What Should You Look For In An MMA Gym?
Some fighters choose to train in different gyms with a specific expertise, making the rounds between jiu jitsu, boxing, sparring, etc. This is entirely dependent upon the fighter’s preference and, even more importantly, their location. But if you’re just starting out, you’re likely not going to be going from gym to gym to train. So for the MMA newbie, here is a quick list of four things to look for in a gym.
What is the instructor’s background? If they’re training grappling, are they a black belt or a high level brown belt? Do they have competition experience? While it’s not necessary for an instructor to be a former fighter, it’s best if they have a solid understanding of what goes into training for a competition or a fight. Even more importantly, how do they treat their students? Fighting and competing are stressful, and it’s important that you find an instructor who is able to both push and encourage their students. Take a few classes and see if your personality meshes with the coach before committing.
Even more than ability, having teammates of a similar size is important. If you’re a woman who fights at 125lbs, a gym composed mostly of light heavyweights or men over 200lbs is going to pose an injury risk. Not only that, it will make it much harder to work on offensive skills. Assess the variety of students at the gym and see if it will be a place where you can work with people your size.
Level of Fighters
Who are the fighters at your gym? Are you a professional with 15 fights while your teammates are brand new amateurs? There’s a lot to be said for teammates on any level who are willing to train with you – after all, it’s hard to grapple yourself – but working with someone who just learned armbars or who hasn’t fought before will make it hard to improve your skills. Find a gym where you’ll have the option to train with other students who are at or above your level.
What is the culture of the gym? Is there an undercurrent of competition or do its fighters encourage each other and openly offer advice and praise? Training is fun, but let’s be real – it’s also a grind, and having other people to train with and suffer alongside can be the difference between waking up for an early morning grappling session and pulling the covers back up over your head. There’s also a lot more that goes on outside the gym doors, and if you can count on your training partners to join you on those daily runs or lifting sessions, your game is sure to improve.
Don’t forget, you can find all of these things in a gym, but success is personal. Be realistic about your expectations and what you want out of training. You can find the best gym in the world, but if you don’t put in 110%, all the high level fighters and coaches won’t help. Use these tips to find a great gym – but remember that the hard work and literal blood, sweat, and tears is on you.