Military personnel, police officers and detectives have something in common besides high-risk jobs: Dennis Hill. The chief instructor at Aiki Academy of Self Defense, armed with a black belt in judo and a brown belt in Brazilian jujitsu, has trained members of all three professions in the art of hand-to-hand combat. He also teaches civilians at his 4,000-square-foot dojo, voted New Haven’s best martial-arts studio in 2012 by CT.com readers.
Hill and his team helm more than 50 classes per week. Sessions traffic in styles that range from kickboxing-focused combat hapkido and muay thai to krav maga, a fighting style that readies people for no-rules brawls, such as street fights or bare-knuckle-boxing matches held on cruise ships once maritime law kicks in. Fitness classes from kettlebell workouts to flexibility-enhancing yoga complement the self-defense courses, as do amenities such as an onsite playroom and free coffee in the spacious waiting room.
Twin Lakes Golf Course is set on grounds that have been walked by golfers for more than 50 years, but enjoy the modern touches of a recent revamping. New tee boxes reside atop the professionally manicured greens that carpet the 10-acre course. Its renovated clubhouse offers guests the supplies they need for gameplay, including clubs and pull carts. After a round, players can return to the clubhouse where pizza bubbles in a wood-burning oven and cool beverages flow freely from taps.
The instructors at H2Owls orchestrate their fun and safe swim lessons in accordance with SwimAmerica, a 10-step curriculum that helps youngsters refine their swimming skills. After beginning with basic swimming fundamentals including leg kicks and arm strokes, instructors move on to more advanced techniques based on each student’s progress. To ensure that students receives their due attention and aren’t just tunas dressed to look like children, the swimming school keeps its class sizes small, with a max of five students per teacher in standard group lessons and a max of three students per teacher in the preschool program.
Alisa Bowens can teach the newest of newbies how to salsa—just watch her episode of MTV’s Made for proof. On it, she taught teenage sisters with no dance experience how to salsa, and she does the same for students at her studio, Alisa’s House of Salsa. She teaches the spicy Latin dance to groups, as well as in private lessons, during which she is able to provide even more technique notes and feedback. She also hosts salsa nights at local restaurants and lounges so that her students can practice in a real-life environment.
Colorful knobs and grips jut out from City Climb's angular white walls, guiding climbers of all experience levels along routes designed by USAC-certified setters. These vertical treks are made safe by ropes, which are looped into climbers' harnesses and held below by belayers. No harness is necessary to clamber along the curves of a bouldering cave, however—or while army crawling the entire length of the floor. Students can bring their own equipment or rent climbing shoes, harnesses, and chalk bags at the gym.
The expert climbing instructors at CT Rock Gym guide cliff-scalers through the ins and outs of rock climbing and belaying during a 90-minute On Belay! class. Teachers introduce students to climbing equipment, movements and techniques, and the basics of belaying, which involves clambering up overhangs while tethered via rope to a partner. Two automatic belay machines help solo climbers achieve the heights of dynamic duos, and the staff ensures safety by checking each person prior to their belaying foray and leading everyone through typhoon disaster drills. A two-week membership allows patrons to develop their climbing prowess by exploring a bouldering area, which includes a cave, and shimmying up artfully designed rope paths that rotate every 2.5 months—the time it takes to hatch a rhinoceros.