Saturday, September 08, 2012

How to take a Muay Thai vacation to get in the best shape of your life

How and why you should take a Muay Thai vacation - 
In my opinion, muay thai, aside from being one of the most deadliest martial art, is also probably the most intensive (and fun!) interval training activity I've ever done. Indeed, it is called the art of eight limbs for you are using your entire body (8 limbs are arms, legs, elbow, knee x 2) to execute intense, and precise strikes at a target. Thai people train to fight, but for most people outside of Thailand, they train for fitness purposes, Muay Thai is an extremely rewarding physical exercise that I reckon burns around 500-700 calories per hour in 1 on 1 sessions.

Performing a backward elbow move in Thailand

While there are a host of gyms in HK, and in your city that will teach you muay thai, you can follow the steps below to structure a authentic muay thai gym experience in Thailand itself for a couple days of "fitness tourism". Best of all - it is both cheaper and you get more 1on1 time in Thailand than versus going to your local gym. 
  1. Do a trial session at a local gym to check out muay thai. In HK, the gym I go to is called Impakt. Other gyms include Jab, Epic, and a host of others. First session is usually free. Let me know if you need a introduction
  2. After you get hooked, look into taking a couple days off from work to do a short muay thai vacation in beautiful Thailand 
  3. There are tons of different Muay Thai gyms/camps in Thailand. Most are very hardcore and cater towards aspiring Thailand champions. Others are foreign friendly for both aspiring fighters and fitness tourists. 
  4. The top two Thai cities to do the training, in my opinion, are Chiang Mai and Phuket. Chiang Mai is the culture capital of Thailand while Phuket boasts expansive beaches. I have finished my training at Team Quest Gym in Chiang Mai, and I'm now training in Phuket at KYN Muay Thai Gym
  5. Send an email to the gym to check availability and then you are good to go. Don't worry about bringing your own gloves as the gym tends to have their own. Costs are ridiculously cheap compared to your living costs in your home country, so what are you waiting for? 
How I did it - 

My first training experience with Muay Thai was at Impakt in HK. My colleague brought me and treated me to a complimentary session with a french trainier who has fought and trained in muay thai in thailand for 10 years since he was 18 years old. A very technical trainer and very scary looking, but super sweet guy, he taught me the more intricacies of the seemingly wild moves that you would see at a boxing match. I realized that the movement of the limbs are actually an complicated combinations of motions executed at finely tuned angles with the right timing. To me, it was the technical aspect that really attracted me to this art, the intelligent dialog between two fighters which are not expressed through words but are through various techniques from their limps. 

After deciding to go to Thailand, I settled on Team Quest in Chiang Mai due to Quests's reputation in the States as well as my desire to explore the culture capital of Thailand. Training is tough. The morning session is from 7am to 9am and the afternoon session is from 4pm to 6pm, and that is not counting the optional grappling session which is from 3pm to 4pm. In total, that is 5 hours of grueling physical exhaustion per day, 6 days a week with only Sunday as the recovery day. I wasn't able to keep up in the first week at all, gassing out quickly after only 2 rounds of pads with the trainers. But in the second week, I started training strong as my body slowly adjusted to the tropical climate and the intensity of the training. 

My gym mates were from around the world. We have people from Ireland, Scotland, US, Canada, Holland, Norway, Australia, Japan, Singapore and also locally from Thailand. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was seriously intimidated when I first started training with them. These are bad-ass looking tough guys with tattoos and hard features throwing punches at a boxing gym in Thailand. And I'm just this banker dork pretending to be the next Ip Man or something. But I retained my composure and after chatting with some of them, I realized they are just regular folks just like you and I. I made friends with a Irish guy, who is around the same age as me and works as a highschool teacher in Ireland off in Thailand on his summer vacation. We even ended up taking Thai language classes together later on. 
Kicking pads while Barry, my Irish friend, is in the background

I have since finished my training in Chiang Mai and landed this week in Kao Yao Noi, which is a lovely little island 30 mins away from Phuket. The people are fantastic, and you really can't beat the beach front views. 
View from my room in Kao Yao Noi Camp
Gym is right on the beach

All in all, my experience so far at muay thai camp has been excellent and I'm en-route to being in the best shape of my life!

How to take one year off with minimal interruption to your life and my story!

Ask yourself this - if you just stopped doing what you're doing right now and went off and did something that you always wanted to do for one year before returning to your current life, what is the worst that could happen? 

The common answer I hear is that what if I can't find a job again, especially in this economy? But if you are actually qualified to do the job, I'm positive you will find another job. And if you are not to begin with, then maybe another career path should be considered. The point is that we simply shouldn't let fear be a prison cell which dictates how we should live our lives. 

How I did it and my experience 

I always had a list of things I want to do written down somewhere. It is usually in my "Someday/maybe" folder. In April of 2012, I decided that "now" is as good a time for "someday/maybe" as it'll get, so I took the plunge. When I decided to quit my job to take on a trip around the world and learn martial arts I was interviewed by another blog. The interview here explains my reasoning quiet well. And here is my farewell email to the world. 

Dear friends,

After living in HK for 5 years, I have finally had enough of the HK taxi drivers!

