Ip Man and What’s Wrong with MMA Schools

Author: Ahmed Rashad

I remember as a child falling in love with the movie ” Karate Kid, “ kickboxer” and” Rocky”. Recently a new generation of fight movie fans fell in love with the “IP Man” movie series, I remember watching the movies over and over trying to copy the moves and remembering lines of the main characters. The idea of a regular guy from a mediocre background turning into a human weapon that is not just strong but wise fascinated me. Fast-forward to current time we see a lot of MMA schools closing left and right and going out of business. Students losing interest and not showing up for classes ironically at the same time MMA is getting more popular in the main stream thanks to the UFC and other fight promotions. I have been involved in the martial arts community in the Boston and New England area for years now as a practitioner, sparring partner to some fighters and a co-ower of a gym for sometime. I have seen so many gyms closing in the past 5 years including the nicely designed and located Boston Tapout gym. The question is why are so many MMA gyms or schools closing? Why are fight local leagues disappearing? And what are gym owners and trainers are doing wrong and how can we corrected it? I was pondering on these questions and discussing them with some of my friends over a nice steak dinner recently after a training session and we concluded some major causes for this that I would love to share with you.

The lack of the mentor coach model

If you notice in all the movies I listed above there was always this mentor coach to the main character that helped him elevate his skills level not just on the physical end but his philosophy on life in general making him an all around stronger, wiser and better person. Teaching people how to kick and punch is an easy thing but being a coach and mentor is a whole different ball game. A coach that not only focuses on the technical side but also takes interest and tries to get to know his students more on a closer level has a greater impact on their life. I rarely see this model anymore with trainers. A lot of gyms you enter, pay the fees and take your hour-long class and leave. That is as far as the trainers will be concerned with when it comes to clients. I personally know a gym owner that turns up the heat high during the classes so the students sweat more and think they had a good workout! Being a good mentor coach starts with understanding your students, their profiles and who are you trying to target? For example in silatsharaf.com our target market is not an aspiring UFC cage fighter or a person that wants to lose weight and want some basic workout routines. These are great goals but it’s not the target market we focus on. Our focus is people that want to become martial strategist, weaponize their MMA skills, learn how to survive real life situations and use the martial arts philosophy and teachings to help them in their everyday life personally and professionally. This is where the leadership-coaching program in silat sharaf comes in handy. We deal with business owners, security professionals, law enforcement, gym owners and on occasions politicians that want to focus more on the strategy aspect. These groups of people have different needs and priorities so first step understand your clients profiles and how you can best serve them.

Forcing students to fight too early

Ok this one drives me crazy and pushes so many people away from learning MMA. If you are a trainer or a gym owner you should know that unless you are a professional fighter coach for elite level, 99% of your customers are not interested in cage fighting. Most want to get a great workout, gain confidence MMAand learn out to defend themselves. I have seen this over and over in so many gyms, the trainers want to make a name for themselves and start pushing their students into the octagon too early. Make sure you spend time to learn the goals and capabilities of your students. Even the ones that want to fight make sure there is a period of time they are required to train with you before they are allowed to fight under your gym now to make sure they are ready.

Lack of culture

What makes martial arts schools different from regular weight lifting gyms is the personalized attention you get as a MMA gym goer and the since of community and brotherhood in the classes. So if your gym lacks personality or culture and the brotherhood feel to it , you just lost what makes MMA gyms special. Many people talk trash about Karate Dojos but if you look at those Dojos you will see culture, History, uniforms , ranking and goals kids aspire to attain. I think MMA schools should have ranking system even if its internal to keep kids setting goals for themselves and fight boredom that comes with lack of direction. A culture also helps your gym grow and have loyal fans. It’s always great to organize events and get together outside of the regular class sessions. Get the members involved in the advancement of the gym and listen to their advice and opinion; it will make them feel like they are truly part of the gym. Finally, these are some of the major points I see MMA gyms doing wrong these days and are the leading cause of so many gyms going out of business. You love to hear you opinions on the matter as I feel it’s a major issue a lot of gym owners and trainers face.