Slava’s path to
I am from Russia, born in the Soviet Union in 1971. I thought I should study a language so I would be able get outside of the Soviet Union. I decided to study Chinese and began studying for a couple years in Vladivostok, Russia. Next, I went to study in Beijing and the year I went there the Soviet Union collapsed and I didn’t know it was the end because I was completely cut off. I studied Chinese 3 more years in Beijing. Then I was able to work for Russian and Ukrainian companies, logistic companies, worked in airports all in Beijing and Tianjin, China. After 22 years in China my wife (who is half Polish and Indonesian, she was born in Warsaw, Poland) realized that we needed more nature. We wanted to live in a place where there are not so many people. When living in Being we were able to travel a lot throughout Asia. Of course we have been to Thailand many times. In the beginning it was Phuket, for the first time in 1999. At that time Phuket was really nice, it was a tourist place but not so many tourist, not so much drinking and parties. We went to Phuket every Christmas until 2007. Then we decided there were too many people, we didn’t like the idea that after Beijing we come to a place were there is another million people.
It is quite isolated and it’s easy but also not easy to come here so it’s not a very popular destination.
Around 2006 we started training Muay Thai in Beijing, we were hooked, we liked this sport. Then we came to this place Lanta Muay Thai Academy for 5 years and just for training, around 20 days every Christmas, my wife, our children and me. When we decided to move out of China, at first we didn’t know what we wanted, we went to Madrid, Spain and spent a couple of years there. But Madrid is too hot, I mean Thailand is very hot too but Madrid is very dry and not many trees. Then we realized we like to live in Asia, we knew Thailand already so we came back to Koh Lanta. The first year here we just trained, for a whole year (did not work). Because we trained in different countries (China, Poland, Russia & Spain) we realized we can add something to the training here at the gym. I volunteered by asking to do the warm up and cool downs for the Muay Thai training and the owner said yes okay, you can try it. Most of the people liked it because professional fighters know what to do for the first 10-20 minutes, but we have quite a lot of beginners and they do not. For Thai trainers it’s a bit difficult for them to understand this because they start this type of training when they are 7 years old. I started Muay Thai 10 years ago so I understood this is something than can be fixed. I then realized that my knowledge about fitness and about the body is not enough. I did a couple of courses for fitness and I graduated from the American Council of Exercise. I got a certificate from ACE and I became a personal trainer. We have Muay Thai here, now we can provide people a personal trainer.
What first hooked you into training Muay Thai?
We decided that we have to try something new and at that time in Beijing MMA started, Brazilin jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai. We went to the gym and tried a Muay Thai training, I remember it was 1.5 hours and after that I crawled out. I couldn’t walk, I was so tried and realized that the 10 years I trained in the gym lifting means nothing here. I thought that’s it, I want to do this kind of training. Now I realize from a fitness point of view Muay Thai is perfect. It’s not boring because every time it’s a different person in front of you, different trainers, it’s different all the time; it’s not just a routine. A huge difference between Muay Thai gyms and normal fitness gyms is the atmosphere. Muay Thai gyms are much more friendly, strangely, because people punch each other in the face but the atmosphere is much more friendly. Maybe its because in a normal gym everyone is concentrating on themselves, they look in the mirror, do their routine. Here its much more social and that’s why we were hooked.
How did you make Koh Lanta your final choice to live?
Its green, it’s a jungle and there are still no McDonalds, Burger Kings, no shopping malls and the Thai people here are still smiling to foreigners. In Phuket it’s quite rare already because it’s all about making money and here its still like a village. There are some foreigners here but the atmosphere on the island feels like life 10 years ago, its not that commercial. I like it like this, we hope there will be no shopping malls, no McDonalds, of course sometimes you want to go to McDonalds but I hope it will stay a little less of everything. Maybe because it’s a Muslim island that there is not so much drinking, not so much partying, prostitutes, maybe I have no idea but its visibly less than other places. The people that come here to party they go back to Pattaya or Phuket after a couple days. It’s mostly for family oriented people or for young couples. That’s why we decided to stay here and live on this island.
How did you find
Lanta Muay Thai Academy?
I think sometimes this place chose us; it just happened, randomly, my wife was pointing out islands on the map. We tried to find some remote islands and we knew we didn’t want a big tourist destination like Phuket. Just looked on the map, choose an island that’s not too big, not too small with gyms. At that time there was only one gym on Koh Lanta so that made it easy for us.
What are you roles at the gym?
My main roles here now are a manager and a personal trainer. I do the warm and cool downs for Muay Thai. I do training for the full body workouts twice a day with groups. I look overall to see if we have any problems and try to fix them with the trainers. Sometimes we have miscommunication problems between clients and trainers. I try to make it more smooth. Sometimes it is because of language and sometimes it is because of different mentalities. Since I lived in China for 22 years and 4 years here, I understand Asian mentality a bit and I understand European mentality. I try to stay in-between and ease it up a bit; this is one of my main roles as I see it, to make the clients happy.
