“Jab, jab, uppercut, knee, elbow, elbow, kick, kick, knee, knee, jab, jab, punch!” yells my instructor. I’m breaking a good sweat in the Thai humidity and get a well-deserved break for a minute before resuming my Muay Thai workout at Four Seasons Koh Samui. I look out from the ring at the sparkling ocean, which will definitely be my next stop.
Active travel is a growing trend, whether trekking, cycling, swimming, fitness or health and wellness. Rest and relaxation is all very well, but for many “flop and drop” doesn’t work like it used to. I love my food and at Four Seasons I look forward to every meal. So I need to work out and the Muay Thai program is perfect.
In Thailand, Muay Thai kick-boxing is centuries old and the national sport. Known as “Art of Eight Limbs” – it uses fists, feet, elbows and knees – Muay Thai is real fighting and, for me, has more art than boxing. Like any sport, there is much to learn. The Four Seasons Koh Samui program is an opportunity to train with a professional and get a great workout. So the Four Seasons ticks all the boxes: on an exotic island in a beautiful country, luxury accommodation, great food, an amazing spa, and discovering a new form of fitness. It’s my form of meditation and yoga combined. I work out with the trainer in the morning, have a massage specifically designed to ease all the aches and pains from the workout, then a relaxing lunch at the beach.
My day starts with breakfast by 7.30, then I head down to the boxing ring to warm up. Andy, my trainer, is there already. He is not the retired Thai fighter I was expecting. He’s ex-British Special Forces, 30-something, built like a tank, and a former professional Muay Thai fighter. We warm up jumping rope and doing push-ups and abdominal exercises. It’s warm and humid, and I am soon dripping sweat. Andy gets me to do some boxing, checking my form. Slowly he introduces new techniques such as spinning with elbows, and combination punches with elbows. One or two minutes’ practice, then a much-needed brief rest. We talk technique while I go through the motions, slowly at first then quicker. It’s harder than I thought with a lot of switching feet position to throw a left or right elbow or fist. We work on the new moves for the rest of the 90-minute session.
When it’s over I go straight to a recovery spa session. My masseuse ensures the muscles I used will be ready for tomorrow’s session. Later in the afternoon, I return to the ring to practise my technique and do some rope jumping and exercises before dinner. The food is amazing – healthy and tasty, it certainly helps my recovery.
Next morning, I’m ready to hit it again. I tell Andy I want to leave with a few combinations I can perfect. We begin warm-up exercises together. They’re difficult, but I push through. More new moves and combinations follow. The 90 minutes flies by and once more I’m drenched in sweat. During our short rest breaks Andy tells me about his fighting career. It’s fascinating to hear the amount of training these fighters do and the amount of respect they have for their opponents. It can be brutal – I have bruising on my forearms and shins – but Andy says this is typical and that if I continue to train after I return home, the pain will go. We finish and I am exhausted and ready for a swim. My afternoon session is weight training and after 45 minutes we go to the ring for some more technique work. Soon I am exhausted all over again but it hurts so good!