How to Join An MMA Gym: A Beginners Guide

5 Tips To Help You Get Started In MMA Training

Joining an MMA gym can be an intimidating experience for beginners.  But it can also be an exhilarating rush to finally start training and learning.  Here are five tips to help you make the most of the experience and not look like a total noob.

Old Jock Strap

Tip 1: Your Gear.

You don’t have to go out and buy all this stuff right away, but the Basic Start Up Kit is a must.

Basic Start Up Kit:

  • Jock Strap And Cup, don’t leave home without it.
  • Mouth Piece

  • Mouth Piece. You don’t need a fancy one, just some rubber between your teeth so that you don’t loose them or get them chipped by an errant shoulder bump or spinning elbow to the forehead when your fellow white belt spazzes out of a position and accidentally clips you.
I took a spinning elbow just yesterday from a white belt.  If you look closely, you can see the imprint of his double weave gi in my forehead.  I wasn't wearing my mouth piece... I should have.  It felt like my teeth were about to crack.

I took a spinning elbow just yesterday from a white belt during Brazilian Jiu-jitsu class (he was trying to escape the back). If you look closely, you can see the imprint of his double weave gi in my forehead. I wasn't wearing my mouth piece... I should have. It felt like my teeth were about to crack.

Intermediate Kit:

    MMA Gloves 

  • 16 oz. Boxing Gloves for training is what I’d recommend.
  • Shin Guards. My favorite are the cloth shin and instep protectors that cost all of $15.00 and you can throw them in the wash when they get stinky. Some people argue that they don’t offer enough protection. I say, if you need that much protection, you and your partners are going way too hard.
  • MMA Gloves. Nowadays they offer both the training variety and fighting gloves. The trainers are a nice way to show your training partners you care.
Advanced Kit:

Rash Guard

  • Rash Guard and Leggings. These are to protect against microbes. They put an extra barrier between you and whatever worm, rash or creepy crawlie that might be wiggling it’s way into your training partner’s skin. They also help protect your knees and elbows from mat burns which create openings in your skin for said creepies to get a foothold and start setting up shop on your body.
  • Knee Pad

  • Kneepads. My favorites are the bubble knee pads for volleyball. They take off that extra wear and tear from working from your knees all the time or from dropping hard, repeatedly on a knee for your shots. I’ve experimented with applying Shoe Gu to the Asics Brand of bubble knee pads that I like best. They increase the life span and aren’t too abraisive to your partners if you take the time to make sure you smooth the surface before the Gu dries.

Some MMA gyms have equipment for sale. The basic equipment can be found at most sports stores.

You can find all kinds MMA equipment online at MMA Warehouse.

Recon

Tip 2: Research Your Potential Instructor(s).

Look them up on the internet. Take the time to learn about their background and what organization, if any they are a part of.

While organizational affiliation doesn’t always mean that you’re dealing with an upright, credible and helpful instructor, the lack of affiliation can sometimes be an indicator that something is amiss.

Often times it is not, but it’s something to take note of and place in the databank for future reference should other indicators arise down the line.

How do you know if an instructor is a good one?

Take a lesson or two and ask questions. There are about as many different ways to do a said technique as there are instructors. The how to isn’t as important, in my opinion, as the why.

If the instructor on test drive is able to explain to you, in a way that makes sense, why you should do what he’s instructing you to do, that’s a pretty good indicator that he/she knows what they are talking about.

If they start looking around, or give you the, “because I told you to”. That’s another one of those, things to put into your databank and tally up with the organizational affiliation thing at the end of the day.

Most importantly, did the potential instructor provide you with a safe and enjoyable learning environment?

If not, then despite what the findings were in the first set of suggestions, I’d be in a mad dash to get out of that gym. It doesn’t matter if the instructor in question is God’s gift to MMA, if you didn’t have a good time, or if you got the feeling that you might not last more than a week before suffering some catastrophic injury in the environment you were in, you should get out of there.

Don’t be a sissy and drop out just because you don’t like doing a push up or two, but if you fear for your life because you’re seeing other newbies getting tossed like cookies at cruise ship case of food poisoning, having their heads snapped back like crash test dummies from the punches being thrown, I’d suggest a different gym.

You’re looking to learn, have fun and increase your level of physical fitness and overall health. No jah rah budkus about training like “Real Fighters” is going to justify the potential for injury that you will find at a place like this.

Skill will come from hours trained, and this means injury management. The fewer the injuries, and the lower the severity of those injuries, the more mat time you’re going to get. The more mat time you get, the better you’re going to get period.

Blessed is he who in the name of good will and charity, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness.

Tip 3: Know you’re potential training partners.

During your test drive of the MMA Gym you are looking into, try to get a read on the current members. There is always going to be some level of snootieness going on. It’s the pecking order and birth right of any gym.

You have to EARN the attention and respect of the seniors there… to a degree. Not being coddled by the upper level students isn’t anything that should be raising alarms but it’s nice to find a place where you at least get friendly vibes from these guys.

And perhaps more importantly, if the seniors are simply using you as a piece of fresh meat to be beat on (and you wouldn’t believe how many people have come into my gym with horror stories about this actually happening at a few different gyms in my area), that should be sending up red flags.

