Tucked in a far corner of Bangkok, lyes the dominant Muay Thai gym Jitmoungnon. Most Westerners scratch their head at the name, but to Thais the name is well known. Blocks before Jitmoungnon you can hear the echoing of fists, knees, and elbows colliding with decaying punching bags. The gym is old school, but features an abundance of current and future champions.
The gyms most notable fighter, 18 year old Phanpayak Jitmoungnon is the protégé of the gyms owner. Phanpayak has held the most prestigious titles in the country, including Lumpinee and Raja belts. Like Phanpayak many children start training at Jitmoungnon at 8 years old. Parents offer their children to the gym, so they may eat, sleep, and train to become champions. The gyms dorms are crowded with dozens of beds, all housing young children. Although the kids spend a lot of time training, they also go to school. Large white vans transport the kids to and from school each day.
Training at Jitmoungnon is conducted once a day, a long evening session at times lasting four hours. A typical day starts with an hour long run followed by 20 minutes of jump rope, and 10 minutes of shadow boxing. Then bag and pad work begin lasting two hours. The last 30 seconds of each round is a burn out of either punches, kicks, or knees followed by 15 pushups during the minute rest period. On some days, 30 minutes of sparring or clinching is done after bag work.
Youngsters are not the only fighters at Jitmoungnon as there are a handful of older fighters. I being one of them spent a month at Jitmoungnon, and I must say it was some of the toughest training I have ever endured! The sessions were long, and brutal. The first week my calves were so sore I could barely walk up the stairs to my apartment. Despite my pain Jitmoungnon will go down as one of my favorite gyms, due to its pure authenticity. All too many times, Muay Thai gyms are only concerned with making money off foreigners. Jitmoungnon is the exception, and was by far the cheapest of any Muay Thai Camp I have visited. The only drawback for me was that only one trainer spoke English. My Thai being limited I missed out on a lot of instruction from the other coaches, but all in all I loved the time I spent there.