March 25, 2014 at 10:24pm
Be prepared, this is a long post. This took me a while to get around to writing this, mostly because I have been busy with a bunch of issues since my return to the states, including health and job hunting. I also wasn sure in what format I wanted to rate/review the camps I trained (will train) at. I think I finally decided on a Letter Grade method as opposed to a numbering system. Here are the following categories I will rate the camps with:
The facilities at Tiger are by far one of the strengths of Tiger Muay Thai. The facility is top notch, including 6 Muay Thai Rings and 1 MMA Cage. I actually attended the camp right after the construction on 3 new rings, including a new Beginners Training Area was completed. The new area featured a nice mirrored wall, and like all the training areas, completely matted floors. The camp also has dozens of bags to work on, as well as a weight training area. In addition, there are plenty of areas to sit and relax during down time, such as the Tiger Grill and the eating area, or the computer area in front of the main office. The camp also features a pro shop (although it is a little pricey). Honestly, there isn much bad to say about the facilities at Tiger. Tiger does an excellent job in allowing for training areas for it 3 different levels of the Muay Thai program, as well as the separate MMA program, and a Yoga class.
Training Routine ?A-
Each morning starts out with a 30 minute optional technique class. The class is a great opportunity to learn and refine specific techniques including everything from clinch work to defensive techniques and more. If anyone is considering training at Tiger, I suggest taking this class. Following Technique class, you will skip rope for about 20-30 minutes, and then go on to group stretching. After this, you wrap your hands, and then start in a rotation of Bag/Pad/Sparring work. Usually you do each for anywhere from 3 to 5 rounds, 3 minutes each. In between each round was a mandatory 10 pushups. You do this in a rotation so youl do 3 rounds of bag work, then 3 rounds of pad work, then 3 rounds of sparring for example. Following this, youl do a specific technique on the bag, or with a partner, for a set number of times. Examples are 200 kicks, 100 skip knees, etc. Sometimes they will vary this and instead you will work technique such as a counter to a kick. The session rounds down with 200-300 sit-ups and 150 pushups, and then a group stretch. There are also option running class instead of technique class, and there is the option of taking Yoga in the morning. The session lasts about 4 hours.
The MMA program is slightly different. It starts later, and ends earlier than the Muay Thai. You end up getting less fitness during the MMA, but much more technique. The MMA opens up with a 30 minute warm up and group stretch. From there, it all about technique. The instructors will show a technique, and then you practice it for 5 minutes, and learn another technique, etc. This goes on for 40 minutes or so, and in the end you run through them all again. Following this, you go live and get the opportunity to apply the technique. Sometimes it free for all rolling, while other times you practice defending a specific situation, such as somebody taking your back. The MMA sessions don end with any kind of group stretching or warm downs. MMA classes last for about 3 hours. I would have liked more fitness from the MMA program, but overall both programs rate very well.
It tough for me to rate this category this low, considering that I thought the training routine was great and I really liked some of the trainers. Among my favorite trainers were Ajarn Mac, and Kru Nai and Kru Sornpitchai (both former Lumpinee Champions). I also thought that the guest MMA instructors from the Freestyle Fight Academy, David and Marcos were great. Actually I thought that they were excellent instructors, and a great choice by TMT as replacements for Ray.
Which brings me to one of the things I was disappointed in. When I arranged my trip to go train at Tiger, one of the main reasons for me choosing Tiger as opposed to a different school was for the chance to train with Ray Elbe. I had heard lots of wonderful things about Ray prior to attending the camp, and I was disappointed that he was away from the camp during my time there. Towards the end of camp, I learned that he was in the US, competing in the UFC Reality Show ?The Ultimate Fighter. I was definitely happy for the success of Ray, but disappointed that I was unable to train with him. I suppose it will give me a reason to come back.
Another thing that was a minor inconvenience was that each trainer teaches things slightly different. One trainer will correct your technique on a kick perhaps, and then later that day, or the next day, after you have practiced the technique one way, a different trainer will say you are doing it wrong, and show you a different way. It ends up being a little frustrating. This is where taking private lessons is a nice benefit. In private lessons, you get a lot of 1 on 1 time with a trainer, and you can really form up your technique. I recommend taking several a week if you can afford it while you are at Tiger.
