Martial arts, Asia’s greatest cultural treasure, has experienced a massive explosion in popularity across the region in recent years. As a result, the number of quality gyms has also skyrocketed.
To celebrate the very best institutions that are raising champions, building new talent, and passing on an enduring tradition of excellence, we’ve identified the very best in each country across the continent.
The premier martial arts gym in Asia, Evolve is headquartered in Singapore with four convenient locations in the country. Everything the gym does is centered around its motto of “Unleash Your Greatness,” with training programs tailored for everyone from complete beginners to experienced professionals.
Led by a star-studded instructor roster filled with Muay Thai, boxing, and BJJ world champions, the skills passed down are of the highest level. In fact, people travel from all around the world just to put in some time training at Evolve. As proof of this, several of ONE Championship’s biggest superstars train at Evolve, including ONE Women’s Atomweight World Champion “Unstoppable” Angela Lee, ONE Strawweight World Champion Alex Silva, and former ONE Lightweight World Champion Shinya Aoki.
The brainchild of Singapore martial arts pioneer, national boxing coach, and highly-decorated champion Arvind Lalwani, Juggernaut Fight Club is a popular training location for budding martial artists in Singapore. With so much talent under one roof dedicated to top-notch training, it’s no wonder that it has produced so many homegrown champions in multiple disciplines across the region.
Led by Singapore pioneers Bruce Loh and Royston Wee, Impact was founded in 2010 to provide affordable training without compromising quality, and has produced several successful local Singaporean talents, such as ONE Championship athlete Niko Soe. Impact’s students also feature regularly on the podium for martial arts tournaments throughout the region, continuing a tradition of success in BJJ, Muay Thai, sanshou, boxing, and wrestling
The first martial arts gym established in Singapore, Fight G Academy was built by Darren “Senz” de Silva, who holds over 30 years of experience in martial arts and 20 years in coaching. With an emphasis on hard-style competitive training, several of the gyms products have unsurprisingly made a name for themselves on the regional scene, as well as on the global stage of ONE Championship.
Team Highlight Reel describes itself as a team of highly skilled, passionate, and dedicated coaches and students, with the drive to improve themselves through martial arts being at the gym’s core. Though a new player, Team Highlight Reel is led by former ONE contender and BJJ black belt Major Overall, and holds lots of promise. In fact, it already counts women’s strawweight world title challenger Tiffany “No Chill” Teo among its ranks.
Hands down the most popular martial arts organization in the Philippines, the famed Team Lakay of Baguio City offers classes in grappling and wushu, and is home to the country’s biggest martial arts stars such as former ONE World Champions Eduard “Landslide” Folayang and Honorio “The Rock” Banario, and several top contenders in many weight classes. The way the gym molds these martial artists’ lives from adversity to triumph has been simply inspiring.
Headed by legendary Filipino martial artist Mark Sangiao, Team Lakay has dominated the Philippine martial arts scene for years with their high-level of skill and admirable humility. What’s more, the high altitudes of Baguio City are perfect for building stamina and endurance, ensuring Lakay warriors never run out of gas while throwing their signature wushu strikes.
The newest martial arts and fitness gym in Manila, Alliance Training Centre is the first Filipino branch of ONE Heavyweight World Champion Brandon “The Truth” Vera’s Alliance. The gym is helmed by Vera’s coach himself, George Castro, and looks to raise the profile of Filipino martial arts to new heights. The transformation has already started, with stars such as Ramon Gonzales and Burn Soriano already embarking on training programs there.
Headed by ONE Championship athlete and acclaimed wushu world champion Rene Catalan, Catalan Fighting Systems is home to several Filipino homegrown martial artists plying their trade in ONE Championship. This includes Rene’s brothers Ruel and Robin Catalan, as well as breakout star Jomary Torres. By promoting martial arts, the gym aims to turn Filipinos away from vice, and lead through their athletes’ examples.
Known for their world-class boxing program, Elorde Gym recently incorporated kickboxing and other martial arts into their training schedule. With countless branches and affiliates all across metro Manila, students are spoiled for choice when it comes to what they want to train in and where. Elorde is starting to produce some exciting martial arts talent, such as the promising Rome Trinidad.
Launched in 2012, Mindanao Ultimate is a gym in Cagayan De Oro City, Misamis Oriental, and has produced martial artists such as Rabin Catalan to compete on the global stage. Starting out primarily in Muay Thai, the gym is based on the teachings of its Founder, Kru Raul G. Sevilleno, and emphasizes traditional and hard training for self defense and discipline.
