Yesterday, I began looking for a new gym. As you may have heard, I’ve begun a new life traveling, creating, and training in martial arts.
I’m staying in Babylon, New York on Long Island for the month of June and I need a place to train. I also have the added challenge of finding someplace nearby that I can bike to on my little borrowed 10-speed.
The search for a martial art/fight system
The first thing I looked for was a legit Krav Maga gym, but the nearest one is 14 miles away. No go.
Next up, I searched for kickboxing. The sparring classes I’d been taking at Fit and Fearless in Austin, TX were in a similar vein to kickboxing. My initial search served up a few results, but they were more about punching bags. I want to punch things that punch back…
Finally, I found a couple MMA gyms. One is a 20 minute bike ride away, but it has limited classes. Only a class called “Adult MMA” four times a week. The other gym is a 40 minute bike ride away and has a much wider variety of classes: boxing, MMA, sparring, wrestling, grappling, BJJ, no gi BJJ… it’s a gym fighters train at to compete.
What’s behind gym #1?
Tonight, I tried the gym 20 minutes away.
While I was waiting for the class to start, an older man came into the waiting area. He immediately walked right up to me, put out his hand, introduced himself. He was so forward I thought for sure he was an instructor.
“No, he’s the instructor,” Al said with a laugh, nodding to the man yelling at the Cardio Kickboxing class in progress.
As more men came into the gym, they shook each other’s hands and greeted each other warmly.
“Introduce yourself to Kaci,” Al would say to them. Talk about a welcome wagon.
Later, I’d meet Charlie, the instructor, and he’d explain that the class focus changes each week. This week was striking. Next week would be grappling. He looked at me as he said this, gauging my reaction.
“Great!” Striking… I have some confidence in striking.
I stood awkwardly to the side trying to warm up my body the way I normally do, keeping my eyes to myself, and waiting for the class to start. When I get nervous, I get shy and try not to draw too much attention to myself. That’s difficult when you’re one of two ladies in a room of ~15 people doing an activity dominated by men.
I just want to fight and train and get better. It felt like the first time I tried Krav Maga. Butterflies in my stomach. This time was different though. I have more confidence in myself. Now I know I can do anything. I can flourish in this activity. This activity is fun.
We jogged around the room as part of our warm up and then partnered up to throw warm up strikes. I tried to make eye contact with one of the guys nearest me, but ended up with the only other woman, Laurie. She smiled kindly and knowingly.
We took turns throwing jab, jab-cross, jab-cross-hook combinations. Some of the footwork was completely new for me. We practiced throwing a feint to the left and then immediately pushing off our forward (planted) foot to throw a jab-cross-roundhouse kick combination. Pushing through off your forward foot was foreign and difficult and it was great to improve my footwork in this way. When I spar, my steps tend to feel heavy. When I land, it takes a lot of energy to move my feet to a new location so this was exceptionally good practice for me.
Everyone put on shin guards and lined up in two rows facing each other. You’d practice with the person in front of you and then as we would build onto the combination we’d switch partners.
[Switch to a new partner]
Feint-jab-cross-hook-right roundhouse kick
[Switch to a new partner]
Charlie came by often to give me one-on-one instruction. The feints were difficult. Transitioning from a standing/striking fight to a take down was also difficult, mostly because those two fighting styles have been separate practices for me in the past. It was awesome to learn something new from an instructor with a different teaching style.
I just need to remember to slow down and practice each of the techniques slowly before trying to launch into doing it quickly. We’ll blame it on nerves. I’ll do better at that next time.
The community/inclusivity of the gym
I worked with a lot of guys in the class and I was pleasantly surprised to find there was no ego. Everyone worked to figure out the combinations. They were kind, showed a lot of respect, and were careful not to injure each other. They answered my questions when I was confused and didn’t make me feel dumb. One guy was even training for a competition fight this weekend and he had a great attitude about fighting someone with less skill (me).
It was fun. There’s a community in this gym and it’s clear I could easily become a part of that community if I keep showing up and I’m not a jerk.
Afterwards, Charlie asked me what I thought. I smiled. “It was great!”
“Come back and train the rest of the time you’re here,” he said and we shook on it.
As I walked out to the parking lot, Cole, a guy from the class waved at me from his car.
I could definitely train here.
As an aside, I’ll say training in this new gym made me miss my gym and my fight friends back in Austin. That community is exceptional. That’s where my fight family is located. I love those people and I miss them so much. </ end sad time>