I am at a Muay Thai Gym. Before class, coach pairs up everyone into partner groups for drills and pad work. Sometimes there are odd number of people, so some people are in a 3 group (which is totally fine). Recently I downgraded my membership to Level 2 Tier, so I come in few times a week, instead of everyday.

As soon as I downgraded my membership, I was placed into the 3 group, multiple weeks in a row. For some reason, our gym always gets odd number of people. Mind you, before I downgraded, I was always placed in a partner 2 group last few months.

After practice, I approached my coach, and asked, "I understand there's going to be odd number of people in the gym, and I'm happy to be paired in a triple group. However, from time to time, can we rotate who is placed in 3 people, so people take turns each session? I understand there are couple competitors in the gym, and I don't need to be paired up with the best people, but I want to get a fair time/cardio workout with anyone else"

Then he basically told me, there is a hierarchy in the gym. That I need to bring value to the partner. He is sticking 3 of the lowest beginners in the triplet, and they can figure out. I'm thinking in my head, I've done this for couple years, was always in a 2 group, until membership downgrade. In addition, how are three beginners going to figure things out? In my last gym, I would pair with Both people who are Lower Skillset and Higher skillset. Anyways, I am going back to my old gym. No need to debate, its his gym. The new gym after trial run doesn't do this plus, it wins many competitions.

However, is this behavior typical in gyms or in America or Thailand, or not representative of the Muay Thai culture? Trying to understand both perspectives, Thanks

  • I could give an answer, but it wouldn't be for Muay Thai. Would that still be helpful for you? Dec 21, 2022 at 12:52
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    Not from a MT perspective, but typical? No. Representative of money over student? Definitely.
    – JohnP
    Dec 21, 2022 at 14:12
  • hi @MacacoBranco sure, feel free to give answer for other sport
    – mattsmith5
    Dec 21, 2022 at 18:20

2 Answers 2


I can't speak to Muay Thai, but the practice of putting beginners in the trio has not been uncommon in my classes in the United States in Capoeira, Karate, and Tang Soo Do. The idea behind putting beginners into the trio is that they have an opportunity to view from a third person perspective, rather than always being either in the midst of attacking, or in the midst of defending. That said, there's been even chances of having a more experienced person as a third person, often the instructor. And, when it is the instructor, often they will not take the observer position of watching the two beginners do it most of the time, but rather always be demonstrating the correct way to attack or to defend, with the "out" beginner watching. This may depend on how much the instructor feels they need to watch the other people doing the exercise, in order to provide guidance.

If the two beginners do basically understand the technique, it can be helpful, them being the two people performing it, because both of them will be moving with sufficient slowness and deliberation, compared to a more experienced person who may attack, or defend, at full force and speed, not matching the speed of the other person. As you note, if neither of them really understand the exercise, that is where the instructor should be stepping in to ensure that things are done correctly.

Honestly, as you stated, it does sound like you are being punished for having downgraded your subscription. I honestly cannot say that it has been a typical experience for this to happen. Most of my instructors have been as much in this for the love of instructing other people as making money. That said, people who prioritize the money do exist.

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    yeah, I dont mind the trio, its just it was All 3 beginners in it, no intermediate, so no one knew what they are doing, and the instructor wasn't there either, thanks
    – mattsmith5
    Dec 23, 2022 at 18:23

It sounds like a cultural thing, whether it driven by Muay Thai tradition or your Coach I'm not qualified to say. Some martial arts gyms are driven by competition results, others want to help all members master the art.

I've trained BJJ under a few Coaches and the common theme is that the school as a whole benefits from mixing ability / experience levels. Lower belts don't learn properly from each other, higher belts benefit from passing on their learnings as well as training against a less experienced partner. Lower belts also learn to trust BJJ through putting their wellbeing in the hands of a more competent partner.

Relationships build, expertise builds and the gym as a whole grows from this approach. The approach you describe may ultimately lead to a decline in numbers as beginners don't learn and advanced members run out of training partners.

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