Overall, it was a good experience and I’d come back, though for not so long. I started training at Tiger Muay Thai in mid/late May and finished training at the end of July. That comes to a little over 2 months of training. I got in great shape and learned muay thai technique pretty well after starting with zero muay thai experience. I would come again but probably not for so long. If I came again, I’d train for no more than one month. I think that a person has to really love the training to stay for longer than a month and remain motivated, and I don’t fit into that group. Though it was a positive experience, there are some downsides which I discuss below.

The staff was quite approachable and willing to help with issues and questions. Tiger has lots of options for different training (muay thai, MMA, boxing, weights, etc.). The group training got a bit monotonous and wasn’t technical enough so I switched to just doing personal training sessions. That cost more but it was higher-quality training.

Staph bacteria runs rampant through the camp. I talked to quite a few people who got a staph infection. I didn’t get anything like that but was worried enough to be very diligent about disinfecting after every session.

Tiger has a decent location but is quite far from most attractions of Phuket. To do a tour or visit the beach, it’s at least a 15 minute ride. If you plan to be here for more than two weeks, you should rent a scooter since the cost of taxis can quickly add up.

Muay Thai Training
At Tiger Muay Thai, they teach muay thai, MMA, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, western boxing, yoga, weight lifting and various cardio classes. I mostly trained in muay thai and weights so I’ll focus my comments on that. I had done a bit of Krav Maga a few years ago but never any muay thai or boxing. So, I basically started the muay thai training with zero experience.

I’m confident to say, that after a little more than two months, I’m a hell of a lot more proficient with my kicks and punches and can spar fairly well. I’m certainly not some bad ass now, but I learned a lot and got in great shape. I started the training with poor stamina and a bit of extra weight around the midsection. Now, my stamina has improved dramatically and I’m much leaner.

I started in the Beginner Class. That class focuses on lots of plain cardio and drills in the basic movements. It’s a tough workout though. Do yourself a favor: get into the best shape possible before you come here or you’ll regret it. I didn’t do any exercise for a few months before I left the USA and regretted that decision after the first class. In fact, I foolishly did two workouts on my first day and was completely sore and wrecked the following day; I could barely move. (Thankfully, that day was Sunday so there was no training.) Start slowly and gradually work yourself into the training. Even if you’re in great shape, the heat and humidity will kick your butt in addition to the tough physical demands of the classes. It seems that it takes most people 1-2 weeks to get used to the intense heat and training.

In the Beginner Class, they teach the basics and go over them fairly well. You’ll be introduced to kicks, punches, knees, elbows, clinching and light sparring. Don’t worry about not having prior experience. Everyone in the class is there to learn and probably don’t have much experience either. It’s a good class, but the training can get pretty repetitive. I quickly got bored with repeating the same thing over and over, and I didn’t feel like it offered enough instruction toward perfecting the technique. Plus, the one-on-one time with an instructor is limited to the 10-or-so minutes of pad work each class. That sucks, but I suppose that’s expected when there are 40-some people in the class and only a handful of instructors.

I asked to be moved up to the Intermediate Class after two weeks. I enjoyed that class much more. There’s less plain cardio and more attention to muay thai technique. I still got plenty of cardio but this was in the form of longer drills rather than running or doing jumping jacks. However, I got a bit bored with this class after less than two weeks. Like the Beginner Class, the one-on-one time with an instructor is limited to the 10-or-so minutes of pad work each class. Plus, although there’s more work on technique, there aren’t enough instructors to provide an ample about of technique correction. I often found myself working with a partner, doing the drills, but knowing that I wasn’t doing them correctly.

From there, I switched to doing only private training with an instructor named Naan. The instruction was much higher quality once I made that switch and I learned much quicker. The trainer always worked me out very hard and corrected my technique down to small details. The training varied each day and I could make requests if I felt that I wanted to work on a specific skill. If you decide to do private training, pick a trainer who speaks clear English and get there early to do your warm-ups on your own time; no sense paying for paying for something that you can do on your own.

The one downsize is that the private training costs more than doing just the group classes. The group classes cost 9,000 THB ($280) for a month. Whereas a session of private training cost 600 THB ($18.58) or 550 THB ($17) each for a 10-pack, 5500 THB total ($170). My schedule, of one private session per day, cost me about 11000 THB per month ($340). While that’s not exactly inexpensive, the sessions work out to only $17 per hour which is dirt cheap compared to any personal training in the USA.

There are other muay thai training camps around Phuket that are supposed to be pretty good such as Dragon Muay Thai, Rawai Muay Thai or Promthep Muay Thai, but none offer the variety of training (weights, cardio, BJJ, MMA, etc.) that Tiger Muay Thai offers. I think this variety was the best option for me. I initially thought that I would do muay thai and only muay thai, but I soon grew bored with that situation. It was nice to have the other training options so that I could find a training schedule that worked for me.

