I recently saw a checklist on Facebook that was explaining how to tell if you’re at a bad martial arts gym. It actually had a picture of the Kobra Kai from the original Karate Kid in it. I think we all know how bad that gym was. I feel myself to be qualified to give you some ways to tell if you have just stumbled into or possible joined a bad gym. I will obviously not use any names but I am going to give you actual examples of stories told to me by members of my gym who used to belong to other gyms. These are people who came from toxic gyms and joined ours, and I can’t believe that some of this stuff really goes on. The article I read focused on how to tell right away, but I’m going to aim mine more at someone who probably already belongs to another gym.
One way to tell is that almost immediately, it doesn’t offer what you were told it does. Here is a real life example, I had a family go to a gym because they were told that there was a great MMA program for kids there. They were given a tour, told they had a great kid’s MMA program and signed up. After a couple of weeks waiting for the MMA class to “get going again”, the family discovered that not only was there no MMA class, but there had never been one. Now, you might ask how this could even happen, but it did. The family had a young son that was already proficient in Martial Arts but came specifically to that gym for MMA. The person who gave them the initial tour told them that they had an established MMA class and that he could join it since he already had training. After joining and asking about the class, he was told by someone different that they didn’t have a formal MMA class and that the combination of the other classes were equal to MMA. What!? He was deliberately duped into signing up for a membership with a promise that wan’t kept. Subsequently the family was “allowed” to get out of the contract, but not before they wasted an enrollment fee. The way to avoid this would be to ask to take the exact class you are interested in before you sign up.
Any gym worthwhile with nothing to hide would be glad to have to try a free class because they believe in their product.
A great way to tell if you’re at a bad gym, and I hate to say it, is to listen to the rumors from other gyms. Don’t be scared to mention names when you walk into another gym. If you check out four gyms, we will say Gyms “A” through “D”, mention that you have visted the others. By the time you get to gym “D”, you’re going to know a lot about the other gyms. Tell “A” you plan on visiting “B, C, and D”. You’re going to hear the negatives about the other gyms right away. You can’t believe it all, but if you notice a common theme, like dishonesty or poor leadership, you can probably surmise that it is true. We had a gym locally that was notorious for bringing in new students who were interested in MMA, having their experienced fighters go hard on them and beat them up pretty good, then explain that they really needed to join in order to avoid that from happening. Not only did they do that, they explained that all other gyms would do the same thing except worse, then charge more money than them. This gym would also recruit potential fighters, charge them for personal training, then book them into professional fights before they were ready. The gym cashed in on ticket sales, so the whole thing was a legal scam fueled by the egos and naïve nature of young wannabe fighters. The way you avoid this one is to ask a lot of questions and make sure you ask around. With yelp and other media sites, it is easy to see reviews about gyms nowadays from actual members or people who have tried it out.
The best thing to do when you join a gym and attempt martial arts training is to ask a lot of questions. There are way more ways to tell if you walk into a bad gym. You’re going to have to decide what kind of training you want and what your goals are, then find the gym that is best to help you accomplish those goals.