Monarchy in Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia’s top martial arts institution, and offers extensive boxing, Muay Thai, and jiu-jitsu training programs for all levels of martial artist. Emphasis is placed on practical and effective instruction for competition, self defense, and overall fitness.
Co-founded by ONE athlete Samir Mrabet and Mike Rodgers, Monarchy is where ONE Championship superstar Agilan “Alligator” Thani underwent his incredible transformation into a welterweight world title contender. In addition, the gym regularly hosts Malaysian stars the likes of Ev Ting and Gianni Subba whenever they roll into town.
Established in 2010, MuayFit has set the standard in Malaysia for Muay Thai, Krav Maga, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and fitness. There are four locations all throughout the country, with a main branch in Petaling Jaya. The facility hosts visitors from all over the continent, including Filipino striker Eric Kelly, Malaysian superstar Peter Davis, and current lightweight competitor Richard “Notorious” Corminal.
A year after being declared one of the world’s best by the World Muay Thai Association, ONE Championship bantamweight Saiful “The Vampire” Merican realized a lifelong dream by opening Merican Muay Thai Gym in 2010. Based in Kuala Lumpur, he has been helping people achieve their weight-loss goals and realize their own martial arts dreams.
Malaysian martial arts pioneer and 2013 ONE Featherweight Tournament Champion AJ “Pyro” Lias Mansor has breathed new life into Sabah. Though he worked with aspiring talents for years, he took it to a new level in 2013 when he opened Borneo Tribal Squad. Since that time, he produced a slew of dynamic athletes including ONE Championship’s Hisyam Samsudin, Ann Osman, Kelvin Ong, and Audreylaura Boniface.
Away from the urban glitz of Kuala Lumpur and the beautiful outdoors of Sabah lies Ultimate Academy. Based in Johor Bahru, right on the border of neighboring Singapore, this particular venue was founded by pioneering ONE featherweight competitor Melvin “Overkill” Yeoh in 2006. It quickly became a popular training destination as a one-stop shop for all your martial arts needs, and is considered the sport’s oldest running gym in all of Malaysia.
Tiger Muay Thai continues to be the most famous gym in the entire country. The Phuket-based camp was originally founded in 2003, but since that time it has transformed into one of Southeast Asia’s most reputable facilities, and one of the world’s top destinations for holiday training.
Although mostly known for their extensive Muay Thai expertise, with over 30 “Kru” instructors running the program, hundreds of students pour into the facility on a daily basis to participate in the gym’s many fitness and martial arts classes. Several top ONE athletes cross-train there, including Tiffany Teo, Pongsiri Mitsatit, Shannon Wiratchai, Rika Ishige, Emilio Urrutia, and former ONE Flyweight World Champion Kairat Akhmetov.
Just a few minutes down the road from Tiger is Phuket Top Team. Founded by Australia’s Boyd Clarke, this camp is also known for its Muay Thai program and has nearly 20 instructors on deck to serve the gym community. But they have expanded into BJJ and martial arts competition, where they have groomed the likes of world title contender Xiong Jing Nan, as well as “Ruthless” Rob Lisita and Anatpong “Mak Mak” Bunrad. Former ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash also opts to train there whenever he is in Asia preparing for his bouts.
An extension of the legendary gym founded by Randy Couture, Matt Lindland, and Dan Henderson, Team Quest Thailand was established in 2012, and has developed a reputation of excellence in Chiang Mai. TQT is operated by Ian Cartwright, and has produced both Muay Thai world champions and top ONE contenders. The facility has become the premier vacation training spot in Northern Thailand, offering Muay Thai and BJJ classes.
Operated by North American martial artist Tommy Hayden and martial arts coach Ponlawat Maki, Wild Card Gym TU is blazing the trail in the Pathum Thani province of Thailand. The twosome are doing their part to help foster the scene, and 13-time National Wrestling Champion Kritsada “Dream Man” Kongsrichai is emerging as one of the top strawweight athletes in ONE.
There are several incredible gyms holding court in Thailand’s capital city, but Bangkok Fight Lab has emerged as a leader in the Muay Thai-centric community for its diversified martial arts program. With over 600 square meters of practice space, the facility specializes in all disciplines and has accomplished veterans guiding the way. This is also the home gym of Wiratchai and Ishige, whose drawing power is bringing more attention to the facility.
