I left Chiang Mai yesterday around noon. I was not looking forward to drive up to Pai. It’s 130 km (approx. 75 miles) but takes a little over 3 hours because half of it is all uphill into the mountains. Three hours is not bad for a drive, but the sharp turns that the drive entails gives me serious motion sickness. I felt good driving into town, not only because the ride was over but because Pai is a wonderful little town and the training at True Bee is the best I have had in Thailand. I’ll get into why I think that in a bit. As I came up to the camp I could already hear the camp staff Eck going “Somchai ueee Somchai” a few meters ahead I heard Ae one of the trainers start singing the same thing. Somchai is what everyone in Thailand calls me. I got the name the first time I came to Thailand three years ago from a lady in a restaurant who couldn’t say Bashir. Every time I met someone new I would tell them my name is Bashir and they had a terrible time saying it and I would tell them they could just call me Somchai. In the end everyone chooses to call me Somchai. It’s a very old, very traditional name and so people get a kick out of calling a foreigner such a name. The “Somchai ueee Somchai” is something that a lot of people would sing as I walked past or when they would see me. This went on for a while and I never understood why. I found out it’s a very famous song about a guy named Somchai who leaves his village and is missed. Anyway, Out of the 25 or so trainers that I have gotten to know over my trips to Thailand I would say a good 10-15 of them start singing this song when they see me.
Back on track. I walked up to the camp just as everyone was training. It was good to see everyone and good to see the camp. Not much had changed. I dropped my bags inside the little room by the gym and got ready to train. I will be staying at the gym for a few days until I get my living situation sorted out. Originally I had planned on staying at the gym with the trainers for the whole three months I am going to be here but since I last left they have gotten 3 new trainers and now have 3 kids living in here as well. Bee also moved out of his in town and is staying at the gym as well. Last time I stayed here it was me, Eck (camp staff) and one of the older trainers, Pi Aun who is not here anymore. So, 3 of us in two 3 x 5 meters rooms. Now it is 7-8 people in here to sleep and with me it makes up to 9. When it is time to sleep there is no floor space only mattresses on the floor. I don’t mind but I don’t want to make things more difficult for everyone else here. So Bee is trying to get me a deal on the bungalows nearby so I can stay there for cheap for 3 months.
There are two main reasons why True-Bee gym has become my favorite place to train in Thailand. It’s the most authentic Thai camp out of all the Farang gyms that I have been to. What I mean by that is the way it is run and the atmosphere surrounding it. First of all the physical location of the gym is great. It is surrounded by rice fields, a very simple bamboo village, some very basic bamboo bungalows and a great backdrop of lush green rolling hills. There are a whole bunch of chickens running around in the camp as well as some dogs that the camp has adopted. Next door to the camp is a traditional Thai family living in a bamboo hut, they are living very basic and bathe outside under a make shift shower. Every day during training you watch farmers till their fields across from the gym, very cliché Muay Thai camp surroundings. I think it’s great.
Add to that the trainers. First of all they are all from Isaan save for one of the new guys “Tree” who is from Pai district. Isaan is the home of the champions. To name a few fighters from Isaan, Yodsanklei, Saenchai, Jomthong, and Buakaw. You get Isaan trainers in Bangkok, but most of the trainers whom I have met in Phuket are from Southern Thailand. Not to take anything away from them, because great fighters come out of Southern Thailand as well such as Nam Sak Noi but Isaan is where 75% of the Thai champions come from because of the rugged life and poverty that they live in. Isaan is all rural and the poorest part of the country. The camp that I was at before, Sor. King Star is also in the heart of Isaan. One of the reasons that I enjoy the fact that the trainers are Khon Isaan (People of Isaan) is that I personally enjoy the life, food and people of Isaan more than any where else in Thailand. The trainers here love the fact that I can eat Isaan food at Thai spice levels and can speak a bit of their dialect.
There is no business atmosphere at the gym at all. Yes you have to pay. But you don’t have a cash register and receipt greeting you like at some camps (i.e Tiger Muay Thai). Every camp I have been to the trainers have been great and there is always a great bond formed between everyone. At True-Bee this camaraderie is taken to another level, students are always asked to eat with the trainers after the training session, and are invited to their homes for dinner or just to hang out. I have noticed that Bee always has a very close relationship with his students and even after two months here I felt these guys were like my family. I actually missed them the whole time I was in Pakistan.
True Bee gym is unlike most other Farang Gyms in Thailand, because this camp is run entirely by Thai people. Most gyms that cater to Farang with good reps are run by Farang. To name a few, Kaewsamrit, Legacy, Lanna, Tiger, and Rawai. These are gyms that I have trained at and know for a fact are run by foreigners. Please note I am saying this to say that the training there is, because of this fact inferior. Not in any sense. I do not imply that at all. These are top notch camps that top fighters have gone to train for their fights. But it does give the camp a different vibe. And if one wants to come to Thailand to not only make their Muay Thai better but really understand the culture and lifestyle of a Muay Thai camp without having to go to a camp where no one speaks English True Bee hands down has the upper hand in that respect out of all the farang camps I have trained at. No one even comes close. I am not saying that they don’t exist. I just haven’t come across any yet. You get to see a lot of interesting things about Thai culture, for example the gym not only trains fighters for Muay Thai but trains…chickens. For cock fights. They have a whole stable of roosters that they take to local fights and bet on them. You may not agree with, I am not sure I do but it is very interesting facet of Thai rural life to see.
Onto the training. I can’t complain about any gym I have across in terms of training. I have always benefited in some way from every camp be it in technique, in cardio or just learning a new drill that I can work on when I am on my on. However, I have to say overall I have benefited most from True Bee Gym than any other gym I have been to. There are two reasons for this. One is that it is not the biggest name out there yet. So, there is never a huge crowd training there and you get a lot personal attention. Second reason is that they are open to teaching you things you want to work on including HOW you train.
For the first reason. True Bee hasn’t been around long enough to get a real big reputation amongst those in the “know” concerning the Muay Thai Camp scene in Thailand. It is steadily gaining a fan base and a reputation for good training and it’s a matter of time before True-Bee joins the top Farang camps in the country. But as of right now, it’s not on the top of everyone’s list and so the student to instructor ratio is low. Right now they have 5 instructors and the most people I have seen at training must have been 10 people. The trainers also have no problem giving you time and in my opinion this is one of the best camps for beginners. And for the more advanced fighters, those who fight competitively like myself this gym offers variety and an openness amongst the trainers to train not only the traditional skip, shadow and 5 pad rounds routine but to change things up, depending on you. For example, I will some times do five rounds of just play sparring. The trainer will put on shin pads, belly pad and gloves and for five rounds you play around and spar lightly. Sometimes we will do the same but work on only defense, I will not attack other then the odd jab and counter but will constantly defend low kicks, teeps and round houses. I try to change things up regularly and work on different aspects of my game that I want to improve on. You improve what you know as an experienced fighter you need to work on. You don’t get forced into doing jab, cross kick for five rounds, twice a day every day. For those who require a strict schedule played out the same week after week, this may not be the gym for you. For those who appreciate variety, flexibility and the ability to give you own input into you training than I have come across no better gym in True Bee.
I am here for the next three months so you’ll get to hear much more about how the training here works. I don’t want to try to cram everything in. Also, I am fighting on either the 11th or 18th against the guy who beat one of True Bee gyms fighters last Sunday in Chiang Mai. Stay Tuned.