If you only want to train muay thai, you can train at Dragon Muay Thai for less than it’ll cost you at Tiger. Dragon is on the same road, only a 2 minute walk away from Tiger, and the classes are a lot smaller so you get more personal attention. I’ve talked to people who train at Dragon and say they received high-quality training with high attention paid to muay thai technique. I’ve also heard good things about both Rawai Muay Thai and Promthep Muay Thai.

If you’re considering a few other muay thai camps and have time, it’d be a good idea to rent a guesthouse and scooter for a week and try a new training center each day. Then commit to a longer training period once you’ve found a place, trainers and training style that suits you.

Weight Room
The weight room is functional but kind of small and somewhat limited in equipment. If you stick with the usual lifts, there’s enough equipment to get in a good workout with a rack of dumbbells, several benches, bench press, squat rack, leg press, hack squat and some machines. Since it’s a bit small, I tried to go during less busy times (1pm – 4pm) because it doesn’t take very many people for the place to feel crowded.

Peter is the weight room trainer and he’s a helpful, friendly guy who’s usually around. He’ll help you develop workout and nutrition plans based on your specific goals.

The big downside to the weight room is that it’s ridiculously hot. It’s so hot that it’s actually hotter inside than it is outside in the sun. There are fans inside the weight room, but the fans don’t make much difference. And since it’s so hot, I would sweat like crazy. My hands would always be slick, so slick that they’d sometimes slip off the bar. I recommend bringing some gloves or chalk to help your grip. Also, the moisture causes some of the equipment (barbells and some weights) to rust and rub onto your clothes.

There’s also a regular gym near Chalong Circle. I never visited it, but some of the guys used it as their primary weight lifting facility. It’s only a 10 minute ride away from Tiger and probably doesn’t cost very much per month. Ask around to find it.

Equipment and Fight Gear
You’ll need hand wraps, 16 oz boxing gloves, shin guards, a mouth guard and men will need groin protection. If you have equipment at home, bring it. If you don’t, the shop at Tiger Muay Thai sells every thing you need and the prices there are probably lower than what you’d pay at home.

However, the Phuket Fight Store sells everything too and is even cheaper than the Tiger store. The fight store is about a 5 minute walk away from Tiger (near Mama’s). They also have good deals on MMA-style clothing such as Venom, Afflictation, etc.

You can also buy gear at the Phuket Town weekend night market or the Patong markets. You can bargain down the prices and get a good deal but be sure to check the quality of the equipment. Keep in mind that most of that stuff is counterfeit and of dubious quality. However, I purchased some muay thai shorts at the Phuket Town night market for 300 THB when the cheapest pair at Tiger was 850 THB. These shorts have held up really well and don’t look worn at all. But like I said, be sure to check the quality of the gear before you make the purchase.

I had originally planned to stay in one of the bungalows on-site at Tiger Muay Thai, but I glad that I didn’t. The rooms rooms are cheap but too basic. I stayed for a month at Wallop House and then the remaining time at Tony’s (aka Dream Village). Both were quite nice and very comfortable. The two places are near each other and are about a 10 minute walk to Tiger. I’d recommend both as places for you to stay.

I initially stayed at Wallop House because that’s what the folks at Tiger recommended. It cost 12,000 THB ($370) per month for a new, clean room with a comfortable bed, hot shower, TV, A/C, closet and a large bathroom. This also included free WI-FI that ran pretty quickly (quick enough for Skype) and included a DAILY cleaning service. There’s laundry done on-site for a small charge.

I found a better price at Tony’s for my remaining stay. The new room was less than 100 meters from the old one so moving was easy. Tony charged me 16,000 THB ($494) for 6.5 weeks. That included a comfortable bed, hot shower, TV, A/C, closet, a large bathroom, quick WI-FI and room cleaning twice a week. The other nice thing about this room is that it’s in a bungalow separate from any other rooms so it’s quieter.

There are several places to stay along the road that Tiger sits so don’t worry about finding a place. In fact, it’d be a good idea for you to only rent a place for one week so that you have a chance to talk to people and visit other places to stay.

Also, if you get away from the road that Tiger is on, you can find accommodation for as cheap as 5500 THB ($170) per month. Rent a scooter and drive around the neighborhoods and you should be able to find one.

Tiger offers a meal plan. I didn’t purchase it., and I’m glad that I didn’t. I talked to some guys who had purchased the meal plan and said that it wasn’t worth it. They said the food selection was too limited and a bit expensive for what they received.

There are several restaurants around Tiger that offer a better variety of food at lower prices. I could see the meal plan being useful if you were only spending a couple weeks training, but otherwise I’d get tired of eating the same few things all the time.

