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Thailand’s national sport, plus one of its greatest heroes, are now together on Samui – at Samart Payakaroon training gym!

Thailand’s national sport, plus one of its greatest heroes, are now together on Samui – at Samart Payakaroon training gym!Thailand is an ancient and venerable country. It values and upholds its customs and traditions. There are many things in the Thai culture that are considered sacred and beyond reproach. But there are modern Thai legends, too. Newer things, perhaps just a few hundred years old, but arising from deeper roots. I’m not talking about fads like football or food. But I am delving into what’s emerged to become the national sport of Thailand. It’s a blend of tradition and custom, a combination of mind and body, and a celebration of success and achievement. And all of this comes together in the discipline of Muay Thai boxing.


A generation ago, few people outside of Thailand would have been familiar with this sport. Sure, everyone knows of Bruce Lee and Kung Fu. And martial arts centres and dojos are nothing new. But it’s only been in the last few years or so that the discipline of Muay Thai has been taken seriously on an international level. This is partly due to the immediacy of social media. Plus a broader base of internationally televised fighting styles – free-style fighting, mixed martial arts and cage fighting. And partly it’s due to legends like Khun Samart Payakaroon.


Khun Samart has been fighting competitively since he was barely into his teens. But he progressed to become the champion of champions. He held the coveted Lumpini National Championship title not just one time, but on four successive occasions. And then went on to become an international ambassador for Muay Thai, and fight his way to a World Boxing Council championship title and belt, along with two other international championships of honour.


He wasn’t just good, he was exceptional. And a large part of this was because he developed a personal style which made him virtually untouchable. In Muay Thai, elbows and knees are used both in attack and in defence. Thailand’s national sport, plus one of its greatest heroes, are now together on Samui – at Samart Payakaroon training gym!And normally a stretching kick – the front push kick (‘teep’ in the Thai language) – is used for attack. But Khun Samart perfected this as a continual means of defence; his opponents couldn’t get near him. And then, with his lightning speed and reflexes, was able to instantly switch to a thundering offensive attack, which left the competition reeling. To this day, one of his honorary titles is still ‘Payak Nayoke’ – the one who has never taken a cut. And that’s over the course of more than 160 professional fights!


Time and tide, together with age, wait for no man. And so it eventually came to pass that Khun Samart had to broaden his arena. He was invited to appear in firstly Thai movies, and then international ones. He opened what was to become one of the most famous Muay Thai training camps anywhere, in Bangkok. He toured abroad, as a personal trainer for championship fighters, and then as an ambassador for the Muay Thai discipline, establishing training centres, advising trainers and promoting the Muay Thai ethos. But he never lost touch with his heritage, and he always maintained his greatest love; training, teaching and encouraging the disciples of Muay Thai. And now he has opened his second Thai gym and training centre, in Bang Po, on the north coast of Samui.


“This is a holiday island,” he told me. “And I want to make this new gym more than just a place to learn to fight. You can’t begin to fight unless you are fit. And you can’t become fit unless you are healthy. All these things are wrapped up together – the mental discipline and ritual of Muay Thai, and the physical discipline and training you need to go with this. Health, diet, training and lifestyle. And when all this comes together,Thailand’s national sport, plus one of its greatest heroes, are now together on Samui – at Samart Payakaroon training gym! then maybe we can teach you how to fight!”


The result of this considered approach is that Khun Samart’s gleaming new gym offers a variety of different programs, entirely depending on your attitude and inclination. One huge plus is that he has twinned himself with the adjoining Natural Wing Spa & Resort. And so the herbal steam, massage, and healthy-eating restaurant are incorporated into the sphere of his gym. And thus he is able to accommodate guests who just want to keep fit and follow a personal exercise program, as well as those who want maintain their health in friendly and convivial surroundings. Plus, of course, he’s as keen as mustard to foster those who already have some experience in Muay Thai boxing.


It’s taken a great deal of thought and planning – ably assisted and administered by his wife and PR agent, Khun Ning. But there are now a number of options open to interested visitors or residents. There are packages which include accommodation as well as training, exercise routines and sparring. Or you can choose something less strenuous, such as keep fit or self-defence, on a day-to-day basis. If you feel the need to align yourself with a personal trainer, you can. If you want a custommade plan of diet and exercise, just ask. And if you want to learn how to improve your existing Muay Thai skills and be advised and instructed by one of the greatest-ever Thai fighters, well, all you have to do is to come along and sign up!


There is a staff of three full-time professional trainers, together with four proven award-winning professional fighters, plus associated support staff. There’s also the Beach Club, right next to the gym, with a restaurant serving a range of healthy (and fun, too!) snacks, meals and drinks. There are sunbeds, loungers, bean bags, and some of the best swimming on the island. Also Wi-Fi, if you just want to drop in and lounge about.


Khun Samart is personally here for only half of the time – he shares his presence between the new venture here and his dedicated band of followers in Bangkok. But you can schedule and book personal time with him if you wish. Or you can take advantage of one the three new training packages (instruction, healthy eating, massage and steam – half day or full-day). If that’s what you fancy, Khun Samart will be present to train you. But either way, and whatever your needs, this new gym and all its facilities represent the best of Muay Thai – in all its excellence!.


 Rob De Wet


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