Monday, January 16, 2012
Dropping In: A guide to visiting other schools and gyms
After three weeks of random holiday travel, I'm finally back home to remain for hopefully the next couple of months. While I enjoy visiting family and friends, the regularity of my training was disrupted and I am eager to get back into the gym full-time. During my travels, I had the opportunity to pop into several gyms for workouts, all of which were fun and enlightening. Thus, I decided to write a short guide on how to visit gyms and represent yourself, your school and the art.
1. Finding a place to visit
I typically choose gyms to visit based on their websites, reviews and schedules. However, another consider should be whether or not the gym will allow someone to drop-in for a one-time training session. Some gyms, especially those that house professional fighters, do not allow drop-ins for fears of sabotage or spying. Although an extreme view, I can understand, to a certain extent, why some schools may implement this policy. Therefore, I would check with any gym prior to dropping in to see if they will allow you to join the workout.
2. Offering money
Many of the gyms I have visited tell me not to worry about money, but I always offer (and often surreptitiously leave) a mat-fee to cover my visit. Some gyms have a drop-in fee already in place but go ahead and prepare to leave $15 or $20 for your visit. Is this a lot of money for one visit? Perhaps, but it always leaves a good impression to pay or at least offer to pay.
3. Arrive early and prepared
Showing up late for any workout session is inappropriate. Showing up late for a drop-in visit at another school is downright rude. I always try to arrive fifteen minutes prior to classtime in order to sign any documents, talk to the instructor, dress appropriately and wrap my hands. If you are going to be late, don't even go.
If you can, bring your own gear. I personally never travel without my gloves, wraps and a pair of focus mitts because Mike and I like to train when we are on vacation. But especially when you are training at another facility and you don't know exactly what type of gear they may have, it is always important to come prepared.
4. Don't over share
If the instructor or any other student asks about your current or past training experience, share the basics, but don't go overboard. There are few things more obnoxious (and to me, more desperate) than people who tell you about every training experience, seminar, former teacher, etc. I experience this a lot with new people or visitors to our gym who will tell you all about their former teacher and what a bad-ass they were. Mike will often interrupt to ask these time burglar (as we call them), "What is your record?" That usually shuts them up. The take home point: let them know your basic training experience, such as "I've trained Muay Thai for three years in Chicago" or "I'm a blue belt under American Top Team" without overloading them with information.
5. Don't try to teach
One of the worst things you can do in another persons gym is try to teach their students. I have guys who will come try out the gym, have terrible technique and cardio, then try to coach my students on stuff that is utter ridiculous. It is incredibly disrespectful to coach when visiting a gym, even if the student needs help. If you are working on a BJJ transition and they cannot get it, you could offer advice, but make sure you quote the teacher: "I think Professor Blank was cutting his hip in when he got past the leg" or something like that. But don't try to take over, teach a technique that is not being worked on in that class, or blurt out "At MY GYM, we do it this way..."
A lot of these tactics should be employed when dropping into gyms while on vacation as well as shopping for a new gym. The key to visiting other schools is to be polite and not a huge asshole. You want the teacher and other students to enjoy having you in the class and not sigh in relief when you leave. Most importantly, when you are visiting another gym, you are always representing your style and your own school. When people come into our gym and start arguing about a technique or explaining what they do in their gym, it makes their entire system look bad; something that happens within certain systems more than I like. And although I try not to be judgmental, when you've had a dozen people who all train a certain style come into your gym and act that way, it makes then entire system seem desperate, wooden and unable to learn or grow.
Be courteous, respectful and gracious and the school you visit will not only appreciate you, they will welcome you back for future visits.
What other things do you think are important when visiting or dropping in at another facility? For those of you who have done this, what has your experience been?