Popular choices for restaurants are Tony’s and Mama’s. Both places have a large menu and serve a variety of Thai and western food. You can expect to pay about 100 THB ($3.10) for a meal and a drink.

If you stay for more than a couple weeks, you should probably rent a scooter as the cost of taxis can add up quickly. Pretty much every guesthouse around Tiger will also rent you a scooter. I paid Tony 3300 THB ($102) for a month. Just have a copy of your passport and some cash and you’ll be on your way in under 15 minutes.

A word of caution though, the Thai drivers drive like maniacs so make sure that you stay alert and drive defensively. It wouldn’t take much to cause a very bad accident for you. Even something as simple as a light rain can make the road slick and cause an accident. And never drink and drive. It’s stupid when you’re back home in a proper-sized car but it’s even more stupid when on a little scooter with no protection between you and the road. Just don’t do it.

Health and Cleanliness
Staph infections were diagnosed in LOTS of people while I was training. There’s also pink eye, ringworm and the common cold and flu. I got the flu for a week, but thankfully, I never got a skin infection. I’d like to think that I avoided it because I was very diligent about cleaning myself and my equipment, but luck probably played a part too.

While training, staph transfers readily through sweat, especially via cuts and scrapes. Consider this:
1. You’ll sweat excessively
2. Your pores will be open
3. You’ll get lots of little cuts, scrapes and mosquito bites
4. And you’ll come into skin-to-skin contact with several people during EACH training session.

Be sure to wash yourself, your equipment and your clothing after every session to prevent an infection. Buy some anti-bacterial soap and solution like Dettol. Buy the Dettol soap to use to wash your body. You can buy this at any pharmacy or the Tiger Muay Thai store.

Buy the Dettol solution to wipe clean your equipment after every training session. You can buy the solution at the Tiger Muay Thai store or a nearby mini-mart. Fill a sink or basin with water and add a bit of the Dettol solution. Then take a rag and wipe clean your equipment.

It’s also probably a good idea to soak your hand wraps and other clothing in the Dettol solution too. Never wear the same clothing twice without disinfecting it first. And always be sure to cover your scrapes and cuts when you’re training.

These infections are serious stuff, especially a Staph infection. I saw people get removed from training for several weeks because of what started as a little cut on the skin and became a very bad infection. I know of one guy who ended up having surgery to deal with a deep and persistent staph infection. He had to go to the hospital to get the infection, literally, cut out and then weeks of more follow-up visits to keep the wound clean. For several weeks, he couldn’t train, go to the beach or do any activity that would cause himself to sweat. Not cool.

But with all that said about staph, I don’t want to cause anyone to panic. I never got an infection and most students at the camp never got any kind of infection. With due diligence and a bit of luck, you’ll be fine too.

General Safety
The area around Tiger Muay Thai is generally pretty safe and quiet. I think the biggest threat would be the big trucks that sometimes drive down both lanes of the road. Otherwise, there’s not much around but guesthouses and restaurants.

In fact, while I was there, a whole family came for training. A mom, dad and four kids (four girls and a boy) whose ages looked like they ranged from elementary school to high school. They didn’t seem to have any issues.

The students training there were all pretty cool too. I never met any jerks who wanted to start fights or anything like that. The camp attracts people from all over the world, and folks are generally very open to conversation. It’s pretty easy to sit down at a table of strangers and start a conversation so don’t worry about making any friends.

Complaints and Criticism
I don’t have any complaints about the training or environment that I haven’t already mentioned (big classes, little time with instructors, hot weight room, staph).

The one big complaint doesn’t even come from me, but from people who are prevented from training for whatever reason. Tiger Muay Thai doesn’t give refunds or postpone your end date if you get sick or hurt. Thankfully, this never applied to me. I was already doing only private training when I came down with the flu and couldn’t train for a week. I didn’t give the trainer the tickets for that time and didn’t lose any money.

However, it’s fairly common to talk to someone who planned to train for a set period and then waste their money when they can’t train due to an injury or sickness. The problem is that they’ve pre-paid for the training and then are unable to train so the weeks they paid for have to go unused. As I said earlier, Tiger won’t give refunds or extend their training. These guys usually get really pissed at Tiger and feel like the staff at Tiger cold-heartedly views them as a “number” and just a source of revenue.

This seems like a bad situation for these students, especially if someone get injured or sick through no fault of their own. I understand that Tiger is a business that expects the students to behave responsibly and keep themselves healthy. However, I can also understand how sometimes bad things happen that are largely outside a person’s control. I can see how Tiger wants to avoid headaches and prevent abuse, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable for Tiger to give each student one chance to extend the end date of his training if that student is unable to train. I’m not sure if Tiger would ever do this, but it would build a lot of goodwill.


The End
So that’s it. Post any feedback, criticism or questions to the comments and I’ll answer them when I can.