A Beginner’s Guide To Martial Arts Training Vacations

Sep 26, 2017

Everyone loves to go on holiday. However, a new trend has been emerging where holiday-goers throw some world-class training in the mix.

In recent years, the concept of ‘training vacations’ has become increasingly popular. More and more people are heading over to Southeast Asia to train at some of the world’s best gyms, as well as visit a new country and immerse themselves in the local culture.

Typically, a lot of new vacation-goers feel a little nervous stepping into a these training camps, and may have a few questions concerning their experience.

That’s why we have put together this beginner’s guide to martial arts training vacations, including some very valuable input from Bali MMA head coach, Don Carlo-Clauss, and Team Quest Thailand owner, Ian Cartwright.

Keep An Open Mind

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When attending these world-class training camps, whether it is at Evolve MMA, Bali MMA, Team Quest Thailand, or any other gym in the region, the main concern should be enjoying yourself, all while picking up some new techniques.

“People always have lots of questions. My best advice is to keep an open mind, and focus on learning and having fun,” Carlo-Clauss explains. “The best way to learn is to get in there and give it a try, so do not be shy or nervous.”

Be Respectful

Nobody likes a narcissist or someone who acts in a self-righteous manner. When going to these gyms, you are learning from friendly athletes and trainers who have succeeded at the highest level. Be respectful, kind, and courteous.

“Do not be a jerk,” Cartwright says. “Do not walk into a gym with an attitude like you are the best, or have a chip on your shoulder. Most people like that do not last very long, and you will see them hopping around 30 different gyms.”

Research The Gym And Country

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It is always good to do a little bit of research on the gym you want to train at, as well as the country you will be visiting during your stay. Familiarize yourself with the gym’s offerings, the rules of the country, and the local hotspots.

Also, while many of these training facilities offer on-site accommodations, plenty of vacation-goers stay in nearby hotels. Nonetheless, learn as much as you can before embarking on your adventure.

“Definitely do your homework,” Carlo-Clauss advises. “Try to learn about the area or country that you will be visiting, as well as the gym you will be training at. Where exactly is the gym located? Will you be staying on site or in a hotel? If it’s at a hotel, how close is it? What is there to do in the immediate area? Training will consume three to five hours of your day, but there is still plenty of time to get out and explore, so bring a positive attitude, an open mind, and a sense of adventure.”

Enjoy The Local Culture

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As Carlo-Clauss previously mentioned, training will not consume the entire day. So when you are not at the gym training, then take advantage of the vacation part of ‘training vacation’, and explore the country. After all, it is called that for a reason!

“I would highly recommend exploring the city and learning about the local culture. You will get so much more out of your vacation that way. You will make new friends at the gym who can introduce you to places you might never have gone if you had just stuck to the tourist guides,” Cartwright explains.

“Traveling and exploring is a great stress relief. Training two to three times a day can wear on you, and you need to relax sometimes. Nothing is better than taking a half-day trip to a temple on the mountain and relaxing, or going and having some food on the lake to relax your mind. That can get you ready for training again the next day.”

Bring Plenty Of Clean Clothes

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Since most of your time will be spent in humid environments where you would ideally be getting a good sweat on, it is absolutely crucial to bring clean clothes and appropriate attire. 

“People should bring plenty of clean clothes for both training and life outside the gym. Check the weather so you have appropriate attire for the climate and season,” Carlo-Clauss says. “Some camps will have equipment you can borrow, but it is usually pretty beat-up and nasty. I would definitely recommend bringing your own equipment, or pack light and buy new gear when you arrive. If you are a serious BJJ player, I would recommend bringing at least two gis so that you will always have a fresh one while the other is being washed.”

Also, you won’t be living in a jungle, as some people may have that misconception. These gyms are based in towns or cities that have nearby stores, which sell toiletries and medicine. There are also laundromats where you can get your clothes cleaned, which is essential for killing bacteria and smelling fresh. After all, “nobody wants to partner up with the stinky guy/girl in class.”

Set Goals For Yourself

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One of the most important things about training vacations is setting goals, both short and long term. It could be as simple as learning a new skill or dropping a few kilograms, to something more ambitious like competing in a bout.

“If you have a specific goal you want to reach, you should know what it is. Even if you are not super serious about losing weight or having a match, you should have an idea about what you want to get out of your training,” Cartwright says.

“If you just want to hang out, meet new people, and smash pads, or if you want to do all the above but also really focus on your technique, then have your goals set. That way, when you get to a gym, you can make sure you get what you want. If you just leave it up to someone else to decide for you, you will always feel like you did not get what you wanted.”

Carlos-Clauss adds: “Goal setting is great, because it keeps you working towards something rather than just drifting randomly. It is important to be realistic about your goals as well. Set short term goals that are easily achieved, and these will act as rewards and reinforcement as you work toward your bigger and more challenging long term goals.”

Don’t Be Nervous, And Have Fun

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Even after reading this article, most people would still feel a little intimidated when trying a training vacation for the first time. But remember, there is no reason to feel that way. These programs are geared towards all levels of holiday-goers. Besides, all of these world-class athletes and trainers want to work with you, just as much as you want to learn from them.

“The main concern most people have is they are nervous, they are only beginners, and they would not be welcome or skilled enough to train here, which is the furthest thing from the truth,” Cartwright says. “Here at Team Quest Thailand, we have a great atmosphere with a great group of trainers and people around. Just be open to learning and have a good attitude, and you will fit in at any gym!

Carlo-Clauss, who tries to make everyone feel welcome at Bali MMA, echoes that sentiment. “I think there is a common misconception about martial arts gyms in general, that we are all fight clubs, everyone is super aggressive and trying to kill each other all the time. In fact, we are quite the opposite. We cater to the novice or beginner athlete, and really enjoy sharing our knowledge and love for martial arts.

“We have worked really hard to create a family atmosphere that is fun and supportive for everyone. We do train professional athletes and we do offer training for high-level athletes, but the bulk of our members are fitness and martial arts enthusiasts who are there to learn, get in shape, and have fun!”