I’d like to share my opinion on something that has always been annoying to me, but has recently been brought to my attention. So, allow me to embark on my first rant of the site. It shall be the first of many.
I have only ever trained at a handful of gyms in my life. At first, I trained at one on an island in the south of Thailand while on holiday, before moving up to Chiang Mai and spending a couple of months at a gym there. After that, I moved to Bangkok and found the gym that was right for me, decided to start my fight career there and haven’t been anywhere else since. However, In recent times, I am noticing more and more people who flutter from gym to gym, training here and there, and fighting for whichever gym they happen to be at during that particular time. I shall call these people ‘gym hoppers’.
Anyone who has been at a gym for long enough will have met a gym hopper. You might have that one friend whose Facebook pictures always feature shots of him/her in different gyms, or that one who trains at a different gym every time they go to Thailand. It’s not big and it’s not clever. Many people might not have a problem with gym hoppers at all, but for some reason, I do. In fact, I sometimes find myself feeling genuinely disappointed when I see this happening. Personally, I wouldn’t even wear shorts carrying the name of any brand or gym other than my own. Perhaps that might seem a little over the top to some people, but to me, it’s simply disrespectful to do so. My gym supports me, so I do the same for them by buying and wearing their gear.
I’ve ranted about this to a few people in my time, with mixed reactions. Some have agreed, and some have said that it shouldn’t be a problem, as fighters just want to build their names on their own, and should be allowed to take whatever they can from the different people that they train with. To each their own, I guess. I can agree that it shouldn’t really bother me, as since I am a fighter and not a trainer or gym owner, it doesn’t really affect me. The reason for my seemingly irrational annoyance at this issue is rooted in the fact that I believe that those who display gym hopper traits are missing one of the core values of Muay Thai: loyalty.
There is a reason why we use the names of our gyms in lieu of our surnames when we fight (at least in Thailand), to proudly acknowledge and represent who made us and where we come from. So, why do so many fighters insist that they can be ‘independent’? From many, the impression I seem to get is that it’s an ego thing. The idea of ‘belonging’ to a gym or trainer is apparently offensive to their self-pride. Although I realise that this is not the case for all gym-hoppers, it’s something I’m beginning to notice more regularly.
It is difficult for me to see how a fighter can expect to grow and develop in their fighting career when they are unable to stay in one place for a while. Trainers make huge investments of work, time and heart in order to build their fighters, and to walk away from that would be not only quite offensive, but a waste of time.
I have noticed a cycle. This usually begins with the fighter being genuinely and whole-heartedly loyal to their gym, as any devoted student would. This period may last a few months, a few years, or perhaps a lifetime. However, I often see cases where the fighter then becomes less active in training for one reason or another, and is then distracted by opportunities elsewhere. They’ll be tempted by attractive aspects of other gyms, and then compare those with that of their own. They’ll look for holes in the training offered by their own gym. Perhaps they’re not getting enough clinching, or there aren’t enough sparring partners for them, or they’re simply bored with the routine. Once they’ve found those holes, they will then convince themselves that they would be better off elsewhere, and make a move. Many of them go on to brag about how superior it is at their new gyms, as a back-handed insult to the previous one, before often moving on to another one shortly after. Of course, I am speaking very generally; I cannot speak on a case by case basis. However, more often than not, those people want to return to their original gym at some point. The chances are that if you are one of these people, your gym would rather let you go. That’s not to say that there would be any animosity surrounding the issue, or that you would be kicked out, but a trainer will be much more willing to invest their time into building you if they know that you are fully dedicated to learning from them. Otherwise, it’s not quite worth it.
If the gym at which you’re training isn’t right for you, by all means, seek training elsewhere. However, I’d urge you to give it a good amount of consideration before you do so. There may be genuine reasons for which you need to move on to another gym, or you might just be suffering from a slightly inflated ego, which leads you to believe that you somehow don’t need your gym anymore. I shall call this ‘Too-Big-For-Your-Boots Syndrome’.
There have been various occasions on which people have tried to convince me to train at gyms other than my own, telling me that their gym is much better than mine for various reasons. Different gyms are good for different people, so I find this a bit redundant. There have also been times where I’ve felt less than optimistic about my own training, which is almost unavoidable when you do it every day. Regardless of that, I wouldn’t want to train or fight under anyone other than who I’m with now, and who I’ve been with from the start. To me, it’s simple. It’s about loyalty, a value that often seems to be overlooked. I’m not talking about blind loyalty here. Of course, it goes both ways, and if a fighter is not getting adequate training or is being treated unjustly, they would be well within their rights to look elsewhere.
One of the great things about training in Muay Thai is the family atmosphere that surrounds you when you’re in the gym, and even more so when you are at a fight. It’s always nice to feel part of something, and the bonds that form amongst the people in and around the gym are hard to forget for those that experience them. As well as the fact that it would feel wrong for me to train with anyone else, I simply don’t know if I would want to. For me, fighting can be a hugely emotional thing, and it’s not something I would want to go through without a trainer who understood me or to whom I was close to.
As a fighter, you can’t build success on your own, and it’s important to remember those who have helped you to get to where you are. It’s not about who seems to be offering the best deal at a certain time, it’s about who has built you, trained you and supported you, and will continue to do so. I find that most experiences are always what you make of them. If you put yourself into something with your whole heart, others will, too; that is when you start to achieve.
I’d be interested to hear some opinions on this topic. Whether you’ve had any experience with gym hopping and find it as annoying as I do, or you think I really am being irrational, feel free to get in touch.