Petchrungruang is the second oldest gym in Pattaya, behind Sityodtong Gym. Its founder, Khun Bamrung, came from a farming family and loved Muay Thai, he’d always wanted to be a fighter but his parents forbid it. Often after his work in the evenings he’d just fight with his friends, untrained, just because they loved it. So when he started his own family, it was important to him that his children learn Muay Thai, and from his passion for the Art of 8 Limbs, Petchrungruang Gym was born.
The gym itself began just on the grounds of the farm that the family lived and worked on. Between pineapple trees, in the fields, on the dirt floor, and between the chores necessary for running a farm and the kids going to school. It was a lot of work. In 1986 the foundation for the first ring was poured, and that cemented the official birth date of the gym.
Kru Nu standing on the line where the first cement was poured
The date of the gym’s official foundation, at Kru Nu’s feet in the photo above, year 2529 (1986)
As one of only two gyms in Pattaya that had space for training, many of the famous fighters to come out of Pattaya grew up together and trained together at Petchrungruang. Thappaya, who now owns and runs Sor. Klinmee Gym and his brother Yokthai, who became a western boxing champion and now teaches in Japan, as well as Thailand’s first MMA World Champion Rambaa, and many others who are now local gym owners or promoters.
Petchrungruang also accepted western students very early in its history. One of those very first students, French fighter Frederic Sean (who Kru Nu calls “Chon”), sent these wonderful photos from Petchrungruang 30 years ago. You can see the undeveloped areas of the farm in the background, so different from what this area of Pattaya – and the gym – look like now. Kru Nu walked through the gym to show where each of these photos was and posed in those spots to show the contrast. These are Frederic’s photos and the photos of Kru Nu from now:
Kru Nu in the original ring, which officially established the gym in 1986 (now 2018)
Probably 2 years into the gym, the boy on the left is Yokthai Klinmee, who became famous under the Sit. Or gym name. Kru Nu says they used to have to roll up the canvas of the ring after training, to protect it from the elements as there was no roof over the ring at that time.
The street out front of the gym now has this wall, separating off a warehouse for boat repairs. Back in the 80s it was an open field.
Kru Nu (about 14 years old) and his sister Tuk, in the same spot in front of the gym. Kru Nu was responsible for moving a whole herd of ox like this one every morning and night, before training and before school, then again after school and before training.
Kru Nu standing where one of the early bags was hung; he pointed to the holes in the beam above his head to show where the bolts were. This area now has single-room apartments around the sides of the gym.
Without the apartments, you can see the pen where the ox are kept in the background. Khun Bamrung, Kru Nu’s father and the founder of the gym, and on the bag is a very young Sitthichok. He was later sold to the esteemed Sor. Ploenjit gym in Bangkok and is now a prominent promoter at Max Muay Thai Stadium in Pattaya.
Petchrungruang has a long history, more than 30 years, and features some of the biggest names to come out of Pattaya. Yet it remains a humble, traditional style gym. The livestock and fruit trees are gone as the farm faded and the gym grew, but the “way of life” of farming and the way of life of Muay Thai are similar in ethic. And in those ways, the gym has not changed much.
Special thanks to Frederic for sending these photos.