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When should you move to another gym/coach?

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Hi all. I have been contemplating moving from my local gym that I have been fighting with for the last year. Partly because of feeling stagnant where I am (see How Do I Improve as a Superheavyweight) and feeling a lack of progression. That, and I find myself constantly at odds with my coaches methods of training and lack of openness to other ways of thinking.

For example, I have learnt so much from the Muay Thai library. I largely attribute my progression to the content that Sylvie and Kevin make, and I am able to implement the things I learn at my gym. But because it is different than what my coach has learnt, and is teaching others, he seems to be pulling me up on things that he disagrees with. One example is that he tells me I overextend with my rear straight, and even dedicated an entire class to not over extending your rear punch. Nothing really wrong with it, there are many reasons why over extension is bad (poor balance, leaves you open, weight distribution is off), but there are some benefits to overextending (often head is off centre line, strike from longer distance, weight heavy on front foot so more torque or power) and some negatives to they way he wanted us to punch (head remains in centreline, shorter strike, stationary). When I tried to explain why I throw my straight the way I do, he said it is wrong and needs fixing.

I'll give another example, I have been implementing a lot from what I have learnt from the Yodkhunpon Sittraipum - The Art of Shadowboxing - specifically using maximum effort in my strikes and really visualising what is happening. But my coach tells me I need to slow down and I shouldn't be striking that intensely. I tried to explain the logic behind the way I'm shadowing, but he's not having it. I do as he says but pick it up again, this time he comes over with a stick and starts prodding me in the face to keep my hands up. I block the stick, and explain I was visualising the fight, and in my visual I was out of my opponents striking range, figuring out my next move to close the distance. He laughed and dismissed it, saying "yeah, and you were out of range when the last guy broke your nose" (I won btw haha he broke my nose in the last 30seconds of the last round). I said, "No, I was in his range and dropped my hands - my bad yes but big difference being out of range". He left it, but kept telling me to keep my hands up, even during bag work when it was out of range. 

The gym has also shifted to making fighting more accommodating for those that want to give it a go, removing fighters only classes and having all skill levels for all classes. This has been great for some, but is a large part of why I am having difficulty progressing. I really enjoy helping people get better, I love martial arts and take any chance I can to help ignite that same passion I have for Mauy Thai in others. But at the same time, I am at a loss in the exchange. I have tried talking to my coach and asked for advanced classes specific to fighters or people that want to train hard, but nothing as of yet. Its gotten to the point where I feel like its time to move on in order to grow, but everyone I talk to say you should stick to your roots.

So has any else felt this way? like its time to move to another gym, or find a different trainer? lots of people I know have stayed with the same trainer for most of the careers, so would be good to get others opinions on this.

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@F2 V2314

The experience I have of Western coaches is that they have the idea that there is _one correct_ way to do things, perhaps due to lack of exposure to a vast skills pool. Then there are Thai trainers who know all of the techniques but want you to commit to their specific technique. This situation also sounds like an ego thing involved when it comes to your teacher. 

I have many times had the issue that a certain trainer would tell me to do something I would not agree with. But I have mainly trained in Asian gyms and etiquette and language barriers have hindered me from questioning their approach. Instead, I usually do what they say, try to embrace it, but at the same time do my own thing when that particular trainer is not there. One example, I was told to not switch to southpaw during sparring, because I am not "there yet". I can understand that kind of reasoning, but I had a knee injury at that time and I had focused on working on switching stances and I had been doing padwork working both stances in the same session. First of all, the martial art I train encourages switching stances, it is better for injury prevention and of course, in case I feel my knee in a fight I want to be able to switch stance easily. But I am not gonna argue with that teacher, so I do not practice southpaw when he is around, instead I do it on my own or during private sessions with a friend. I generally stick to a gym and/or teacher if I believe in it. I only switched gyms when my teacher left or when the gym had to close down. But I am also a big fan of seeking out other techniques, so I regularly do privates on top of group classes. I just keep it low key not to disrespect anyone. Sort of walking the non-confrontational path. 

I guess switching gym would depend on what other options you have? Is it possible for you to try out a few other gyms without your current gym knowing? If your current gym environment is not good for you, why should you stay? Especially if there is a lack of trust. 

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On 5/21/2021 at 6:51 PM, F2 V2314 said:

 this time he comes over with a stick and starts prodding me in the face to keep my hands up. 


that's actually quite funny 😂😂😂 

but no, genuinely - is it only him that says that to you about keeping your hands up, or do other trainers and fighters tell you that as well?

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  • 1 month later...

Hey thread opener,

reading your story let's me remind my own - since it was exactly the same.
After we had a big fight event at our gym our Kru realised there is money to earn and training groups became bigger and bigger, quality of training was getting worse in order to fit to the average.
As a fighter I missed that hard, high quality training, struggles with my coach became more and more intense, he was blaming me to "stop that youtube-learning or go somewhere else" since he's the only boss in here and he is better than everyone of us and we have to follow him. 

In the end I left the gym since I didn't have a good time there anymore, felt bad after each training, neither doing good to my trainingspartner, nor myself, nor the Kru.
Since then I was training with a handful of friends who left the gym for the same reasons and we train ourselves, try to get privates from other coaches and so on.

At the beginning it felt strange or weird because such important thing in life is just gone for that moment - but that feeling is vanishing when a new chapter is opened.
I was struggling a lot with that question whether to switch to another gym - but I couldn't. He was still my Kru and to me it was not just a fitness club which I'm switching. So I decided to go my own way.

How did your situation end up?

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I love that you're learning so much from the Library. That's awesome and exactly what we hope for out of the project, in addition to Preserving the Legacy. Exposure to different ideas and methods is food for growth for sure. But you also aren't going to meet many coaches who want their methods questioned or argued against, INCLUDING the men in the Library, Some are more open to ideas than others, but everyone corrects toward their own experience.

