Choosing the Right Martial Arts Gym
I have been in martial arts since I was eleven years old, and every city I’ve vacationed in, I’ve set out to find a martial arts gym. I’ve trained in Bangkok, Los Angeles, New York, Philippines, Vancouver and more. It is a great way to get in shape, it makes me feel like home, and most importantly it’s a great way to meet new people.
After more than 30 years of training, I have found that there is a martial art and a gym for everyone, and there are a few key elements of a gym that a person should look for, or not look for, to find the right gym that fits their “style.”
The first thing I do when I walk in is pick up a schedule, or ask for one. Usually their websites aren’t completely up to date, and sometimes even their printed schedules aren’t either, so going in person to check it out is the best thing to do. If their classes aren’t during the times I can make it, there’s no point in me trying their gym. Sometimes, gyms will have open mat or special Saturday/daytime classes, so it’s important to speak with someone who works there and ask for a schedule.
I am the type of person who does not care much about how spotless the gym is, or if they provide towels with the showers. I like small, simple, down to earth gyms, and sometimes they don’t even have a shower. But that’s my style. Be sure to check out the facilities, locker rooms and/or parking if that is something you need in a gym.
In looking for great kids martial arts classes, stop by the gym at the beginning or end of a children’s class. That way, you can see what kind of families are there, how friendly they are, how long their kids have been there, etc., to get a feel for the environment of the gym.
When you come to a trial class (and don’t ever join a gym that doesn’t give you a free trial class), do the other students introduce themselves to you? Do they smile? Do they seem like a close knit group of friends? Have they been there a long time? These are things I look for in a gym. I prefer a close knit, warm environment as opposed to a leave-me-alone-so-I-can-workout type of place. But again, it’s all personal preference.
Gyms that have a contract structure in terms of membership can save you a lot of money if you sign their contract. However, if you are unsure about whether you will want to stick around for six months or a year, those gyms may not be for you. If your job makes you travel a lot, or you only want to try a month, see if you want work something out with the owner. This will also give you a good idea of how important you are to them. If the owner just wants you to be able to train and better yourself, he/she will more than likely try to accommodate your needs, or have a month to month type of membership.
I prefer to find a gym that has a good mix of training styles. Some gyms are only about the art, focus on belt ranks, and rarely put their students against each other to spar. Some gyms are all about developing fighters who want to compete. I consider myself a martial arts student and instructor. I love learning all martial arts, like to learn how instructors teach and love to train hard. Depending on what your goals are, it is important to note what kinds of martial artists are at the gym, and what programs it offers.
Picking a martial arts gym, whether you are a beginner or have just moved to a new city and want to continue your training, doesn’t have to be a daunting task. A few key elements to look for, once you decide what you like, will help you make the decision. Everything else will fall into place.