I'm kidding... I love HK, but I am actually taking a year off from the hussle and bussle of the city life. I will be training with some of the world's most fearsome fighters from Thailand to Brazil to Korea and Japan for one year. I have resigned from MS last month and planning to leave HK in early July. I will travel first to Thailand to train at a Muay Thai (Thai boxing) camp for three month. Then I will go to South America for six month, where I will train in Jiu-Jitsu as well as Capoeira. Afterwards, I will spend the final three month in Korea or Japan to learn Tae Kwon Do or Judo. 

While it is extremely difficult to leave the comfort and familiarity of the city, with amazing friends, great job, and incredible girl/guy ratios. In order to grow more as a person, I'm looking to put myself outside of this comfort zone for a year to seek out situations that are unfamiliar and scary.  Given that I'm still (relatively) young, have no major obligations, and the Dow being below 12000, today's opportunity cost is pretty low. And at the end of my travel, I'm still excited to come back and work in the field that brought me to HK in the first place. 

I will setup a blog with frequent updates on my wherabouts, which you are all welcome to join me. And I will be in and out of HK until early July; I would love to catch up with many of you. So please let me know if you are in town. 

Since I'm leaving for a year, I'm going to sublet out my apartment which I'm sharing with my awesome roommate right now. The location is awesome. It is in Hollywood Terrace in Sheung Wan, which is 5 min walk from Soho, 10 min walk from LKF/IFC, and 2 min walk from Sheung Wan MTR. It's a three bed room apartment so I have 2 bedrooms and a bathroom to myself while my roommate has the en-suite. We're paying 27K between the both of us right now. Fully furnished since I'm leaving all my furniture behind. Let me know if you or your friend is interested and want pictures or see the place. 


I wanted to do this ever since my family bought our first television set way back in China when it was a big deal to own a TV. We turned it on and the first show we ever watched was called "The Legend of the Condor Heroes" (射雕英雄传) about... you guessed it... Chinese martial arts masters. =D

Everybody is kung-fu fighting...

Two quotes that inspired me to do this - 

"Change is not something we should fear. It is something we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom. And nobody in this world would ever move forward to become the person we are meant to be." - B.K.S lyengar

"Have you ever wondered if there was more to life than just being ridiculously good looking?" - Derek Zoolander 


Some have asked me why didn't I just do an MBA which is seen as more acceptable way to take some time off while still doing all the traveling and life experiences (some have even called the MBA the Asian gap year). I think MBA is definitely an worthy pursuit for most people. In fact, I've taken my GMAT already several years ago with scores that would get me in a top 5 program, but as I progressed in my career, the thought of switching out of finance did not sound appealing to me at all. Maybe I'm just a closet masochist, but I actually quiet enjoy my finance career! 

When I eventually pulled the trigger, I was blessed with lots of support from everyone around me including my parents, my boss and my friends. The planning was very time consuming but being organized helped to contain the mess. I was able to knock the things off my list one at a time 

My one year travel plan - 
  • Three month of muay thai training in Chiang Mai and Phuket
  • One professional muay thai fight in Phuket
  • 2 week backpacking trip around Myanmar (the land of thousand temples, with no cell phone services and no ATMs) 
  • 11 days to bicycle around the island of Taiwan 
  • one week to finally visit the west coast, where i've never been before
  • couple days at home in NJ to attend my high school reunion 
  • Travel around south america (peru, brazil, bunerous ares, argentina, easter islands)
  • Several month in Brazil to learn BJJ and surfing
  • travel through europe on the way back to HK (will go to rome to see the Colosseum to see first hand the arena for one of the oldest fighting competitions in the world) 
  • hk for a week to recharge before making my way to korea for some tae kwan do training for several month
  • back to HK to conclude my trip 

How I would suggest you could do it too 
The disclaimer is that this is probably not for everyone. Conservatively speaking, the target audiance for this trip is someone in his/her twenties, have some money saved up, does not have a family, and who is able to stomach some degree of risks. 

  1. Make a list of everything you want to do, including the things that you are afraid to do. Plan out how much time you need. 1 year is usually enough to do most of the things. 
  2. Wait for an proper moment to quit your job (such as recession/now, gotten laid off, changing careers, going back to school, etc). Be accommodating and don't burn your bridges! People will be shocked by your decision, but most will understand and support you 
  3. Quit your job and then announce to the world what you are about to do so that you are committed and can't backtrack 
  4. Taking care of the little things 
    1. Now that you are unemployed, buy travel insurance 
    2. Look at the recommended vaccination for your destination and get them done asap. 
    3. Realize that you don't need much of the material things that you accumulated over the years and throw them out or donate them. Put the rest in storage (i use hk storage) 
    4. Rent out your apartment 
    5. Miles for redemption flights 
    6. Make photocopies of all your important documents and save the softcopies on your computer/usb. (I use evernote) 
    7. Open a safe deposit box and put your valuables in it, such as gold bars, silver coins, family heirlooms, special edition pokemon cards 
    8. Get a international drivers license 
    9. Get the required visas 
  5. Pack as light as possible and then get out of here! 
  6. Option - keep a blog and update the rest of us 
Thank for reading. Follow me on this blog, or join me on my adventures!