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Thai Boxing: Where to See It in Its Brutal Glory

If you have ever caught one of the many Ultimate Fighting or other extreme fighting matches on television, chances are you have heard the term Muay Thai (moy-tie) used to describe certain maneuvers.

Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, is the traditional martial art in Thailand, and it can be brutal. It features a variety of kicks, punches and jabs using the whole body, and matches are bloody and intense. Despite its violent nature though, tourists flock to Thailand from all around the world to catch matches featuring some of the best fighters in the world.

Catching Thai Boxing in Phuket

One of the best places to see a real Thai boxing match is Phuket, a popular tourist destination. With multiple boxing arenas hosting both real and staged matches each night, you can easily see this brutal sport in person—or maybe even take a few lessons in the elbow strikes and kicks yourself.

Try some of these venues for an introduction to Muay Thai:

Sala Thai Boxing

For your first introduction to the sport, try catching one of the shows at Sala Thai Boxing in Phuket. While not advertised as such, the matches you’ll see here are demonstration matches. The athletes perform the traditional moves, but do not strike with full force, meaning the show is slightly less bloody and intense than the actual matches. Admission is free, although the athletes will make the rounds for tips after the performance.

Patong Boxing Stadium

If you would rather see the real thing, visit the Patong Boxing Stadium to catch fights between some of the best fighters in Thailand. While ringside seats are generally reserved for locals willing to part with a few baht for the privilege of seeing every last kick and punch, you can join tour groups that offer ringside seats and other benefits to tourists at this popular stadium.

Phuket Boxing Stadium

Another place to catch a real Muay Thai battle is the Phuket Boxing Stadium, the oldest such venue in the area. This stadium, which also welcomes tours from local hotels, advertises matches between the best local fighters and on some days, visiting fighters from around the country.

Thai Boxing Camps

So watching two athletes beat each other to a pulp isn’t enough? Why not enroll in in a Muay Thai training camp? Several gyms and training centers around Phuket offer training programs for visitors, with workshops ranging from a few hours to a few weeks in length. While you might not graduate ready for the ring, you’ll learn new moves that are sure to impress your friends.

Phuket Beyond the Ring

Of course, Phuket offers visitors much more to do beyond Thai boxing, and Phuket holiday packages can include a wide range of activities—from magnificent beaches and watersports to jungle and tropical rainforest adventures.

Want a once in a lifetime experience? Book a journey via elephant. Phuket is home to several elephant trek operators, who will take you on a guided elephant ride through the jungles surrounding the city. Or explore the one-of-a-kind karsts, limestone islands jutting up from the bay, on a sea kayaking tour of Phang Nga Bay. Many of the most beautiful areas of the bay are only accessible via inflatable sea kayak; spend a day on the crystal waters and find a secluded white sand beach away from the crowded tourist areas to enjoy the peace and serenity of Thailand.

And, of course, no trip to Thailand is complete without experiencing a Thai massage. There are dozens of spas in Phuket that guarantee utter relaxation. Ask your hotel or tour provider for a recommendation, based on your desire for a simple massage or a complete spa experience. In fact, if you opt to participate in one of the Thai martial arts camps, you might find yourself needing a massage to soothe your aching and sore muscles.

Whether you are a martial arts enthusiast or just looking for a way to experience the diverse culture and customs of Thailand, taking in a Muay Thai fight is an unforgettable experience. Add one of the battles to your trip itinerary, and come away with a new appreciation for Thai culture, as well as the athletes in the ring.

Carl Raymond is a Muay Thai instructor and frequent traveler to Thailand.  He once fought in the Thai boxing circuit, but after a knee injury he now only trains others.

Photo courtesy of dmitrimaruta from