by A. O’Toole
- No shoes. BJJ and wrestling aside, if you don’t have an any-shoe-goes area, the chances are that you are in a dojo, not a fighters’ gym.
- No cussing. This may seem dumb, but it’s an indicator of an all-too-friendly kids’ place. If it’s an isolated incident that a young kid is in, of course no one should cuss, but if fighters are suppressed in their victimless expression, perhaps the gym is for just one denomination – sheltered children and squares.
- No open gym. This may be the biggest red flag, because open gym is when fighters put in their master work, extra conditioning, meditation-like time, and personal fine-tuning. It is also an indicator that serious fighters are training less than 8-12 hours a week. SMH. You should be shaking yours.
- No open coaching during open gym. If there are open gym hours – if it is strictly and always just that – and the trainers don’t help out, you may as well go to L.A. Fitness.
- There are classes only. So much for the fighter’s experience, the individualization.
- All members have errands other than their self-commitment. You clean, hold mitts, run classes (with no pay), etc. If it’s not a wholehearted choice and it’s actually common practice, get out now. Such a place is probably just a white-collar gym where quitters feel they’ve done something. Training should be your ONLY focus as a fighter or potential fighter.
- People don’t go there to hang-out. This may sound a bit odd, but every good gym I’ve ever been to operates like a club; members come by and watch sparring or just mingle and talk fighting on their off hours. Also, if it’s a dojo atmosphere, everything is considered a distraction and they avoid distractions at all costs. Real fighters need to get used to the chaos and they deal with it. You should too.
- The gym doesn’t have all the equipment that fighters normally use. A missing speedbag does not mean anything in and of itself, but it’s an indicator of a much deeper issue. The place does not invest in the fighter experience. It seems so immaterial, but it says everything about the training.
- You can’t get fights. If a trainer’s whole motivation is something other than preparing you and getting you fights, think about it. I need not say more.
- Fighters only avoid the red flags above by spending more money. Money, money, money.