At the highest level of mixed martial arts, the right MMA gym and trainers are what separate the best fighters from the rest.
Whether you're a world champion like Georges St-Pierre or a beginner who's never thrown a punch or attempted a submission, the right MMA gym and environment will maximize your experience and help you achieve your goals. Follow these 6 simple steps to find the best MMA gym for you.
1. Decide what you want to study
Before you join up, decide what you want from your MMA experience.
Are you looking to focus on one specific discipline – perhaps Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) or wrestling for grappling or Muay Thai or Boxing for striking? If your goal is to become a complete mixed martial artist, consider a combination of all of the above arts.
There's no right or wrong in terms of anyone's commitment level to mixed martial arts; everyone has a different goal. Some aspiring fighters dream of glory, competing worldwide in combat at the highest levels; some fight for lucrative paydays; others simply want a club that lets them release stress, stay in shape, meet people and have fun. It helps to know exactly what you want to accomplish before you start your search for the perfect gym.
3. Examine the caliber and range of training a gym offers
MMA gyms can vary greatly in the types of training they offer.
For instance, some gyms focus on recreational training while others are geared towards competition. Some MMA gyms feature both. Ideally, you'll want a gym that offers a rich experience for both amateur and advanced mixed martial artists. That way, you'll continue to grow and improve under one roof.
Secondly, you should examine the range of styles and disciplines a gym offers. Some may specialize in Muay Thai or boxing; others may train grapplers who combine Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling; perhaps the most popular gyms today are those that teach a combination of striking and grappling disciplines –true mixed martial arts.
Naturally, you'll want to match your desired area of study (Step #1) with a gym that focuses on what you want to learn (Step #3).
4. Find out who is teaching you
Some MMA gyms talk the talk, but don't walk the walk with accomplished and decorated instructors. If your goal is to one day fight professionally, you'll need to learn the right way to fight and train with top-notch and battle-tested instructors that have been there.
To determine the talkers from the walkers, do your homework. Whether it's via a website or a bulletin board, most gyms happily provide information on all their trainers, listing their accomplishments (i.e. Olympic or World-Class Tournament Experience) or level of expertise (i.e. third-degree black belt in BJJ).
To be the best, you need to learn from the best. Knowing something about your potential instructors beforehand is a big help. If they claim to have professional MMA fights under their belt, search them out on MMA databases such as Sherdog.com, or see if they have their fights posted on YouTube. Still have questions about their claims? Make sure they're members of a sanctioned governing body. Further, if they make impressive claims, ask their governing bodies for proof. For example, your local amateur boxing, wrestling, jiu-jitsu and other associations will happily confirm the validity of an instructors claims.
5. Learn about the facilities
Not all MMA gyms are created equally. Some offer no obligation trial classes, others do not.
Some provide large impersonal classes. Others offer smaller classes with more one-on-one personal instruction.
Visit and compare various gyms' facilities. One may offer different services and equipment than another – and that can affect how much you spend on your membership and training.
Ideally, you'll find a gym that suits your schedule and individual needs. All things being equal, it's the level of instruction that should be considered first and foremost, not the complimentary towel service.
6. Safety First
MMA is a combat sport where the risk of injury does exist. To minimize this risk, ensure that your teachers are part of a certified National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) and are trained in CPR. Also, it would be wise to inform your instructor(s) should you have any conditions (i.e. Asthma). As well, ensure that the facility does carry insurance.
Following the above tips will ensure that you get the most out of your MMA experience for years to come.
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