For a quartet of individuals, Bali MMA is a dream come true. The gym was launched in October 2014 by Steven Suryadinata, head coach Don Carlo-Clauss, former ONE Bantamweight World Title challenger Andrew Leone, and his brother, Anthony. They envisioned setting up a martial arts gym near in the Indonesian village of Canggu, which was only footsteps from the beach, where they could combine two of their greatest passions – martial arts and surfing.
In a short three years, it has become the premier destination for martial arts in the entire country. The four have produced internationally-recognized names such as kickboxing world champion Tiffany Van Soest and Muay Thai veteran Nico Verressen, as well as ONE warriors Stefer Rahardian, Riski Umar, and Gianni Subba. Beyond that, they hold regular events for their students to test their skills, further proving to be a leader in the country’s martial arts scene.
Bali may be the premier destination for martial arts in Indonesia, but it would not have been possible without Jakarta Muay Thai. Majority owner Steven Suryadinata brought the Leone brothers into the fold in 2013, and together, they made it into a powerhouse. In fact, it has become the largest martial arts gym in the country’s capital, and has a slew of national boxing and Muay Thai champions and medalists passing down their knowledge on a daily basis.
Siam Tigershark, also known as Tigershark Fighting Academy, was established in 2002 by former ONE welterweight and local legend Zuli “The Shark” Silawanto. While the gym served as his home base during his competition years, he has since developed several talents including Adrian “Papau Badboy” Matheis. The gym regularly participates in competitions all throughout Southeast Asia, and Silawanto has created a familial atmosphere with his students, making it a welcoming place for students to learn and blossom.
One of the newer gyms on the block, Gorilla Fight Club has rapidly grown. Since its inception in 2015, they have morphed to two locations in Jakarta, and feature instructors who have won national titles in submission wrestling, jiu-jitsu, and wushu sanda. With their popularity growing and their gyms multiplying, it is only a matter of time before this venue produces world-class athletes who will take to the ONE cage.
Led by Indonesian martial arts pioneer and Rickson Gracie BJJ black belt Niko Han, Bali’s Synergy academy was set up in 2003, and is a world-class facility dedicated to spreading BJJ and martial arts across the world. Beyond mere silverware, the gym’s training focuses on self-defense, fitness, character development, and personal achievement to elevate its students.
#1 Long Yun
Chinese martial arts is quickly on the rise, and a number of martial arts gyms across the mainland have established themselves in recent years. Located in Harbin, China, Long Yun is headed by “The Northern Tiger” Jiang Long Yun, who has developed China’s new crop of talent competing on the global stage of martial arts. One shining example is Xie Chao, who has taken the ONE Championship featherweight division by storm, scoring two quick stoppage wins in as many appearances.
Established by former police officer En Bo, Enbo Fight Club is based in Chengdu, and was formed to provide impoverished youth an opportunity to train in various martial arts disciplines. After decades of development, Enbo Fight Clubs facilities now encompass almost 4000 square meters, and is filled with top-notch equipment. Unsurprisingly, they also have almost 100 professional athletes under their wing.
Home to Chinese martial arts star and former CKF champion Zhao Zhi Kang, over 150 of China’s top martial arts talents train under its enormous roof. With two main locations, Shanxi Xindu Martial Arts aims to spread the beauty of Chinese wushu, and even holds several in-house tournaments to test its students skills before presenting them on the global stage.
True to its name, China Top Team is one of the very best martial arts training facilities in China, and is led by top martial arts contender and trainer Li Jing Liang. Established in 1992 in Beijing, China Top Team is now home to several top talents the likes of Hexigetu, who fly the China flag on the global stage in promotions around the world.
Spanning three locations in the sprawling Chinese metropolis, Tianjin Top Team specializes in Muay Thai, boxing, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and has been in operation for more than eight years. Classes are taught by a roster filled with martial arts champions, and they have produced proven winners such as ONE stars Li Kai Wen, Ma Jia Wen, and Xie Bin.
A modern martial arts gym based in the heart of Tokyo, Japan, Tribe Tokyo features world-class facilities and engaging fitness and martial arts classes catered to practitioners of all experience and skill levels. In fact, the gym’s motto is to “enjoy martial arts regardless of age or gender.”
Tribe Tokyo’s competition team features some of Japan’s best martial artists such as Yoshiuki Nakanishi, Kiyotaka Shimizu, Takashi Sato, and Takahiro Okoshi, among others. Owned and operated by legendary Japanese martial artist Ryo Chonan, Tribe Tokyo is also home to martial arts great Shinya “Tobikan Judan” Aoki whenever he is in Japan.
