The next time you book an international vacation, think about traveling to Asia, where you can relax, discover a new culture, and pick up some martial arts skills along the way. Or as many now call it – a training vacation.
The concept of training vacations is becoming more of a trend in recent years, because it permits individuals to de-stress and experience a new country, all while leaving room to advance their fitness and learn martial arts from experts.
Conceptually, it is quite brilliant. People can take a few classes a day, feel re-energized, and then discover their surroundings as they would with any other vacation. Here are four of the top MMA gyms in Asia where you can get the best of both worlds.
1. EVOLVE MMA
The brainchild of entrepreneur and lifelong martial artist Chatri Sityodtong, Evolve MMA has become a hotbed for world champions. Located in Singapore, Evolve has three central locations, with classes led by modern-day martial arts gurus.
Home to several international superstars including ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion Angela Lee, ONE Welterweight World Champion Ben Askren, and former titleholders Shinya Aoki and Dejdamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke, Evolve has merged all-star training with an embracing atmosphere.
A seemingly never-ending supply of Thai world champions run the Muay Thai program, several certified world champion black belts head up the BJJ program, and former Olympian Heath Sims leads the wrestling and fitness programs.
Not only are you guaranteed to advance your skills at this exquisite facility, but you will rub shoulders with the next generation’s elite. After all, Evolve is a breeding ground for the MMA stars of tomorrow.
Things to do when not training: Aside from visiting the temples and museums, you must take a stroll through Clarke Quay, Chinatown, and the Marina Bay area. Orchard Road is a shopper’s paradise, and there are hawker centers and bars throughout the vicinity.
The veteran leader on this list, Tiger Muay Thai & MMA has been a cornerstone of the Phuket, Thailand, community since its inception in 2003. It offers cozy accommodations, an on-site restaurant, and Kru Oh even has his own tattoo shop nearby.
Though TMT, as it is famously known by, has a world-class Muay Thai program instructed by highly-regarded Krus, the camp also offers BJJ from second-degree black belt Chris Vamos and an MMA focus under star athlete George Hickman.
Plus, many legitimate mixed martial artists can be found advancing their game here. The list includes ONE Championship’s Roger Huerta, Shannon Wiratchai, and Rika Ishige, as well as UFC Women’s Bantamweight Title Contender Valentina Shevchenko.
Things to do when not training: There is an extensive list of exciting activities in Phuket, ranging from snorkelling in the ocean and other outdoor adventures, to fashionable shopping centers and a variety of street markets to indulge in.
Team Quest Thailand, the American franchise that made Dan Henderson and Randy Couture household names, opened its doors in North Thailand’s beautiful jewel of a city, Chiang Mai, in 2011.
Owned and operated by Ian Cartwright, the facility offers authentic Muay Thai training, where students work under the watchful eye of head trainer Kru Ni. While Muay Thai may be the lead attraction, rounding out the camp is a BJJ program run by third-degree BJJ black belt and judo black belt Bruno Carvalho, as well as an MMA program designed by longtime Team Quest member Dylan Fussell.
As the sport of MMA continues to gain traction in Thailand, TQT is at the forefront of the movement, and has churned out prospects the likes of “The Smiling Assassin” Pongsiri Mitsatit and Tanaphong Khunhankaew.
Things to do when not training: There are over 300 temples in the area, as well as mountain hikes, wildlife adventures, and an exciting nightlife you should partake in.
4. BALI MMA
It may be one of the newer gyms in Asia, but Bali MMA has become the continent’s most-talked-about team since launching three years ago.
Conceived by the Leone brothers, this humble camp is led by head MMA coach Don Carlo-Clauss, lead striking instructor Nico Verresen, and Muay Thai champion Tiffany Van Soest. Anthony and Andrew Leone, the latter brother a contender in ONE, are also masterful wrestlers, and own some of the best wrestling in Southeast Asia.
The Indonesian gym features a slew of talented fighters including ONE Lightweight World Title challenger Ev Ting and the Subba brothers, so their dedication and passion could very well inspire anyone who enters the facility. Walk in with a desire to learn, and leave with some new skills and confidence.
Things to do when not training: Bali is home to some of the best beaches in the world, so hit the sand and surf the legendary waves. When you are done, check out the waterfalls, the Sacred Monkey Forest, the temples, and the scenic beauty.