Training in Thailand: A muay Thai Journal
Part 3: 13 Coins
Before I had ever decided to move to Thailand I wanted to visit 13 Coins gym. I had read an article in a Muay Thai magazine about Australian muay Thai great John Wayne Parr and his preparation for his third fight with Yodsenklai Fairtex. To train for that fight, Parr had moved camp from Australia back to Thailand where he trained with one of the pound for pound best muay Thai fighters, Senchai Sor. Kingstar, at 13 Coins. Not only did this gym play host to those two legendary fighters, but it also had another pound for pound great as a resident in Orono Por. Muang Ubon, a three time Lumpini Stadium champ who, interestingly, has for both Senchai and JWP on several occasions. Once I had made the decision to move to Thailand, I promised myself that I would visit this gym. I knew, however, that when, and if, I did make it to 13 Coins I would not be training next to JWP, Senchai, or Orono, as they no longer train or teach there regularly, although Senchai does drop by when in Bangkok(I did, however, eventually have the chance to meet one of those fighters-but that story I will save for my next article).
It was on my first trip to Bangkok that I visited 13 Coins. One friday after work, myself and two friends jumped on a bus and headed to the city. Its cheap making the trip to Bangkok from Chachoengsoa, only 56 baht to travel there in an air-con van. But once in the city, getting places can be quite expensive. For instance, if you get in a meter taxi and then get caught in traffic you better be prepared to pay a couple hundred baht-something that has happened to me once or twice. Aside from that though, getting around, as long as you know where you are going, isn't too difficult.
Once we arrived in the city we headed to Terminal 21, a super-modern shopping mall, and had a good meal. We then got a cheap room and hit some beer bars after some shopping at a small market(we may have gone to a gogo bar or two as well). We decided not to drink too much, as we wanted to train in the next day. So we made it back to our guesthouse before too long and I woke up pretty fresh and ready to train. I first went for an early walk and a coffee to explore the area, then myself and my friend got a Tuk Tuk to Lumpini Stadium(the most famous and prestigious Thai boxing stadium in the world). The stadium is also home to the Twins Special boxing brand, which is one of the best brands going for muay Thai. I took a look around, bought some hand wraps, and then we were on our way to 13 Coins.
Our cab ride to the gym cost us about 100 baht, which wasn't bad considering we had no idea how far the gym was from Lumpini and because we split it two ways. The facility was something to behold. It is mostly open air, like Sityodtong, but also very decorative. There are many painting of famous boxers, as well as novelties such as bull skulls, flowers, posters, etc., hung on the walls. There was even an antique car and a Tuk Tuk placed outside which had the 13 Coins logo painted on it. Attached to the gym was a restaurant, hotel and resort(13 Coins is also a hotel franchise in Thailand). In terms of aesthetically attractive gyms, this was the nicest I have been to.
We walked in and introduced ourselves to the owner, who goes by Mr. Coke, and he arranged for us to train at 3 pm that day. We went for a quick wander, as it was only 1:30 pm at the time, and had some coffee and ice cream before training. When we got back we were greeted by Mr. Coke and the trainers. After being shown the restrooms and showers we quickly got changed and ready for training. I was introduced to Sorn, my pad holder and my friend to his. I discovered afterwords that the man who held the pads for me that day was actually John Wayne Parr's trainer when he was at 13 Coins! He is also featured in the recent documentary Blessed with Venom, about JWP's life. So I know now that I was getting top level training while there.
The rounds on the pads were hard-possibly because of the drinking the previous night. But they were also very good as my trainer gave me a lot of good technical advice. He put a lot of emphasis on turning my hip over and swinging my arm when throwing my right Thai kick. He also wanted me to relax, something I heard over and over again at every gym I visited before or since. The western style of boxing makes ones muscles too tense which uses too much energy according to the Thais, who like to preserve energy by relaxing the shoulders and keeping all muscles relaxed.
After several hard rounds on the pads I hit the bag for a while and worked on the things my trainer had told me to improve on. After that I was called in the ring some some more light technical training, followed by clinching. I first clinched with a kid who might have been about 15 or 16 years old-but this kid was a tank. He was short, but was thick and strong as an ox. He had a large scar down his cheek, which looked like it was from an elbow or knee. The kid threw me around pretty easily despite being a lot lighter than I am. I was told by Mr. Coke that he had had over 100 fights, which to me sounds ridiculous, as I only have four amateur fights and I am 24 years old. But this is Thailand after all(the kid can be seen in the attached photo wearing red shorts).
After clinching I ended with some pushups, situps, and chinups, as I usually do. We then sat on some ringside swivel chairs and watched a sparring session between two of the fighters, one of which was getting ready for a western boxing championship bout. That's another good thing about 13 Coins: they teach westerns boxing and MMA as well as muay Thai. MMA is only starting to make inroads into the country, so to find a gym that teaches this sport as well as pure muay Thai and western boxing is a rarity.
After hanging out for a bit and speaking with some of the trainers and fighters we took a cab to Koah San road where we spent the night shopping for gifts, eating Pad Thai, and drinking cocktails which were literally served served to us in buckets. 13 Coins met all of my expectations and more. Mr. Coke is one of the nicest people you will meet and the trainers there are top notch. Even the facility itself is something to see. On top of that, it only cost me 300 baht to train there-at the same gym where John Wayne Parr trained! To me, that is pretty incredible. So, if you ever find yourself in Bangkok look up 13 Coins and give Mr. Coke a call.
By Matt King