If you’re thinking of opening up your own martial arts gym, ensuring your training space is properly equipped is paramount, not only for the safety of your students but for optimal training and, ultimately, happy students. Whilst not an exhaustive list, here’s 5 things to consider when kitting out a martial arts gym.
Choosing the correct matting to line the floor of your gym, you first have to consider which martial arts you plan to train in. The thickness of the gym mats required depends upon how much impact the body will have on the floor. Striking martial arts, like Karate, that don’t utilise takedowns, tend to use 20mm-30mm thick mats whereas high-impact martial arts, such as jujitsu, judo and sambo, require the thicker 40mm mats to ensure the mats absorb the power and speed of the throws to lessen the chance of injury.
Mats are also available in three distinct types: jigsaw, rollout and traditional. Jigsaw mats, like the name suggests, fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to create the size of the training area you require. This makes them ideal to stack when not in use so if you have a temporary training venue, they’re a suitable option. However, having been thrown on them myself, they’re not as comfortable to land on as traditional mats, the type you’ll often see used by schools during PE class.
Where jigsaw mats are square, such as 1.5m x 1.5m, traditional mats tend to be rectangular, like 1m x 2m. They’re a bit awkward to store as they take up more room so you’ll generally see these as permanent fixtures at gyms. They’re probably the most used type of mat, with judo clubs especially choosing these particular mats to train on.
Rollout mats are a fairly modern type of mat and can be rolled away when not in use, hence the name. This is perfect if you want to train from home, such as out of your garage, or from a temporary venue, like a sports centre. Rollout mats are usually available in a variety of lengths, larger than the traditional or jigsaw mats, as the idea is that you only need to purchase a limited number. Because of this, rollout mats tend to be more expensive per mat as they provide a larger training area, such as 1.5m x 3m or 1.5m x 6m per mat.
Strength and Conditioning Area
Many gyms nowadays have sectioned off an area for strength and conditioning, equipped with battle ropes and weight sleds to help individuals who train combat sports gain a strength advantage. However, strength and conditioning sessions also beings in many customers of its own who may not necessarily train in anything else, such is the health and fitness benefits from the workouts involved.
Apart from the aforementioned equipment, it’s important to have a suitable surface for strength and conditioning equipment to be used. A lot of gyms use astro turf or similar for running weight sleds up and down on whilst gym mats are used to place heavy equipment on, that way if weights are dropped on the ground they won’t cause serious damage.
Boxing Ring or Cage
Depending on the martial arts or combat sports you provide at the gym, you may wish to offer as real as an experience as you can get for your students. This is especially important to consider if you have students who compete, be it as amateurs or professionals. A boxing ring is integral to any boxing club so the students can understand distance, footwork and how to fight off the ropes or in a corner. The same applies to kickboxing, Muay Thai and professional wrestling clubs.
If you have amateur or professional MMA fighters, then a full cage or at least a caged wall section is beneficial to your fighters. Learning how to fight off the cage wall is import to any defence and attack strategy, as this is where most clinch and tie-ups occur, with the aim to either takedown your opponent, move them away from the cage wall or to defend a takedown if you’re the one with your back against it. Groundwork grappling against a cage wall is also an important element to practice and, if you’re channelling your inner Anthony Pettis, cage wall kicks too.
Crash mats can be used for many purposes but they’re extremely beneficial for clubs practicing high-impact takedowns and throws, such as Judo clubs. The last thing anyone wants to do is get injured so when learning a technique for the first time, it’s important that it’s taken slowly so that the person being thrown can land properly. This especially applies to novices who may not know how to safely breakfall and require a bit of assistance before they’re able to properly land on the gym’s mats. Crash mats are also used in striking arts, such as Thai Boxing classes, with many instructors using the mats as a safe landing for the students to practice their flying kicks. This one is always a hit with the kids!
Every gym needs to be equipped with the right equipment, so if you’re doing any sort of striking it’s worth considering adding a range of punch bags of various shapes and weights to hang in your gym. There’s uppercut bags that are shaped wider at the top, like an upside down wine bottle, that allow you to practice those uppercuts. L-shaped wall pads also ideal for this. Then you’ve got things like Aqua Bags, Strikeman/Bobs, freestanding punch bags and speed bags to consider.
It’s not all about punch bags though. Wing chun dummies are a staple part of any gym training in the Chinese martial arts, so it really does depend on the martial arts styles you teach as to what best to equip your gym with.
If you have limited space, then it’s best to plan your purchases wisely as equipment costs can soon mount up. Whatever you choose, always make sure the quality is the best because if you buy cheap quality gear, expect to have to fork out again. As they say, “buy cheap, buy twice”. That’s not to say you can’t get a good deal on quality gear though. Plenty of martial arts equipment companies offer trade accounts and some offer discounts for bulk purchases too. You may even get extra savings if they have sales on during the year, such as around public holidays and Black Friday.