Breaking the First-Timer Nerves

Nervous about stepping on the mats for the first time? In this article, CMBT Co-Founder Miles Muecke shares his advice for those suffering from gym anxiety…

We’ve all got that one mate who’s been training in MMA or BJJ for a while, and they’ve been hounding you to join them…they constantly tell you about the stories of how good it is and how it’s changed their life…and you even see it yourself. You see how much more confidence they have, it’s like they feel more comfortable in their own skin. And when you’re together, you almost feel safer with them around, like they have some kind of superpower you don’t have. It’s intriguing and it’s attractive…

Or maybe you’re that person that just loves watching the UFC on the weekend with the crew, you like staying in shape, or lifting weights in the gym, but it’s becoming boring and monotonous and you feel like you need a change. You think about heading down to your local MMA gym to try it out…but you’ve been holding back for months..

I have trained in martial arts for over a decade and now owned my own facility with some amazing partners and friends for over 4 years, and there is one common theme I see with anyone and everyone walking into a martial arts school for the first time…and it’s ”intimidation”.

Your gym could be full of the nicest and most welcoming people, but the intimidation factor of the unknown, a new environment, a lack of knowing what to expect, all hold us back from stepping in the door for the first time. A lot of people that want to train never step in that door and they miss out on the whole world of benefits that we all know martial arts provides us.

It’s pretty evident as to why someone would feel intimidated…when you think of a combat specific gym you think of big guys wanting to take each others heads off, you think of a room full of testosterone driven males all death staring each other and the thought of extreme contact wigs anyone out before they become comfortable with it…

Sure, these gyms probably exist. We’ve seen them in movies and we watch the extremes of combat training at the highest competitive level on UFC Embedded or Showtime series. But in the decade that I have been training, and from visiting hundreds of gyms all around the world, this threatening concept of a gym that we all tend to make up in our minds before walking in, isn’t really true.

One thing I can guarantee is that your local boxing, MMA, kickboxing or Jiu Jitsu school would be full of people wanting to better themselves, get fit, learn a new skill and they would make up their own positive community that supports each other not only in the gym, but in life. The majority of gyms would also be owned by someone so dedicated to martial arts or helping people realise the benefits of the sport or skill that you can’t help but be positively affected by them.

Just as human nature intends, there are some people you might not gel with, or some gyms that don’t have a vibe you’re looking for, but you need to experience it to find one that suits you. The one thing you should never do is hold yourself back from trying.

The people that I have seen “fit in” the most are those who just thrust themselves into the action of it all, understand that they’re learning a new skill and know that they’re surrounded by others at the same level, just starting out. Knowing you won’t be judged because we all start at the same place should provide you with all of the confidence you need to get started. And if the instructor of the gym is decent, it will be their focus and mission to make you feel comfortable and give you some direction. 

Combat sports has been one of the most influential and beneficial things I have done in my life. So much so that it has led me to not only having a business in CMBT Training Centre, but extending further to supporting those involved in the sports with their performance and recovery, via CMBT Nutrition. 

If you’re someone that is interested in getting started but just feel intimidated, here are some tips I would suggest:

  • Do your research. Any decent gym should be maintaining some kind of social media presence. By consuming the gyms content, you will be able to feel the vibe of the gym, you will be able to see what kind of people are there and you’ll know whether you’re interested in taking the next step into that gym.
  • Enlist a mate – it’s always easier trying something new with a friend. You guys can go through the journey together and make each other feel comfortable. You can then practice with each other once you’ve learned some cool new shit!
  • Find a gym that has a timetable that you can commit to. Consistency will be key to not only learning the skill but integrating yourself into the community which will always make you feel more comfortable.
  • Go in and talk to the coaches or staff. View the facilities and make sure you feel the place is right for you. A lot of gyms even offer free trials, so take them up and if you don’t like it, you’re not committed to come back.

There are so many benefits from getting involved in the sport and it’s only getting bigger! You don’t have to want to fight, or be at all competitive to enjoy training martial arts training. But you do need to walk into the door to start!

See you on the mats one day!

Miles Muecke