For many of us, the thought of going to a Muay Thai/ kickboxing, Boxing, MMA or any martial arts gym for the first time can be daunting. Here are a few myths, facts, and tips that may help you decide whether or not you want to take that first step through the door.
The Brisbane Muay Thai community has gone through many changes over the last 10 years, and mostly for the better. The days of thugs running gyms, and students being associated with gangs are very much a thing of the past. There once was a time where boxing and kickboxing gyms (and some karate schools too) had a reputation for being mostly male, and mostly bad. As the sport has become more mainstream, the crowd has also gone the same way, making gyms a safe environment, with very few shady characters.
A Muay Thai school should have a trainer that cares for the safety of his/her pupils. If you are at a school where the trainer is making you spar extremely hard when you are in the early stages of learning, you need to find a new place to learn martial arts. Sparring (practising fighting with an opponent, usually at a slower pace with protective equipment on) is not a case of “making-or-breaking” a student. It is a slow process that takes months, even years, to train your body to learn the right reflexes.
Some of us may be worrying about that bully in the gym who will try to hurt us. These bullies sometimes exist but are not to be taken seriously. A good trainer will spot them early and tell them to change their attitude, or leave. Generally speaking, if a person is seeking out beginners to spar with and is trying to hurt them, they will never be a good martial artist, or will never step in the ring as this is a characteristic of a weak-minded person.
Kids martial arts classes often have a completely different structure for adult classes. At The Fight Centre – Brisbane, we limit the head contact to an absolute minimum in our kids’ classes, making head strikes not practised in sparring and very controlled during drills. We also don’t pressure our kids to compete in the ring. If they choose to, we support it 100 per cent, but we like to keep the classes fun, and an easy environment to learn in.
There are many things that you will learn along the way, to do with gym etiquette, that isn’t usually written anywhere. Here are a few “dos” and “don’ts” in a martial arts gym:
This means to other students and to the gym itself. If you borrow gear, take care of it. If you are sparring or training with a partner and you see they are struggling, lighten the intensity. This comes back to one of the core values in all martial arts, RESPECT.
The gym is a place to train, but for many of the fighters in a Muay Thai school, it is a second home. You can help add to the atmosphere by being positive and open.
-Look after your hygiene-
Nails and toenails trimmed, deodorant applied, clothes washed. You will quickly find yourself short of training partners if you are the smelly person in the gym. If your gloves smell, air them out for a few days instead of leaving them in the bottom of the gym bag.
-Don’t act like a fool while representing your gym-
It’s great to be proud of your gym and where you are learning, but wearing a shirt with your school’s name on it when you are going to a bar and planning on having a few too many drinks is not a great look for you, your gym, or the sport. This may also mean that if you are going to show your support for a fighter from your gym at a Muay Thai event, but also want to get a little bit rowdy with the help of a few beers, you may be better off wearing your old Metallica shirt instead. Just remember, if you are wearing a gym’s shirt, you are a representation of them.
-Don’t wear shoes on the mat-
Some gyms aren’t worried about this rule, but until you know for sure, it is best to assume that shoes are not allowed. This is especially important when entering an MMA or Brazilian Jiujitsu gym.
-Don’t try to hurt others-
This will get you a reputation for all the wrong reasons, or worse yet, thrown out of the gym. Don’t be that guy. Keep it playful and fun for everyone!
Like most things in life, it really comes down to common sense! The gym is not just a place to learn martial arts, but it’s also where you will likely meet some of the greatest friends you will make, so treat each training partner with respect and they will do the same to you. Learning martial arts should be fun, let’s keep it that way!