Whether you're new to Muay Thai or looking for a gym to develop new & existing skills, training in the right gym is key to getting the most out of your time & effort. What's right for you will depend on a variety of factors but it's worth first thinking about your goals and how quickly you want to achieve them. For example, if you're looking to simply build a striking proficiency, you may want a gym that provides Muay Thai and boxing in the schedule. Alternatively, if you want to compete in Muay Thai, it's important to join a gym that specifically teaches Muay Thai techniques and rules.
Once you've decided on a goal, consider the factors below so you can narrow down which gyms are easy to get to and provide the best environment for your success. Although, it's not guaranteed you'll find the right gym the first time and there is no shame in moving between gyms in the search of what's best for you. That said, once you feel comfortable, it's important to be patient with your gym, coach and team as learning and improving any martial art takes time.
The attitude, skill and experience of your instructors has a direct correlation on what you learn, at what pace and how effectively you can execute what you've learnt.
It's important that your instructor is passionate about Muay Thai and helping you learn the art in all it's beauty, rather than simply seeing you as another pupil paying membership fees. They should want to help you grow, develop and achieve your goals. That said, this is a two way relationship and you have to listen and be open to feedback on a regular basis.
Your instructor's skill shouldn't just be measured in their technical abilities, it's also key that they understand effective leadership and how to teach new skills and techniques to people in the knowledge that everyone learns differently.
A gym with high-quality facilities provides opportunities to maximise your training with the best equipment, however, this isn't always a leading indicator of a great gym. Many gyms look run down with old worn-out equipment but have the best staff who are the most passionate about the sport.
That said, you wouldn't buy from someone who can't look after themselves so it's important that a gym is at least looked after and clean. In fact, cleanliness is a key point as a gym that doesn't clean regularly and properly is a hive for the many different infections and diseases you can catch while training in unsanitary conditions.
Unless you're a fighter or aspiring coach, it's likely that you'll need training hours before or after your working day at times that give you enough space to relax and recoup either side.
Many gyms with fighters will have regular sessions throughout the week from morning to night, however, this may not be best type of gym for you, so seek out one that ticks off the various other points in this list while providing a schedule you can make the most of.
Besides your coaches and instructors, it is your training partners with whom you'll learn the most and who will push you to your limits.
Therefore, it's important you join a gym that has a good mix of people: physique, experience and skill wise. This ensures you can train with different styles and elevate your game with corresponding partners as your skills develop. For example, starting out working with fellow beginners and joining more experienced people in sparring as your skills develop.
A gym that has a dedicated and motivated set of pupils also makes your training more effective as the camaraderie will drive you to achieve more and will help you feel part of a team. Their passion and enthusiasm for the sport will show in the way they train and help others in the gym. The environment is also likely to be fun and rewarding too.
Being able to get to and from a gym in good time will help ensure you aren't sluggish before you turn up and don't get overly tired afterwards just from the return travel. Although it's not right to choose a gym simply because it's close. In fact, it's better to prioritise a high-quality gym that has all the features mentioned here which is far away over one that is poor yet conveniently close. You will develop bad habits and technique from a poor gym which would take longer to correct when compared with the little extra time you can travel to a better gym that teaches things properly.
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Some gyms can be very expensive as their facilities and upkeep is top-quality. If this type of gym is developing fighters and future coaches and you want to be part of that environment, it may well be worth the cost. However, you may not need the best facilities or training partners who compete in your gym to learn effectively. That said, be mindful of the cost and ensure you're paying for what you need out of a gym, rather than a premium fee for an environment you don't really like or one that provides more than you need to develop at present.
On the flip side, some gyms can be very affordable but not have good facilities or coaches. While these won't hurt your wallet, they can negatively impact your form, technique and habits.
The typical sparring session at any gym partly reflects the culture of a gym, the attitude instructors take towards the safety of students and the attitude students have towards one another.
Sparring is a learning opportunity and often the best time to hone skills, test your reactions and challenge yourself (and your partner) mentally and physically. That said, it's not for letting out anger or seeing whether you can damage/knockout your partner – although there are some instances where the latter is relevant, for example in fight training or where both partners consent and agree beforehand.
As such, any gym which advocates or permits highly aggressive, full power sparring without control or supervision by the instructors and staff will breed a toxic atmosphere and an unforgiving mentality amongst its students. This type of atmosphere doesn't foster or encourage effective learning and the level of damage you're likely to take or give in such an environment only depreciates the value of anything you will have learned elsewhere in the session. Avoid this type of gym environment.