For the past two weeks I have been training at the Santai Muay Thai gym (http://muay-thai-santai.com). The gym is located about 30 kms outside of Chiang Mai in a district called San Kamphaeng. I will post separately about San Kamphaeng.
The gym is located next to Wat Santai and is built on the temple’s land, which is why it’s called Santai Gym. The gym has two rings with two separate areas of punching bags. It has a roof but is open concept so you are still essentially training outside. The gym is run extremely well by Nik and Ood. Ood has the patience of a saint because I’m pretty sure she felt like she was babysitting us adult children half the time.
There are students here from all over the world: Singapore, England, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Sweden, US, France and surprisingly quite a few from the Greater Toronto Area. Students train for various lengths of time. Some are there short term like myself and others anywhere from one month to six months. The ability of students range from absolute beginner to seasoned fighters.
The first few days of training were absolutely BRUTAL. On the second day I thought to myself – ‘Will I ever be able to lift my arms above the shoulders again?’ ‘If I quit now I will only lose X amount of dollars.’ it really was a mind over body pain experience and it did get much better after a few days and one morning of rest.
At Santai, they train six days a week with Sunday being the rest day. I started on a Monday so was in it for the long haul. Daily training is as follows:
5:00am Alarm sounds. SNOOOOOOOOOOOOOZE. Attempt to sleep through many snoozes but the roosters are evil and won’t let me sleep.
5:45am Out the door for the walk to Santai. I stayed at one of their guesthouses located about 500 m away.
My room at the guesthouse
6:00am Start the 4.5km warm up jog. The route travels through the local neighborhood with a small portion on the highway. There are many cows, roosters, and dogs running around at this time. There is also a small market at one of the intersections that always made my mouth water from the smell of BBQ.
6:45am Begin putting on hand wraps. This used to be a two minute process for me until the trainers showed me their style of wrapping. It’s much more laborious (I have to unravel and then roll them up the opposite way before beginning) but far more effective. They no longer come loose after an hour of training! Yay! Learned something before I even started punching.
7:00am – 8:00am This time is devoted to technique. The trainers come around and help you with your technique or show you new moves. Some mornings they get you to do sparring drills with the other students. The mornings are great because you get lots of attention from the trainers and it’s cooler temperature wise.
Two of the trainers at a BBQ
8:00am – 11:00am SHOWER. Sweet sweet shower to rid my body of the liniment, sweat and dirt. Grab breakfast at one of the local places.
11:00am – 3:30pm Nap, run errands and read. The afternoon nap is crucial. A normal person nap would normally last about 20 minutes. After training naps lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours and I certainly had no problems falling asleep at night.
4:00pm Start the 4.5km jog for the second time. If my legs were feeling particularly tired I would skip with the heavy rope instead.
5:00pm – 6:00pm Pad work. Each trainer is assigned anywhere from 1 to 3 students depending on how many people show up that day. Pad rounds last 5 minutes with 1 minute break in between for rest and water. Depending on your fitness level you would do 3 to 5 consecutive rounds. This is where the blood, sweat and tears begins. All newcomers to the gym go through Kru Phon. He really emphasizes technique during pad rounds. I think I will have nightmares of him yelling “HANDS UP” and “BLOCK”. My arms and hands would start in high guard and then slowly drop further and further from exhaustion until I was no longer protecting my face and THWUMP I get smacked in the head and rightfully so. I think he also enjoyed kicking me as I have the reflexes of a snail when it comes to the leg block. Still working on my balance!
Pad work with one of the trainers. ©Santai Muay Thai
6:00pm – 6:20pm CLINCHING! After pad rounds the trainers would yell CLINCHING upon which I would shudder and try to hide behind a punching bag. I absolutely despise clinching because I am so terrible at it and I always come out with a sore neck because I’m so terrible. But they would always find me and drag me to the ring for many rounds of clinching. I’m thankful for this because I have learned so much from them and the other students. I also enjoyed the fact that the little kids, weighing probably 50 lbs less than me, could still easily outmaneuver me and throw me to the ground.
This a 10kg weight attached to a football helmet. You lift this to strengthen your neck. I only put this on for the pic.
6:20pm – 7:00pm 100 kicks on the bag and 100 knees or teeps on the bag. Some days they had sprints or walking knees around the parking lot. After these drills were completed we would all get in the ring for group sit ups. Everyone counted a set of ten so the total was dependent on the number of people who showed up. Then each student would lead a stretch for ten seconds. I thought this was a great way to the end the session as a team.
7:00pm – 10:00pm Shower, eat and go to bed.
Muay Thai, shower, eat, sleep, muay Thai, shower, eat, sleep REPEAT!
Wednesday and Saturday afternoons were different because they substitute pad rounds for Western boxing sparring and muay Thai sparring respectively.
Saturday mornings you have the option to run up the mountain located closer to Chiang Mai. At the top is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. You meet at the gym at 5am and are driven to the base of the mountain. It is approximately 11 kms to the temple. I attempted this on my second Saturday. I tried my best but unfortunately only made it half way. My calves and glutes were used to only flat terrain and wouldn’t obey my brain to keep moving. I met Ood at the half point check and rode shotgun the rest of the way up to meet the other guys running. There is always next time! I will have to pre-train on hills before attempting again.
At the top of the mountain.
The gym also organizes some fun social activities. When fighters from the gym had a fight we would all pile in the trucks and head to Kalare Stadium in Chiang Mai to support. It had been a long time since I’d ridden in the back of a pick-up truck on a highway. The stadium is really just a few rows of ringside plastic chairs and metal stands but still had the excitement of a larger stadium. The gym also organized two bbqs while I was there.
Jordan getting rubbed down before his fight.
At Kalare Stadium in Chiang Mai. ©Santai Muay Thai
Overall, training at Santai was a lot of fun. The trainers are both hilarious and great with technique. I’m glad I chose to train up North as opposed to down in Phuket. The weather was great despite being caught in a couple downpours (it is the rainy season). The humidity didn’t bother me and was actually great for my muscles and joints. I feel like I’m slowly straightening out that computer hunch and stiff neck from the PhD.
I’m sad that my training is over but am excited for new adventures in Nepal.