You walk into the academy for the first time.  You most likely have some butterflies, some uncertainty, as well as tons of questions for the coach.  Everybody on the mat looks like they are a martial arts master and UFC champion.  In reality, most probably don’t know much more than you.  It’s important as the new blood entering the gym that you remain humble and act accordingly.  You’d think that would be common knowledge, but you’d be surprised.  Below I’ll cover some of the “Dont’s” when making a first impression.

One of the biggest “No No’s” when entering the gym for the first time is asking the instructor, “How long before I can fight?”  No matter how nice, how positive and how encouraging the instructor may seem after this question hits his ear drums, his stomach is undoubtedly churning.  How on earth could a coach have any clue what your athletic ability is, your passion, your work ethic?  It’s a ridiculous question that can’t be answered with any certainty.  Furthermore, it tells the coach that you are looking for quick return on investment.  Nothing good comes fast, nothing!  You have to put the work in to get the rewards.

The next step in “knowing your role”, would be to leave self praise to a minimum.  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been told how good of a fighter someone is.  Does the “newb” not realize that the very second you get on the mat the instructor will know that you’re full of shit?  It’s actually a smack in the face to a coach who has put years of his life into his craft.   Sometimes the rookie gets more specific, “I used to box.”  No, you didn’t.  Just be cool and get input on the programs the gym has to offer.

Lastly, one of the biggest “eye rolling” events a coach can deal with is the unemployed or the motor vehicle impaired.  Like it or not, when you come into a gym, you are a dollar sign.  While most instructors have a passion for their art and really love to teach, it takes money to keep the doors open, to pay for gas and put food on the table.  The last thing a coach wants to do is waste time.  Again, no matter how enthusiastic the coach may seem, everything he’s saying is all a sales pitch.  He’s said these exact words a million times before.  So, after listening to what a great fighter you are, how quickly you want to get in the cage, relaying info on different types of programs offered, prices, schedule etc. the last thing the coach wants to hear is, “as soon as I get a job/car I’ll be back.”  I can’t tell you how infuriating this is.  If you don’t have a job, how did you plan on paying for this?!  Instead of talking to the coach about fighting maybe you should be filling out applications!

Martial Arts for many is a lifetime passion.  Years of sacrifice, time and money are spent on developing skills, teaching ability, as well as opening the academy.  When you go into the academy for the first time, just be humble.  Ask the coach what they have to offer and see how you’d fit in with the core group.  Come in, work hard, ask questions and go home.  Before you know it you’ll be excelling in the arts and maybe even teacher’s pet!


About The Author

Josh Cate
Staff Writer

Josh Cate started his martial arts training 27 years ago. Josh become instantly passionate about the arts. One road led to another in his journey. Josh holds the rank of 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, 2nd degree black belt in Shingitai Jiu-jitsu, 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and Brown belt in Judo. In 1998 he had his first professional MMA bout. A bronze medalist at the BJJ nationals, gold medalist at the Jiu-jitsu World Cup, NAGA national champion are a just a few of the many awards on Josh's list of accomplishments. Aside from owning and operating Team Kaos MMA/BJJ in Knoxville, Tennessee, Josh has started working with Valor Fighting Championships and occasionally writes for mma websites. Be on the lookout for the Full Frontal MMA podcast that he is getting ready to launch as well. Josh is truly grateful for all of the opportunities MMA has given him and looks forward to this chapter with The MMA Corner!