Finding the Right Mix at a New Gym


Finding a new gym is always difficult, especially if you’ve recently moved to a new city and you don’t have a lot of connections in the area. As Shane Fazen of FIGHTTIPS and Vince “The Anomaly” Cachero explain in the below video, just about all of the things that anyone is really looking for in a new gym boil down to feeling comfortable, being challenged, and finding a group of people who will make you better. For younger fighters, you may also want to find an established fighter willing to take you under their wing.

Plus, Minus, Equal

To simplify all these criteria, Shane and Vince refer to the Plus, Minus, Equal System described by Frank Shamrock and Ryan Holiday. Essentially, each person at the gym can be described as a plus (+), a minus (-), or an equal (=).

The Plus

People who are referred to as pluses are fighters who are at a higher skill level than you. This group includes both the rising stars and the people who have been training for years but have retired from competition. While the latter group may not be winning tournaments any longer, their technique will still be solid, and they may be more inclined to mentor inexperienced fighters.

The Minus

First things first: being a minus is not a bad thing. The minus refers to people who are not as experienced as you. If you’re partnered up with a person who is a minus relative to your skill level, you don’t need to simply pull back or spar to their level. Instead, you can use the experience as a training exercise and only utilize part of your game. As one example, if you’re used to striking from orthodox, you may change it up and go southpaw. In addition to putting the two of you on equal footing, it also gives you the opportunity to become a more well-rounded fighter.

The Equal

Last but not least, the equal refers to fighters who are at your skill level. They will challenge you and they will grow with you.

It’s All Relative

It’s important to remember that these classifications are not static or objective. In other words, you may be a minus compared to one person in the gym, an equal to someone else, and a plus to yet another person. Moreover, these classifications can change over time as you put in more work and develop as a fighter.

If you are a minus, it’s great to have a bunch of plusses around you. You can learn a lot. While it may be difficult to get roughed up all the time, developing a relationship with people who are more experienced than you will give you an opportunity to grow. Even if they are not formally your mentors, you can learn a lot from more skilled fighters. “Ultimately, you want to bring someone who is a minus up to your level because now you have a more competitive training partner,” Shane says.

Another point that Vince relates is that having people who are way better than you and just about to go pro when you start shows you what’s possible. It gives you something to strive for.

Finding the Right Mix

During your first few weeks at a new gym, you should keep these three categories in mind as you’re assessing whether or not the gym is right for you. There’s no precise composition of minuses, pluses, and equals to look out for, but you should notice a healthy mix if you really want to thrive. If you walk into a gym having barely hit a bag before and most of the people there are a few months away from going pro, you’re probably not going to fit in and you’re not going to have a great experience. Conversely, if you’ve been training for years and you start at a new gym that’s all minuses, it may not be an environment that is conducive to your growth. As the saying goes, “If you’re the best person in the room, you’re probably in the wrong room.”