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MMA for Beginners: Don’t be “That Guy”

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

So who exactly is “That Guy?” Can any of us ever recover from being him/her and what can we do, if anything, to avoid becoming “That Guy” in the first place? Luckily, if you are reading this post, chances are, you’re not “That Guy”. The fact of the matter is, “That Guy” has never spent an introspective moment or a single minute of self examination in his life, and that is a big part of the problem.

But, I digress, we still haven’t gotten into the nuts and bolts of what makes someone “That Guy”. I’m going to post a list of things below, but these are in no way a definitive guide. In fact, I am sure I’m going to miss a number of identifiers of “That Guy”, and I full heartedly encourage you to add your own characteristics to the comments below.

  1. If you walk into your prospective gym and ask for some sort of special deal, or deviate from the payment plans given to you by the staff or instructor, website, etc. Congratulations! You my friend, ARE “That Guy”.

    I’m sorry, but if you’ve chosen a particular gym, you’ve done so for a reason. You’ve done the research, you obviously value the services they provide, don’t haggle on price or payment scheme. Yeah, you’ve got this special circumstance, or you think that you’ve got it harder than the next guy. I’ve got news for you bro. That instructor has bills to pay just like you. They live in the same world that you do, they have the same number of hours in their day, they have kids to feed and spouses to appease just like you do. Asking to deviate from what all the other students of that school are asked to do is disrespectful. It makes you look bad, it makes the instructor feel slighted, it makes you look like someone who thinks that they are more important than all the other students that pay their due respects and do so without making a big deal about it.

    If you can’t pony up and do so in good spirits, then don’t ask for admittance to the show. Get a job, save some dough and do it the right way. I remember asking my instructor how much he charged for privates. He told me that a block of 10 privates would cost $750.00. I was fresh out of college. I picked up job as an adjunct faculty member at the Salt Lake City Community College teaching a course of Small Business Web Design. My first paycheck was for $750.00. I cashed it immediately and went back to set up my lessons. My wife and I ate Ramen for months because of it, and my worst case of cauliflower ear didn’t come close to the pain I felt after the tongue lashing she gave me. But the fact remains. To this day, I have never haggled over the price for a seminar, a camp, a lesson, or school tuition. You gotta pay to play if you don’t want to be “That Guy”.

  2. If you only train when you’ve got a competition coming up, chances are, you’re “That Guy”.

    Don’t force your instructors into a corner, making them work on bandaid fixes instead of developing sound fundamentals. If you’re training with professionals, they have a curriculum and it’s there for a reason. Kiser and I like to say, if you’re at our gym and it’s because you’ve watched the success of our team, it’s because they followed our pathway to success. It’s like going to KFC and asking to be taught how to rock a piece of fried chicken. But once the instruction begins, you start adding your own quantities, and messing with the cook times, ingredients etc. You’re free to do so, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re learning Colonel Sander’s Secret Recipe. What you’ve done is concoct a perfect recipe for becoming “That Guy.”

    Competition training, is not learning time. It’s time to refine and hone the skills you have to a mirror finish. But what skills do you have, when all you do is train when a match is coming up? What can you refine if you haven’t been to class on a regular basis to develop a foundation in the first place? Consistency is key. Show up and train regularly and you will be on your way towards not being “That Guy”.

  3. If you consider yourself a Fighter rather than a Student. You are “That Guy”

    You should strive to be a Student first, then a Fighter. Otherwise, you’re just a street thug. Your fighting should grow out of your learned skills and abilities as a consistent student of the Arts. Any fool can fight. It doesn’t take anything special. Some might argue that it takes balls. Maybe, but I’d argue right back that it takes balls only after you’ve learned the trade and understand what’s really at stake. Otherwise I’d say it just takes someone ignorant enough to not realize the difference between getting into a ring/cage and just seeing what will happen, and pitting your earned skill against a competent and well matched opponent.

    Kiser and I tried to touch on these things in our “Shit Fighters Say” video. It was our light hearted attempt and educating more people on how annoying it can be to be around “That Guy”. Our hope was that it would educate just a few aspiring fighters out there of what they might look like and sound like if they became the person with that label.

  4. If you hop from gym to gym, you guessed it. You are “That Guy”.

    This is again, a manifestation of the “ME” mentality. How do you expect to get the support of your instructor and your team mates when you show such a complete lack of respect, loyalty and honor. You wouldn’t join the Navy Seals and then say “Hey man, yeah, I can’t hang out this weekend. I’m doing some run and gun with the Taliban. You know how it is. You guys got your night vision thing going on, but man, they really know how to set those IED’s yo!”. You wouldn’t earn a spot as a walk on at the Red Sox and then go to batting practice with the Yankees. I’m telling you. The world of MMA is no different.

  5. If you try to short cut your way to respect with gifts and or tokens, by trying to rep your gym with competing or trying to be a super star you’re probably going to end up being “That Guy”.