Finally, the biggest reason that the trainers scored so low, was the trainer by the name of Robert Lek. You know the saying, one bad apple spoils the bunch, well that was the case here. One bad trainer ruined my overall opinion of the trainers, or rather the score for this category. I had several negative instances with Robert that I was bothered with, but the biggest came during week 2 of my training. There was an odd number of people for sparring that day, so I ended up sparring with Robert. Now, the idea of sparring is suppose to be ight sparring?where you go between 50 -75%, and you are matched with people of similar body type and obviously experience level, because you are in an assigned area (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced). Well, Robert went a little further than light sparring.
Considering he is a trainer who has had over 100 fights and has been practicing Muay Thai his entire life, I don think he should have been going all out with me. In addition, I was nursing several broken bones in my right foot, which made using it not an option. So basically, Robert beat up on an inexperienced partially crippled man, solely for the purpose of feeding his ego. I say that, because it simply was not for my benefit. If there had been a lesson during the session, as a trainer, he should have pointed it out. For instance, if I was doing something wrong, he should have maybe tagged me 1 or 2 times, and then stopped and showed me what to do, or not do, to avoid it. I was extremely disappointed this particular experience. As I said, there were other encounters both prior to and after this incident, but I am not going to recap them all. It is important for me to point out that this is the exception, and not the rule. 95% of the trainers at Tiger are top notch and extremely professional. Robert simply has some maturing to do, and may have some resentment towards farangs. Once again, most of the trainers at Tiger are exceptional, and overall you will have a really good experience with them, but I did want to point out this negative side, so that hopefully it will be addressed and will improve in the future, for others and myself (when I return to Tiger next time.)
There were some bright spots as far as the trainers go that I do want to mention. I said that two of my favorite trainers were Sornpitchai and Nai. They had great energy and were fun to work with. I worked with them a lot during Technique class, and they held pads for me many times. Both of them were actually former Lumpinee champions.
I also took some private lessons in both Muay Thai and MMA. I did several sessions in Muay Thai with Ajarn Mac, who has over 40 years experience training/teaching in Muay Thai. He was great to work with. He showed me many techniques, and even showed me some Muay Boran. I would definitely recommend taking some private lessons with him, if you go. Also, a few friends of mine did private lessons with Nazzee and Rhet. They also had great energy, and I would recommend them as well. Muay Thai private lessons at Tiger are an affordable 700 baht, and are between 1 hr and 1 hr 15 mins. You can let the trainer determine what to work on, or you can tell them specifically what you want to work on and they will help you.
As for the MMA lessons, since Ray wasn around, I worked with the second in command in the MMA program, Andreas Hasselbeck. Andreas has a lot of experience in Grappling and was able to help me round up a bunch of techniques. As I have said before, Grappling is my weak point, and Andreas?instruction was clutch. My friend Jordan and I split the class, so each of us paid 400 baht per session. That is the best way to take an MMA lesson, because the instructor can demonstrate on someone else why you watch, and vice versa. I believe Ray is back now, so you can currently take sessions with either Ray or Andreas. If you don have much experience in MMA or BJJ, taking some private lessons can catch you up to speed really quick.
This is another weak area for Tiger. All the office staff are friendly, but not as helpful as I would have liked. The basic impression I was left with was his Is Thailand? and that kind of the attitude everyone has. What I found bad about that, is you have a camp where 98% of your clients are Western, and the owner is Western, I kind of felt that you should have a Western way of doing business. Honestly, the camp could probably benefit from a Western Office Manager, to right the ship. I would accept that job, if it ever opens up.
One area I had a problem with was my accommodations. When I contacted the camp, I specified that I wanted a room right at the camp. I wanted to be able to open my door and walk out and train every morning. When I arrived, there was not room at the camp, so they arranged a camp down the road for me. I appreciate that they did it, and it turned out to be better accommodiations that I would have had at Tiger, but I specifically communicated that my main goal was to be in housing on the camp. Additionally, since I was not at the camp, I was unable to pay with CC, and had to pay with cash instead, which meant I had to get additional money wired in. A lot of this could have been resolved up front with more effective communication from the office. In fact, I did communicate back and forth with the office about a dozen times before my arrival, and I specifically asked questions regarding the use of CC and the cost for my room and training. Once again, there was a couple other minor instances, but they are all things that can be, and hopefully are corrected for the future.
