Joining a new gym, whether you're new to Muay Thai or a veteran, can be an intimidating experience. The new sights and sounds are the background to new faces, new coaching staff and new session layouts. It can be a lot to take in and adjust to. Your approach to that adjustment and your attitude to your new peers will influence the speed and ease at which you'll get comfortable at the new gym and start learning there.
In this guide, we flip the approach taken in the guide on getting respect at a new gym and instead focus on what you need to avoid when joining a new gym – for the sake of your health and to ensure you can quickly settle into the new gym while building trust and respect with fellow students and the coaching staff.
Unless you're a well-known professional, showing off when you're new to a gym is a sure-fire way to annoy fellow students and get yourself targeted by some who'd like to put you in your place. No-one appreciates arrogance and it's rarely accepted in a Muay Thai gym. After all, any gym that focuses on combat sports has a plenty of testosterone in the air, circulated by highly competitive individuals (whether they compete or not). As such, there's students that will see someone that shows off as a challenge or a nuisance and will proceed to seek them out in sparring – often with bad intentions.
Whether you can beat everyone in sparring or not, it doesn't help yourself, your fellow students or your coach by showing off. It just creates animosity and frustration, making it more difficult to find good partners to work with and learn from. Instead, exude humility and a desire to learn as these characteristics will earn you the respect you need to get along with your peers and be sought out by the best in the gym.
This goes without saying really but it's worth bringing up because you never know how people perceive you and, in a setting like a new gym, you need to make a concerted effort to be approachable and friendly. People are incredibly quick to judge one another so behaving any other way could leave a bad impression among fellow students and the coaching staff.
If you're typically an introvert and find it difficult speaking with strangers, this setting could be a challenge and your avoidance of students or unwillingness to get to know them could be perceived as being mean or arrogant. Be mindful of this and make a concerted effort to engage with people in a friendly and respectful manner.
It's often said the loudest person in the room is the weakest. After all, if you're talking, you're not listening or learning. That's not to say you can't be vocal in the gym but don't voice your opinions or try to coach students (even if you're incredibly experienced) when you're new there. This can easily be conceived as disrespectful or as arrogance on your part.
You need to earn respect for your skills and experience before you'll be trusted by students and the coaches to impart your knowledge on others. In the meantime, be quiet and absorb everything that's going on. Always see the opportunity to learn something new, even if what's going on is something you've practised thousands of times.
Each gym has it's own set of rules and they're there for good reason. You can usually find them framed or written somewhere inside the gym (often nearby reception). Take your time to read and learn them. Thereafter, make sure you adhere to them and ask for any clarification if needed.
Ignoring the rules is a very easy way to get pulled up by your coach and fellow students. After all, they're there to help keep everyone safe and foster the right atmosphere within the gym. In severe cases of rules violations, students can be banned or barred from the gym.
This point is all around being mindful of different rules, gym cultures, perceptions and behaviours. Where some people may not even notice a particular action or behaviour, others may be incredibly offended by it. For example, some gyms (especially in Thailand) consider it offensive to mistreat and throw around your equipment (gloves, shin guards etc.) Another example would be wearing shoes in the gym. There are many different examples but they don't all apply to each gym, therefore, it's worthwhile stepping back and observing how other students behave before, during and after class so you can notice things they have in common and behaviours which they do and don't exhibit.
One universal way to be considered disrespectful is to be heard talking or seen not concentrating when your coach is explaining something. Whether you're picked up on it by your coach or not doesn't change the perception by your coach and fellow students.
Most points raised in this article are common sense really. However, it's important to make a concerted effort to abide by these points and not get complacent when joining a new gym. You have very little time to set a good impression and, until your peers and coaches get to know and trust you and your abilities, it can be tarnished as quickly as you make it.