Paraestra Matsudo in Japan is where former ONE Strawweight World Champion Yoshitaka “Nobita” Naito polishes his skills alongside several of the nation’s best martial artists. Founded by the legendary Yuki Nakai, Paraestra has several locations throughout Japan, most notably in Tokyo. However, it is the Matsudo, Chiba, branch that has found most success on the global stage so far with Naito, who was also a Shooto champion.
Founded by professional athlete Kazuyuki Miyata in 2009, Brave Gym now has three branches across Japan. Intended as a space where students can enjoy training while meeting their individual needs, the gym has produced several successful martial artists. Most notably, Grachan champion and ONE strawweight standout Hayato Suzuki trains and works on his skills on a daily basis at the Tokyo headquarters..
The Yamamoto Sports Academy is led by charismatic Japanese martial arts star Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, and is the home of the Krazy Bee competition team. With several top Japanese talents among its instructors and students, it is no wonder that the gym achieves frequent success, and produced former ONE Lightweight World Champion Kotetsu Boku.
A branch of the famed Wajutsu Keishukai chain of gyms, GODS is where ONE women’s atomweight world title contender Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi goes to work on her veteran martial arts skills. Led by Taiyo Nakaohara, the gym caters to students of all levels, and is located on the outskirts of Tokyo.
The martial arts scene in South Korea is heating up in a big way, and Busan Team MAD has emerged as the frontrunners of the movement. Founded by 2005 by former Spirit MC combatant Sung Hoon Yang, the gym has grown tremendously in the past decade.
There are over 50 professional and amateur martial artists representing the Busan Team M.A.D. banner, with several competing for major organizations all over the globe. Some of those names include international stars “Stun Gun” Dong Kyun Kim, “The Korean Superboy” Doo Ho Choi, Seo Hee Ham, former Legend FC Welterweight Champion Myung Ho Bae, and previous ONE competitor Seung Ho Yang.
Based in the country’s capital of Seoul, Korean Top Team has become a breeding ground for world-class talent. Founded in 2003 by Dong Jin Ha, the years have seen the facility’s popularity skyrocket. Many of their trainees have competed in both major international and regional shows, and elite talents such as Benson Henderson have spent time training there. In fact, to provide their own pupils with experience, the gym launched their own promotion Top FC so the students could test their skills in a live setting.
Named after its renowned owner and active competitor “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, the Korean Zombie gym opened its doors in 2013, and has quickly become one of the top martial arts facilities in Seoul. Some of the camp’s athletes, such as Jin Soo Son and Young Bok Kil, have made their way to Japan’s biggest shows, and is becoming a terrific launchpad for South Korean talent.
The Seoul-based Kukje Gym may sound familiar. It is operated by Dae Ryeong Kim, a former ONE welterweight and the older brother of former ONE Bantamweight World Title challenger “Ottogi” Dae Hwan Kim. With expertise in countless martial arts disciplines, they are developing a new generation of martial arts warriors who are now just starting to take to the cage. Look for them to be a force in the near future.
#5 Team Force
There may be big players in Busan and Seoul, but Team Force is the dominant gym in Wonju. Founded by Asian martial arts pioneer and kickboxing champion Moon Hong Jung, the gym has a blend of crafty veterans and talented upstarts. Perhaps the biggest name associated with the dojo is Soo Chul Kim, who previously held the ONE Bantamweight World Championship. Most importantly, Team Force is focused on pushing and identifying top Korean martial artists.
#1 Taung Ka Lay
The famed Taung Ka Lay lethwei gym in Myanmar is where ONE Championship stars Saw Ba Oo, Ye Thway Ne, and Saw Darwait train and hone their skills. Although specializing in the ancient martial art of lethwei, Taung Ka Lay has recently started developing ground skills for their devastating strikers to compete on the global stage. In fact, Saw Darwait even pulled off a first-round submission on his ONE debut.
#2 Myaing Ka Lay
Home to ONE Championship athletes Tha Pyay Nyo and Saw Yan Paing, Myaing Ka Lay is another highly-decorated gym in the devastating striking art of lethwei. To date, Tha Pyay Nyo has had the most success in the cage, owning the ONE Myanmar Featherweight Tournament 2015 championship and a spectacular 16-second knockout.
#3 A Phyu Yaung Thway Thit
Despite its many achievements and accolades, lethwei gym A Phyu Yaung Thway Thit is probably best known to Asia for producing undefeated Myanmar featherweight standout Phoe Thaw. The ONE Myanmar Featherweight Tournament 2016 champion, Phoe Thaw developed his formidable striking here, and has since registered four knockouts under the ONE banner.