L.A. Jennings, also known as the Pugilista, returns with another guest post. This time, L.A. tackles how to find a new MMA gym to visit and some of the protocol involved in making sure your visit is effective, safe and fun.
Leave Your Ego At Home
I’d like to add one thing to L.A.’s list and that is, to leave your ego at home. It won’t serve you to behave as if your abilities are better than they are…or better than anyone else. Just be friendly and you’ll receive the same treatment from the rest of the students.
Walking in and acting like you’re willing to take on the best students will have the other students laughing and muttering “Cobra Kai” (bad guys from ‘Karate Kid’) under their breath as you walk by ~ Cheryl Ragsdale
1. Finding a place to visit
I typically choose gyms to visit based on their websites, reviews and schedules. However, it’s important to know whether or not the gym will allow someone to drop-in for a one-time training session.
Some gyms, especially those that house professional fighters, do not allow drop-ins for fear of sabotage or spying. Although an extreme view, I can understand, to a certain extent, why some schools may implement this policy. Therefore, I would check with any gym, prior to dropping in, to see if they will allow you to join the workout.
2. Offering money
Many of the gyms I have visited tell me not to worry about money, but I always offer (and often surreptitiously leave) a mat-fee to cover my visit. Some gyms have a drop-in fee already in place, but go ahead and prepare to leave $15 or $20 for your visit. Is this a lot of money for one visit? Perhaps, but it always leaves a good impression to pay or at least offer to pay.
3. Arrive early and prepared
Showing up late for any workout session is inappropriate. Showing up late for a drop-in visit at another school is downright rude. I always try to arrive fifteen minutes prior to class-time in order to sign any documents, talk to the instructor, dress appropriately and wrap my hands. If you are going to be late, don’t even go.
If you can, bring your own gear. I never travel without my gloves, wraps and a pair of focus mitts because Mike and I like to train when we are on vacation. But, especially when you are training at another facility and you don’t know exactly what type of gear they may have, it is always important to come prepared.
4. Don’t over share
If the instructor or any other student asks about your current or past training experience, share the basics, but don’t go overboard. There are few things more obnoxious (and to me, more desperate) than people who tell you about every training experience, seminar, former teacher, etc.
I experience this a lot with new people or visitors to our gym who will tell you all about their former teacher and what a bad-ass they were. Mike will often interrupt to ask these time burglars (as we call them), “What is your record?” That usually shuts them up. The take home point: let them know your basic training experience, such as “I’ve trained Muay Thai for three years in Chicago” or “I’m a blue belt under American Top Team” without overloading them with information.
5. Don’t try to teach
One of the worst things you can do in another person’s gym is try to teach their students. I have guys who will come try out (my) gym, have terrible technique and cardio, then try to coach my students on stuff that is utterly ridiculous. It is incredibly disrespectful to coach when visiting a gym, even if the student needs help.
If you are working on a BJJ transition and they cannot get it, you could offer advice, but make sure you quote the teacher: “I think Professor Blank was cutting his hip in when he got past the leg” or something like that. But don’t try to take over, teach a technique that is not being worked on in that class, or blurt out “At MY GYM, we do it this way…”
Key to visiting? Be polite. Don’t be a jerk
A lot of these tactics should be employed when dropping into gyms while on vacation as well as shopping for a new gym. The key to visiting other schools is to be polite and not a huge jerk. You want the teacher and other students to enjoy having you in the class and not sigh in relief when you leave.
Most importantly, when you are visiting another gym, you are always representing your style and your own school. When people come into our gym and start arguing about a technique or explaining what they do in their gym, it makes their entire system look bad; something that happens within certain systems more than I like.
And although I try not to be judgmental, when you’ve had a dozen people who all train a certain style come into your gym and act that way, it makes that entire system seem desperate, wooden and unable to learn or grow.
Be courteous, respectful and gracious and the school you visit will not only appreciate you, but they will welcome you back for future visits.
What other things do you think are important when visiting or dropping in at another facility?
For those of you who have done this, what has your experience been?
Pictured: former Strikeforce fighters, Elaina Maxwell and Sarah D’Alelio. Photo credit: Janet Martin.
Author Bio: L.A. Jennings from Pugilista.com I’m a U.S.A. Boxing coach, a B.J.J. blue belt and an advocate for women’s combative sports. I own a MMA gym in Denver, Colorado, where I train men and women to compete in boxing, Muay Thai, B.J.J. and submission wrestling and MMA. I’m the Author of She’s a Knockout! Fighting sports historian, and a Feminist, Ph.D in English and Ass-Kicking.
L.A. Jenning’s last posts:
- Women Only MMA Training: Separating the boys from the girls
- Women’s Self-Defense: The only prerogative for fighting?