Not far from Thong Lor BTS in central Bangkok is an unassuming little Muay Thai gym run by a Japanese ex fighter named Hideki Suzuki. Though not known to a lot of English-speaking farang, this camp is responsible for getting Buakaw into K-1 in 2004 before his meteoric rise to fame. Nowadays it is home to about five professional fighters, a handful of trainers and the occasional visiting nak muay.
Presently three of the fighters are former Rajadamnern title holders (Issei, Daosaming & Ali Ingram) and one of the fighters — former Lumpini, Rajadamnern & Mitsubishi Tournament champion Sagatpetch – doubles as a trainer. The last time I stopped in for a visit a couple of months ago there were a few visiting Japanese kids training and a young Brazilian fighter who was planning on living there for a few months. The vibe is small, professional and serious.
When I arrived at the gym in November 2008 I was the only foreigner and the only English speaker. At the time this experience was perfect for me – I was a bit of a loner back then, and was used to travelling around on my own. Also, when I try something I like to throw myself into it completely. The language barrier and the fact that there were no farang around forced me to work a little harder. Going to Ingram was a bit like jumping in the deep end and I had to really push past my limits, both on a physical and mental level, to adapt.
I didn’t know any Thai when I got to Bangkok – only sawatdee ka and kopkhun ka (hello and thank you) so I had bought some language cds and books to try to learn. I remember sitting in the common area one day with the head trainer Bu. I was looking through my newly purchased Thai-English dictionary trying to ask him about the schedule but he just kept smiling, nodding and talking to me in rapid-fire Thai. At that moment I felt slightly defeated, and thought it would be harder to get my head around this language than the training. Luckily, the Japanese fighter Issei could speak enough Thai and English to translate, but the lack of English speakers gave me the added determination to learn Thai, which I am incredibly grateful for today.
I was the only woman training and living there, so out of necessity I had my own air-conditioned room in the main house where Khun Suzuki lives. There was an option to stay at a nearby hotel, but living in the camp appealed to me more. Furnished sparsely with a single bed and a cabinet for my clothes, the guest room was adequate. Guys that come and stay can camp down with the other fighters in an adjoining building, which also has a dining room cum TV lounge.
Training at Ingram was my first experience training at a boxing camp in Thailand so I had no point of reference, nothing really to compare it to apart from some Shaolin gong fu and San Shou training I had done in China. In Dengfeng, China, the conditions were very simple – we often trained outside in playing fields with little or no equipment, so I knew anything in Thailand was going to be a step up in terms of condition. Ingram gym is remarkably (and surprisingly) clean and well appointed – I don’t exactly think this is a concern of most farang who come to train in Thailand – it wasn’t for me — but I think it’s worth mentioning. The gym is not luxurious or fancy by any means – but it’s tidy, hygienic and well maintained. No cat pee on your gloves in the morning and there is a free laundry service whenever you need it.
It was clear to me from day one that there is a very low tolerance for laziness at Ingram. Hideki runs an extremely disciplined operation and expects his fighters and trainers to work hard. There are a lot of rules – some obvious, some unspoken — and you are required to conduct yourself accordingly. For instance, when I was there was a strict 10pm curfew, at which time the main gates were closed and locked. Breakfast was served promptly at 10.30am, dinner at 6.30pm, and I was told (albeit kindly) to make sure I was on time. If for any reason I couldn’t make a meal, I was to inform one of the trainers or Issei who would relay the information to Hideki.
From the beginning I was expected to do everything that the other fighters did – from the hour long run each morning through Sukhumvit to sparring and clinching sessions every day. In the morning and in the afternoon there were the five obligatory five-minute rounds with my trainer. On top of that everything I did was monitored – from my warm ups and shadow boxing to my sit-ups and stretches at the end of the sessions. When I was working the bag I often had one of the fighters or one of the trainers giving me tips, so the emphasis on technique was very strong. Sparring and clinching opponents are most often the professional nak muays themselves, so you have the potential to learn a lot, quickly.
Like with any type of training, I experienced highs and lows in my performance level during my stay at Ingram. The first week I remember having a surprising amount of stamina, but by the second week I felt completely and utterly wrecked. I clearly recall sitting on my bed in the camp at that time, looking down at my battered, swollen legs and feet, thinking “what the fuck am I doing?” I had just finished breakfast with the Thai fighters and had tried talking to everyone with the new Thai phrases I had learned. No one could understand my fatigued attempts at the language. They all smiled and laughed it off but that day I had a crushing feeling of alienation coupled with a sense that my Muay Thai skills were pitiful — so really, what was the point of it all?
I mention that moment because it was a turning point for me. If I were at another camp I might have missed a few sessions or maybe taken a break to go to the beach, which of course would have been fine to do. But staying at Ingram made it impossible to do that. It might sound a little banal, but the spirit in that gym made me want to persevere. I am thankful for every crippity crap moment that I endured, because I came out the other side with a great sense of accomplishment, a basic level of Thai, some greatly improved skills and an amazing group of friends in the fighters and trainers and their girlfriends, who have become like family over the time I’ve been in Thailand.
Now, a year and a half and a few camps later, I would rate Ingram as the most disciplined and demanding gym I’ve ever trained at. I would recommend it to anyone for a first rate Muay Thai training experience.
As I recall, the price is around 1000 Baht for shared accommodation, 2 meals a day and 2 training sessions a day. Check with Hideki for current rates. Private accommodation is also available.
400 Baht for individual sessions.
3647/3 Rama 4 Road
Bangkok 10110 THAILAND
Tel: +66 (0)2 204 1970～1
Mobile: +66 (0)81 804 5201
This post is by Abigail McCullough
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