Finding the martial arts gym that is right for you is never an easy task, and it can be a daunting one.
This article will arm you with the tools for making sure the place you choose suits your training needs. We’ll start from walking in the front door, through class, and all the other details you need to look for before committing to a gym.
1. Friendly and Helpful Staff
A good gym should have a personable and intelligent staff. An easy way to find out if the staff is good is to go to the gym and ask to observe a class. When you walk in, does the front desk person greet you and show you around the gym? Does he introduce you to some of the instructors? And are they friendly? The manner in which the staff acts can tell you worlds about the gym.
Examine the gym’s schedule to make sure they can accommodate your needs. If they can’t, then there’s no reason as to why you should be there. Before signing up, make a plan as to what classes you would want to attend and make sure you get some information on the instructors who will be teaching. This will ensure that you can find the coach who is best for you, that you will be able to attend class consistently, and that you will get the best experience for your dollar.
This is a big one for me and it’s a deal breaker for a lot of people. Some gyms can get pretty nasty, and if the gym you're looking at isn’t clean, then it says a lot about the gym’s attention to detail. Dirty gyms lead to staph infections and the spread of other equally fun bacterial infections.
The gym doesn't have to sparkle but there are some basics that need to be covered. Here’s is a checklist to go though when checking out a new spot:
Are the mats clean?
Are the pads and mitts organized?
Do people wear shoes or sandals when they walk off of the mat? (Because they should!)
Are the bathrooms clean?
A good gym has the right tools to get the job done. They don’t need every toy ever invented for martial arts training, but the basics do need to be covered. If you're in a muay Thai gym, then look for ample amounts of mat space, heavy bags, Thai pads, and strength equipment.
5. Quality Instruction
This is by far the most important thing to look for when choosing to learn a martial art. You could find the nicest facility in the world, but if the instructors don’t know what they're doing then you’re wasting time and money.
A good instructor controls the class in a fluid and organized manner. From the warm up to the cool down, a good instructor will have the focus directed at honing a particular skill or movement. When observing the class, ask yourself if the information being taught is reflected the drills and exercises being performed by the students. A teacher who holds class in this fashion has clearly programmed the session in advance and demonstrates that he or she truly cares about the learning experience.
Another thing to look at when observing a class is the student body. The way a student acts can say much about the quality of the coaches and the gym as a whole. Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking at the students:
Are people sweating, smiling, and learning?
Are they good at what they’re doing?
If not, is the instructor helping them correct their mistakes?
If you answered yes to these questions, then you are in a good spot. Remember that at the end of the day you want to enjoy the training that you are paying for. Martial arts is not all fun and games, but it should be an overall enjoyable learning experience.
Community is a huge part of the martial arts. When you join a gym, you should be joining a family. The gym should be a place where you can openly be yourself and where people hang out and socialize between classes. Before joining a gym, ask the front desk if they plan any events for the members and what the general culture is like.
Becoming a part of a community that is striving towards similar goals is just plain awesome. You immediately have a support system to help you when the going gets tough. That, in my opinion, is worth its weight in gold.
It makes my day when I walk into my gym and see students helping each other. It reaffirms that what I do makes a difference. Whether it’s sharing advice on nutrition, mobility drills to help with aches and pains, working on techniques, or just talking about where you can get the best margarita. Being part of a gym with a sense of community can change your life.