Your post is posing a question - "should I move to another gym?" - but it's also expressing frustration. I see why you're frustrated, but I have to be blunt here: you might be bringing all these frustrations with you to another gym. Arguing with your trainer over "his way" and what you are learning in the Library will probably be true in 90% of the gyms you go to, unless your coach happens to be a patron or something. There are gym politics that are incredibly consistent. And the issue with no advanced only classes is likely a commercial or practical change, one that your gym is unlikely to abandon unless there are commercial and practical reasons to have the higher level classes. 

If you feel like you aren't getting what you need out of your gym, that's as good a reason to move as any you'll come across, other than a falling out or something, which is a much harder condition to leave under. But I do warn you that much of what you're finding dissatisfying will be true across many other gyms you might be able to move to. If you see a gym that has more heavyweights, that's beneficial. If you find a gym where it's easier to smile and nod to a correction from your coach and then wait for him to walk away before commencing your own experiments, that's helpful; but arguing with your coaches over technique will never be a welcome approach in any gym. I face this myself; I am more restrained during padwork and have to make an adjustment toward what a coach is saying whenever they say it, but I don't argue. I smile, nod, give it a try while they're watching and then be more experimental during my own shadow, bagwork, or sparring/clinching time.

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On 5/21/2021 at 6:51 PM, F2 V2314 said:

But at the same time, I am at a loss in the exchange.

I think from your description, no matter the facts or possible agreements, you FEEL like there isn't support, and isn't a path there. This is really, really important. So many fighters just stay locked into training environments and relationships that just are not good for them, emotionally, spiritually, when they themselves feel deeply about their art, their progress. I say, when in doubt, when your instincts tell you that things are not right, move. A move tells YOU that your passion is right - even if you are making mistakes along the way. Gyms, by their nature, can be very closed-minded spaces. With the Library you are being exposed to a huge Universe of striking wisdom and techniques, much of it lost or on the way to being lost. It is going to cause some friction. What we try to do to alleviate these problems is to expand training beyond a single gym. Train in multiple spaces, under different people, so it isn't always you vs the coach. But, if it gets to the point where you feel that the coach is protecting "his way" so hardcore and does not fundamentally have your growth at heart, just move. This is a feeling. It's important to own those feelings.

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Two more thoughts on this, because it's a complicated issue.

1. Why not show your coach the Yodkhunpon shadowboxing session so he knows what page you are on. It could be that you are doing it earnestly, but maybe missing elements of what could be found in the video. It helps to have an educated eye looking on. If you want to gift him a month of Library access for free, we can do that. Just have him sign up and we'll send a refund for that month.

2. In a very different direction, we have a philosophy of gyms and training opportunities what is the logic of the Cupcake Bakery. If a bakery is really great at making cupcakes, and everything that comes out of it is cupcakes...and you don't want to be a cupcake, you want to be something different, it doesn't mean that you can't "go" to that bakery. It just means that you have to look at what the process (the gym, the coach) produces, and know that at a certain point you have to break off, or include other processes...or, you'll become a cupcake. For someone like Sylvie there just is no gym, trainer, promotion, NOTHING that will produce what she wants to become. None. So it is all cupcake bakeries, croissant factories, ice cream cake showrooms, it's all processes that make things other than what she wants to be. So, it takes a careful combination of processes - processes that make other things - to (possibly) create something new, the thing she wants to be. It means, unfortunately, ALL the processes are "wrong" in some way. But taking elements from many of them, changing those processes over time, could combine some of their strengths into a virgin ground territory.

It also takes great patience and perspective for any particular process. It just isn't going to be baby bear. All are going to be mis-fitting.

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Think we've all seen variations of this issue play out, it's not an uncommon concern at all. On western Thai gyms, it's not usually my instinct to defend or sympathise with them, given some batshit crazy practices that unfolded before my eyes. Like one time in the early days, a trainer got pissed during training and screamed at a dude, then made him go down the street and buy him a hamburger. And he did.

After meeting an American gym owner who was travelling, he explained something after being asked about his job. He said, 'Everybody's got a question'. That all day long, every day, every single person who talks to him does so because they want something. They dissect everything he says, wanna know why this, why that, well what about this situation, what about that, how about this other technique, etc. Nobody asks him how his kids are doing, or if he saw his basketball team play the other night etc. We can easily forget that for us, the gym is a place we go after work, but for him it is his work. When we're at work, we don't talk like that to our boss (most of us). If you've ever done a day job that you ended up getting real good at, especially something involving craft of some kind, it tends to happen because you follow orders. 

Might be a silly, extreme example to use, and you could justifiably think, 'Yeah but it's not my place of work, he's not paying my salary, in fact I'm paying a lot just to be there'. Well yeah, but on the ground, it never plays out as a customer service type relationship, it's just way too personal a business for that. Plus, that monthly membership fee isn't what actually pays his bills, nor is it the people who fight for his gym. So we can misconstrue our relationship with the trainer, usually as either too close or too distant. A more accurate way of reading that vibe is somewhere between being an employee and a guest in his house, even if the facts don't support that. 

Then again, any toxic shit happens, or if he turns out to be a plan charlatan teaching nonsense, of course do the right thing and leave - don't listen to me. 

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  • 2 months later...

I think in my case, one came to the other and things were adding up. 
At the beginning I / we followed our Kru blindly. Training was hard and good and we learned and improved.
But the more “fitness”-people joined, the worse the training became, the more side-effects came up, no more focus on developing fighters.

Of course I completely understand his point and the points of all mentioned Krus! They all went their way, have their way of training, of teaching, of fighting.
It’s not my/our western approach of things, but I can live with it - as long as I learn and improve.

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