When it’s time to hit the road and go out of town, one of my favorite things to do is look up different academies to train at!
The possibility to learn something new and expand your network of like-minded martial artists always makes it worth stopping into new academies while traveling. (Check out my last blog post to see the benefits of training at other gyms.)
However, it’s important to keep in mind that all academies have different cultures, communities, and expectations. Although they may train the same martial arts we do at Easton, the rooms can be quite different.
In order to make sure your guest visit is as successful as possible, keep these Dos and Don’ts in mind when you stop somewhere to train!
DO #1: Reach out ahead of time to schedule your visit
Communication is key, and reaching out ahead of time before you visit goes a long way to set the tone and make sure the academy is ready for a drop in.
My recommendation is to let them know how long you’ll be in town for, what classes you are looking to attend, and give some background on your current training situation (where you train + how long you’ve been training for). It’s very helpful for their staff to have this information beforehand and it helps establish a relationship before you even step on the mats!
DO #2: Do your research before heading in
Although there are many great academies out there to train at, there are also a number of gyms where you could end up with an unpleasant experience, especially if you are going in without any prior knowledge.
Take your time to do your research on the academy, their history, their head instructors, and maybe even a few reviews. Get a feel for their schedule and what they offer before you stop in, and you will feel much more comfortable when it’s time to go train!
Feel free to ask around at Easton with your coaches and teammates for gym recommendations, chances are you will find one from within our community!
DO #3: Do introduce yourself to the instructor and make some friends
The way I always look at dropping in somewhere to train is that I’m a guest in that person’s house.
I personally would never enter someone’s house without saying hi or introducing myself, that makes things awkward! Take the time to introduce yourself to the front desk, the head instructor or the instructor of your class, and a few students.
Who knows, the instructor may know your home academy or you may have some common ground. I find more often than not, I’m able to connect with someone at another academy and we become friends. The Muay Thai and BJJ communities are a small world! And if you end up having a great experience at that gym, you’ve already set yourself up with a spot for the next time you’re in town.
DO #4 (Bonus): Do buy some apparel from the academy you visited!
This is a bonus one, as not everyone may have the opportunity to do this for whatever reason. Sometimes the academy may not even have apparel for sale. But, if they do, I personally love buying a shirt or something from that academy as a memento from my trip! I have a ton of great Muay Thai t-shirts from across the globe as a result. This also is a great gesture to the host academy.
DON’T #1: Don’t assume you can take whatever class you want
Just like at Easton, academies have certain benchmarks and standards when it comes to taking classes on their schedule. Those are true for visitors as well.
Sometimes these academies may let you take a certain level of class and sometimes they won’t. If they don’t, don’t be offended by that! Unless you have a serious competition coming up, the goal of your training while on the road should be to just continue to learn and practice your martial art. That can be accomplished in any class level, even if that’s below the level you are used to training at.
DON’T #2: Don’t try to dominate your training partners or prove your skill level
One of the fastest ways for you to make some enemies and possibly find yourself on the list of people not welcome back is by coming into a new gym and trying to dominate your training partners.
While visiting other academies, it’s always best to take it down a notch and really “read the room” when it comes to training. If you train BJJ, the belt around your waist will usually indicate your skill level even before your start live training. If you are training Muay Thai, a good instructor will be able to watch you shadow box and have a rough idea of where you stand.
There is absolutely no need to try to demonstrate your level of skill or superiority on students at that academy. Of course, if people are training hard with you and you feel safe, then by all means you can match their energy. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, then ask them to bring it down a notch or take a break.
You don’t want to ruin your trip by either hurting yourself or a student at that academy! Keep the ego in check.
DON’T #3: Don’t assume the rules of etiquette are the same as your home academy
Every martial arts gym you go to is a unique environment with a unique culture. The people are different, the rules are different, the procedures are different…just like traveling to another country!
Do your best to ask questions and read the environment instead of assuming whatever works at your home academy also works there. This is a fairly obvious tip, but it amazes me to see people who always drop in to train somewhere new and ignore the rules of that academy in favor of their own rules.
Remember, nobody is required to let you in and train! Even if you pay to drop in, they are still allowing you to join their classes and experience the culture of their academy. Do your best to respect their rules and etiquettes and you will have a much better experience!
Keep an open mind + learn from it all
As with everything, communication goes a long way in making these drop-ins enjoyable experiences for you and for the host academy.
Just like with visiting new gyms, these experiences are almost always a net positive. You either find a great new spot, meet new friends, and learn something new on the mats OR you have an experience that reminds you why Easton is such a great community and will make you excited to get back on the mats in Colorado, haha.
We hope this list of Do’s and Don’ts helps you the next time you’re looking for an academy to train at during your next trip!
Safe travels and enjoy your time on the mats! – Coach Sean