    Respect is earned, usually over time. There’s no way to cram 10 years of loyalty, of hard work, of dedication, and service into some item you’ve purchased, or a match or two. Just train. Do your best. Find ways to help out your fellow team mates, or around the gym. Be there for the long haul. I can’t think of many ways that garner more respect than that. The world is full of guys looking for a quick fix. People who want something for nothing. Be the guy/gal who’s prepared to be part of the lifestyle, the long haul, a lifer.

So why are we telling you all of this? Is it because we are Holier than Thou? Is it because we know all there is to know about MMA and MMA Culture? I’m going to part with a dirty little secret. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I was “That Guy”. Perhaps not as bad as some of the examples I’ve listed above, but who knows? You’d have to ask my instructor for the real skinny. Maybe I was worse. Maybe I still am “That Guy”. I’d like to hope not, and I do, earnestly try to be a better person, and a better Martial Artist every day.

We’ve posted this for you guys out there looking to make a splash, excited and eager to get started in MMA and wanting to make a good impression on your Instructor and gym mates. I am reminded of something I was taught by Ajarn Surachai Sirisute.

Ajarn Surachai Sirisute stands before his Pacific Northwest Muay Thai Camp. A hand selected group of his most dedicated students representing countries from around the world. Once a year, they vie for a coveted spot at this special camp, to learn from him and the instructors under him. Many of the lessons transcend technique and fight strategy and permeate ones life.

Once, at a seminar, a newer student forgot to present the Wai and pay respects before he began shadow boxing. Ajarn stopped the class and made the student do 50 push ups in front of everyone. Then after, he asked the student “Sir, why do you pay respects sir?” “I tell you something Sir.” Ajarn Chai continued. “I don’t have you pay respects for me sir. I’ve been around the world. I put Thai Boxing into the United States. I have plenty of students from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Mexico. I don’t have you pay respects for me sir. Who should you do it for sir?” The student stood there, silent. Ajarn answered for him. “You pay respects for you sir.”

That idea has stuck in me ever since. As bass ackwards as it may sound to make people pay for their lessons, to have my students train, not just when they are preparing for a competition but consistently over the long haul. To ask them to be respectful, loyal, honest, disciplined and helpful to each other. It is really for them.

I have seen too many students who’ve been given a deal, who got to train for free or at a great discount. Who we let do their own payment schedule. Guys who were given the keys to the gym. Guys we stayed late for and come early to hold pads and help prepare for a fight. Guys we’d spend whole weekends with traveling and cornering. And they never respected it. They never appreciated it. It was never enough.

Remember. You learn discipline and respect just as much for yourself as you do for your instructors.

Despite all of this, classes weren’t intense enough for them. There weren’t enough other guys who wanted to go hard with them. These people are the same grown adults who have never attempted to move out of their parents home, who’ve never made a house payment, put food on the table or held down a long term job. They’ve been given things all their life and thus have developed an entitlement mindset. They are too busy looking at what they don’t have to see the abundance in front of their faces. Breaking them out of this mindset is the goal of brining these things to their attention.

I know this post is long. And if you’ve taken the time to read this far, it says a lot about you. I want to close by relating a conversation that Coach Kiser and I recently had that really struck a chord with me. I asked him, how we were different than so many of the fighters of today and how we managed to dodge that self centered, self important, “ME” mindset that is so easy to fall into as an aspiring fighter.

His answer was “Gratitude”. He said “When you and I were coming up, there were no MMA gyms. There was a Jiu-jitsu school. Or a Thai Gym. But nothing that had it all. We didn’t have Tap Out, or board shorts or Ultimate Fighter. Heck, I had my mom’s garage on Saturday mornings with two or three of those folding mats and you had your little studio with 8 zebra mats to your name. There were no fight teams. You ran on your own, kicked the heavy bag and shadow boxed until you passed out. And once in a while we could get together and train and we were so grateful for it.”

Notice Kiser’s Thai Shorts with bicycle pants underneath. His opponent dawns basketball shorts while Kiser kicks him in the face with a pair of wrestling shoes in a time where they were still legal to wear in an MMA bout. No Tap Out here.

He continued “When you come from a place of gratitude, how can you do anything but succeed? I mean if you are always grateful for everything you have, then you already have everything.”

We want you to have a meaningful and lasting relationship with your instructors and your team mates. We want you to succeed. We want you to be well liked and respected in your place of study.

Work hard. Have integrity, be loyal, humble and respectful. Be grateful, and you will become one of your gym’s favorites, the gold that does not glitter, the deep rooted strong individual, unadorned by belts, or trophies, accolades or crowns, and yet a king in the eyes of your instructors. There’s no shame at all in being that guy.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a longer, more thoughtful piece like this. To be frank, they are much more time consuming and take a lot more work than the brief posts with a video and a few short paragraphs and I didn’t know if anyone was actually reading them. So I kind of just gave up on it for a while.

Special thanks goes out to Damage Control MMA Member Lisa from New Zealand who commented on my piece “Muay Thai Technique: An Expression of Self” and my student Chris Huntsaker who commented on our “4 Principles That Changed My Grappling Game“. These guys got me back on track and inspired me to try my hand at it again.

Now that you’ve learned how not to be, “That Guy”, you may want to check out our article, “How to Join An MMA Gym” for tips and pointers on equipment and training smart.

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!