Jittis Gym, Bangkok – the Fighting Photographer drops in for a taste of authentic Thai training.
Way, way back in the early days of my martial arts training, when I had just started in Karate, I read an article in a martial arts magazine, about a guy who travelled to Bangkok and trained at Jittis Gym. After reading the article, I wrote a letter to Jittis Gym, asking about the training and was very surprised to receive a reply and an open invitation from Jitti to train at the gym.
I wrote that letter almost twenty years ago and I still have Jitti’s return letter and finally after all these years, I managed to honour Jitti’s kind invitation and took part in an afternoon class. I was over in Thailand on a six weeks training vacation and for the first week, I was training at Bangkok BJJ with black belt Adam Kayoom; Adam was busy preparing for a Thai fight in Bangkok and was already training at the gym, so I made my way with Adam and took my first real Muay Thai class.
The journey to the gym was an adventure in itself, as we took a scooter taxi to the train station, weaving in and out of the heavy traffic on the Suhkumvit Road, before getting off and catching the underground to Ratchadapisek station. A five minute walk from the station brings you to Jittis Gym, a very non descript back street indeed, nothing like I envisioned it to be.
To be fair, the place should be called Jittis Outdoor Thai Boxing Gym, as that was the general lay out of the place, everything is covered by a tin roof; there is a small kitchen and eating area, dorms for the fighters and then the gym itself. Walking in to the gym, on the left is the boxing ring and warm up area, to the right a matted area and a small weights section and that’s your lot. Being at the nucleus of Thai boxing, you do not get more authentic than this and all over the walls, fight posters and pictures of stadium champions jostled with UFC and Pride posters and I spotted a Caged Steel poster on the wall too.
First things first, the warm up; even though the weather was stiflingly hot, I was handed a heavy set of tube skipping ropes and started to warm up and dispense almost fifty per cent of my body weight in sweat onto the mats. Hydration is paramount when training in Thailand, the last thing you need is the cramps or even worse, passing out from dehydration.
As the saying goes, ‘it’s a small world’ and it was certainly the case for me at the gym, as I bumped into a few guys from the UK, Darren O’ Connor from Liverpool and Jamie Lee, who trains with Ozzy Haluk at Manchester Ground and Pound. Both fighters had recently fought at the stadiums in Bangkok and were on light training for the afternoon.
Shadow boxing followed the ropes, with plenty of sit ups and leg raises and other conditioning exercises and then I was summoned in to the ring by one of the trainers; not being one of the most skilful of strikers, I was pretty nervous not to make a complete fool of myself, but after a minute with the pad man, I was made to feel like a seasoned pro. They shouted out punching combos, always finishing with a kick, followed by elbow and knee combos and then mixing everything up in the last minute, bringing to an end a five minute round. Walking back to the corner, another trainer was at hand to pour ice-cold water over your head and give you a quick massage and stretch and then it was back in the ring for another five minute round.
In total, I managed eight rounds and was ready to collapse and die in the ring, but the session was far from over; climbing out of the ring, I went onto the other mats and went through half a dozen rounds of shadow boxing and twenty minutes clinch work, before completing another six rounds on the focus mitts with another trainer, once again hitting the pads like a pro, thanks to their skills.
More conditioning followed and finally the session was at an end and twenty minutes of stretching and massaging ended the session and when I looked at the clock, three and half hours had passed in the blink of an eye and another box ticked off from my Bucket List.
I can honestly say I have never ever sweated as much in my entire life in a training session like I did that afternoon in Bangkok and I had another six weeks of training like this to look forward to, both in Bangkok and Phuket. The Thai trainers are unbelievable in their skills on the pads, even more so in making me look like a Lumpini veteran in less than five minutes; I learned so much in such a short a space of time from the trainers, all their tips and advice coming with a large friendly smile.
I was in the homeland of Thai Boxing training and felt privileged and honoured to take part and experience a training session alongside pro fighters who were all hard at it preparing for upcoming fights at the stadiums; I even met Jitti and explained to him about me sending the letter to him many years and he flashed a big wide smile and shook my hand said I was very welcome to come and train there again.
Wringing out my training shorts and t shirt, I headed back to the train station with Adam and went back to the hotel, via the underground and Sky Train, looking forward to a nice meal of noodles and chicken before joining in the BJJ session later in the evening. BJJ and MMA in the Far East is gaining fast in popularity and when you have the best Thai Boxing gyms in the world to hone your skills and compliment your MMA arsenal, you’re well on your way to becoming a force to be reckoned with.
One off drop in training fee – 400 Baht (less than £10 sterling).