Choosing the right Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gym will play a crucial role in your enjoyment of the sport, and your ability to fulfill your physical, spiritual and philosophical goals.
In the past, MMA schools were few and far between in the United States, so if you lived in the wrong city or state, you may have been out of luck. However, the past generation has seen rapid growth in mixed martial arts academies, as well as qualified schools specializing in one or a few disciplines.
The growth of mixed martial arts gyms has been a mixed blessing for casual athletes, weekend warriors, and aspiring professional fighters. Why? It’s great to have choice, but the decision-making process is complex, taking into account price, quality of instruction and a whole host of other essential criteria.
To help you choose the right MMA academy, consider three (3) major questions that can better focus your gym search:
- Is the Head Trainer and your Prospective Teammates right for you?
As a new mixed martial arts student starting out today, the top criterion on your list – regardless of your natural ability – should be team chemistry. Meet the head trainer and the athletes, speak to them about their goals and desires, and decide whether you can work with them 1-2 hours per training session, 3-5 days per week.
Individual martial arts and Mixed Martial Arts as a whole place great value on the student-teacher relationship. In today’s fast-paced world, you must trust and have confidence in the people around you. It’s true in MMA, just as it’s true in the workplace.
Open Houses and local “Sports Days” are not ideal for answering all your important questions. So, try to arrange a formal appointment with the head instructor and keep the following in mind:
- Does this instructor teach authentic Mixed Martial Arts, and is the gym a true Mixed Martial Arts academy? What are their specializations (boxing, Muay Thai, judo, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu)?
- What kind of fighting, training and coaching background (lineage) does the person have?
- Are the gym’s certifications legitimate?
- Can you get along with the instructor on a personal level? Is the instructor prepared to make a personal commitment to YOU?
- Does the instructor show genuine passion for Mixed Martial Arts?
- How strong is the team, and can its strength help you with your weaknesses?
- What are the Mixed Martial Arts Training Facilities Like?
Visit the mixed martial arts facility personally as you would an ordinary gym prior to signing a contract. This is an important way to learn about its business history and training atmosphere. Ask for a guided tour – if it’s from the owner/instructor, great. Regardless, keep some questions in mind as you walk around the facility:
- How long have you been in business, and what is your current membership size?
- Do you cater to beginners?
- Check out the floor plan. How many rings are there for sparring? Are the exercise rooms, weight rooms, and dedicated classrooms for instruction large enough?
- Equipment: Are the cardio machines, heavy bags, and resistance training equipment clean and in top working order?
- What’s the gym culture? Do members look like they are enjoying themselves while working out?
The nature of mixed martial arts dictates that one gym may not be enough or adequate for your needs. For example, if you have the opportunity to join the best Muay Thai academy and the best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in town, go for it! The additional cost may be worth it, especially for those pursuing a professional career.
- How convenient is the gym and what is its Price?
Even if the trainer and facilities exceed your expectations, other factors may still prevent you from joining. For example, the class schedule may conflict with your daily chores, or the time requirements may be too much to handle. Is the gym location to your liking?
Of course, price can be an issue and we would never recommend that you compromise your budget for any new endeavor. Yet, from my experience the happiest clients are usually those who are not bargain hunters, i.e. they know what they want and regard their monthly fee as an investment, not an expense. The more professionally-minded may have to move out of town to pursue more ambitious goals.
In the end, evaluate your mixed martial arts goals and judge how far you are willing to go to achieve them.
The vast majority of people are looking for fitness gains that they can maintain over a long period of time. As such, they may not require the ultimate MMA instruction, but rather instruction and training appropriate for complimenting a normal, middle-class lifestyle. Nothing wrong with that.