In May of 2019, and at long last, I paid a visit to the world-famous Tiger Muay Thai gym in Phuket, Thailand. Upon returning home, I have not stopped itching to return.
Having spent just over 10 years training on and off in MMA and associated disciplines, my trip to Tiger came while riding the momentum of having focused almost solely on Muay Thai for the previous 12 months or so. However, two weeks prior to departing for the Chalong facility, frustration struck with a foot injury that ruled me out of Muay Thai for some months.
This is when the vastness of what Tiger Muay Thai has to offer becomes evident. For my month-long stay, I laced up the boots and got stuck in with both the boxing and Nogi BJJ classes. While a month’s stay may be short in comparison to other visitors, both the physical intensity (in great part due to the sensational climate providing its own challenges) and brilliance of the coaches embedded significant experience that has stuck with me in every training session since.
Western Boxing classes were taught by Australian MMA/boxing competitor Sam Bastin alongside the retired Irish boxing standout and highly charismatic John Hutchinson. Upon arrival, it may be uncertain as to where one who considers himself as intermediate would fit within an “all levels welcome to class”, and this may seem intimidating to any beginner or recreational visitors. But you’re soon at ease, after a light warm-up, the coaching duo proceeds to split the diverse group into a beginner half and experienced half with suitable techniques drilled accordingly and each pair of students receiving quality feedback.
For anyone wanting to go a step further, sparring groups also take place during the week and are a highly recommendable ice breaker as they retain a perfectly friendly vibe with the offer of a challenge. Rotating partners for some light rounds or something a little more intense, it’s your choice. The unity at Tiger is infectious with everyone willing to work with and enhance the experience of all training partners.
Nogi BJJ is headed by world-renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt and emerging pro MMA talent, Alex Schild. Back-to-back sessions are on offer starting with beginner and followed by a more advanced class, though beginners are welcome to stay on for the duration as each drill progressively leads into the next with growing technicality. Whether you’re getting to grips with an unfamiliar technique or just needing that slight tweak to perfect it, Alex will effortlessly get you to an effective destination.
Grappling with Alex’s group is often complemented by a tasteful soundtrack of classic rock and memorable contemporary hits and a few rounds of rolling within this great atmosphere is a perfect opportunity for getting to know those who train alongside you. The level of BJJ and contrasting styles of practitioners is nothing short of broad with the experience on offer among your fellow visitors proving its own enhancing effects.
As an MMA insider whose work focuses on the development of grassroots and recreational participation, amateur level competition and the legitimization of MMA as a sport, I often consider how a training facility chooses to cater to all levels practitioner. This level of awareness and decision making plays a major role in the direction of any gym and how it contributes to a sport’s culture and development. Tiger Muay Thai hits the mark as a global martial arts hub at the heart of a gorgeous region, providing an opportunity to anyone in search of an incredible escape and fond memories of what feels like an alternate life.