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How To Choose a Martial Arts Gym That’ll Be Your Forever Home Self Discovery

So you’ve decided to pick up a martial art (good for you!), but are not quite sure how to go about looking for a gym? This guide – written by someone who has visited a fair number of gyms in Singapore – will help.

Talk to someone who’s picked up martial arts and chances are, he or she will tell you that it’s not just a hobby but an important aspect of his or her life. Martial arts has helped many people quit smoking, change their partying ways, encouraged them to overhaul their bad diets, and helped them become more confident individuals.

417Personally, I started martial arts in a bid to become fitter. When I first started muay thai six years ago, I couldn’t even do five proper push-ups and could barely skip for two minutes without pausing to catch my breath. Now, I am able to do 100 push-ups in a session and so many other things I never imagined I’d do. But my foray into martial arts – from muay thai to boxing and now, Brazilian jiu-jitsu – has also helped me get a better grip on my anxiety and to keep calm under pressure – all very important skills to have when you work in a fast-paced industry like the media.

However, finding a gym can be a process of trial-and-error, but it’s important to find a place you feel 100% comfortable training in since you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the gym. Here are some things I learnt about choosing a gym from my years in martial arts.

Take your time to decide which martial art you would like to do

While there are a number of mixed martial arts gyms in Singapore these days, it might be better for you to first decide if you want to focus on a striking art (boxing or muay thai), grappling (Brazilian jiu-jitsu), or even wrestling if you’re a martial arts newbie. Get your feet wet by trying out all the disciplines first, before deciding which one you would like to pursue. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to do them all concurrently, but I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s better to focus on one first, getting some basics down, before moving onto another art. That’s because all the disciplines require time, effort and consistency on your part for you to see an improvement in your skills. If you decide that you prefer striking over grappling, it might do you well to check out gyms that only offer those disciplines, as that will mean that you will have more classes in its schedule for you to choose from.

Related post: 8 Things You Need To Know About Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

Take advantage of as many free trials as you can, or better still, buy a weekly pass, one-month pass, or 10-class package 

For most gyms, the first class is free BUT in my experience, one class is too little for you to suss out the vibe of the gym and the quality of the instruction. Ask if they have weekly/monthly passes, or 10-class packages available – many gyms will have these options on hand though it may not always be openly advertised as their aim is to get people to sign up for longer term packages.

Then, go for as many classes as you can. That’s the only way for you to find out if this is something you’ll be able to commit to for a long time to come.

Alternatively, you can try getting a membership for K-Fit or Guavapass. These memberships essentially allow you to try out a variety of gyms around the island, and there are a number of martial arts gyms on the list. Though I’ve never personally never tried such services before, I’ve heard positive feedback from some people who have. The only drawback? There are certain restrictions you have to work around – like the fact that many gyms only allow holders of these memberships to visit during off-peak hours.

A checklist of things to consider when choosing a gym:

  • How does the gym’s schedule fit in with yours?
  • How close is it to your work or home?
  • Are the classes structured? For instance, the structure of a 90-min muay thai class should look something like: Warmups (10 min); Shadow-boxing (10 min); Technique (30 – 45 min); Bag work and pad work (20 min); Conditioning and cool down (20 min) – It is NOT a good sign when you go to a class and see people doing their own thing.
  • Are the coaches motivated and engaged? Are they able to communicate well? Do they take time to correct poor form or bad technique?
  • Are you able to “click” with the coach? Some people prefer a softer, more encouraging approach. Others like the strict “drill sergeant” types who would push them to their limits. It’s VERY important to find a coach that appeals to you and your personality type so you don’t leave the gym feeling frustrated after each session.
  • Is it beginner-friendly? In good gyms, coaches should give complete newbies a little extra attention to take them through the basics, rather than expecting them to keep up with the more experienced students.
  • What’s the crowd control like? Do they have a cap on the maximum number of students allowed in class? A crowded class isn’t necessarily bad (as it’s usually proof the gym is doing something right), provided the gym has more than one instructor on hand to handle all the students, and necessary precautions are taken to ensure the safety of the students.

There may be a few things in life you regret doing, but choosing to pick up a martial art won’t be one of them. Good luck on your search!


She may have been born and bred in Singapore, but Denise considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and needs to make a yearly pilgrimage there to maintain her sanity. Competitive by nature, she enjoys combat sports and is currently obsessed with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which she picked up just under a year ago. To no one’s surprise, the country currently at the top of her travel bucket list is Brazil.

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