only allow for kicks above the belt, but low kicks are highly effective at stopping an opponent’s advance, interrupting their rhythm and inflicting damage and pain. Defending them is an art unto itself. An art in which Roufus had no training.
Going into the bout, few believed that Changpuek had any chance against the much bigger and taller Roufus who was entering his prime. In the first round Roufus landed a knockdown and also a kick to the head which broke Changpuek’s jaw. It wasn’t enough to stop the Thai’s attack, though. Known as incredibly tough fighters, Thais are famous for fighting through pain and injury.
Roufus put on a great display of flashy kicks to the head and body of Kiatsongkrit. He also showed good boxing skills and was well on top of the Thai early. But in the ensuing rounds ‘The White Elephant’ made adjustments to defend the high kicks of the American and began relentlessly attacking his opponent’s legs.
The kickboxer was slowed by the brutal leg kicks and had no answer for the Muay Thai fighter’s improved guard. By the third round it was clear that the leg kicks would prevail. But Rick Roufus was a champion and had never tasted defeat as a professional and soldiered on. At many points he literally ran in the ring to escape the blistering kicks of the Kiatsongkrit, but he refused to give up. Finally, in the fifth he went went down for the last time. His knee was shattered and his legs were a tangled mess of angry bruises. He needed to be carried from the ring and was rushed to the hospital to check the extent of his damage.
Rick Roufus’ brother and trainer, Duke, commented from the ring that the Thai fighter had nothing but the leg kicks. He maintained that Rick was still the superior fighter notwithstanding the fact that his brother was clearly outclassed. In his defense, Duke Roufus later became a convert to Muay Thai and later maintained that it was one of the best martial arts around. He even made trips to Thailand to learn its secrets. His kickboxing brother later said that the only satisfaction he felt after the fight was that Kiatsongkrit was in the hospital bed next to him with the broken jaw that he suffered early in the fight.
With the victory, the sport of Muay Thai and its warriors were finally given the recognition that they deserved. Not only could they fight on the same stage as western-trained and bigger opponents, but they could even upstage their champions. For this reason the Roufus-Kiatsongkrit fight is considered among the Muay Thai cognoscenti as “The Fight that Change History’.
For millennia, martial artists from around the world have claimed their sport to be superior. Whether it’s Aikido or Judo from Japan, Chinese Kung Fu, Western Boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitu, Korean Tae Kwon Do, Russian Sambo, Israeli Krav Maga or any of the 170 or so other practiced fighting styles, debates have long been held about which is the most effective.
The ancient Greeks practiced a form of no-holds-barred fights pitting practitioners of various fight styles together. This was also done during the Han Dynasty in China. Which is the best form of fighting has been an age-old question. The subject was meant to be put to rest again in the 1990’s with the rise of Mixed Martial Arts. Though it was first an attempt to determine which art form was superior, in fact, the result was that fighters of different styles realized that to be the ultimate weapon, they needed to be adept at multiple different styles.
What has since emerged is the belief that a good stand-up fight style combined with some form of ground game was the best combination to produce wins in an open fight. And Muay Thai was again proven to be the most effective standing martial art by a majority of MMA fighters. So, much so that virtually everyone fighting at the top of the biggest promotions has done extensive Muay Thai training- most even journeying to Thailand to get an immersive Muay Thai experience.