Don’t try to lose 10 pounds before you go on a Diet

Tip 4: Get started now!

Don’t wait. So many people feel the need to get in shape before they get into an MMA gym. That’s total nonsense. The MMA Gym should be the means by which you get into shape. Just be smart about it and do it the right way. Communicate your fitness level and your limitations and don’t be ashamed to say, “I’m reaching my breaking point.” Training, fitness and Martial Skill are an exercise in long term dedication.

If you are so sore after your first day of training that you can’t get off the toilet, you’re probably not going to want to subject yourself to that torment again.

Kudos to you if you are that kind of person. But otherwise, take your time and ease into your training sessions and gradually increase the intensity level of your workouts until you get up to speed. It’s usually only a matter of a few weeks.

It's alright to be a white belt if that's what you are.  It's alright to be a white belt even when you may be something more.

It's alright to be a white belt if that's what you are. It's alright to be a white belt even when you may be something more.

If you knew it all, you’d be teaching the class not the other way around.

Tip 5: Don’t be afraid to be a beginner.

No one likes to be a noob. But the reality of it is, you are. And that’s totally o.k.

Don’t try to impress your partners or instructors by trying to tap or knock out anything that has arms and legs in the gym.

If you want to impress your partners and coaches, impress them by your egolessness, your humility, your respect and your willingness to be tapped, to learn and to listen.

Even if you’re transplanting from a previous gym and have some prior experience, don’t go in and try head hunting. Taking scalps and going after the seniors is only going to hurt you in the long run.

Here you see our student Dane H. using the Anaconda Gator Roll Takedown (Bonus Video 1 found on our member sign-up page) on his senior, professional fighter Johnny Miller and then against me during a training session a week ago. Yeah, that'll teach us.

These guys are your biggest assets. They are going to show you the ropes, give you the inside scoop, take you under their wings so to speak. Even if you can tap them out, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have something to teach you or can’t give you something that you may have never seen before. And how likely do you think it will be for them to go out of their way to help you after you’ve destroyed them on their own home turf.

Relax and learn. Once you’ve proven to your fellow training partners that you’re a friend, not a foe, that you’re there to learn and grow vs. to satisfy your ego, they’re going to help you out big time. But if you force them into a Kill or Be Killed type of situation, they’re going to do what they need to do to survive. And that might mean anything from simply shutting you down during your roll, to with holding some critical piece of information that might really take your game to the next level, because let’s face it, does anybody really want to go out of their way to make their own life more miserable?

MMA can be a great way to get in shape, meet wonderful, driven and goal oriented people with a common passion for the arts. It can be a great basis for self defense, and for learning life skills. There are so many stress relieving and rejuvenating qualities that can be had by training in MMA. If you are interested, don’t wait to start up. Find a good gym, or check out our members online mma training area and get started today!

18 replies
  1. Sterling
    Sterling says:

    Wish I had this info years ago. I remember being nervous about joining a gym, and this would’ve helped me feel a lot less clueless.

    Love the Shoo Goo tip.

    Reply
  2. kenseisato
    kenseisato says:

    I wish i would have gotten this lecture first when i started at mushin or my previouse martial art schools, i would get super frustrated, mostly at myself and i was a total spaz.

    infact saying frustration remind me of a good vedio i found today

    (if you don’t like the Chosen Ninja on the you tube channle then don’t bother)

    here is the link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJIAKpeHgTY

    Reply
  3. Dane
    Dane says:

    Sterling told me to check out this article because of the video and so I decided to read it and this is perfect for anyone wanting to begin training. This article is word for word everything I was worried about, this would have answered all my questions from what should I buy to how should I act.

    Reply
  4. Dr Sick
    Dr Sick says:

    I think that depends on the the level of maturity of the student and the ability of the instructor. A good instructor will be able to engage and communicate with any age group. Young or old. IMHO the lessons should be age appropriate and should be geared toward improving a student’s quality of life.

    An instructor trying to make a 6 year old the next UFC champion rather than trying to give that student a sense of accomplishment, and self worth, is one you ought to avoid.

    Hope this helps.

    Reply
  5. MMA Fanatic
    MMA Fanatic says:

    Extremely useful tips for anyone that is willing to have a go with MMA training. Highlights to the first tip about the basic equipment needed and the others as you advance in your training.

    Reply
    • Dr Sick
      Dr Sick says:

      I think with the right trainers and a good school (one that understands the big picture and isn’t just interested in producing the next MMA Rock Star), you’re never too young to start MMA or any Martial Art for that matter. Do your research and find a caring instructor who will be a good role model and get your feet wet!

      Reply
  6. Ana Mariscal
    Ana Mariscal says:

    My husband and I have been deciding to get into MMA, but the gym we will be joining did intimidate us the first time we tried it out. =(
    I want to thank you for your words because it has made the difference in our decision. We will be joining, and I definitely agree that being humble and never giving up is a great mentality to start off with.
    In this society, so many people feel that they cannot succeed, but when you’re working to train your body with such discipline, you must also train your mind, and having somebody there to help you is essential. Again, thank you!!! :D

    Reply

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