Since the decade of the 1960's, Eastern forms of combat and martial arts have become more and more popular with people in Western countries. Muay Thai, the unique form of sport and marital arts developed in Thailand, has benefited from this interest.
As time has past, a growing numbers of Westerners have come to Thailand to get authentic, first hand experience learning and doing Muay Thai. Many others, while they don't actually do it themselves, are interested in Muay Thai and want to include Muay Thai events in their vacations.
Phuket Island have become the centers of Muay Thai tourism in Thailand. In many ways, this is probably something that was simply meant to be as Thai and foreign Muay Thai enthusiasts and entepreneurs realized that Phuket was already a magnet for foreigners as they liked its climate and comfortable atmosphere. It was a logical development for them to set about to make a market in a place where large numbers of foreigners could be depended on to come.
Muay Thai activities are not found all over the island, but they are found throughout much of the southern half of it. Phuket town, Patong beach, Rawai beach, Karon beach, Kata beach, and Chalong beach all have opportunities for participating in and observing Muay Thai. One should note, however, that there is a wide range in the quality of the opportunities available.
There are three or four "stadiums" on Phuket Island – actually these are rather small facilities housing only a few hundred spectators - where one may watch authentic and honest fighting.
Contests are also held in hotels and bars, but the legitimacy of these competitions has been frequently questioned. Many gyms basically cater to Muay Thai enthusiasts but offer little or no instruction or assistance, while other gyms offer individualized instruction on a daily basis.
Others offer programs of study or training. Then, there are camps which offer concentrated study for fairly long periods of time and often provide students with accommodation, or at least help them get it. Some gyms and teachers are here today and gone tomorrow, while others have been around for quite awhile and are generally well respected.
Those interested in watching Muay Thai might be able to do this by simply dropping by a gym or camp as many of them welcome visitors. Those desiring to attend more official types of contests can visit established stadiums in Phuket town and Patong Beach.
Phuket town: Whether true or not, it is said that those in Phuket town, at the Phuket Stadium at Sapharn Hin, are the most authentic. contests are held there on Tuesdays and Fridays at 20:00, although times do change.
Patong Beach: One may view Muay Thai at the Patong Boxing Stadium on Sai Namyen Road, and The Bangla Stadium at the intersection of Bangla and Rat-U-Thit Roads (above the Margarita Bar). Contests are held two to three nights weekly. Ticket prices range from 1,000 to 1,500 baht.
Kata Beach There is also said to be a stadium in Kata, although whether this is simply an extension of the Rawai Muay Thai Camp and Gym is unclear.
Chalong Beach: A "stadium" in Chalong, the Suwit Muay Thai Boxing Stadium, is clearly affiliated with the Suwit Muay Thai school located there, which is NOT necessarily any kind of problem.
Contests on Chalong beach, and Kata beach facility, might actually be quite authentic and exciting. It should be noted that almost all contests on Phuket Island – except those at hotels and bars, of course - are arranged, directly or indirectly, by the operators of various gyms and camps, and serve as venues for their students. Highly regarded Thai contenders do not fight on Phuket Island.
As for participating in or studying Muay Thai, it is not easy to get answers to the questions that need to be asked, most noteably, "Which gym or camp is best for me?" This is because there is no comprehensive, authoritative guide to refer to. No one even really knows for sure how many facilities there are on Phuket Island!!
Perhaps the closest thing to an authoritative source is that there are about 40 camps or Muay Thai gyms on the island. Among these training camps are:
Rawai Muay Thai Camp. It was founded in 2003 by a former Thai champion and is located in the Chalong – Rawai Beach area. It trains 40 to 50 foreign students a month and can provide accommodations. The founder is assisted by his five younger brothers.
Tiger Muay Thai and MMA Phuket, which was founded in 2004 by two Americans. They train 36 students a month and provide various levels of accommodation. It is located southwest of Phuket town.
Phuket Thai Boxing Camp and Gym, founded by an American in 2003. It trains about 15 students at a time and is located in the Kata Beach area
Another way to investigate gyms and camps is to go to the website www.muaythailand.com, which is a place for Muay Thai gyms and camps in Thailand to introduce themselves to prospective students.
Schools can list their websites and complete a comprehensive questionnaire which answers many of the questions students usually ask. There is also a section where former and prospective students can comment on the various schools.
Presently, thirteen gyms and camps from Phuket Island are listed:
Unfortunately, finding a place to train is largely a hit and miss, touch and go affair. It requires a lot of internet research. Prospective students need to read the websites of individual facilities carefully.
Responsible and respectable facilities will be happy to correspond with prospective students through e-mail and will answer student inquires promptly. Legitimate schools are also usually happy for prospective students to come and visit their facilities and to personally ask questions and observe what is going on.
Of course, the strongest form of recommendation or warning comes from word-of-mouth sources, and these are not easy for people who do not already have contacts on Phuket Island to get.
Most facilities offer short-term training opportunties which are a good opportunity for prospective students to check things out before making a longer term commitment, so this option should always be considered. Of course, it should be remembered that many facilities are quite happy to have students visit and pay on a daily basis.