Trapped against the ropes? Pinned on the ground? Faced with multiple opponents? It doesn't matter the scenario, the instructors at Academy of Self Defense teach ways to defend yourself in any situation. Some of their classes, such as Thai Boxing or MMA, focus on the skills adults need to succeed in the ring. Others, such as Systema—a martial art form developed by the Russian special forces, train students how to rely on natural instincts to ward off attackers in the real world. Kids' karate classes, meanwhile, not only cover self defense moves, but also character building techniques that carry over into schoolwork and home life. The coaches also lead a fight team, which includes two professional fighters, ten amateur fighters, and one guy who knows where to score really colorful shorts.
USA Karate Federation Hall of Fame honoree and four-time Panamerican Karate champion John Fonseca teams up with three-time world karate champion Elisa Au Fonseca and a cadre of talented instructors to lead their charges through martial-arts and fitness classes that strengthen minds and bodies. Though the martial-arts program mainly focuses on shotokan and shito-ryu karate, the sensei also offers aikido, judo, Gracie jujitsu, muay thai kickboxing, and wing tsun classes. Bushy-tailed neophytes start at the beginning, learning the basics of their chosen form, whereas advanced students delve into such mind-focused arenas as chi energy training and personally apologizing to every punching bag they have ever hurt.
Instructors also lead fitness-centered sessions that build muscle and burn calories. Cardio-kick classes merge elements of martial-arts, boxing, and aerobics to form an ever-changing cardiovascular workout infused with heart-pumping kicks and punches. Boot-camps delve athletes even deeper into whole-body fitness by challenging them to nonstop military-style drills for a full 45 minutes, or approximately the time it takes to jump rope through an entire episode of Magnum, P.I..
A nonprofit educational organization, The Peace School promotes tranquility of mind, body, and spirit through yoga, tae kwon do, and meditation courses that welcome students of all ages. Originally established in 1972 by Grand Master Myungsu Y.S. Kim, the school has been recognized by the United Nations, developed senior and nursing-home programs, and helped establish Peace Day, an annual Chicago celebration of peace and cultural institutions.
At the school, a coalition of experienced instructors—all of whom have trained for at least 10 years—leads students in three levels of yoga, traditional tae kwon do, and other exercises. Group practice, discussion, and lectures divulge the fundamentals of peace breathing meditation, while a hands-on self-defense for women class opens up discussion of attitude, confidence, and safety issues. Massage classes emphasize acupressure technique and deep breathing, while courses in infant massage can help babies sleep better.
Born in Bulgaria in 1959, fencer Hristo Etropolski soon traded his rattle for a saber, competing twice in the Olympic Games—including a fifth-place finish in 1980—and earning medals in two World Championships. After settling down in 2005, Hristo founded Midwest Fencing Academy, where, as head coach, he draws on almost 40 years of competition and teaching experience to sharpen students’ sparring skills. Of his past protégés, one received a gold medal in the Junior World Cup, and many have secured fencing scholarships at Ivy League universities, where their mighty swords reign undefeated against opponents' puny pens.
Midwest Fencing Academy specializes in the lightest of fencing's three weapons, the saber, whose required speed and quick thinking puts students' hearts and reflexes to the test, building discipline and good sportsmanship. The facility boasts five regulation strips, four of which are wired with electronic scoring, and includes a large viewing space for friends or parents to shout French translations of witty retorts from the sidelines.
Long before the UFC turned mixed martial arts into a caged spectacle, Kensho Martial Arts founder Roger Luri was melding myriad fighting styles into a coherent method of self-defense. Thirty years of teaching martial arts have shown him that, in a self-defense situation, trained fighters will resort to whatever moves and faked tuberculosis symptoms come the easiest. Instead of inculcating a rigid structure for kicks and punches, he devised a technique that allows students to draw from multiple influences. These include disciplines such as karate, kickboxing, jujitsu, and Western boxing.
Luri built his self-defense technique from his broad experience scrapping in multiple styles. In the 1980s, the seventh-degree black belt developed an iron grip over judo and kickboxing while studying under Grand Master Fred Degerberg, a pioneer of mixed martial arts. Since then, Luri has developed mastery over Thai and French boxing, for which he received the Silver Glove from the French Federation of Boxe Francaise Savate.
Northside Mixed Martial Arts acquaints all willing students—most of whom have never sparred or grappled—with the proven combat techniques of Gracie jiu-jitsu, submission wrestling, muay thai kickboxing, and MMA in a supportive and secure environment. The center's squad of expert coaches includes Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion and Gracie-trained black belt Misho Ceko, as well as two-time Golden Gloves boxer Ivelin Tzontchev. By showcasing strikes and holds from across the martial-arts spectrum, classes instill a base of knowledge from which guests can improvise and adapt to subdue much larger opponents, such as street toughs, hooligans, and rabid Big Birds. The gym rounds out its class roster with personal-training services and women's self-defense boot camps, and beckons to passersby a mere four blocks away from the Fullerton CTA stop.