What makes a good gym?

What makes a good martial arts gym? Good facilities, clean toilets, a central location, coffee machine and easy good gym 2parking? Sure, those are lovely luxuries… and great if you are doing a solo workout. But when you’re training a contact sport, with the risk of injury, the people you train with are what makes a good gym GREAT.

The shiniest shorts to rival Buakaw. The state-of-the-art gloves which Yodsaeklai models on the Fairtex catalogue. Light-as-air tech-fit tops from lululemon. You may look like a champion… hey, you may also feel like a champion.  But at the end of the day, you’re only as good as the people you train with.

With the right people, your martial art, will be a continuous journey,  where you never stop learning. Therefore, your coach needs to inspire you to keep improving, and have the knowledge and skills to pass on to you.

In short, it’s the people which are the greatest asset at a martial arts gym.

That includes your coach, and also your training partners.

Team JAIAt training, the last thing you want is to step into the ring, and have your training partner try and kick your head off. Or in some nightmare scenarios we’ve heard of – even teach you “the wrong techniques” so they look worse than you.

Hard sparring has its time and place, and most of that time, it’s in the ring and it’s called fighting.

If you engage in hard sparring several times a week – and by this we mean that you and your training partners go at full power, it’s similar to fighting several times a week. While this may make you look “tough” in some people’s eyes – it also makes you a lot more prone to injuries, and the risk of shortening your competitive career, and even your ability to keep training.

Hard sparring is also often carried out without a lot of attention to detail, with the intention of hitting someone as hard as you can, at the expense of taking a few in the process. This increases the chances of injury, and there’s also the issue of long-term repercussions… Hello Brain Damage.

Technical sparring – using controlled power and precise accuracy to work on combinations and drills taught by your trainer with a partner is a lot more useful in the long run to a fighter.  Most Thai fighters in Thailand spar on almost a daily basis, and their incidence of serious injury in training is pretty low – despite the fact that they often don’t even wear protective gear.

Says our head trainer Wimbledon: “When you’re not wearing shin guards to spar, suddenly you are a lot more careful about not kicking elbows, and therefore aim with a lot more care. And if someone blocks your kick, it’s going to hurt for both of you, so you have to learn to control your kicks and pull back if you see someone go to check.”

Regular technical sparring, paired with a focus on technique in the ring, mean that the chances of being badly injured, even in a high level professional fight in Thailand is relatively low (compared with foreign fighters who fight every few months). This is critical for pro fighters in Thailand who depend on fighting purses for the earnings.  Their ability to come out of a fight with no lingering injuries, mean that they are able to commit to fighting up to several times a month.

So what makes a good… no excellent training team? Team members who have each others’ best interests at heart. They push each other, with the intention of making themselves and you better. They check their ego at the door and acknowledge when they have made a mistake. It also makes the gym a much more fun place to train at, and create a better atmosphere for everyone.

Don’t believe us? Ask Joe Rogan.



Your trainer. He/she is the glue that binds the team together. They are more than your training partner – they inspire, educate and put you in your place. Fight experience  is essential in every good coach, but equally important is life experience and maturity. A top coach is not afraid of “looking bad” while sparring in front of their students. You don’t want a trainer who purposely tries to injure you, or make you look like a klutz in training –  with the intention of making them look miles better than their student.  Or gets offended when you ask them questions like “why” and “how” and think that it is questioning their authority.

A top coach is humble enough to let go of their competitive streak and own glory so that their student can shine and gain confidence. And putting in the extra blood, sweat and tears to see them succeed. By doing this, they teach their students not only how to defend themselves, but also all the right attributes which come with learning martial arts.

At the end of the day, the attributes of humility, self-awareness, respect and graciousness are key. And they should be present in the people at the gym you choose, or the discipline you train, be it Muay Thai, Karate, BJJ or Tae-Kwon-Do.

Good Gym

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