Many long time practitioners of MMA and BJJ, or any martial art really, can tell you the importance of having a trustworthy gym. So how do you know if your gym is the right fit or if it’s time to quit? When should you switch to another academy, and why shouldn’t you feel bad about it?
Never forget that at the end of the day you’re a paying customer, and your coach or teacher isn’t doing you a favor by teaching you. He doesn’t have to take you in, but you definitely don’t owe him any extra grace just for that. And as a client, you should be getting what you deserve. Here’s a few signs your gym isn’t the place for you anymore.

1.It doesn’t align with YOUR goals

The most important part of your training is making sure that the reason your training aligns with the training your gym offers. For example, if your gym is a full fledged competition gym but you don’t want to compete, it may be time to check out new places or make sure your goals are being met. If you want to compete, but your gym doesn’t have a team or your coaches don’t travel, again, you might want to leave your gym and look into a new place.

2.Your coaches focus more on money than on their students

While it’s important to understand that your gym is a business, if your coaches are more focused on pulling in students than the quality of their coaching it might be wise to head elsewhere. What are a few good signs for that? You are only allowed to wear the gym’s branded gear or sport the MMA rash guard of your choice; you’re charged extra for every add on or class; your coach pushes you for paid belt tests too frequently; do you want to buy a gym’s t-shirt or do you have to?
It’s true that your coach should be able to earn a good living from operating an MMA Gym, but you’re not a cash cow. The healthy relationship is that you pay your tuition fee, and your teacher will do whatever it takes within the class time to elevate your skill level, and push you towards your best. Any extra money exchanges should be mutually agreed and wanted by both sides, without you feeling that your coach is twisting your hand.

3. You don’t feel satisfied

As unfortunate as it can be, sometimes you just might not feel satisfied at your gym. Maybe the coaching isn’t your style, you don’t “vibe” with your partners or something just seems off. If you’re not happy, find a new place to train. It can also make perfect sense that you grow out of the teachings of your school, you need more stimuli, and you’re ready for another academy, coach or teaching style in your journey. Your coach doesn’t hold all of the answers, and he should acknowledge it too, and even encourage you to go on and achieve your goals if he thinks you’re ready for it.

4.Students get special treatment

Though every martial artist journey is different, sometimes there can be blatant favoritism when it comes to promotions etc. While every gym has its “OG’s” (the guys/gals who have been there from the very start) it’s never acceptable to ignore one student for another. It’s important to show up, train your best, and be a great student, but if it seems like your coaches are turning a blind eye to you or other students, seek training elsewhere.

5.Your coach is repeatedly dating his students

Sometimes, coaches do wind up in a relationship with one of their students, and that’s natural and okay. However, if your coach keep on dating his/her students, it shows you that something is really off with his/her outlook towards his students, and it doesn’t matter what sex you belong to. When training in BJJ and MMA, close physical contact is expected, between men and women, with different sexual orientation. There’s an unwritten agreement though between all of the participants that when you train or roll together, sexuality is off the mats.
You and no one else should be understanding if your coach is constantly poaching students as mates. You might be of the opposite sex to your coah’s preference, and he/she might be on the clear when regarding sexual harrasment or anything illegal, but this is not the right approach for coaches towards his students, and it lacks the necessary professionalism. When you’re on the mats he’s an authority figure and should not abuse his power.

6. Hygiene and cleanliness isn’t good enough

Is your dojo clean enough? This is much more important when training in BJJ and MMA by the way, as there is direct contact between participants, and the mats too! The mats absorb all of the sweat and germs from other participants, and whatnot. The mats need to be cleaned daily, and there should be a periodical general cleaning. Also, do people step on the mats with shoes? Or do they step outside the mats barefoot and then go on the mats? That’s a big no no, and if no one takes care of it, it shows you that your gym isn’t clean enough or taken care of.
The students’ personal hygiene is not less important, and you should not train with people with poor hygiene. It’s not nice to comment on someone’s poor cleanliness, but your coach should be the one to do it. Not in front of everybody, but he should make sure that all students show up clean, with no funky odors, with clean kimonos, rash guards or any outfit (should be fresh out of the laundry every time!). You shouldn’t be weary of staph infections and all sorts of rashes while training.

7. Instructor worship is for cults, not martial arts

Does it seem that your instructor has a special aura around him? Does it seem that he submits the other students way too easily, and that everyone looks up to him as if he possesses special powers? Get out of there and find a new gym. It happens a lot, mainly in martial arts that originated in East Asia, but not restricted to these. It’s not beneficial to you as a martial artist, and your coach might be teaching you fake and dangerous techniques without even knowing it (as many times they believe this whole charade themselves).

9. Bullying by senior students

Does it seem that your higher belts are going way too hard on the lower belt, and for no apparent reason? When a higher belt is rolling with a white belt, especially if the gap is really big, the higher level practitioner can usually crush the new guy. What does the new guy learn from it? NOTHING. What does the senior guy learn from it? ALSO NOTHING. The right approach for the higher level student should be to push the newer guy to his limit, while allowing him to practice what he learned. It will help him too, so he could defend and get out of tough situations – which will be hard to do with someone his level or higher. The level gap is big enough for him to also try more advanced techniques on the newer guy, and preactic his timing.
Anything other than this is bullying and should not be tolerated, only under one circumstance. In every gym you have one or more enforcers. They are sometimes told by the coach to go really hard on someone,if, and only if, that’s the only way your coach can deal with a bully. Sometimes a gym has a bully in his ranks. A guy who goes really hard on other training partners, a lot of time smaller than him, on women training partners, and on people with a much lesser skill level. Then if this individual can’t understand the coach, and doesn’t see himself as a bully, being subjected to bullying himself might be the last resort prior to being expelled from the academy.

10. Too many injuries

Injuries are a part of MMA and BJJ, and of any martial art or fighting sport, but there are precautions against them. Proper training methodologies, good equipment, good atmosphere in the gym, and the watchful responsible eye of the coaches are the most important of them. If you and your teammates get injured too often, that should raise a red flag for you, and might be a good sign that you need to find another gym.

The conclusion?

Being loyal to a gym is a good thing, and essential too, to some extent. If your coach and gym don’t exactly follow one of this list’s items, that might be fine. Just imagine any other business that you’re a client of, and most leave you some space for complaints. However you might be returning to this sandwich or pizza shop regularly. Just think of your gym in the same manner. You’re the client of the gym and your overall satisfaction should be the most important thing. If you’re not satisfied, find another gym that’s right for you.

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