I basing this score off 2 things, my off site Accommodations at The Nature House, and my friends who housed at Tiger. I stayed at a place called The Nature House. It was a 2 minute walk down the road. I would DEFINITELY recommend staying there. From what I understand most of the rooms at Tiger are budget rooms with shared bathrooms. The Nature House was great, 12000 baht a month, (about $400 US) and it had A/C, Cable, Internet and a private bathroom. The people were really accommodating. My room was cleaned every day, they took care of me when I was sick, etc. In fact, after my motor bike injury, they actually drove me to the hospital and do the pharmacy to get medicine. They have 6 rooms there, and there are a second set of bungalow there by the same family, called amily Bungalows?The rates are the same, and they are just as nice.
From what I understand the Accommodations at Tiger are pretty basic. Many of the rooms actually have shared bathrooms, and many of them are without air. This time of the year it getting pretty hot there, and a few of my friends who had a room at Tiger ended up moving down the road for either a private bath, or AC. I saw a couple of the rooms, and it wasn much to write home about. The two big advantages to staying at Tiger are actually the price and location. The price for most of the Budget rooms are about 5000 baht a month. That is more than half the difference of staying at a place like I stayed at, which cost 12000. Another advantage is you can literally walk outside and start training. I am sure if I was staying at camp, I would have done more off hours training, such as sparring, bag work, etc.
Student Body/Population ?A+
This is by far one of the best attributes of Tiger. You end up meeting people from all over the world, and developing pretty good friendships, as well as an appreciation for other people and cultures. I ended up meeting a lot of people, not only from the people at the bungalows that I was staying at, but also just hanging around up at the camp. Some of the great people I met were: Erik, Shell, Stevie, Wil, Muriel, James, Sera, Chris, Matthew, Jordan, Nick, Bobby, Glenn, Mitto and many more. I met people from Australia, England, France, Sweden, Singapore, USA and many other places. It was truly the best part of the trip, and actually it made me want to visit and travel to other places as well. Here is one pic of me and some of the gang after the TMT smoker fight.
Honestly, this was one of the main reasons that I choose this camp. Even prior to their recent website upgrade, I was impressed with their website. Earlier this year, they actually updated their website and now it is even better. It is more organized, and has a lot more content. They also do an excellent job integrating content from sites such as YouTube, Facebook, etc. for you to connect with on different mediums. Their website provides almost everything you need to know prior to coming to the school. The website is excellent, and they do a tremendous job having a strong presence on the Internet.
This is kind of like a Miscellaneous section, to include anything else I didn cover in the other sections. One thing that Tiger does extremely well is to organize a lot of extra curricular activities from month to month. It seemed like there was almost something to do every weekend. During my 4 weeks at camp, I attended 2 stadium fights, as well as a TMT Smoker Fight at camp. They also organize group activities such as bowling, beach training, Big Buddah trips, etc. I was really happy with this aspect of the camp. It definitely helps promote unity and gives you a reason to want to return and train again.
So the way I ended up figuring out grading was to assign each category a letter grade, and that grade translates to a numeric value. (A+ = 4.5, A = 4, A- = 3.75, B+ = 3.5, etc.) Yes, an A+ gets an additional 0.25 bonus, and every other step increases/decreases by 0.25. When I put my figures into the formula, the final grade for Tiger was a 3.6 which essentially is a B+, which I think is a fair and accurate score from my experience at Tiger. I will add that I will definitely return to Tiger in the future, hopefully within the next year. I think it clear that overall, I would recommend this place for others to train at. Tiger has programs for everyone from the beginner to the person looking to train for a fight. I wish Tiger the best on their continued success and look forward to training there again.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I know it was a long one. Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have, suggestions for additional categories, or requests for future camps for me to review.