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How to Get Started in Combat Sports

Getting advice from the pros when diving into a new sport is smart because they have the inside scoop. People who have gone through something before can help you with tricks of the trade, safety tips, and cool training hacks, hopefully making your learning journey smoother.

Interested in trying a combat sport for the first time?
We talked to the “pros” for you. 

First off, decide what kind of combat sport you would like to try. There are dozens of different forms of martial arts. Hit House and KO Studio recently deep-dived into the differences between the three most popular forms of combat sports (boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai) together.

Once you’ve decided on the discipline you’re most interested in, try out different martial arts gyms. You’ll find the right space, coaches and team for you through trial and error - which is why most gyms offer a free (or inexpensive) trial. While there, don’t be scared to ask questions. Need help finding gyms by you? Check out KO Studio's guide to gyms in different cities.

Located in New York City?

Follow your gut instinct - if a gym doesn’t feel right to you, it’s probably not the right place for you. If it feels like the stars are aligning, sign up for the gym’s introductory deal. (You’ve been bitten by the martial arts bug - enjoy it!)

Once you’ve found the gym you plan to train at, learn and follow the rules. Come to class on time and prepared. Find out what gear you need for your sport - and happy shopping.

Listen to your coaches, communicate with your teammates and don’t be afraid to tell your partner that you’re new and here to learn. Kings Combat Muay Thai coach and AFL fighter Chrissy Albanese says, “When people first come to a Muay Thai class, I like to emphasize how awesome it is that they've tried something new. Very rarely do people intentionally put themselves outside their comfort zone, but once they do, they often realize it's not half as scary as they'd imagined, and they end up feeling really empowered. And that's what Muay Thai, for me, is about: self empowerment.”

Learn and perfect the basics. Former I Love Kickboxing Instructor and current Studio Pilates instructor Brianna Biffignani recommends, “Stay patient with yourself and remember the basics. When in doubt, the basics will never fail and then progress from there. Stay open to learning from the people around you and you’ll be successful!”

Be patient with your progress. There’s a lot to take in. “My only advice (which I never take) is to not compare yourself to others. You never know how long or how often someone has been training [or] what other experience/time doing Martial arts they might have,” says Queens Training Club Muay Thai coach and fighter Elora Sullivan. “Try to focus on your own journey and learning and not compare with others' progress.”

Now, what does the KO Krew say?

(If you don’t know what the KO Krew Community* is yet, scroll down.) We posed the question on the KO Krew's message board and these are the helpful responses we received and are happy to share!

Kay Gentle: Be intentional about your journey within martial arts to get the most out of it. Not everybody has the courage to dive deep into discipline & discomfort so embrace everything that comes with it! Great things await you on the opposite side of your comfort zone :)

Francesca Veve: Try your best and be proud of yourself. Even if you make little progress, it’s still something. Don’t rush because your body needs time; listen to your needs and believe in yourself!

Fay Cardinal: Don’t forget to always stay hydrated, be disciplined/dedicated in your training: don’t give up! Don’t be afraid of getting out of your comfort zone. Don’t neglect your body… use pads & handwraps!

Rose Atkinson: Film film film!!! When I started intentionally watching the film of my sparring I finally understood so much of what my coaches were telling me to do and I was able to better fix it! 

Caitlyn Walsh: Come to learn with an open mind and expect to be really bad in the beginning, you can’t get better if you don’t accept your current faults.

Mar Bond: Never spar with a cluttered mind! If you spar when you're angry or upset over something, you risk fighting with emotions and not your mind. Leave the messy hits for the bag!

When starting a martial art, focus on fundamentals, be patient with progress, stay consistent in practice, listen to your instructor, prioritize proper form over power, and respect your training partners for a positive and effective learning experience.

We will leave you with these final thoughts from Chrissy.

“I understand how it can feel daunting to begin, because we are so rarely given permission to publicly assert ourselves in an aggressive manner, especially as women. Starting and not being good at something can also feel very vulnerable as an adult. (But it wouldn't really make sense for someone to be great at something they just tried for the first time anyway!) Once someone finds a way to healthily assert themselves with aggression, it can be very empowering. Without risk and exposure to newness that might make someone feel vulnerable (temporarily), there is no growth and no discovery of what could be a positive part of someone's life.”

Dana VanPamelen is a co-founder of Hit House, a Muay Thai influenced fitness studio in Manhattan. She's been training since 2011 and her favorite move is the teep.

Yin Qi Xie, a former solution-based product design student, created KO Studio in a post-training epiphany! She loves boxing and helping females in combat sports find their place. Read more about KO Studio here.

*About the KO Krew Community: In this female boxing community, we share everything: stories, experiences, boxing tips and tricks, events, courses, and everything about boxing you can imagine. It's a large support system to help raise one another up and spread the love! 


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