Finding a New Gym


Even before walking through the door for your first day, you first have to decide on a gym that seems right for you. In this blog, we’ll walk through some of the things you should consider when deciding on a new Muay Thai gym, but it really can be applied to any type of martial arts.

As Alby Tam of the San Francisco-based Muay Thai gym Combat Culture says in the above video, you shouldn’t just be looking for a gym that looks cool. You really should be asking yourself these four questions.

#1 What fits in my budget?

Budget should be one of the first things that you consider because it is a major determinant when it comes to deciding how frequently you can attend classes and if you want your classes to be private (one-on-one with an instructor) or group sessions.

If money is no object and your goal is to advance as quickly as possible, private lessons are your best option. The only downside to taking private lessons is that you won’t have an opportunity to meet people from class and you may struggle to become part of the community at the gym.

Alternatively, you can take group classes, which are far more affordable and give you the opportunity to meet more people. The downside is that you won’t get as much of a hands-on approach from your instructor.

As yet another alternative, you could do a combination of private lessons once or several times per week in addition to group classes. It’s all about finding the right balance for your objectives.

#2 What fits my schedule?

The schedules for the majority of gyms will remain the same week in, week out. If you live in a big city, most gyms will have several time slots open for either private lessons or group classes, oftentimes for different skill levels. Gyms in smaller cities or more rural areas may not always have classes that are specifically geared towards beginners, and instead may be labeled “all levels” or “fundamentals”. If this is the only option, don’t worry—your instructor will not expect you to spar with a black belt on your first day.

If none of the available classes are convenient for you, you may want to look at other gyms in the area. As Alby says, “Making sure that whatever schedule the gym goes by lines up with yours should be a really big determining factor as to whether or not that gym is right for you.”

#3 What is the commute to and from the gym?

Distance is another major factor, especially if you’re biking or taking public transportation to get there. Moreover, you need to think less about the trip there and more about the trip home. Will you really want to walk or bike two or three miles after a long sparring session? Will you want to sit on a bus for 45 minutes after an intense workout? Will you want to drive home in intense traffic or in the dark? These are factors you need to consider when trying to find the gym that’s right for you.

#4 What do I want from my gym?

Finally, you don’t want to settle when it comes to your gym. You should ask yourself what kind of amenities you want and what kind of community you expect there to be.

Larger gyms will typically have more variety. You may be able to try out several kinds of martial arts rather than one, you will likely have access to a lot of gym equipment, and the culture will likely be more competitive. The downside is that they are oftentimes so big that there is a limited sense of community.

Smaller gyms may have more of a sense of community, but they may not have as much equipment or as many options when it comes to different martial arts classes, which means they may not attract the kinds of fighters who are hoping to compete at the highest level. If you’re just looking to learn the basics of self-defense, this is not a downside. In fact, it may be just the kind of place that you’re looking for.

So Where Do I Look?

To start, ask your friends and family or even coworkers about their experience at their gym. Firsthand accounts will give you a chance to better understand the culture of the gym. If you don’t know anyone who lives nearby who trains Muay Thai, reach out to friends on social media who do. Even if they don’t live close to you, they may be able to give you some leads about gyms in your area that they’ve heard about, or they may be able to put you in touch with someone who trains in your town.

Failing this, you can always look on different martial arts forums or Reddit. You can also just check out the websites and social media accounts of different gyms in the area.

If you’ve your choices down to two or three gyms, but you still can’t decide which one is right for you, the good news is that most gyms offer a trial class. This will give you the opportunity to actually get a feel for what it’s like to train there, what the caliber of instruction is like, and what the facilities are like. If it’s not the right fit, don’t sweat it. Just try the next gym.

What’s important is that you find the right gym that fits your needs since training Muay Thai (or any martial art) is a long-term commitment.