On April 11th, Frances Watthanaya, of Wor. Watthana Gym, appeared on our monthly Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) in our Thailand Starter Kit Community Facebook group.
About Frances Watthanaya
Frances is a Canadian expat living in Northeast Thailand with her Thai husband, a professional Muay Thai fighter. Together they run Wor. Watthana Muay Thai Gym.
Frances, a former fighter herself, also promotes Muay Thai fights and manages fighters.
She has over 18 years of experience in Muay Thai.
Fighting, Visas, and Work Permits
Question: How does a foreigner become a Muay Thai fighter? Do they need to choose a gym first? How about their visa and work permit? Who handles that? Can they really make a living with it?
Frances: Most foreigners start training in their home countries first and then eventually make their way over to Thailand to train and compete. There are so many gyms in Thailand that now accommodate for foreigners. Word of mouth is a common method of finding a gym, as is searching online.
Only a select number of foreigners will really be able to make a living off of fighting, and those foreigners are usually sponsored by their gym. The rest just do it because they truly love it.
Some gyms are now able to offer education visas, but for the most part Muay Thai fighters are responsible for keeping their tourist visas up to date. As it stands now, there is no work permit yet available for professional fighters, it remains a grey area.
Training in Bangkok Versus Training in Rural Thailand
Question: When someone wants to train Muay Thai in rural Thailand, and has experience training in Bangkok, are there any important differences they should know about?
Frances: Definitely! Isaan is much more conservative. It is really important to be aware of the cultural differences when coming up here.
Depending on the gym, training will most likely be a lot different and less structured than in Bangkok. It is common here to compete frequently, so training then is a lot lighter.
There will be differences within Isaan too, training in the city versus in a rural area, as well as if your gym has ever taken in foreigners before.
In day to day life here, English levels in Isaan are for the most part very low.
Also, the time of year can even affect things. During the monsoon, fighting and training really slows down around here.
Muay Thai for Moms in Thailand
Question: For a working mom in her 30s, do I need to have previous gym experience or contact sports experience to join Muay Thai at a beginner level? Thanks!
Frances: Definitely not! I’d recommend going to a more fitness orientated Muay Thai gym first.
Where to Watch Muay Thai
Question: Do you know any good place to watch Muay Thai in Bangkok or somewhere nearby during Songkran festival?
Frances: There are lots of festival and temple fights happening around Songkran but they are very hard to find.
Instead you can check out Rajadamnern Stadium which holds fights every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Tickets are around 200 Baht though.
If you’re on a budget, check out Channel 7 Stadium on Sunday, it’s free and has a great atmosphere.
Tips on Staying Lean, but Strong
Question: Would you be able to give us some tips and tricks on how a Muay Thai fighter stays fit and strong but still at the same time continues to stay lean, compared to other fighters( MMA, boxers etc)? Would this also have to do with their diet and specific type of exercises or genetics?
Frances: Running twice a day is a big part of Muay Thai. This is great for both conditioning and weight management. Many fighters run 12–16km daily between their two runs. They also compete frequently, especially in the country side. With very little down time, it makes it easier for them to stay lean. Most fighters in Thailand don’t have a diet plan, and actually eat a lot!
Now, on to You
Head over to our Facebook group, Thailand Starter Kit Community, to read the entire AMA and to stay updated on the next AMA.