Twice a day I do a full body workout and 3 times per day warm up and cool with the Muay Thai guys. I do the Muay Thai and full body workout warm ups together, for me its usually 3 trainings per day. Sometimes I have private trainings; sometimes we have a family day. Family day is when people buy a package for training, a Thai BBQ and swimming at the pool. The training is a little bit shorter (1 hour) because the children cannot train to long in this temperature. Family day is every Friday. I have one day off per week, Saturday. I like it, I like this regime, and it helps me stay fit.
What can someone expect when coming to train at Lanta Muay Thai Academy?
It’s hot, very hard and fun. We do not have very big groups, 10 to 20 people tops. Right now we have 7 trainers. Sometimes people come to train one time, just to try it out. If people come to try Muay Thai, it will be one trainer for one beginner or group of beginners with many trainers, they will be separated by (skill level). The trainer will show the basics of Muay Thai. If a person has trained before it will be a one to one training along with group training. In Thailand there are quite a lot of Muay Thai trainers and it’s much cheaper to do it here compared to Europe or the United States, especially private trainings. People could do Muay Thai for a few months or even a few a years and they kick incorrectly. Nobody will correct them because its one trainer and the groups are around 30 people. You are doing what your trainer tells you but without correction. You think that you are doing right but you are not. Here because we have much more trainers and less people in the group, it will be constant correction. Even if people train in Sweden or Norway, (by the way most of the clients we have here are from Scandinavian countries) progress is much faster here than Europe because we are always correcting. Training for the same money as Europe or less. Some people come to Koh Lanta just for training, 1-2 months and some of them 6 months. We have a variety of accommodations, from cheaper rooms (20,000 bath per month & at least one training per day) to apartments with kitchens and a nice swimming pool. Some people come with their families, the kids and wife at the swimming pool, husband is doing Muay Thai or fitness full body workout with me. Normal training starts with a 20-minute warm up one hour of Muay Thai training then a 10 minute cool down. Usually that’s more than enough but some people do it twice a day. Or they mix, for example, morning Muay Thai training and the afternoon a full body workout.
Advice for people coming to train Muay Thai in Thailand
In Thailand there are a lot of gyms in almost every city and in every small village. It’s hard for me to say that we are the best gym or some gym is the best because we are different and all people are different. Some people like to train in a bigger city such as Bangkok or Phuket. In Phuket there is a concentration of the different gyms, Muay Thai and fitness. There is a street there and you can choose what gyms you want. Some gyms are very commercial, very structured, foreign management. Some gyms are very traditional. I’ve heard very different opinions about the same gyms, some people say I love that gym because it’s very structured and another person says they didn’t like that same gym because it’s too commercial. For me it’s hard to say what gym is good for a person. Of course look at the reviews and I think the best advice is look at the place where you will live not only the gym. You will be living there for a few a months so look at the place and then look at the gyms. Usually the quality of the gym in Thailand is quite high, it will be different from Europe or US but the quality will be quite high. Because there are so many gyms you can change at any moment. If you don’t like a place, you can very easily find another place to train in the same region or city. If you want to do it, just go. I talked with a guy from Poland at a party and after a couple shots of vodka he was saying I’m so envious you live on an island, everything’s green around, you workout for a living, it’s a perfect life and I would like to do that. I told him just do it! I understand why people are afraid to do it but if you really want it, you can do it. I think the hardest part is to have a plan, what do you really like to do? This is the hardest part.
What do you like to do on the island outside of training?
Just ride my scooter; sometimes I go to different parts of Koh Lanta to see something new. I find a reason to go to remote places, I tell my wife I want to go buy something, actually I don’t, but I want that feeling of freedom on the scooter.
I cook at home usually. Sometimes when we are lazy we eat Thai food, we love Thai food. We miss Chinese food very much, sometimes we are dreaming about Chinese cuisine.
Living on a island away from home
Now being a foreigner in Asia, I think it’s easier because of the Internet. I came to Beijing in 1991 as a student and for 3 years I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t watch Russian TV, didn’t watch Chinese TV. I was outside one day and somebody just told me there was a war in Yugoslavia, its just collapsed. I’m like oh really, I was cut out. Now it’s easy because of the Internet you can live on an island and feel like you’re at home a bit, you can be in touch with your country.
Do you see you and your family living in Koh Lanta for 5-10 more years?
I have no idea. We realize that sometimes you make a plan and you try to go in that direction but you can just drive this car a few degrees left or a few degrees right, that’s it. Then something or somebody is driving you. We have been in Phuket during a Tsunami and that was eye opening. You have a plan and then something happens to you or your family. You are trying to understand, I had a plan for the future and now I’m here. We don’t make very long plans; we try to react to what is going on around us. Because it just doesn’t work if you have very long plans. Right now you see corona virus, financial crisis, oil went down, and you don’t know what will happen next month. I do know, I love this island and I love the people around here.